The ministers who must not return to Buhari’s cabinet

I have not known a Nigerian president who left his cabinet intact, for better or worse, throughout his tenure than President Muhammadu Buhari. He is so allergic to change that he maintained the portfolio of the ministers for nearly four years.

The best sinecure in the world, editorial board of Guinness World Records will agree with me, is the Buhari cabinet job. No assessment, no sack, no queries and, of course, no worries.

Barring incidences of resignation (Amina Mohammed, Kayode Fayemi, etc), the media-induced sack of Babachir Lawan and Kemi Adeosun and the death of James Ocholi, no cabinet reshuffle took place in more than three and a half years. It took the president over one year to replace James Ocholi who died in road accident on March 6, 2016.

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In his wisdom, President Buhari believes Nigeria’s capital city Abuja deserves a minister who failed to replace the burnt-out bulbs of Abuja streetlights in more than three years, or Defence and Interior ministers under whom Boko Haram, herdsmen and kidnappers killed thousands of people or a minister of Labour who advocates brain drain of doctors.

When terrorists attacked Sri Lanka churches and killed hundreds of worshippers last week, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the defence secretary and police chief, for their failure to protect the lives of the people.

In December 2018, Amnesty International Nigeria released a damning report on the wave of killings in Nigeria. According to the report, 3,641 people were killed between 2016 and 2018 in the conflict between herdsmen and farmers across the country. The report, entitled “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders,” said further that the number would have been significantly reduced had security operatives acted accordingly.

Instead of President Buhari to look inward, make some changes in the security architecture and strategise, the presidency dismissed the report as “largely outdated”. And the killings go on and on because one has to admit there’s a problem before one identifies the solution.

Almost all members of the Buhari cabinet, if performance and competence really matter in Nigeria, do not deserve reappointment. With the exception of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and a couple of ministers, Buhari’s cabinet deserves the boot.

The problem with President Buhari himself is sheer incompetence. The old man’s incompetence is so infectious that his lieutenants suffer the same ailments. It is disturbing that the president of a country like Nigeria doesn’t know anything about statecraft. And even more disturbing is the fact that he doesn’t know he’s living in a fool’s paradise. Baba simply doesn’t know he doesn’t know. If you are looking for one person in the entire cabinet who does not deserve “reappointment” is the president. For his penchant for junkets, if really Buhari wants to hold a ministerial portfolio in the next cabinet it should be Foreign Affairs not Petroleum.

A friend at the presidency recently told me a scary story about the Buhari presidency. According to him, the president believes that whatever goes to his desk was meant to be signed without scrutiny. Another insider said the president’s cousin, Mamman Daura, vets the president’s memos before Federal Executive Council meetings and sometimes overrides the council’s decision.

But Buhari’s monochromatic view of modern statecraft manifested in the merging of key ministries to “reduce cost”. Which cost, for heaven’s sake? This counter-productive action, orchestrated by the Ahmed Joda-led transition committee, has created administrative bottleneck and slowed down governance. For instance, the merging of ministries of Power, Works and Housing is one of the biggest blunders of the Buhari presidency. Power is devolved for efficiency, better targeted public services and accelerated growth. This is the point the gerontocrats handling Buhari missed.

With the paper tiger president we have today, even the ministers are fighting each other or fighting with heads of some key parastatals because the president doesn’t sanction. At one point, there were Amaechi-Sirika feud; Kachikwu-Baru feud, Adamu Adamu-Onwuka feud; Isaac Adewole-Yusuf feud, etcetera etcetera. Unlike during the past administrations where ministers of state were given clear schedule of duties by the president to oversee some parastatals, a source told me that ministers of states this time are left almost redundant. With the exception of minister of state for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the technical aides of some senior ministers are more powerful than ministers of state.

Top on the list of ministers who do not deserve a comeback is the minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello. The minister is mostly visible seeing off or receiving Nigeria’s nomadic presidency jetting out for greener medicare or returning from junket.

Bello’s predecessors had built districts with accompanying infrastructure, installed and energized street lights and provided functional transport system, but Bello’s primitive policies have led to the creation of more slums, darkness, and whatnot?

Under Bello’s eyes, slums in Galadimawa, Durumi, Guzape, etc are slowly consuming the capital city. While Akinwunmi Ambode is solving transport crisis in Lagos by building modern terminals and purchasing more buses, the story is different in Abuja. Every time I drove past a line of commuters in Area 1 or Berger Junction, my heart bled. As a result of incompetence of a minister, commuters who left their offices at 4pm may not get chances of reaching their homes until 7pm or above. Taxis park and pick passengers everywhere, just as agberos take over major junctions.

Those who know the current FCT minister say he is not corrupt. Really? Well, Nasir El-Rufai is remembered as the best FCT minister because of the developments he brought and the problems he solved. His competence and starling achievements have overshadowed whatever shortcomings he might have had. It is good to have a combination of competence and incorruptibility in an administrator, but in the absence of this combo in one person, I will choose the opposite of the latter. Personally I will rather give my car to a corrupt but competent mechanic than a trustworthy but incompetent mechanic. The keyword is service delivery.

In Abuja, even before the approval grazing reserve, Bello has allowed cows to take over the city as their grazing reserve. From the Three Arms Zone to Asokoro, Garki down to Maitama areas, cows are allowed to scavenge freely.

Transport system in the capital city is operated by rickshaws, okadas and all manner commercial vehicles without strict regulations.

The minister of state for Transport (Aviation), Hadi Sirika, should have tendered his resignation last year when the much-publicised Nigeria Air deal bungled after gulfing millions of dollars.

Although I have respect for the minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, but I faulted his appointment as the senior Minister of Education in November 2015 because it negates the principles of “square peg in a square hole” espoused by the Buhari administration. Hear my points: “I fail to see sense in elevating Adamu Adamu, a trained accountant, above a professor of Education and former vice chancellor as minister in charge of the Ministry of Education.

“Much as former President Goodluck Jonathan loved Barrister Nyosom Wike, he only made him Minister of State for Education, below Professor Rukayyatu Ahmed Rufai – a professor of Education. That was fair. Even after sacking Professor Rufai, Jonathan still did not place Wike above Malam Ibrahim Shekarau in the ministry.”

While some ministers suffer from chronic incompetence, inefficiency and corruption, Adamu Adamu’s case is just inefficiency.

If the president has cause to reappoint Adamu, let it not be minister of Education. For his financial discipline, Adamu will make a good Accountant General of the Federation.

In Buhari’s new cabinet, I would not like to see characters like Chris Ngige, Lai Mohammed, Audu Ogbe, Solomon Dalung, Adebayo Shittu, Mansur Dan-Ali, Isaac Adewole, Ogbonnaya Onu, Abubakar Malami, etc.

There is need for fresh blood to give life and direction to the new government.

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