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Yakasai: Ministerial retreats not cabinet reshuffle


Alhaji Tanko Yakasai

Alhaji Tanko Yakasai

Alhaji Tanko Yakasai airs his views on President Buhari’s cabinet and accusations by Nigerians that his ministers are clogging the wheels of growth and development. The Arewa chieftain argues that a cabinet reshuffle many months into the life of the administration might not yield desired results. He spoke to SAXONE AKHAINE, Northern Bureau Chief.

Given the current economic downturn, some Nigerians say Buhari’s cabinet is not performing. Others call for the sack of select ministers. What is your take?
I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. Under normal situations, the political party must consist of people who are committed to a certain programme. And then, that programme would be articulated among the party members.

I will give an example. During the days of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the motto was – Housing For All – and they pursued this aspiration gallantly. We had ideas on how to provide mass housing projects for Nigerians. The minister then, the late Dosunmu, who became senator, later, was Minister of Housing in Shagari’s government. Long before Shagari was elected, the young man had been very brilliant. He brought youthful ideas on how to achieve mass housing within the shortest time. He was asked to submit a paper to the party. And he did. It was criticised, and then later adopted.

By the time Shagari was elected, he appointed him Minister of Housing, and the idea of the Shagari Quarters became a lofty one. Although, there was problems with the Quarters because not all state government was NPN. Opposition parties controlled the others. They sabotaged the programme by allocating lands far from the main centres of activities. All the same, Shagari went ahead and built them. Some of the areas became part and parcel of the new scheme in cities, like Shagari Quarters, in Kano.

With this type of approach, you will have certain members who have ideas on different aspects of the economy and governance. Put together, you will be able to get people who will carry your programme and aspirations forward. But when a political party constitutes a group of people who bring themselves together by accident, and who have no commitment to the programme of the party, and the party itself is not able to articulate its programme, you end up with the situation we now find ourselves in.

At the time the APC won the election, there was no programme for the country. We only had a slogan, ‘Change! Change! Change! Change for what, we don’t know. The change had not been defined. So, that is the problem.

Now, you can reshuffle the cabinet. But do you have people who are committed to your programme? And what are the programmes? With what we have today, you can’t achieve anything.

Another problem we have is this presidential system we are operating. It has made provision for the President to appoint anybody from the street and make him a minister. Or in the states, the governor can pick anybody from the street and make him a commissioner. It works in America, but it can’t work in Nigeria.

The best way to deal with the situation in our hands is make sure ministers or commissioners come from among elected members of the legislature. If they are going to be elected, they have to go and campaign. And if they are going on campaign, they have to sell the manifesto and programmes of the party. In the process, they will be able to educate themselves and Nigerians on programmes of the party, so that by the time you appoint them as ministers, the programmes you are implementing is not theirs but the party’s. They will commit themselves to implementation of the party’s programmes.

Back to your question, reshuffle of Buhari’s cabinet may not be the solution. I was in government in Kano State for eight years. And during the time, I moved from one ministry to another thrice. I realised that if you are moved from one ministry to another, the biggest problem is how to understand the inner workings of the new ministry. And it will take you more than six months to do that. There are even people who will take one year to understand the workings.

Now, Buhari is approaching two years in office. If you reshuffle the cabinet, you bring in fresh people who will need a period of six months or one year to get themselves together to understand things. And before you realise it, elections will be knocking at the door.

What I think Buhari can do now is adopt the strategy used by Obasanjo, which is organise a retreat for his ministers, invite experts and technocrats, to build in new ideas the ministers can adopt to move the nation forward. They should invite them and discuss strategies on how to implement the vision of the government in their ministries. This will be about the shortest way to change the situation.

Sacking the ministers might not necessarily solve the problem because the mistake had been made right from the beginning. People that were appointed, right from the beginning, like the wife of the President said, were not known. And this is to be expected, because it is an amalgam of different political organistions. They did not know one another.
Even with the retreats, would the ministers be able to change the situation and impact positively before Buhari’s mandate expires?

In fairness, this is the reason I am suggesting retreats may possibly be the way out. Most of the ministers are competent in their own rights. But the problem is that in posting them, they become misfit. I will always give an example of a minister, Adebayo Shittu, from Oyo. This is a senior lawyer. You posted him to communication. If you give him a new ministry, you have to start from the scratch. The same thing applies to other ministries.

Look at the Minister of National Planning. Recently, he was asked aggregates of the debts the government owed. He didn’t have the figures. So, these are the problems. But nobody would say Udo Udoma is not competent and educated enough to handle ministerial responsibility. But, if you take somebody to a place that is not his area of expertise, it might cost the country in many ways.

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Tanko Yakasai
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