10 areas we felt President Buhari could have done better with cabinet appointments

The much anticipated inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari‘s cabinet for his second term in office took place on Wednesday at the Council Chambers of the State House. The Minister-Designates had gone through a successful (for lack of words to use) screening process by the Senate, though without their portfolios (as it has become a tradition even with successive governments), leading a good number of citizens to express disappointment in the shabby manner it was conducted.

Against this background, all attention had shifted to the President to bring something positive of the list dominated by his loyalists, presidential campaign council members, cronies of party stalwarts as well aspirants and candidates who lost their electoral bids in the last general election. While the thinkers and strategists of the government deserve commendation for a few introduction, a good number of the portfolios assigned to the Ministers make them misfits for the roles.

It is equally important to state that the list of issues outlined below does not touch on the totality of ‘flaws’ with the appointments, we prefer to outline them as the 10 major areas we feel the President missed it:

  1. Inaugurating a 43-member cabinet

Apart from the country’s finances dipping by the day and the urgent need to cut the burdensome cost of governance, one would have expected a slimmer cabinet comprising officials with high capacity to transform key areas of the public sector. This goes without saying that the decision of successive governments to retain some ministries in our federal cabinet inspite of the fact that their existence is not in tandem with modern realities.

Below are ministries that should have either been retained or created:

(a) Defence – Minister (b) Foreign Affairs – Minister (c) Interior – Minister (d) Finance- Minister (e) Trade and Investment – Minister

(f) Health and Social Care – Minister (g) Education – Minister

(h) National Planning – Minister of State (Housing), (Science and Technology), Minister of State (Economic Planning), Minister of State (Special Duties)

(i) Energy – Minister of State (Power), Minister of State (Petroleum), Minister of State (Solid Minerals Development)

(j) Transport – Minister of State (Aviation), Minister of State (Waterways), Minister of State (Rail), Minister of State (Roads)

(k) Information/Communication – Minister of State (Information), Minister of State (Communication)

(m) Rural Development – Minister of State (Agriculture), Minister of State (Water Resources), Minister of State (Niger Delta Development) and Minister of State (North East Development).

(n) Justice – Minister (o) Environment – Minister (p) Youth – Minister (q) Women – Minister  (r) Sports – Minister (s) Labour – Minister

(t) Humanitarian Affairs/Disaster Management – Minister (u) Federal Capital Territory – Minister

2. Appointment of 7 women into the cabinet

President Buhari had in March 2015 vowed to implement the 2005 National Gender Policy, which stipulated 35 per cent appointive positions for women. The recent appointments in his second and final term clearly shows his non-belief in the contribution of women in the development of the country.

3. Failure to appoint any Nigerian from the Diaspora

The antecedents of Ministers appointed from the Diaspora in the past as Akinwunmi Adesina, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Omobola Johnson, Olusegun Aganga, Kemi Adeosun amongst others does show that the capacity of Nigerians who have gained exposure internationally to contribute positively to governance in the home country cannot be over-emphasized.

This will also in no small way, make these category of citizens look forward to returning home either to invest or seek elective office where they can transfer their wealth of experience and wisdom to the local communities.

4. Appointment of only former Governors as full-fledged Ministers

The decision of the President and his think-tank to continue in the tradition that precludes former Governors and Deputies from being appointed as Ministers of State is counter-productive to efficiency and effectiveness in 21st century governance.

5. Ministers’ age average of 60 years

The age range of the Ministers are listed as: 60’s (43.2%), 50’s (35.1 %) 40’s (16.2%) 70’s (5.4%). The Buhari administration appear not to be in touch with modern realities where young people are at the forefront of transforming society and this would have been a bold way to prove his readiness to promote youth inclusion.

6. Appointment of Sunday Dare as Minister of Youths and Sports 

Following the landmark signing into law of the Not Too Young To Run Bill on 31st of May 2018 and the seeming success of the youth in the last general elections that saw the election of 13 legislators (under-35) into the House of Representatives, 22 as members of State Houses of Assembly across the country as well as Speakers of state parliaments in Oyo, Kwara, Plateau and Zamfara, expectations were high that the country would finally get a young person as Youth Minister for the first time in 20 years. The appointment of 53-year-old Sunday Dare thus frustrated that dream.

More so, with rich experience as Senior Editor of The News Magazine in 1993 from where left in 2001 to join Voice of America,  Special Assistant/Chief of Staff to the Minister of Information and Communications in 2009 as well as Chief of Staff and Special Adviser Media to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a befitting role for the journalist would have been as Minister of Information.

Having also held the appointment of Executive Commissioner at the National Communications Commission (NCC) up until Wednesday, it remains a mystery as to why Minister Dare was not considered fit to head the Ministry of Communications.

7. Appointment of Festus Keyamo as Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs

If the eventual portfolio of any of the erstwhile Minister-Designates generated anxiety, that of Festus Keyamo certainly ranks top on the list and rightly so, the reactions of Nigerians on Twitter justified this worry.

For the 50-year-old Senior Advocate of Nigeria, given the role he played as Director of Strategic Communications for the APC 2019 Presidential Campaign Council and what has largely been the reactive nature of the Information Ministry at present, the expectations of political watchers was that he would take over from the Propagandist expert, Lai Mohammed. Placing a Keyamo in the Ministry of Niger Delta is superfluous.

More so, re-appointing Lai Mohammed as Minister of Information and Culture is counter-productive as the Culture and National Orientation aspect of the ministry under him has barely witnessed progress especially in comparison with works of previous ministers like the late Dora Akunyili.

8. Appointment of Rauf Aregbesola as Minister of Interior and creation of a Police Affairs Ministry

While the former Governor is largely remembered for owing a cadre of workers salaries in his home state of Osun, he also has a reputation for an impressive stint at the Lagos Ministry of Works during the administration of his mentor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, between 1999 and 2007. This should have been a major consideration in drafting him to the Ministry of Transport (Works).

Appointing a federalist like Aregbesola to lead a centralised homeland security also makes mockery of his philosophy about state police and other associated ideals of federalism.

In same vein, the creation of a Police Affairs Ministry with Maigarai Dingyadi as Minister, out of Interior was unnecessary. The Inspector General of Police reports directly to the President and there is a Police Service Commission in place for the discipline and promotion of police officers. What they sought to achieve with this remains unknown.

9. Appointment of a retired Army General as Minister of Defence

74-year-old Major General Bashir Magashi (retired) started his military career as a Second Lieutenant in 1968, was Commander Guards Brigade and former Military Administrator, Sokoto State before his retirement as a Major General in 1999. His appointment into this Ministry leaves a lot of questions about the desire of the President to actually win the war against insurgency and the many defense challenges the country is currently experiencing.

The point remains that appointment into the Ministry of Defence is still based on old classical military thinking, hence from the policy point of view, the appointment is out of place. Nigeria is not necessarily in dearth of military strategy, what we lack is forward and backward linked defense policy that could address the security challenges in the country. And in recent times, none of the defense appointment we have had depict this profile.

10. Appointments into the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment

Having gotten it right somewhat with the appointment of financial expert, Okechukwu Enelamah to oversee this Ministry since 2015, it becomes difficult to understand why he would be replaced with Richard Adeniyi Adebayo. Judging from the official citation read by the Presidential spokesman during the inauguration of the Ministers, beyond leading the governing party as Deputy National Chairman, the former Ekiti Governor has barely built capacity in any role related to this Ministry to merit appointment into such a critical office.

Similarly, the appointment of Ambassador Maryam Katagun as Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment reveals that, as in the case of Keyamo, she was probably appointed to complete the number of women in the cabinet since the President had settled for his key ministers.

For someone who started work as an Education Officer in the Federal Ministry of Education in 1977, served as Secretary General of National Commission for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) between 2001 and 2009, as well as Ambassador and Permanent delegate of UNESCO in Paris, she is perhaps a good candidate for the Ministry of Education or National Planning.

Commendation:

With the raging case of insurgency over the last 10 years and the attendant rise of displaced persons as a result of internal security challenges across the country, it became more than necessary to go beyond paying lip service in addressing the plight of Internallly Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country. This in itself makes the decision of the President and his think-tank to create a Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development as highly commendable.

As a matter of fact, selecting Sadiya Umar Faruk who until her appointment was Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrant and Internally Displaced Persons is a round peg in a round hole.

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