I stumbled upon something that looked like a Facebook spat between two professional colleagues and friends of mine during the last week. One of them had posted a quotation from Professor Akin Oyebode to the effect that the manner in which President Muhammadu Buhari assigned ministers into the ministry of education could only be described as “the tail wagging the dog”.
Oyebode, a former vice chancellor of the Ekiti State University and International Law teacher at the University of Lagos spoke on Channels Television’s prime time bulletin News at Ten against the background of the appointment of Mr. Adamu Adamu, an accountant and columnist as education minister over a university teacher who will serve as minister of state. Our friend dismissed Oyebode’s intervention as the mere ranting of an old man who did nothing productive with the opportunity he had to be Vice Chancellor.
Now, I felt the interlocutor was merely being sentimental. On the face of it, I would imagine that the educational sector in Nigeria would need not just an educationist but someone with some level of competence in educational management or something of sorts.
To my mind, the preponderance of the challenges that our country currently grapples with originates from the defective education that we receive and I would assume that an experienced teacher would do better in a substantive position than a journalist, at least on face value.
However, I agree that I may be wrong, Oyebode may have been wrong as well but our friend did not provide any superior argument to disprove our position. All he did in his post was to dismiss Oyebode’s comment as arrant nonsense and garbage!
But we cannot just dismiss the opinion of any Nigerian so casually. It is the prerogative of the president to decide the portfolio of his ministers and decide to change his mind about whether they were all going to get portfolios or not, but then, Nigerians have every right to hold opinions.
And that is why I also have misgivings about the triple office with which immediate past governor of Lagos State was saddled with on Wednesday. I do not want to be misunderstood; Fashola is a different kind of public servant. I argue that he didn’t apply his full capacity to his job as governor of Lagos State and that the common man did not find much favour with him, but I agree that there are very few people who understand the import of public office like this man. He is intelligent and quite exposed to boot, but being at the controls of three of Nigeria’s must enduring deprivations is a trip into peculiar complexities.
For one, the needs are huge. Nigeria is said to have a current housing deficit of over 17 million units and counting. In the estimation of the World Bank, 720,000 units of houses need be built yearly for the next 20 years for Nigeria to dream of closing the housing gap. For electricity, in spite of hundreds of billions of naira invested in the building of plants and other energy infrastructure over the past 16 years, Nigeria is still struggling to generate power not significantly more than 4,000 megawatts for its over 160million population! And the state of public infrastructure, especially roads is perhaps the most depressing anywhere in the world. One man, who is no expert in any of these all-important sectors, has now been appointed to superintend over a much needed turn around on three fronts.
It is clear that the minister could have some idea from his tenure in Lagos State and that he would employ the assistance of consultants, but that would not be hitting the ground running as we have recently started to say in Nigeria.
I also hope that by foisting these three ministries on Fashola, we are not portraying him as a man who has more than a fair share of mortality in him, a coordinating, super minister through the back door.
While I wish the new minister well in his new duty(ies), I hope he will find the will to totally apply himself to this job and help Nigeria build institutions in these sectors rather than becoming a strong man on whom everything rests.
Nigerians cannot wait to see these ministers fire on all cylinders and we wish them well.