President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday confirmed that he will not appoint ministers until September.
Mr. Buhari, who made this known in an opinion article published in the Washington Post, also expressed strong commitment to tackling corruption and institutionalizing good governance in Africa’s most populous country.
About seven weeks after his inauguration, Mr. Buhari said many have started questioning the change he promised during the election, but insisted that the process of change cannot and should not be rushed.
“When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office,” President Buhari said.
“It is worth noting that Obama himself did not have his full cabinet in place for several months after first taking office; the United States did not cease to function in the interim.
“In Nigeria’s case, it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government to have made these appointments immediately on my elevation to the presidency; instead, Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place.
“I cannot stress how important it is to ensure that this process is carried out correctly, just as it has been crucial to first install the correct leadership of the military and security services before we fully take the fight to Boko Haram.”
Since its independence, he said, Nigeria has too few examples where it can be said that good management and governance were instituted at national level.
He said it was lack of governance framework and real checks and balances that allowed many past leaders to plunder the country.
Mr. Buhari said the fact that he now seeks Mr. Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former corrupt officials is testament to how badly Nigeria had been run.
Mr. Buhari, however, vowed that the era of corruption and impunity in the conduct of government business in Nigeria was over.
On the ongoing war against insurgency in the country, the president said the world is moving closer to the defeat of Boko Haram, the jihadist group that has terrorized hundreds of thousands in the northern states of Nigeria.
In one of his first actions after taking power, Mr. Buhari replaced the heads of the country’s army, navy and the air force in a process that was based on track records and qualifications.
“These new military leaders will be based in Borno State in northern Nigeria, where the headquarters of the armed services has been relocated,” the President said.
“This shift of resources and command directly to the front line, in addition to the replacement of the head of the State Security Service, Nigeria’s intelligence organization, and a new emphasis on working in partnership with our neighbors, has equipped us to take the fight directly to Boko Haram.”
Already, he noted, the country was beginning to see a degrading of Boko Haram’s capabilities as a fighting force.
Instead of confronting the military directly, he said, the insurgents have increased their attacks on civilian population.
The President, however, assured that the new twist in the operations of the insurgent group is a sign it is losing the war.
“While we work to defeat the terrorists, I ask the people of Nigeria and the world for resolve and fortitude,” he said. “The campaign we will wage will not be easy; it may not be swift.
“We should expect stages of success and also moments when it may appear that our advances have been checked. But no one should have any doubt as to the strength of our collective will or my commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace and normalcy to all affected areas.”
Mr. Buhari said during his meeting with President Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders, he would discuss plans for critical reforms, including why he is yet to form a cabinet.
He attributed Nigeria’s inability to defeat Boko Haram as part of the failure of governance, stressing that even the military is not immune to the problem .
To tackle the situation, he said, his government would first instill rules and good governance, followed by the installation of experienced and capable officials to manage state agencies and ministries.
Thirdly, he said his administration would seek to recover funds stolen under previous regimes so that they could be invested in Nigeria for the benefit of the citizenry.
While seeking the support and partnership of the United States, President Buhari said the importance of the fight against terrorism and corruption in Africa’s most powerful economy and largest country, cannot be underestimated.
He said Nigeria required military training and intelligence as its soldiers take the war to Boko Haram insurgents.
He appealed to U.S. business leaders and the Obama administration to help develop governance initiatives that would ensure that Nigeria’s wealth benefits its people, not just a few.
By taking these steps, he said, Nigeria would be positioned to benefit from increased investment – particularly in energy and electricity – from the United States.
“I was elected on a platform of change. I know this is what the people of Nigeria desire more than anything else,” President Buhari said.
“I know they are impatient for action. I realize the world waits to see evidence that my administration will be different from all those that came before. Yet reforming my country after so many years of abuse cannot be achieved overnight.
“In our campaigns against both Boko Haram and corruption, we should remain steadfast and remember, as it is said: Have patience. All things become difficult before they become easy.”