Blast From The Past: How The New York Times Reported Buhari’s Cabinet Installation 31 Years Ago

Published: January 19, 1984

LAGOS, Nigeria, Jan. 18— Nigeria’s new leader, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Buhari, swore in the members of his Cabinet today, warning them that the ruling Supreme Military Council ”will keep a keen and watchful eye on your performance, your style of life and general public conduct while in office.”

He said the new administration, which came to power after the overthrow of the civilian Government of President Shehu Shagari on Dec. 31, ”will not tolerate fraud, indiscipline, corruption, squandermania, misuse and abuse of public office for self or group aggrandizement and other vices which characterize the civilian administration of the past four years.”

Of the 18 ministers named, only 7 are career military men. The proportion surprised some Western diplomats here but essentially accorded with statements by Mr. Buhari in an interview on Tuesday in which he said ”only a small number” of military officers would be named to top political posts.

Apparently responding to criticism in the Nigerian press over the pace of decision-making under the new military regime, Mr. Buhari said that ”the appointment of ministers has taken us some time because we had to undertake a deep search for competent Nigerians of proven integrity, a high sense of discipline, public probity and transparent honesty.” According to some Nigerian and Western sources, several candidates for portfolios were reluctant to accept appointment until the stability and direction of the new Government became apparent.

A senior Western diplomatic source said most of the ministers named today ”are not particularly well known.” Other sources added that they perceived no particular ideological bent among them. A diplomat said many appeared to be ”lesser lights with provincial rather than federal experience.”

Named to the key position of Minister of Finance was Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, who said that he had most recently been teaching industrial sociology at the University of Ibadan and that he had served in an earlier military government as a commissioner of industries and in the Ministry of Finance.

Dr. Soleye declined to comment on substantive policy matters, saying he had not had time to study the situation.

The new Minister of Petroleum and Energy is Prof. Tam David-West, a biologist by training and a former commissioner of education in Rivers State.

Asked about his prior experience in the oil industry, he said he was ”well versed in the issues.” He, too, declined to discuss policies or plans.

A leading Nigerian businessman who has known Professor David-West said: ”He was probably picked because he is tough and something of a disciplinarian. A headmaster type, not easy to get along with.”

The new Minister of External Affairs is Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, who served most recently as director general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, having been appointed by former President Shagari. Dr. Gambari, the 40-year-old son of an emir, received a Ph.D. in international relations from Columbia University in New York in 1974. The swearing-in ceremony took place in a wood-paneled conference room in a military compound in the Lagos suburb of Ikoyi.

Each appointee read an ”oath of allegiance” followed by an ”oath of office.” A section of the oath of office pledged that ”I will not allow my personal interests to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

Addressing the ministers after the ceremony, General Buhari said each would be expected to declare his assets within six weeks and to complete by the end of April a ”critical review” of all projects and programs under way within their ministries.

He said the new administration must ”curb the monstrous effects of a grossly mismanaged economy, galloping inflation and insure that food and other essential commodities are readily available at the easy reach of the ordinary citizen.”

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