Agenda Setting For President Buhari’s Ministers
By Taju Tijani
At last, President Mohammadu Buhari has brought smiles to the forlorn faces of Nigerians who were once saddened by his cautious and measured style of leadership. By this act of magnanimity, all the invisible and visible tyrannies of our fear, suspicion and impatience have now translated into hope for a better tomorrow. Nigerians can now heave a sigh of relief after months of presidential inaction that had the nation in a coil of despair, regret and measured blend of scepticism on the direction the new administration is headed. This nation is now ready to see action in motion.
President Mohammadu Buhari’s leadership principle of slow and steady diligence to tasks may well prove to be the new catalyst of our collective desire to rapid progress. The president is distinctly proud of his badge of integrity, transparency and honesty and this tripod values have had us under positive spell. The president has been striving to understand Nigeria’s strength and weaknesses but in a unique way that bothers on patience and meditative style of leadership. President Mohammadu Buhari has now rekindled our faith in him and Nigerians can now safely tell their number one man to set forth at dawn and begin the reconstruction Nigeria sorely needs.
He has shown that it is during national emergencies that the furnaces in which the gold of true leadership are tried, tested and purified. Winning election is a task. However, the greatest task is assembling the brightest and the best to implement the collective vision of a new government. Buhari needs the best economists, the best scientists, the best public sector workers, in order to manage a new administration and carry out viable and effective public policies. In Nigeria, through our home grown political abracadabra, Ministerial position has become an elusive concept that, at times, can be vague and ambiguous.
As a result, majority of our appointed ministers start their ministerial assignments without any template, set rules, agenda or formulas to follow. They work only from guidelines and concepts, perceptions and ideas, abstractions and generalities. This is why most of the ministers find the art of governance difficult to master in four years. This is why most ministers in Nigeria slide into the routine of business as usual, then becoming inefficient and eventually morph into a clique of rich people with enough money to fight for either governorship or senatorial seat within the life of their tenure as public servants.
There have been widespread mixed reactions to the assembled team of new ministers. First, in an act of chutzpah, the president has made himself minister of petroleum resources. This action is symbolic and a blanket condemnation of the mismanagement and corruption of our oil sector. President Buhari has shown no timidity in letting the world know that the petroleum ministry needs a man of his own transparency and fiscal prudency. His good intention aside, there is unambiguous and express prohibition provision as stated in Section 138 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that effectively precludes the president from appointing himself Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources and, therefore, also disallows him from exercising the substantive power and authority of the referred executive office.
However, we have to say that this seizure of the petroleum ministry may conflict with the many emergencies on his desk. For instance, and in spite of his integrity touch, Nigeria has remained paralyzed in the past few weeks due to fuel shortages. Who do we blame for this? Further, we have ex-Governors in the ministerial team. Babatunde Fashola, the ex-Governor of Lagos State has been saddled with the burden of managing a super ministry of power, housing and works. The aberration of appointing a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as energy, housing and works minister aside, what, for heaven’s sake is the yardstick used in allocating Fashola these tripod ministry? Is the President relying of Fashola’s pedigree as an efficient, transforming and performing governor of Lagos State for eight years? Or is President Buhari, in a classic real politick, setting up Fashola for failure. Time will tell.
Other party stalwarts were also given ministries to manage. Chris Ngige, a medical doctor by training is the Labour Minister. Chief Lai Mohammed, as Minister of Information, clinched the ministry that perfectly suits his experience and temperament. Ex-Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, after all the oohs and aahs and the moral revulsion which attended the expose of his documented corruption is the Minister of Transport. Dr. Kayode Fayemi, ex-Governor of Ekiti State is the Minister of Solid Mineral.
Mrs Kemi Adeosun now handles the Finance ministry; Udo Udoma is in the Ministry of National Planning and Budget and Audu Ogbeh for Agriculture. As far as this nation’s anxiety is concerned, Babatunde Fashola’s ministry is the cynosure of all of our attention. However, collectively the president must set agenda for all of them irrespective of how ‘hot’ a ministry is or not. Part of the agenda setting is delivery of service. All the ministers must deploy fresh, out of the bottle ideas to change the miseries of Nigerians. Fashola must roll out a new agenda for PHCN and their adjunct partners to ensure that the sector receives his Midas touch as happened to Lagos State.
The Ministers must have objectives and pursue it within timeline. They must be equipped with the ability to generate profit, block leakages and control outcomes in spite of the challenges facing their assigned ministry. Part of the agenda is fiscal prudency in area of managing budget to eliminate waste, bloated staffing and corruption. The president must give them the chance to articulate their vision and be encouraged to realize it without too much official intrusion.
The president has to supervise their performances, set new achievable objectives and re-orientate the ministers away from arrogance, embezzlement and graft. Where Ministers have developed severe disabilities, the president may reassign or if need be, sack erring ones.
Above all, the Ministers must be aware that national assignment is the greatest honour on earth. They have been given trust to uphold. They have been given integrity to uphold in a nation blighted by ignorance, corruption, disease, lack and total mistrust of public figures. The nation can only hope that we have probably entered a new era of Ministerial efficiency, delivery, performance and transparency.