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The cabinet Buhari must constitute to drive growth

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Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. Photo/Twitter/FRSCNigeria

Shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari won his re-election bid, he was hosted to a victory dinner organised for the All Progressives Congress’s Women and Youth Campaign Council at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. While speaking at the occasion, he vowed that, “only persons of unquestionable character would be considered for appointment in the next cabinet.”

He also assured women and youths that their expectations from his administration in the next four years would be met.

When President Buhari assumed office four years ago, aside his three-pronged campaign promises of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians, halting the pillage of the economy by corrupt public officials, and creating employment opportunities for the youths, much more was expected of him and his cabinet.

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Nigerians looked forward to a country where there would be marked improvement in a lot of areas in order to raise living conditions. Specifically, improvements were expected in electricity supply, construction of roads, rails and other infrastructure, just as the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, among others, were expected to get massive boost.

But looking back at the four years of the current Federal Executive Council, not many Nigerians are satisfied with the performance of the cabinet members in helping the president to steer the country towards marked progress across the various sectors. From the Solid Minerals Development ministry, Power, Works and Housing; Finance; Transport; Trade and Investment to Health, not much seem to have happened in terms of innovations and accomplishments.

While observers are of the consensus that majority of the ministers just didn’t come to the party and do not deserve a second chance, the half-hearted performance of some key ministers were attributed to distractions occasioned by politics. Indeed, a good number of the cabinet members were consumed in the politics of their states either for individual gains or in the overall interest of the party.

A cursory look at the performance of some of the key ministers shows that many Nigerians are of the opinion that some of the ministers do not deserve to be returned if their achievements are juxtaposed with the people’s expectations since their appointment in 2015.
 
As a matter of fact, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu could be classified among those cabinet members that got distracted by their home state politics, while the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola maneuvered to avoid the stings of politics in Lagos.

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Mohammed
UP till now, observers outside APC were of the view that the Minister of Information and Culture could have been a better party man than the ministerial portfolio assigned to him looking at his antecedents as the National Publicity Secretary of APC until his appointment in 2015.

His achievements in the culture sector have not been convincing enough, which is attributed to his deep involvement in the politics of Kwara State.

Of course, his involvement in Kwara politics eventually paid off for him and the party but to the detriment of the ministry he oversees.
 
It was rumoured that the National Leader, Bola Tinubu was not privy to Mohammed’s appointment, as the former Lagos State governor was said to have preferred one of his staunch lieutenants, Mr. Dele Alake to oversee the Ministry of Information and Culture under Buhari instead of Mohammed. As it is, there is no inkling that President Buhari may likely drop or replace Mohammed because of their personal affinity.

Amaechi  
THERE is no doubt that the former governor of Rivers State did his best in the transport sector in the last four years, particularly in the rail system in collaboration with the Senate Committee on Land Transportation, but his deep involvement in Rivers State’s politics, especially the desperation he exhibited in wanting to remove his old political friend and incumbent governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike got him distracted. There is therefore no clear indication that Buhari would drop him because of the role he played in the president’s election in 2015 and his reelection.

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The fact is that Amaechi remains loyal to APC despite the fact that most of his compatriots that joined the ruling party from PDP in 2014 are now back to their former base including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. This may endeared the former governor to the president who believes in loyalty.

Fashola
THE former governor of Lagos State has always been flaunted as the ‘poser boy’ of APC right from the merger period in 2014. This might have informed his endearment to Buhari, who despite the opposition the ‘Super Minister’ confronted from his Lagos base when the ministerial appointment was made in 2015 he ended up getting three juicy miniseries.

Although the former governor of Lagos State, while giving his scorecard last year, said more megawatts had been generated since he assumed office and by implications power supply increased. He also said there is no state in Nigeria today where the Federal Government is not executing at least one road project with construction workers engaged on site just as he also commended his ministry for having done well in the housing sector.

However, the minister’s scorecard does not seem to neither reflect the reality for most Nigerians nor impress his political mentor, Tinubu, who had at a time subtly called for the split of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Although, the national leader expressed confidence in Fashol’s capacity, he, however, stressed that there were complex issues that must be resolved, and if the workload on Fashola’s shoulders is overwhelming, it must be re-examined.

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While it may be conceded that some roads are receiving attention nationwide, Nigerians have experienced more darkness than ever before. Nigeria would definitely have been importing far less premium motor spirit (petrol) if Nigeria were having as low as eight hours of electricity a day.

The boom in generator business and high consumption of fuel are indices of Fashola’s poor performance, especially for a minister who taunted the administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for being clueless otherwise “any serious government would get electricity working in six months.” Four years in charge, Nigerians are worse off as megawatts keep fluctuating between 2,000 and 5,000.
 
But the biggest threat to Fashola’s retention by Buhari is the rumour that the presidency is interested in bringing on board the incumbent governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, whom the party denied a second term ticket. It is not yet clear if Lagos may end up having two ministers in the coming cabinet or that Fashola’s triple portfolios may be split and Ambode given one of them.

The view gains currency when viewed against the backdrop of his relentless work in the reelection campaign of the president in the last general election.

Adebayo Shittu
FROM The Guardian’s findings, it will take providence and personal relationship that had existed between President Buhari and Shittu for him to be retained.

One of the complaints against him is that he did not focus on what he ought to and that he failed to achieve not even up to five per cent of what his predecessor achieved in office. Investigations reveal that more than 90 per cent of the communication industry does not want him returned, especially so because he is not a professional in the communication sector.

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It is also to Shittu’s credit that he was entangled in unresolved political brickbats with Governor Abiola Ajimobi over his ambition to run for governorship election, which many observes believed distracted him. Some members of APC who spoke with The Guardian off record said Buhari could only retain Shittu based on their friendship and not on performance or loyalty to the party.

Defence Minister, Mansur Dan Ali
WHILE the above named cabinet members might have partially delved into politics to the detriment of their performance, there is outright outcry against the continued stay in office of the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali beyond May 29 when President Buhari will start his second term in office.

The major sentiment against Ali is the spate of killings across the country since the administration took of in 2015. There is high rate of terrorism, herdsmen-farmers’ crises, lately rising kidnapping in his Zamfara home state and other security challenges in Nigeria. As minister, the military suffered worse reverses in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State, with hundreds killed.

As a matter of fact, the security situation in the country warrants immediate and complete overhauling of the defence apparatus in the country, with the minister and service chiefs being shown the door so new impetus could be injected for positive results.

Finance Minister, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed
THE pertinent question Buhari needs to answer, and even among members of the ruling party, is whether the presidency would return the Finance Ministry to the state in which the immediate past Minster of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who resigned unceremoniously amidst controversies last year left it.

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Although, the prevalent poverty and economic crunch seem to cast the fiancé ministry in poor light since 2015, the concern is that the government should rather assemble a better economic team headed by core professional and renowned economists to rejuvenate the economy so as to lift it from the economic sham Nigeria has been plunged since 2015.

According to observers, two things may likely inform Buhari’s decision concerning the finance ministry. Buhari will do well to return the portfolio to Ogun State and all other such appointments to persons from the original state or conceded it to Ambode who is also a finance professional.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami
THIS is probably one of the most controversial ministries under the Buhari administration since 2015. It is one ministry that has ridiculed judicial arm of government and cast it in bad light. The ministry under Abubakar Malami has sought desperately to make the judiciary to rubber stamp the executive judging from the way and manner it clamped down on judges.

The ministry is also indicted over the controversy surrounding the removal of the immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen.

As willing tool, Malami may have earned his keep, but in strictly democratic terms he deserves to be given the boot for subverting democracy. Under his watch Buhari’s government has flouted many court pronouncements that make Nigeria’s democracy a laughing stock among the comity of nations.

From Ibrahim El-Zakzaki to Sambo Dasuki to raids on judges’ homes, Malami will likely go down as the worse justice minister as he wielded his office as a hammer to cudgel democracy to a pulp.

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There is also the possibility that President Buhari may review the appointment of Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.

The minister may have fared well in the last few years as there have been no fuel scarcity and long queues at filling stations across the country.

However, it is not certain whether President Buhari may retain the minister based on his clash two years ago with the Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, a development that pitted Kachukwu directly against Buhari and the so-called presidency cabals. But Kachukwu appears to have learnt his lessons when he bunts his fingers in his attempt to lift the veil of opacity that surrounds the oil industry for which reason Buhari has clung to the Minister of Petroleum portfolio since assuming office in 2915.

THIS, perhaps, explains why former President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said the bulk of the ministers were “very lucky to have completed four years in spite of the many scandals, which ordinarily should have warranted the removal of most of them. This is the first time a large number of ministers would stay for four years with a president.”

He said the current ministers only performed on the pages of newspapers, adding, “For instance, the Minister of Power, Housing and Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and his colleague in the Ministry of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, simply tell us about their achievements on the pages of newspapers while the roads are not there, electricity is still unstable and the rice Ogbeh claims we produce is not in the markets. The government thrived in propaganda.”

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Uwazurike urged the president to be more proactive in selecting his new team this time and not to select on the basis of friendship but competence.

According to him, “If I have the chance, I would urge President Buhari to do away with most members of the current cabinet and look for the right people to put in the right position.”          

Aside selecting the best for the respective portfolios, he also admonished President Buhari not to commit the error of composing his cabinet late like he did in 2015, which took him almost six months to do. He further said Buhari must realise that governance is a continuum and to fall into the trap of delaying appointment into his cabinet again this time may have untoward effect on the country.

Uwazurike said, “For instance, money was not released on time for capital projects due to the delay and it affected a lot of businesses.”

But for the Secretary General, Yoruba Ronu, Mr. Akin Malaolu, the present cabinet has done well in some areas of governance.

“The whole essence of leadership is to drive growth, promote even standard and achieve better development measurable in relation to justice, fairness and at the end the happiness of the people,” he said.

Malaolu noted that the agriculture minister, Ogbe is an example of an exemplary leader and minister who, in spite of his advanced age, had put in good efforts to add to national efficiency in that sector.

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He said, “Today, the country has achieved better understanding and desire to go back to farming under his watch. The same can be said of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who has shown the required energy to drive technological growth in similar pattern like Ogbe.

“The Minister for Education and his counterpart in the Health Ministry have both been able to stabilise these two important sectors of our economy despite the strikes that took place during some periods. Improvement was noticeable in JAMB management and together with the success in primary education enrolment nationwide.”

Malaolu observed that the difficulty in achieving an increased speed in road, power and housing development could be linked to the excessive span of control on Raji Fashola. “This must be clearly recognised due to its effect on movement and the deplorable conditions of our roads everywhere. The power sector, which drives the economy and encourages economic activity, is not in the best of situation.

“The Minister for Sports, Solomon Dalung, he missed the opportunity to rehabilitate the country’s numerous stadia. He was present but absent in office at all time. The Attorney General, who also doubles as the nation’s Justice Minister, should be retained to continue with his desire to carry out the wishes of the President to fight corruption”.

To achieve increased speed in economic development of critical sectors that can help ameliorate our condition generally in the country, Malaolu enjoined the President to see the need to setup special economic and infrastructure committee to report directly to him after periodical assessment and measuring of all economic variables that helps facilitate employment, recreational and educational opportunities, health management opportunities and others like road and railway network.  
 
Political economist and management expert, Prof Pat Utomi would, however, not want to be drawn into the performance assessment of the current cabinet. But, he gave insights into what he believes should guide President Buhari in the formation of the new executive council if he is truly interested in setting the country on the path of real growth.

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Utomi opined that as a fundamental principle, Nigeria should begin to look away from sharing to producing. “Our economic thinking now centres around who gets what rather than who will produce what. But to have a tomorrow in which we would flourish, this ideology must be jettisoned.”

Utomi noted that throughout human history, societies that have sustained progress have been those that sustained whatever gains they have that are temporary and invested it in their people, in terms of the capacity of those people to produce in a continuing manner.

He said, “What has frightened me about the Nigerian experience is that we have managed to ignore the areas that are fundamental to that happening. One of those is education – that is, how equipped are we to be competitive, going forward. Another area is infrastructure that would facilitate production and evacuation of produce, and a clear national strategy that gives people certainty that if they invest in this country, they can get the benefits of their investment. These things are important if the country is going to make progress.

“And these are the thoughts that should guide the president in deciding who makes the cabinet list. Who are the kind of people obsessed with production, employment creation and the things that support it, like education? How can private capital be brought in to help develop infrastructure… Right now, people dissipate energy on budget but the size of the budget is infinitesimal to what Nigeria needs to grow. Nigeria must create an atmosphere where investors around the world feel comfortable and can bring in their resources.”


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