Projecting into performance of Buhari’s ministers
With 13 immediate past ministers, 10 ex-governors, and six former lawmakers making it into the new Federal Executive Council of the Federation, there has been a cacophony of dissenting voices trailing the announcement.
In a country where it is extremely hard to point at sterling performance of a state governor or a minister that stood out in the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari, experts say the list presented to the National Assembly as potential ministers does not inspire confidence for economic prosperity in the next four years.
Aside the returnees that made the list, there are nine Lawyers, seven women, five Engineers, five persons above 70 years, another five are over 50, three medical doctors, three senior advocates of Nigeria (SANs), two former deputy governors, one former Secretary to State Government, one accountant, and one economist were equally on the list.
However, youths were conspicuously missing on the list, if the definition of youths in Nigeria, which is persons between 18 and 35 years old, is still valid. The youngest person on the list is a woman of 43 years old.
The immediate past Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Olusegun Oshinowo, observed that as valid as the calls for the inclusion of youths and more women is, Nigeria’s dire economic, political and social situations call for the appointment of competent hands. He said: “Non-inclusion of youths and women are variables that are very important, but I won’t pander to them completely. The stage and position we are in this country is such that we need to look for our best hands wherever they are irrespective of gender, age, political leaning, religious beliefs, and other considerations to pilot the affairs of our country.”
Oshinowo insisted that merit and competence should drive appointments into public office, adding that the list does not inspire confidence, also berated the National Assembly for not embarking on comprehensive screening of the nominees thereby denying Nigerians a unique opportunity to appraise the competence of the appointees.
He further argued that: “There should have been a basic qualification for appointment. What were the scorecards of the former governors that were nominated? What were the scorecards of the former Ministers? I am not sure Mr President took cognizance of these parameters. It is clear that some of the names that were on the list did not give their best performance to the people of the states where they were governors. So, if they could not give their best to the people of their states, why should we expect anything better at the national level?”
He continued: “Also, there are some nominees that have questions over their names and characters. Some have cases with the EFCC. For a President whose mantra is to fight corruption, some of us are wondering how some of those names got into the list. These are the key issues. By the time all these are put together, it might not be hasty to conclude that we cannot expect outstanding performance from the ministerial nominees.”
Oshinowo noted that there were no notable names that have the knowledge to turn the economy around, saying, “I cannot see anybody that is rooted in economic issues. I cannot see anyone with the pedigree of Charles Soludo, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Wale Edun. There are no technocrats of note on the list. Yes, there a few names that one is hopeful no doubt, but I don’t want to be extremely personal about it. But, all in all, I am not too enthused about the composition of that team.”
For a former President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, the list is a mixed bag, and described the absence of youth as a “let down”, and called for the re-introduction of political activities in the universities to serve as breeding ground for youths’ participation in politics. He said: “I also think that the way youths are being positioned, they may never have the opportunity to lead. The society has to play a big role in ensuring youth occupy political office. If they don’t have political leadership experiences between 25 and 30, when are they going to have it? For youth to be involved in the political governance of the country there must be a process that integrates youth early in the political block of the country. Part of the problem here is that there is no template for growth unlike what is obtainable in the developed countries.
“Boris, Cameron, Blair all started their sojourn into leadership positions from their days in the universities. Is such available in Nigeria? Are there political parties in our universities now? No. In the first republic, we used to have youth wings of political parties in the universities. That served as breeding grounds for participation in politics. In the political parties, we still have people that are above 40 years that are appointed ‘youth leaders’. What we have are ‘perchance’ where everything that happens is the way ‘God wants it’. There are no development planning and no roadmaps from the national to the local government and ward levels,” he stated.
Esele urged youths and women who are clearly under-represented in the present government to bring pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, adding, “Nobody gives power willingly. Both youths and women have the largest demography in this country. Why are they not using that to their advantage?”
He also criticised the appointment of many former governors and ministers, saying: “I am uncomfortable with the appointment of many former ministers and governor who did not have the capacity to deliver in their previous assignments. Because we keep bringing former governors as ministers; they bring their ‘executive mentality’ into the running of the ministries, where permanent secretaries are supposed to be chief executives. These former governors have turned the permanent secretaries into executive clerical officers.”
Esele canvassed short courses at the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NIPSS), in Kuru, Plateau State for former governors to learn humility and how to operate within teams. He added: “For a former governor to be appointed a Minister, such a former governor must be a first class performer as a governor. But the President knows best.”
The Country Director, Plan International, Dr Hussaini Abdu, said he expects the President to learn from the performance of the immediate past ministers while appointing new ones, noting that appointing technocrats will not guarantee the top quality service delivery Nigerians crave.
His argument: “While I am a technocrat, I do not believe in the domination of technocrats in government in order to perform. I think the technocrats are too removed from the people. Politics is about people, and therefore the people that will serve very well must have a feel of what the people are going through. We have had technocrats that leave the country once the government they served in leaves office. They do not feel the realities of the country. This, for me, is why I am against appointing technocrats into government. I must say this practice is not peculiar to Nigeria; it is the same thing all over the world.”
While arguing for the appointment of competent hands within the political class, Hussaini urged the President to find people that can propel the economy into two-digit growth. “No economy can grow with single digit. Such growth of double digit must be sustained over a few years. For us to have a sustained economic development, we must grow at double digits consistently for about 20 years. That should be the focus. Our development goal cannot be limited to just one or two governments,” he said.
He said the present administration must move away from its single narrative of fight against corruption, security and economy to deliberate spending on social sector to prevent total collapse of the system. He explained: “I think the social development of this country is under a very serious threat. Education and health services in particular are in jeopardy. Even the governments before this one did not concern itself with that. All they were concerned about was growth economy.
“So, what do we need? We have to invest in the social sector. There must be a deliberate commitment to invest in health and education services. Without investment in social sector, Nigeria cannot sustain infrastructure. I think the President needs Ministers that can appreciate the need for social investment and pursue it. The Ministers must come with a sense of urgency. I think that is a major challenge with the government of the day. There is simply no sense of urgency in this government. Sometimes this government behaves as if it has one thousand years.”