Inside Stuff with MARTINS OLOJA
‘The Guardian’, Sunday April 28, 2019, P.10
‘BUHARI, GOVERNORS AND CABINETS OF SIGNIFICANCE’
I am fully persuaded that this is the right time to encourage our leaders at all levels, notably the president, the governors and national assembly leaders who are on the verge of dissolving old cabinets, advisory boards and making new ones to consider the time and the season that are shaping our destiny in the country at the moment.
Elections are over. It is time for governance. So, from the office of the citizen should flow constructive suggestions on how to evaluate the effects of the rains that have been beating us since 1999 generally and specifically since 2015.
It may not be a time to share blames. But our leaders should not entertain sycophants at this time. They should be prepared to listen to some voices of wisdom, which an ancient word says is the principal thing. That word says if you are blessed with wisdom, that power (of wisdom) will promote you in any office you occupy and that same power from above will decorate you ‘with ornaments of grace’.
That is why leaders need to ask for wisdom, which is different from knowledge or high intelligence quotient. Young readers need to note this distinction.
We pray therefore for the spirit of wisdom for our leaders and their advisers at this time of political recruitment, which is the foundation of success or failure.
Doubtless, the decision our leaders are about to take will either make or mar the economy, peace and stability in the nation, among others in the next four years.
The decisions most of the leaders took concerning appointments in 2015 have been consequential and all of us have been affected by such judgment, one way or the other.
The consequences of the quality of presidential and gubernatorial bureaucracies appointed four years ago have been visible. The implications of the quality of security and intelligence chiefs, chief executives of agencies and others procured in 2015, too have been glaring. The consequences of the quality and quantity of the executive councils of the federation and the states (cabinets) since 2015 have been reflecting in so many indices and the way the citizens and indeed the world have perceived us.
As I noted the other day here, ‘it is a period of consequences’. Whatever our leaders sowed into their appointments since 2015, we have been reaping. Some of our fathers have sown and eaten sour grapes and so their children’s teeth have been set on edge.
Our leaders are on the march again. They are compiling names of citizens, especially party members who helped well in the last elections. They are about to fill the many vacancies all over the place. It is not a time to leave this process again to the vagaries of party and cabal manipulations.
Four years ago, there was no sense of urgency. Instead of asking for quality, equality and thoroughness, most party chieftains and enthusiastic supporters shouted, ‘let the president, for instance, take his time to select his ‘dream team’ from anywhere he liked’.
We have all seen the consequences of our naivety and absence of wisdom in that attitude. Today, some sections of this complex federation are complaining about lopsided and parochial appointments. Just as some others are complaining about low performance index of even the federal cabinet.
Some of the poor performances have manifested in the states recently from the way some sitting and immediate past governors, specifically in Oyo, Ondo, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, Delta, etc could not win senatorial elections in their states. These are significant developments about stewardship of some governors. Most of them have been wasters and under-achievers – for eight years.
Unfortunately, here is a country that celebrates mediocrity. We have been nurturing democracy with prominent people who are not in any way significant, as Rick Warren would like to observe.
There is indeed a time for everything. We have all stayed on this side of the Mountain where we have not been making progress. It is time to move to the next level – of real development with significant people who may not be prominent and boisterous.
Our President, Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria before the weekend for the United Kingdom on a 10-day private visit during which period, decent sources had noted, the president might decide on cabinet and key positions for his second term. A credible newspaper had last month hinted at this possibility: that the president would compile his ministerial list during his vacation abroad. He is abroad now and we have been told to stop inquiring into what Nigeria’s president has gone to handle in the U.K. Although that is not a decent response from the reputation managers of a country’s leader, what can we do?
But Alan Paton, in his classic, ‘Cry the Beloved country’ says, ‘when the storm threatens, a man is afraid of his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house…’
We can begin process of rebuilding our broken walls too by suggesting to the president wherever he is making his appointments. The simple suggestion is that he should this time consider a cabinet of significance to the country.
The cabinet he made in 2015 was with due respect what Benjamin Disraeli once described as ‘a cabinet of mediocrities’. One is not too sure even the president has been proud of his (2015-2019) cabinet – that has not been remarkable, anyway. I hope people are aware that those of us in the newsroom have to sometimes use Google to find the names of some ministers and heads of agencies of this government. They have neither been prominent, nor significant. This is not peculiar to Abuja alone. We are quick to fire some regular shots at Abuja only, without considering the fact that there are other 37 centres of the peripheries and 774 local government councils in the federation.
Here is the thing, if the party system had been working well, there would have been a reflection of the ruling party’s programmes in most parts of the country. But we have been developing our own peculiar democracy without an ideological road map known as manifestos.
That is why I would like to recommend immediately that the president’s good men should dust up the abandoned Steve Oronsaye Panel Report of 2012.
It is one of the best documents that I have read as a public service journalist. It can be dispassionately studied as a policy document by any good government. The 2012 presidential committee on reforms of government agencies’ report can be adopted to restructure the public sector for efficiency and development.
There should be no argument about the profile of chairman of the panel that wrote that significant document. The 800-page report submitted to Presdent Goodluck Jonathan in April 2012, is a classic on efficiency, prudence and lean government at all levels. It is not about Oronsaye. It is about the content of the document – that can be used to transform public service. For instance, the panel recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161. Besides, the Oronsaye panel did not see any reason why NTA, FRCN and VOA should be separate entities with three directors-general and three boards of directors. The panel would like the three media outfits to be merged and headed by one director general as it is with the ‘BBC’ U.K and ‘SABC’, South Africa, etc.
I am aware most government agencies’ heads then compromised the White Paper Committee – to remain as entities. And president Jonathan was careless about this remarkable document that would have reformed the public sector significantly before 2015.
The reason for a specific reference to Oronsaye report is that this is not a time for big government. It is not a time for more ministries and agencies, especially as revenue has been dwindling and oil remains a major source of revenue for all the states and local governments.
Meanwhile, there have been dark hints that the president would likely expand his cabinet in line with the promise he made to members and officials of his political party the All Progressives Congress (APC) in October 2017, during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Party. He had then disclosed his intention to expand his cabinet. “Apart from appointing one minister from each of the 36 states as enshrined in the constitution, the president would also pick one person from each of the six geo-political zones in the country,” one of the sources had hinted. The source added that more ministries would be created and others split in line with the exigencies of the moment. The plan in the new cabinet, it was learnt, would also enable the president accommodate some governors who lost their second term bids and senior party faithful who couldn’t secure seats in the National Assembly.
This is a time to encourage the president to reconsider the absurdity of allocating more than 70 per cent of the national budget to recurrent expenditure just for public servants and political office holders. This is a time for his party officials to put heads together on prudent management of the nation’s resources. The president needs to cut costs by merging ministries, agencies and even embassies we don’t need.
He needs to talk of Nigeria first, not party men first. That is the significant commitment that has made Donald Trump to be both prominent and significant as a leader in America and indeed the world today despite all the bashings by the opposition and the powerful media. He says he will do all that is needed to fight the opposition and indeed the trading partners just to put America first.
That is why Nigeria’s president, the governors, federal and state legislators who will be inaugurated in May and June respectively should note that Nigeria is indeed a very poor country. The country needs competent and prudent managers of the scarce resources at this moment.
Meanwhile, we are beginning to see signals that most of the state governors are not aware of the state of the nation from the way they have begun appointments of state officials and advisers.
For instance, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi recently announced the appointment of six Special Advisers, Chairmen and members of some Boards and Corporations in the state. According to a statement, the appointments of the Advisers have been made to further position the present administration in the state for effective service delivery. Following a list of 14 commissioner-designates transmitted to the House of Assembly for screening and confirmation two weeks ago, the same Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi also approved the appointment of additional five more advisers. He now has 11 advisers. His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, said: “In the bid to further position the administration for effective service delivery, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has approved the appointment of five additional Special Advisers.” Do you need more advisers for effective service delivery?
In August, 2017, there was a report that the Office of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki sacked 98 of his aides, a figure disputed by Mr. Saraki’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu; who, however, did not provide the actual number dismissed.
All told, we need our leaders to know that this time does not require for instance, an 84-year old Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, among other public officers who cannot be productive at this time. It is a time for ‘dynamic capabilities’ in public service for the most populous black nation on earth to be a country of significance too.
***We will continue next week