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Uwoghiren: Only President can score Ministers


Jefferson Uwoghiren

Jefferson Uwoghiren

Jefferson Uwoghiren is a journalist, lawyer and social commentator. He explains to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU why Nigerians need to exercise restraint over calls for cabinet change.

What do you say about calls for Buhari to change some of his ministers?
The President has taken due notice of those he assigned to do certain jobs and he is in a position to assess them depending on his expectations. If there are issues of underperformance, he is in a better position to determine. But to clamour, saying, ‘Minister A is not working’, do we know the briefs they have from the Presidency?

When this politicians or appointees are picked, they are given specific targets and briefs. That is not something that is known to the public. If we have knowledge of these briefs, we may sufficiently say they have not acted accordingly. But many of us don’t have these briefs, and that is where the call to have them changed fails.

In America, it is not a ritual to change ministers every year. It is not done. It is like America sitting down and saying, ‘change Kerry as foreign secretary’ because they are not happy with price of foodstuff. No, he has a specific brief and that is subject to evaluation by the president. So, we must take a holistic look at the nature of the brief these appointees were assigned before we begin to look at their performances.

Now, we also note, with due respect, that every new government always has a problem of restructuring, because you had a government there for eight years. Everything had been structured, designed and built round that government. To restructure and re-orientate the persons who are taking these new positions takes time. So, we have to be patient.

We have to be more specific in terms of our desire vis-a-vis the budget. The government has come out with a budget it wants to implement. We should be able to have a timeline and then judge them from there, if there are lapses based on budgetary provisions. That is when we can begin to ask questions. On the basis of budgetary allocation, you can challenge a minister. We should not use the same yardstick for everybody. With that, we can evaluate those who are doing well and also look at those who are ineffective.

Everyday you see the EFCC making some good moves and also making some strategic errors. These are all traceable to the Ministry of Justice solidly behind them. The Ministry of Justice is part of the anti-corruption drive of the presidency. That you do not see the Minister of Justice talking does not indicate he is not working. Agencies under the ministry are doing a lot.

We have seen the level of corruption in this country. Things would have been swept under but now they are the subjects of discussion. A lot of people are now very scared of the corrupt practices they used to embrace. I don’t see anybody now who will readily take kickbacks without thinking of the implication, whether it is a set up or a sting operation. Everybody is careful now. So, these are all part of the achievements of that same segment of the presidency.

Then we come to health, sports, labour and productivity, agriculture, water resources and others. We should be able to sequentially look at what they have done before we reach conclusions. We should know when they were mobilised and compare that with what work they have been able to do, not just saying Buhari should change the ministers, except we are saying the whole essence of choosing ministers is a reward thing, where we say, ‘these guys have eaten enough, let’s bring another set of party loyalists to take over’. If you continue to do that, we will not go anywhere. Let us begin to hold the president to his promises by looking at what he promised to do and how far he has gone, and who is giving which responsibility, and how they have gone about it.

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