Bola Bolawole: Ministers who will make or mar Buhari

Bola Bolawole: Ministers who will make or mar Buhari

Friday, November 13, 2015 2:22 pm



By Bolanle Bolawole.

God did not create all the fingers to be equal; in His wisdom that is infinite, He has created them in different sizes and shapes and has bestowed upon them different functions and responsibilities. Some fingers, however, are more important than the others. The thumb, I think, is more important than the other fingers. Bible records that the thumbs and great toes hold pre-eminence. It is like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where all animals were equal but some still found a way to be more equal than the others.

Little wonder, then, the grumblings that some were given “juicy” Ministries while others were not! In the time of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, they were labelled “Grade A”, Grade B” or “Grade C” Ministries. In the National Assembly, the commotion over “juicy” and “not juicy” committees is still festering among lawmakers.

Truth be told, some Ministries are more “loaded” than others; there are Ministries that command hefty budgets and have many important agencies under their beck and call e.g. Defence, Interior, Education, Transportation, Petroleum Resources. My focus here today is, however, on those Ministries that I consider indispensable to effectively drive the CHANGE agenda of the All Progressives Congress-led Muhammadu Buhari administration if, truly, they mean the change they have trumpeted.

Last Wednesday, the long-awaited Cabinet was inaugurated by Buhari. There are 36 Ministers in all, in fulfilment of Constitutional provisions. But there are a handful of the Ministers who, in my own reckoning, must bend over backward to perform since they will make or mar this administration. They are nine in number and as I name them, I offer my reasons.

The first is Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture. Agriculture used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy until crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity and we abandoned the land and became a “rentier state” which depends on the collection of rents\royalties from foreign oil exploring multinational companies. That unsavoury state of affairs began in the late 1950s and has continued till date. Hence, Nigeria’s economy is described as mono-cultural (i.e. depending solely on just one commodity or raw material, which is crude oil, for survival). Reliable figures are hard to come by here but by and large, crude oil is our major foreign exchange earner and accounts for not less than 80 percent of all monies accruing into the Federation Account.

Audu Ogbeh:

Audu Ogbeh:

Successive governments have spoken of the need to diversify the economy (that is, promote other sources of income) but it had been all lip service. Thus, we have been at the mercy of volatile crude oil pricing in the international market. Besides, crude oil is a wasting\perishing asset; if we fail to make hay while it shines, it shall be dire for us when this cheap source of stupendous wealth dries up. If this government votes enough money into agriculture and pursues policies that will restore agriculture to its pre-1960 place of pride, then, it would not only have succeeded where others failed but also would have laid a solid foundation for our future prosperity.

The second is Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of Solid Minerals. Nigeria is most blessed in terms of solid minerals deposits – but they have remained largely untapped for the same reasons that agriculture has been neglected. Yet, this sector, together with agriculture, holds the key to Nigeria’s greatness. We have always known this; we parrot it; but, again like in the case of agriculture, it ends there. I expect this government to vigorously pursue the exploitation of the country’s bountiful solid minerals resources to the benefit of present and future generations. We can never become an industrialised nation and Vision 20- 2020 (remember?) will remain a mirage if appropriate policies and funding are not put in place to turn our potentials in the solid minerals sector into actual realities.

Using the analogy of a football team made up of 11 players, I consider Ogbeh and Fayemi as the two main “strikers” of Team Buhari; nay, Team Nigeria. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, has been described as the “super-Minister” of this administration; technically, that may be right judging by the three big ministries that were collapsed into one and entrusted in his care. Power, especially, is crucial; since without regular power supply, not much can be achieved. Provision of infrastructure, especially road network, is also critical for national development. Therefore, there is no denying the fact that Fashola is a very important Minister; but I see his role as that of a “support striker” or as someone supplying the ball for the two main strikers upfront. A support striker can score goals on his own but the major task is to provide the enabling environment for the main strikers to turn in the goals. Where the main strikers are cut off or the support strikers unnecessarily compete with them for relevance, unity, coherence, and coordination may fail and the whole team suffers for it. The job of Fashola is to provide the enabling environment for Ogbeh and Fayemi to shine upfront for the whole team.

Kayode Fayemi, Minister in charge of solid minerals

Kayode Fayemi, Minister in charge of solid minerals

Three other Ministers Kemi Adeosun (Finance); Udoma Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning); and Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (Minister of State, Petroleum Resources) are the engine room (midfield) of the team. Adeosun is to effectively manage our resources and makes funds available for Ogbeh, Fayemi, and Fashola. While Kachikwu is to bring in the funds, Udoma is to ensure that we put our money where our mouth is. Right from the point of budgeting, it shall be known whether or not this government is serious about diversifying the economy.

I consider three Ministers as the central defenders of Team Nigeria; they are Dan Ali (Defence); Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Interior); and Abubakar Malami (Justice and Federal Attorney-General). No matter how good the strikers are; if a team’s defence is porous, much damage will be done. We have seen the effects of a porous defence with the Boko Haram insurgency; which continues to drain huge resources needed for meaningful development activities. The festering MASSOB campaign must be put in check (by the Minister of the Interior) and corruption\impunity curbed in the agencies under his watch. Corruption is, without doubt, the greatest leaking hole whacking this country; and we were all witnesses to how former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Adoke, did not help matters in this regard. Malami must be sold out to the anti-graft war; and he must realise that the average Nigerian believes that the Judiciary, the oft-touted “last hope of the common man”, is opaque and has to be straightened out.

Although technically not a Minister, I consider Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo the “Sweeper” of Team Nigeria. Apart from being the stand-in for Mr. President, he is said to play a coordinating role on the economy. So we may not be far from the truth if we see Osinbajo as the Buhari administration’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or Coordinating Minister of the Economy. And the economy, as we all know, is the main issue. What escapes the central defenders must not escape Osinbajo.

Finally, I station Buhari in goal and give him the Captain’s arm band. Do not forget that he is also the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources and Czar of the anti-graft war. From his very central position as goalkeeper, he can arrange his defence as well as bark out orders to his strikers and midfielders upfront.

To make up my full list, I have the following on the bench (that is, substitutes): Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation); Adamu Adamu (Education); Adebayo Shittu (Communications); Okechukwu Enelamah (Industry, Trade, and Investment); Chris Ngige (Labour & Productivity); and Usani Uguru (Niger Delta Ministry). Amaechi will assist in the provision of critical infrastructure\shoring up the dwindling resources of the State; Adamu will ward off ASUU and other strikes in our institutions of higher learning\return the Ivory Tower to its glory days; Shittu has set himself the task of making his Ministry the country’s new cash cow. I cannot wait to see the funds tumbling in! Enemelah should bring in direct foreign investment; Ngige (who I would have loved to see in my 1st Eleven) should keep NLC, TUC, PENGASSAN etc. off the streets. Without industrial peace and harmony, not much will be achieved. Uguru’s task is to keep ex-militants off the creeks; our hands are full already with Boko Haram and restive MASSOB.

Without discountenancing the other Ministers , I dare to say that if the above-listed Ministers succeed in their assignments, and the VP and President also succeed in providing effective leadership; reading out the Riots Act when necessary, then, the government will live up to the expectations of Nigerians. Otherwise, it will be “Not Yet Uhuru”; another “Paradise Lost”; and hope deferred!

Gov. Ambode versus ‘The Economist’
Why was the otherwise highly respected “The Economist” so mercilessly critical of Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode? Why was a publication famous and revered for its professionalism so irreverent and why did it throw all caution to the winds? Reading between the lines, it does appear as if “The Economist” had an axe to grind with Ambode. The paper’s criticism was vitriolic and it dripped with malice. Were the two-some fighting before? Otherwise, the matter at hand was not serious enough for “The Economist” to have so abrasively dismissed Ambode as a failure. After how many months in office – and while the governor had just inaugurated his cabinet!

Certainly, there must be more to the magazine’s tirade than ordinarily meets the eye. There is nothing wrong in drawing Ambode’s attention to the issues at hand and the anxieties of Lagosians; we had also done so in this column as a “wake up” call; but it is damn too early to give up on Ambode and his government. And I can observe Ambode already rising to the challenge: Potholes on the roads are being mended; more presence of policemen everywhere is noticeable; and LASTMA is now more alive to its responsibilities. Last week, the newspapers showed Ambode, like Fashola before him, arresting an errant driver. That is the kind of “action” that Lagosians treasure. Let Ambode keep the new spirit up! Eko o ni baje o! 070 5263 1058


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