The ‘politics’ of political appointment: Focus on ICPC chair

The ‘politics’ of political appointment: Focus on ICPC chair

I have read Sahara Reporters’ story on the appointment of Rosemary Abang-Wushishi as acting chair of Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and wish to comment on the case thus.

Political appointments will always be used to advance political interests (in addition to any other reasons that may be openly expressed). The political class will always take advantage of loopholes in (read manipulate) the law to advance their interests.

If the law actually demands that the chair of the Commission “shall be a person who has held or is qualified to hold office as a judge of a Superior Court of record in Nigeria”, the critical question, as far as the law is concerned, to ask is whether or not Abang-Wushishi is so qualified. For our information a person is qualified to be appointed a judge of the superior court of record (i.e. High Court) on attaining 10 years at the Bar. To that extent, the interim appointee ‘qualifies’. And the argument that the AGF should have known that since when Angulu was appointed may be a good one that queries the alertness of the AGF, but it does not stop him from ‘acting right’ now that he apparently realises that.

Now talking about the ‘morality’ of such appointment is altogether another issue. There are thousands of us lawyers so qualified to have been appointed, so why Abang-Wushishi and not ME for instance? The truth is that many, if not most political appointments in Nigeria and elsewhere, are still done based on so many inexplicable ‘interests’, unfortunately. Some may be easily traceable, others are not. And the reasons could be to advance political interests (as alleged in the appointment of Bianca Ojukwu) or to score political point and win the confidence of the ‘civil society’ (Jega, Sam Amadi, Mike Igini). They could be as a result of ‘Old-Boy network’ or even to advance/cover up criminal interests. The best way to assail such appointments is to show that the person is not qualified or is incompetent or has otherwise done something that questions his/her integrity for the position etc. The British PM was severely criticised the other time for getting two men who used to work for him personally as photographer and video cameraman during his campaigns to be on government appointment. A good reason for the criticism was that the civil service already had people who were doing that for the office of the PM. I heard he has since dropped them though.

I would really want to know the exact basis of the complaint here. Is it that the appointee is not qualified or that because she was allegedly proposed by the president’s wife, she should not be appointed? Do we know how many other decisions of governments have been so influenced by spouses? Didn’t they say the creation of Delta State was influenced by then First Lady, Maryam Babangida? Or would we rather that appointments are influenced by a mistress or an uncle or a religious minister?

The much I know about the appointee is that she is a lawyer and retired as an assistant inspector general of the police many years ago and tried her hands in politics and failed. If that makes her unqualified to head the agency that she is currently a member of, I do not know. But since the appointment would eventually require Senate approval, let us hope the ‘distinguished’ Senators would ask critical questions to verify the competence or otherwise of the appointee.

But we may laugh about the Senate screening being nothing more than ‘bow and go’, as they recently approved the appointment of a ‘career diplomat’ as an ambassador even when she showed incompetence at the screening (couldn’t tell where Jigawa state was; asked to mention the official channels of diplomatic communication, she said she was confused etc). The Senate President urged his colleagues to approve her appointment even when he admitted that hers was a ‘poor pass’. So the Senate just approved the appointment of a mediocre to head Nigeria’s foreign mission.

Interestingly though, I recently read of the same Senate rejecting the nomination of a retired justice (I have forgotten the name) as head of this same ICPC because the legislators were convinced during the committee screening that the eminent retired jurist no longer had the mental capability and physical strength they would expect of the head of this agency. Now, those aren’t written qualifications but I agree with Senate that it was a sound reason. Let us pray that the Senators put on their thinking caps when considering Abang-Wushishi for this present case.

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