Finally the dust over those who would be ministers under the president Muhammadu Buhari administration has settled. If baba does not decide to go slow and steady on this one, we should see them assume office and know who is taking what responsibility this week.
These ladies and gentlemen are taking office at a very critical epoch in the affairs of our nation, something which is surely apparent to all of them. During their inaugural retreat last week, the president suggested to the ministers the need to be prepared for a lean economy. One was made to understand that the meeting rolled out a number of perks that these people may have to do without, indicative of the fact that they would maintain an austere tenure along the nature of their principal. One of the ministers-designate, Senator Chris Ngige ventilated the assimilation of the president’s counsel when he told pressmen: “Yes, lean economy because we are going to block areas of leakages, retinue of aides, protocol staff, large convoys of cars are things that will not fly in this administration.”
I see that many people were impressed but not me. Such stories, matter of fact, put me off. I see them as abandoning the substance of the issue at hand. To start with, these promises are vague. Ngige didn’t tell us that ministers would not have convoys only that they would not have “large convoys.” So how do you define large convoys? In addition, stripping public officials of these “largesse” and saving money does not equate with good governance and delivery on promises. A minister may be denied all these ostentation but he or she would still find opportunity to approve websites or government structures at out of this world, mouth gaping costs. We should therefore get to the seriousness of the work at hand and stop bombarding Nigerians with unnecessary self-serving stuff. If you ask me actually, public officers in Nigeria should have all the comfort that the country can afford. That way they can concentrate on the job and not be enticed by the demons of mammon. These ministers should also have adequate security as the job they will be doing is as hazardous as they come. I do not think the country should spare anything at getting this done.
That done, no minister will have any excuse for failing to work tirelessly for the Nigerian people. Realistic sacrifice for the nation, is in my opinion, not about denying oneself of what makes the job easy to do but in the creativity and dedication that you bring to your duty after all that should be done has been done.
Part of what this cabinet owes Nigeria is the courage to advise the president without fear or favour. I think it was a former Information Minister who used that expression “if you are appointed as an adviser, you must advise well.”
These ministers aside from being totally committed must be prepared to say it to the president the way it is and be ready to walk if need be.
I know that the President is a man of integrity and he means well for Nigeria but the president is also limited. Given his advanced age, he is limited by dynamism of the new age as he is limited by his world view.
Five months after his swearing in, certain things are clear about the president. He is strong about his opinions such that he is not easily convinced about things that he doesn’t believe in.
Two examples come from the oil and gas sector where the sale of Nigeria’s refineries and the removal of fuel subsidy have been rejected by the president in spite of expert opinion. I suspect that a lot of such situations will happen in the Buhari administration, so ministers need to brace up and be ready to slug it out with the president in the interest of the nation.
Nigeria voted for Buhari because of his strong personality but the nation could also suffer greatly for the same reason unless those who work with the president build the nerve to speak their minds to the president even if he doesn’t like it. Although ministers are appointed at the pleasure of the president, they serve the nation and must pursue what is best for the country.
Sycophancy would be the greatest infraction that any minister could commit against the fatherland especially as Nigerians seem to have decided to look away from past and questionable activitiess of some of them. This is an oppoŕtunity for them to write their names, positively, in history.
So God help them and their principal.