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Monday, December 4, 2023

The Ministers that Nigeria Needs

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By Tony Ademiluyi

British Newswire – Thomson Reuters described President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as ‘Baba Go Fast’ in stark contrast with his predecessor who was aptly nicknamed ‘Baba Go Slow.’

Since his famous ‘Emilokan’ speech in Ogun State which literarily means ‘It is my turn,’ as he made it known to the world that becoming Nigeria’s President was his lifelong ambition for which he had made so many sacrifices, he hit the ground running from day one. He yanked off subsidy from petroleum products, signed the students’ loan into law, appointed some key aides who do not need senate confirmation and he left nobody in doubt of his rugged determination to clean the Augean stables.

The current political temperature of the country is very high because of his constitutional requirement to appoint his ministers who are the members of the Federal Executive Council – the highest decision-making body in the country.

Lobbyists made him flee his famous Bourdillon residence where he is fondly referred to as the Lion to an undisclosed location as there was no respite for him since he came back to his political base.
Sections 144 and 147 of the 1999 Constitution make it mandatory for the President of Nigeria to appoint his cabinet. The Constitution also takes adequate care of minorities by surreptitiously inserting a diversity and inclusiveness clause better known in local parlance as Federal Character which mandates him to appoint one minister in every state.

Politics is just about the most lucrative enterprise in Nigeria and so it is no brainer that the stakes are extremely high which accounts for the high-wire politicking and behind-the-scenes horse trading for the ministerial positions juicy or not given the propensity for the political elite to squeeze juice out of the hitherto ‘barren’ ministries.

He needs to appoint round pegs in round holes and deftly strike a balance between appointing technocrats and compensating politicians who stood behind him like the Rock of Gibraltar and the William Shakesperean Northern Star in the most fiercely fought elections in Nigeria’s electoral history where a whopping twenty-two states were lost by the ruling All Progressives Congress.

The only Minister mentioned in the Constitution is the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice which is given a prominent mention in Section 150. The rest are solely at the discretion of the President.
We live in uncertain times where disruptions occur within the speed of light. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man ironically called for the pause of further work in the development of artificial intelligence because of its inherent threat to jobs and a projection by the eccentric billionaire that it may in the future lead to the loss of about 300 million jobs.

We need more technocrats in key and strategic ministries that have a direct impact on the economy like finance, power, petroleum, foreign affairs, works, housing, education, health, and justice. More ministers of state should be used as political compensation while the aforementioned ministries should be manned by technocrats.

For finance, I humbly recommend a thoroughbred economist, political economist, finance expert, or economic historian. The last recommendation may understandably attract some flak from a largely ignorant populace. The best Chancellor of the Exchequer or the equivalent of the finance minister in the UK in the 20th century was Gordon Brown whose ten-year tenure under Tony Blair is still a sturdy reference point with his economic models being critically studied in the world’s leading educational institutions and think tanks. He studied history from undergraduate to doctorate level at the Russell Group University of Edinburgh. It is high time that Nigeria stopped the asinine neglect of historians, especially the economic historians, and integrate them into economic policy-making for the overall good of the nation.

Critics of my postulation may cite Kwasi Kwarteng – the UK’s shortest-ever Chancellor of the Exchequer who held that position for a mere 38 days because of his disastrous economic policy which I roundly criticized in the media. However, that case is too few and far between to dismiss an entire generation of economic historians. How have economists fared in Nigeria’s finance ministry? Have they fared any better to be brutally honest? The obviously compromised and tragically ignorant Nigerian media went to town with the news of the debt cancellation secured for Nigeria from the Paris Club and the London Club of Creditors by the then Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. What they failed to point out was that the so-called debt buyback came at a gargantuan cost. She handed over a whopping $12 billion to our creditors – funds that could have been used to massively stimulate the fragile economy and put us in fierce competition with the Asian Tigers. Voices of reason like that of the radical journalist and trade unionist, Owei Lakemfa railed against the huge windfall that our creditors got in the name of a debt buyback! Of course, his voice was shouted down by the cacophony of decibels of the liberal and imperialist economists and so-called experts in expensive suits as well as tuxedos. With our debt profile so high, we cannot afford another Bretton Woods Institution ‘Economic Expert’ that will not only sabotage the local economy by insisting on being paid in USD but also act against national interest simply to serve those of their paymasters in Washington DC. We need economic experts that can look at the World Bank and IMF straight into their faces at damn them and their poisoned chalices called prescriptions which are nauseatingly anti-people.

Power is critical for any economy to leapfrog from bad to great and so the power minister must be an egghead preferably an engineer who has worked in the power sector or a lawyer who is very familiar with legal drafting and agreements with regards to that sector.

The works and housing ministry should be manned by a civil engineer or an architect who has a track record of excellence in that sector either in the private or public sector as an employee or as an entrepreneur.
The Attorney-General should preferably be a distinguished lawyer who has a human rights and anti-corruption background so as to avoid the previous twin disasters of Michael Kaase Aondaaka and Abubakar Malami.

The health ministry mustn’t necessarily be headed by a doctor as most of the doctors who have headed it have been monumental disasters making me question the administrative competence of most doctors in the first place. This explains why in the West, non-medical doctors are the CEOs of hospitals and they are called hospital administrators. We certainly cannot afford another flop. One of Nigeria’s best health ministers was a lawyer in the person of Late Chief Ayo Rosiji. Anyone with the right vision for our health sector will suffice there.

President Tinubu must not make Buhari’s mistake of appointing himself as Petroleum Minister because that would be too much of a burden on him given the huge demands of being the nation’s helmsman. All over the world, there is a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Saudi Arabia – a major oil producer is adequately preparing for this change by engaging the services of the world’s largest consulting firm, Mckinsey to manage their post-oil Sovereign Wealth Fund. We need a petroleum minister who can easily manage this thorny transition so that a few years from now we wouldn’t be caught napping. The UK for instance set 2030 as the year for the total phasing out of fossil fuel-run vehicles, Imperial College has scrapped the Petroleum Engineering course at the Masters Degree level because of its obvious future irrelevance.

The culture minister should be one with the agenda to capitalize on the fact that our artistes have put Nigeria on the world map through Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s musical vision of Afrobeats and expand its frontiers by coming up with policies that will see us earn humongous foreign exchange via the arts and culture similar to how India and China are doing.

The information minister should be a journalist. The practice of restricting journalists to the role of presidential spokesmen and appointing non-professionals to man the sensitive information ministry which involved the effective communication of government policies is rather unfortunate. Only two journalists in this country have been information ministers – Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro under General Yakubu Gowon and Prince Tony Momoh under General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. If unelected military rulers with no autochthony can have the common sense to appoint the best to man that ministry, why can’t elected civilians give the people the best? How ironic!

During the screening, the portfolios of the ministers should be attached so that the Senators can properly screen them as well as ask the right questions. The era of take a bow and go should be permanently banished as it elevates mediocrity to its apotheosis.
We need the reincarnation of one of the best cabinets in the United States – the Camelot – that of the 35th President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Over to you President Bola Ahmed Tinubu!

Tony Ademiluyi is the CEO of Buzz Times Media and can be reached at anthonyademiluyi@yahoo.com and +2348167677075.

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