Buhari’s Cabinet: An Assessment Of The Torch Bearers

DECEMBER 22, 2016

In his illuminating book,From Third World To The First, Lee Kuan Yew, the visionary and transformative Singaporean leader, affirmed that an essential ingredient of effective leadership is the ability of the leader to select and motivate a team of capable lieutenants. With purposeful teams, leaders, past and present, have been able to transform their countries.

In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, understanding the need for a result-oriented team, took very good time to assemble his cabinet after his swearing in at the end of May last year. When he eventually did, among his ministers were some known and unknown names, who put together, inspired hope that the change agenda, which was the campaign mantra of Buhari will be actualised to the relief of downtrodden Nigerians.

But more than one year in office, Buhari’s ministers have collectively recorded a less than inspiring story. Little wonder that the story of an imminent cabinet shakeup is presently making the rounds in the public space. Nonetheless, counted among many ministers with uninspiring records are a few who have shown promise by their modest and commendable feats in office. A few examples will suffice.

Works, Housing and Power Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola may not have totally lived up to the expectation of his teeming admirers, who have fond memories of his superlative performance as a two-term governor of Lagos State, yet he remains one of the shining lights of this administration.

Notwithstanding the weight that shouldering three major ministries rolled into one brings on him, the former governor has acquitted himself fairly well. While intractable poor power situation has not improved in any remarkable way, it is apparent that concerted effort is on-going to tame the hydra headed monster. Fashola has told us of a well laid out plan to increase generation and even diversify the source of energy and reduce the emphasis on gas and water. There is evidence that the years coming bear hope.

In the same breath, road infrastructure has recorded appreciable improvements with Fashola leading the very impressive decision to continue some of the projects initiated by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Notable amongst these are the Lagos –Ibadan Expressway and as well as the Sagamu- Ore portion of the Sagamu-Benin-Ore Expressway. The minister has also promised that the blue print for the delivery of modern and affordable housing for the people is ready for implementation.

Veteran politician and Minister for Agriculture Audu Ogbeh is another member of the Buhari cabinet to whom much is given and much is expected. This is more so as the primacy of food security as an index of human progress cannot be overemphasised. With an inspiring track record that dates back to his days as an effective Minister of Communication in the second republic government of President Shehu Shagari and a visible party leader in the fourth republic, much was expected from Ogbeh. More than one year after, his achievements sans the grazing field controversy is still appreciable and inspires hope for a better lap of honour in the year ahead.

Recently, Ogbe, at an event where he represented Buhari promised that the administration had plans to build 400 dams to aide irrigation all over Nigeria even his ministry is said to be committed to see Nigeria self-sustaining in rice production before 2018.

Another Minister who has made a mark under this administration is newly appointed Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed. Since her appointment by President Buhari last year, Mohammed has displayed undeniable passion in the discharge of her duties. Her commitment to the job has, without doubt, aided the launch the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Change Agreements.

The ministry under her also launched the Sovereign Green Bonds even as it flagged off the Ogoni Clean up Programme, an important exercise that has been held off for years due to lack of political will as well as the complex security and socio- economic conditions attached to it. Although Mohammed will be leaving for the UN soon, her achievement, especially the development of the Great Green Wall and the Ogoni clean-up would remain indelible in the minds of Nigerians.

Evidently, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu has been leading a quiet revolution in that sector. Now, in spite of its importance to survival, water resources is one of the few areas in government that hardly attracts the interest of Nigerians Nevertheless, Adamu has repositioned the ministry for efficient service delivery. He has created more alternative sources of funding projects and strengthened river basins operations as well as enhanced monitory and evaluation

The minister has concluded the implementation plan for each item of the immediate and long term plans (2016 – 2030 Roadmap); conducted Technical Audit and Prioritization of all on-going 117 Projects in the ministry. The ministry also launched the Graduate/Youth Farmers Employment Programmes in seven locations nationwide, including Kampe Irrigation Project, Kogi State, Integrated Farming Project, Abeokuta Ogun State, Talata Mafara Scheme, Zamfara State, Kadawa Integrated Centre, Kano State, Ogoja Irrigation Scheme, Cross River State, Agbala Integrated Farm Project, Imo State and Doma Dam Irrigation Project, Nasarawa State. This is a continuous programme that mirrors the Songhai Integrated Farm model and engaging carefully selected participants in batches of 50 to be trained in various agricultural activities and to be extended to 109 Senatorial Districts of the country.

It has also completed and commissioned the Central Ogbia Central Water Supply Project in Bayelsa State for provision of potable Water Supply to Otuoke and 12 other communities of Central Ogbia Local Government Area. This is in addition to developing a new national programme on Partnership for Expanded Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (PEWASH), 2016-2030 to attain universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation as well as guidelines for Investment Opportunities in Hydropower and Irrigation Projects in Nigeria among others.

And then, there are those whose ebullient personality, qualification or vocal aptitude have presented as achievers even when there is very little to show. Here are a few examples.

Although it is said that revenue from Solid Minerals have increased significantly, Dr Kayode Fayemi who is in charge of this ministry has spent the best part of the last one year presumably straightening the intricate web of chaos and spoilage that had held down the solid minerals sector. It is expected that the rewards of his backroom work so far will start showing early in the New Year.

Irrepressible politician and Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi has also done more talk and promises making than effectiveness in the past one year. However, Amaechi has shown great determination in tackling the multifarious issues that surrounds rural, urban and maritime transportation. Among several initiatives, he has enunciated a road map which if well implemented will make the much desired difference.

Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama in spite of his affable and suave personality can also do more to bolster the image of a big country in deep recession. Viewed critically, Onyeama possesses the verve required for real diplomacy but needs to up the ante in the months ahead.

Internal Affairs Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazua, on his part, seem to have just stepped out from a strings of unhelpful controversy to face his onerous tasks which has not been made any easier by frequent jail breaks and ill-equipped penitentiaries. A battle tested and cerebral general, he is likely to be a hit in the Defence Ministry

And there is a final group of people who have largely done nothing to impress Nigerians. Some of these are the duo of Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and Budget and National Planning Minister Udoma Udo Udoma. The more these two strive to perform, the less output is recorded hence; they have remained in the eye of the needle. Their respective performance is often viewed from the prism of a parlous economy and an unhelpful howbeit under implemented budget.

Same can be said of Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, who has earned a reputation as a lousy, ineffective minister as well as Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, whose only achievement has been assorted controversy in the ministry. Starting with the illegal removal of university councils and vice chancellors to the increase in fees paid by student of unity colleges, this ministry has done nothing to earn the confidence of Nigerians this past one year.

On the whole therefore, the Buhari cabinet could be likened to a perennially underachieving team as they say in football. The cabinet consists of eminent Nigerian players who at the discretion of the President were selected to start the match against a rampaging opponent in the mold of a tottering economy. Close to the half time mark, the team appears to be loosing steam in spite of the efforts of a few gifted players. The President, as any good coach is wont to act, will have to make necessary changes by infusing few fresh legs that will collaborate with the performing players to win the game.

Overall, the Buhari administration has towered more by what it promised to do while seeking office than what it has done while in office. As the economic recession persists, it behoves the President to rejig his cabinet. Transformative leaders depend partly on the force of their character and vision to lead effectively. Yet they do better when they are able to retain good hands, replace not so good hands and evolve a team of the competent since only a tree cannot make a forest. As we count down to 2017, Nigerians demand from the President a result oriented team that will talk less and do more for a better Nigeria.

Dialoke wrote from Lagos