President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government for him to have formed his cabinet immediately he was inaugurated on May 29.
He said it was necessary for the country to first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place before he could make critical appointments into his government.
Buhari made the clarification in his article titled, “Nigeria committed to good governance and fighting terror”, published by the Washington Post ahead of his historic meeting with President Barack Obama of United States.
He said it was noteworthy that Obama himself did not have his full cabinet in place for several months after first taking office.
He said despite that delay, the US did not cease to function in the interim.
He said, “As I meet with President Obama today (Monday) the first time a President of the United States will encounter a Nigerian counterpart following the peaceful transfer of power in a contested election in our history — I will be discussing my plans for critical reforms.
“So, too, will I discuss why the formation of my administration is taking time and, crucially, why it must. Already, there are voices saying these changes are taking too long — even though only six weeks have passed since my inauguration. I hear such calls, but this task 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. 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.”
Buhari said there were too few examples in the history of Nigeria since independence where it can be said that good management and governance were instituted at national level.
He said the lack of a governance framework had allowed many of those in charge, devoid of any real checks and balances, to plunder.
The President said the fact that he now seeks Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150bn stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials was a testament to how badly Nigeria has been run.
This way of conducting the nation’s affairs, he said, cannot continue.
He also argued that failure of governance has been as much a factor in Nigeria’s inability thus far to defeat Boko Haram, as have been issues with the military campaign itself.
“So, the path we must take is simple, even if it is not easy: First, instil rules and good governance. Second, install officials who are experienced and capable of managing state agencies and ministries. And third, seek to recover funds stolen under previous regimes so that this money can be invested in Nigeria for the benefit of all of our citizens.
“We seek the support and partnership of the United States in these tasks. The importance of the fight against terrorism and corruption in Nigeria, Africa’s most powerful economy and largest populace, cannot be underestimated.
“Our allies can provide much-needed military training and intelligence as our soldiers take the war effort to Boko Haram. Similarly, we look to US businesses as well as the Obama administration to help develop governance initiatives that can ensure that Nigeria’s wealth benefits all its people, not just a few.