Constituting the President’s next cabinet
As the president starts giving serious attention to constituting his next cabinet, it may be apposite to chip in a few words of counsel that could reflect the general thinking of compatriots across the country to assist him in forming a formidable cabinet. It is the president’s second and final term in office and he ought to pay attention to legacy projects and institutions. Mr. President needs a 21st century digital cabinet made up of men and women who are ready to pull up their sleeves and propel the country to the next level in real terms. Time for sloganeering is over. The task before the president is enormous. We need citizens with ideas and proven competence to assist the president in the arduous task of nation building.
As a prelude to appointing the ministers the president should clearly state his agenda for the second term. Certainly he cannot solve ALL the problems in the next four years; he can only lay a foundation carrying the civil service along. To make maximum impact I suggest that he should focus or re-focus on the big ones that are close to his heart. Let there be a definite far-reaching policy on agriculture, security, and education, for instance. The policing system has to be re-configured along federalist lines. The power generation and supply architecture has continued to fail the nation. Is it time for a reversal of policy? Isn’t it time we scrapped the national grid concept? Shouldn’t we encourage local generation and supply of power without recourse to the national grid? This is because the existing infrastructure cannot sustain power generation which exceeds the 7000 megawatts. What about stimulating local production? With the aid of experts I suggest that he should set mid-term and long term goals on increasing local production and thereby reduce importation.
Aside the ministers, Mr. President’s kitchen cabinet should be as diverse in ethnic composition, broad in experience and political orientation as possible. Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s observation should be borne in mind as HE reconstitutes the cabinet. No power blocs should usurp the president’s powers. Another major suggestion is that the next cabinet should not be constituted as a reward for delivering the party at the 2019 elections. The nation’s interest is more important than other considerations. Party stalwarts should be largely rewarded through board appointments and other positions. To be sure the president needs some politicians on the cabinet; but they should not dominate the cabinet because of their penchant for satisfying interests that are outside the boundaries of government.
Perhaps one should start by observing that save for a few ministers – Information, Petroleum, Solid Mineral, Transportation, (Finance when Kemi Adeosun was in charge) Works and Energy – on the federal cabinet, most of the appointees were hardly heard in public. Indeed, we do not remember the names of most of the ministers though they were in office for four years. What the cause is we may not know. For example, the presence of the foreign minister was hardly felt in the media or on policy, especially when our fellow citizens go the short end of the Libyan stick. Is it that he was involved in quiet diplomacy? The Minister of Education was so much in the background that one actually forgot that we had one. Were the ministers overwhelmed by the towering presence of the president? Or was there an unwritten rule that ministers should as less visible as possible? Was silence the best policy of survival? On this score the ministers did not serve the nation well! Yet, for the sake of continuity some of the ministers in the current cabinet should be retained for the sake of continuity.
The first point to be made is that the next cabinet should be formed immediately the president is sworn in for the second term. A long period of consultation and waiting simply complicates matters because of the overarching interest groups. These groups may not really be bothered about the overall interest of the nation. Second point is that the president should look outside the confines of his party. He should explore the possibility of appointing persons with a strong technical background. In the ratio of 70% to 30% the cabinet should favour technocrats. That way he is going to create a cabinet that is not made up of men and women who are competent and have the desired skills. Sadly and without attempting to denigrate the political class, the best of minds are not found in politicians. For quality of thought and broadness of purview Mr. President should please look beyond the political class. Some of the bright minds who campaigned on the platforms of other political parties should also be brought into the cabinet. It is all about Nigeria.
The president should avoid making his cabinet an assembly of old and/or yes men. We need confident middle-aged citizens who can politely disagree with the boss and state why policy direction should be different. We need strong ministers for agriculture, finance, economic planning, education, solid minerals, justice, power and energy. My point is that he should appoint persons who would virtually be on auto-pilot once the broad policy framework has been fixed by cabinet. Such men and women would have two major advantages: they would not be bound by godfather allegiances and they could be groomed as new generation successors to the current crop of politicians.
Keeping with modern trends across the globe a certain percentage of cabinet positions should be given to women who have proved themselves through a track record of achievements. As observed earlier on they do not have to come from the political class. The truth is that in a society like ours where the pressure to get rich is high on men, women should be encouraged to participate fully. This may not be scientific; as a result the appointment should be balanced on the basis of other factors.Finally, I wish the president a most fruitful stay in office in terms of tangible contributions to moving Nigeria to the next level. He needs capable ministers and support staff to achieve this.
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