Friday, 20 November 2015

Ministers And Their Portfolios

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At last, we have got our ministers, and they have got their portfolios. In the next two or three weeks, I hope, boards of agencies will be constituted and ambassadors nominated. Any shortcomings of the Buhari administration can now be excused; the four-month wait was worth it.
My opinion on the quality of people appointed ministers? Favourable. Each is
qualified to hold any office in Nigeria. President Buhari said he had put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. It is then left for each to prove the president right or wrong.
Several times in this space, I have canvassed the idea of fishing for good people, not necessarily the so-called technocrats and seasoned bureaucrats. The trouble with Nigeria has been caused mainly by “experts” in the various fields. The world is exploding today because we have neglected the course of natural justice, which is to do what is right.
Since the portfolios were announced on Wednesday, some have been wondering why a professor of education and former vice-chancellor, Anthony Onwuka, is the minister of state for education while an accountant and journalist, Adamu Adamu, is education minister. And I ask them: When did possession of paper qualification begin to determine the office to which one could be appointed in Nigeria? Some uninformed fellows dismissed Adamu as “just a newspaper columnist” as if they could write one correct sentence. Something is wrong with a society that fails to appreciate the work of journalists or writers. Yet, Adamu qualifies to be an old professor. If he had been in the university since 1980 or earlier, and working as hard as he had been as an accountant or as a writer and editor, he would have been a professor by 1990. Much thinking goes into writing, as does research. Writers are voracious readers – that’s why they have knowledge about many things. Who contributes more: one with practical experience on the field or one who remains in the classroom and regurgitates century-old ideas? I thought Nigerians have understood that certificates don’t really matter. Up to 16 of the 36 ministers are lawyers; should all of them go to the justice ministry?
So, Adamu and Onwuka are a perfect match. The former has written extensively on how to reform our education system; the latter has managed education institutions. Both are educators – in theory and practice. My first memo to them is on the need to solve the problem arising from the mismatch between schools and workplaces. It’s crazy to keep churning out graduates – most of them unemployable – without creating jobs for them. Private institutions are not doing any better. Lecturers of the future should be those ingenious young men found at computer villages and mechanic villages who dismantle and fix laptops and cars effortlessly without a manual. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves; they are the real professors, even though many did not attend secondary school.
Thanks to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), no ministry is now “juicier” than the other. Every minister now has to bring his proposals to the Federal Executive Council on Wednesdays. In a way, Babatunde Fashola’s job as minister of power, works and housing has been made lighter for him. What matters is doing the right thing and ensuring that the right thing is done. Those who say the three ministries are too much for him forget that he governed Lagos, a state of 17million people, successfully for eight years.
Another important portfolio is that of the Federal Capital Territory. Muhammadu Bello must have come into a difficult territory, but he only needs to do what is right. Some of his predecessors measured their achievements by the number of houses they demolished and the number of people they rendered homeless. He should not listen to the ghouls in the FCTA. One noteworthy thing is that the FCTA has never won any case in court. The crooked civil servants in the FCTA are among the richest Nigerians today, simply because they grab and sell other people’s lands. Thirty-nine years after Abuja’s creation, no land management system is in place. The master plan has kept changing with the wishes of each FCT administration. The original inhabitants have yet to be settled. All that some ministers did was allocate land to themselves and acquire houses from estate developers who did “business” with them. Minister Bello should stand on natural justice: direct the relevant departments to issue certificates of occupancy, building plan approval and others speedily and without asking for bribes. Less than 10 per cent of Abuja has been developed; more infrastructure should be provided so that more people could be accommodated in the FCT.
The youth feel alienated. Even the minister of youth and sports, Solomon Dalong, is not a youth: he is 51 like me. The youth should know, however, that many in their 50s and 60s were not offered any appointment when they were in their youth. Dalong could still be young at heart!
Space does not permit me to mention all the other portfolios. They are all important. However, my advice to each minister is: ensure that Nigerians remember you for one thing (not two things) after your tenure. Propounding great ideas alone won’t do; our nation has not lacked ideas. What we lack and now seek are good people – honest, selfless, compassionate and hardworking individuals that are ready to do what is right for our country.
From 2016 there should be no more excuses. Those concerned should strive to get the 2016 budget ready by mid-December. And it should be implemented 100 per cent. No allowance for constituency projects. No flying first-class by civil servants. Jails should be expanded to accommodate looters and terrorists. Jobs would be created when power supply is adequate and stable, when food imports are forsaken, and when our education system is transformed to enable schools produce job creators instead of jobseekers.

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