PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s idea of organising a retreat for his ministers ahead of their assumption of office came across as a very good move.
Apart from being an opportunity for bonding and building team spirit among members of the Federal Executive Council, it was also an occasion for the president to share his vision for the next level with the men and women he had invited to join him in delivering democracy dividends to Nigerians. The president, in his speech at the retreat, told the ministers of his plans to lift as many Nigerians as possible out of poverty. He also intimated them with the plan of his government to strengthen the economy with their support. According to him, “As Ministers, I am counting on you … to contribute to build upon our road map of policies, programmes and projects that will lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.” He also charged them with the responsibility for developing and implementing policies, programmes and projects in their ministries.
When a leader casts a vision, it becomes the mission of his subordinates, and for the mission to become realisable, there must be a plan that can be translated into measurable actions. President Buhari has cast his vision and this ought to become the ministers’ mission. Therefore, at the next FEC meeting, each of the cabinet members should present the plan for actualising the vision of the president as it affects his or her ministry, which would be discussed by all members and this would become a blueprint for the ministry.
The president spoke of his expectations in broad terms at the retreat but the transformation of the expectations into reality is the function of the individual ministers.
For instance, when the president spoke about laying the foundation for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, what the president did was just to let us (Nigerians) into his intention. The onus is now on the various ministers that have a role to play in the actualisation of this to work out how it will be translated into what the president really wants. This can best be achieved if each minister will take it upon him or herself to come up with a Plan of Action (POA), which will show steps that will be taken and actions that will be executed week after week, month after month, year by year to ensure that we get what we really want so that the next administration after this will not be talking again about the same issues.
Each minister will have to indicate in the POA the deliverables. For instance, the Education Minister needs to tell the country how he intends to tackle the issue of out of school children and give us steps he would take to reduce the number of this category of children yearly. He also needs to tell us how he is going to align the skills acquired by our undergraduates to the realities in the marketplace as a way of scaling down unemployment among the youth. The Labour and Employment Minister needs to come up with creative ways to tackle the high level of youth unemployment and show in measurable ways the number of people that would be taken out of unemployment quarterly. The same goes for other ministers.
The plans for the realisation of the president’s programme raised in the POA will later be discussed and critiqued at FEC with input from all members. Once it is ratified, it becomes a government policy. The success or otherwise of the minister will be easy to determine by looking at the implementation of the POA.
The president can effectively assess any of his ministers, and, by extension, his administration, by comparing what has been accomplished by the ministry with the POA approved by the FEC. He can determine in the spate of a few minutes whether his administration is meeting the expectations of Nigerians or frustrating them.
The president has good intentions but there is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The import of this is that good intentions are not enough to effect a positive change. The president has promised to take the nation to the next level but that will only happen if there is a paradigm shift. The shift that is required now is from governance by proposals, as we had in the past, to purposeful governance. I am told that in the past, ministers as well as some governors relied on proposals by contractors to determine a direction for their ministries and states. Any wonder then that development has been haphazard in the country?
Good governance is never by happenstance; it is a product of deliberate efforts to make it happen. The first step to ensuring good governance by the president is to insist that his ministers should come up with their POAs, which will be made public so that all Nigerians will know whether a minister deserves the office or is just wasting space and resources. Unless that is done, our ballroom dance of one step forward and two backwards may continue for the next four years.