Worrying gaps in the choice of ministers
The first inclination of many Nigerians especially Business Hallmark newspaper is to heave a sigh of relief that at last the cabinet has been inaugurated. One can now safely say that we have a new government in power. It is, therefore, safe to assume that the administration is finally set to pursue its policies and deliver on its social contract with the people.
Nevertheless, we decline to join the euphoria of the moment because of our deep concern about the problems facing the country and the challenges confronting the administration.
Clearly, Nigeria is at a crossroads, the economy is under severe stress, the social fabric is almost broken, and the national mood is very depressed. Some will argue that it is very understandable, given the enormous problems confronting the country and the violent nature of the campaigns but there is a whole lot more than that.
The problems facing the country are very fundamental and require sober approach toward evolving solutions. Whichever side of the political divide one falls, it is good that the country experienced a change of government, since every people reserve the right to choose a government they deserve, to that extent, it was good that Nigerians made a choice of President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC over former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
A change of government, especially through a democratic process often entails a renewal; it unleashes freshness and regenerates the populace. Countries often choose new leaders as a way of demonstrating their disaffection with the previous leaders. Such choices often lead to productivity and enhanced growth because of the enthusiasm associated with the coming of new government.
For Nigeria, the choice of a new government, especially in the historic manner the choice was made was supposed to be the foundation of the creation of a new Nigerian society, it was even appropriate that the APC adopted change as its mantra.
Many Nigerians, including this newspaper, are therefore expecting changes in the way government business is conducted, in the way things are done in the country and in the general attitude of Nigerians. The challenges confronting the government are enormous. To begin with, Nigeria is not a productive country; it is a country that does not add much value.
It is lagging on many fronts. The citizens do not show sufficient patriotism and do not love their country enough, even to die for it. Ironically, it is a country that does not love its citizens enough to fight for them. Nigeria is a country where the social fabric is in utter disrepair.
It is a country with a very high infrastructure deficit. No good road network across the country, there is acute shortage of housing for its teeming citizenry, unemployment is at all-time high, health services are in shambles, education has increasingly deteriorated and insecurity prowls the land.
A realistic appraisal of all these challenges is enough to deter the most lion-hearted of men, but leadership was always a serious business which is not meant for weak and the faint-hearted. It is calling for men and women of good courage, strength of character, iron resolve and deep convictions.
These are character traits that we believe President Buhari harbours in generous doses. It is for this reason this newspaper believes in his ability to confront these challenges and overcome them.
There is a need to rescue Nigeria and to give millions of Nigerians, who are looking up to this government to deliver on its promises, hope. The first order of business is what the government has accomplished, assembling these gifted men and women as ministers.
At first glance the appointments are okay, in fact well-merited but when one looks more deeply, there are worrying gaps. For instance, we share the president’s concern about infrastructure deficit and the need to get a more serious-minded and experienced technocrats to man the institutions mandated to overseer the infrastructural ministry.
But we are differ with the president in his decision to allocate the core ministries of power, housing and works to one minister. Of course, we believe in the dynamism and courage of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, a man who demonstrated commendable vision in his governance of Lagos State but the problem of power is at the core of the current challenges facing Nigeria.
We believe the power ministry should have been isolated and assigned to one minister who will apply all his energy and vision to it.
We believe that housing is one of the most urgent problems confronting the country today, as the ballooning population approaches the 200 million mark. The ministry ought to have been isolated and assigned to one minister to man. Road network in Nigeria is in shambles, and deserves full and concentrated attention of one minister.
Lumping those ministries under one minister only to us is a wrong approach. Nevertheless, we concede to the president the benefit of a doubt, while we keep a watching brief on minister Fashola.
The Ministry of Finance is the engine room of government. Minister Kemi Adeosun has been acknowledged as well-educated and exposed financial expert. But with due respect to her and her promoters, this newspaper does not share the conviction that she has the grit, heft and gravitas to manage the economy of a country in distress like Nigeria today. It is remarkable that she spent a greater part of her working life abroad and has only served a few years as commissioner for finance in Ogun State.
The challenges confronting the economy today would have required experience, the competence, the heft of a more seasoned professional with a wide network of contacts within local and international financial establishments. Most importantly, it would have required courage and vision and real commitment to achieving broad-based vision. We do not believe that Kemi Adeosun has been tested enough to shoulder these enormous challenges. There are people in the financial industry in Nigeria who would have fitted the bill more competently, a Fola Adeola, Bisi Onasanya, Bismarck Rewane would have done a remarkable job. Nevertheless, we wait and see.
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning which was wrongly staffed, Mr. Udoma Udoma Jr, is no doubt a brilliant attorney and no stranger to corporate Nigeria. But he is neither an economist, an accountant nor a statistician and has never really held a corporate office in an executive capacity in the past. At this decisive stage of our economic history, one would have thought that a thorough-bred economist who understands the dynamics of modern economy and appreciates the challenges of preparing Nigeria to shoulder the complexity of a ballooning population, which has been estimated to hit 300 million by 2030 would have been appointed.
A more sober analysis of the entire cabinet reveals a more worrying dimension. It would appear that the president, despite his earlier assertion to the contrary, appeared to have succumbed to political pressure in his choice of ministers. In other words, the political imperatives overruled the national imperatives of excellence and professionalism. If that were so, it is very sad. It once again highlights the fact that the administration does not appear to appreciate the enormity of the problems confronting the country and the headwinds ahead.
The truth is that Nigeria is in dire straits, and that in times like this the part of wisdom would be to transcend pettiness of all kinds -political, religious, ethnic and whatever other primordialities and embrace broad inclusiveness and make excellence the watchword. That would be the recommendation of this newspaper; that would be the path to go.