By Tunde Rahman
TWICE in one week, firstly while inaugurating the new ministers on August 21 and later speaking during the maiden Federal Executive Council meeting on August 28, President Bola Tinubu issued stern directives to the new ministers to immediately begin work and perform creditably in order to restore people’s faith in government. “Nigeria expect you to hit the ground running just as we had promised them during the campaigns. With your inauguration, you have become ministers of the Federal Republic, not ministers of a particular state or region,” the President told the new ministers as they were being inaugurated. And speaking during the first FEC meeting, he was firm and direct when he told the Ministers that he would not tolerate underperformance. He made it abundantly clear that any of them who failed to live to the people’s expectation would be shown the door.
There is little doubt from the foregoing that the ball is now in the ministers’ court. They should now gird their loins and move quickly to begin to actualise the Renewed Hope Agenda for Nigeria in their various ministries. Top on the agenda are improving security in the country, reducing poverty and unemployment, ensuring food security through strengthening agriculture, working to increase megawatt of electricity and emplacing steady power, combating corruption, encouraging innovation and digital knowledge and ensuring sustainable economic development leading to industrialisation.
President Tinubu had taken giant steps to put the economy on a strong footing by removing the debilitating fuel subsidy that had benefitted a few rich at the expense of the poor and moved to unify the multiple exchange rates that allowed arbitrage to thrive unfettered. These policies may not have yielded immediate benefits, but it will ultimately bring the much-needed fruits.
The President has done much more to smoothen the ground for the ministers. It is on record that President Tinubu has reputation for mobilising public sector funds for development projects, which he demonstrated as governor of Lagos. This uncommon capacity is at the moment exemplified in the huge sums being raked into the Federation Account since he assumed office, making it possible for the Federal Government and States to share unprecedented amounts for June and July, around N1trillion each month. Only a few weeks ago, the Federal Government also released N5billion to each of the states for compensatory palliatives in the light of the removal of subsidy apart from the Infrastructure Fund the President approved for the states. And to attract foreign investments into the country, the President has used every opportunity open to him to tell the international community that Nigeria is open for business. He has shown that the country is ready for business by dismantling all obstacles against investments and easing avenues for doing business.
So the ministers have all they require to perform. Their jobs are also cut out for them. And I believe there are men and women of high quality in the cabinet. It would appear the portfolios were also carefully distributed to put round pegs in round holes. Not a few analysts and commentators had initially, without scrutiny, attacked the quality of the new cabinet, claiming without justification that the calibre of persons in the cabinet belied the President’s reputation as a potent talent-hunter who composed a pan-Nigeria cabinet of tested technocrats and administrators during his time as governor of Lagos State. However, as the days went by and the real worth of the new ministers sank in, particularly as their citations were being read during their inauguration at the State House on August 21, it became apparent the President had done an excellent job in the composition of the cabinet.
Even the last-minute reassignment and redeployment of some ministers after further reflection on the ministerial portfolios would appear to enrich the cabinet, signposting President Tinubu as adept in political engineering.
In simple language, the new ministers comprised men and women of “timber and calibre” to borrow the words of the late politician and wordsmith, Chief K.O. Mbadiwe. The ministers, without any scintilla of doubt, parade rich resumes and important track records necessary to deliver on their roles.
It may be tempting to dwell on all the 45 ministers given their calibre (3 more are still being expected), but in this article, I will pick only a few of the many bright lights to shine unto others because they offer a good representation of the entire cabinet.
One of them is the former governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, an opposition politician who after falling out with his party, the People’s Democratic Party, and its Presidential candidate in the last election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, entered into a working alliance with the then APC Candidate Tinubu and delivered Rivers to him in the election. A lawyer, Wike is that restless and seemingly ruthless administrator who performed brilliantly in his state as the governor for 8 years, delivering many gigantic infrastructure projects to the state. It is therefore a good judgement to send him to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja that is dying for a shrewd manager to upgrade the infrastructure and correct the distorted master plan.
To demonstrate his readiness and seriousness to make a difference, driving in his official vehicle with the number FCT 01, within moments of his inauguration, the minister landed at his new office where he addressed a press conference and read out a riot act to those who built on waterways or sewage lines. He thus began to live up to the billing masterfully captured by the publisher of ThisNigeria, Eric Osagie, who warned in a recent article- “Wike: The new Sheriff in town.”
Another is Senator Dave Umahi, formerly Deputy Leader of the Senate, who recently ended his two-term as governor of Ebonyi State. Umahi bid his time well as PDP Chairman in Ebonyi and as Deputy Governor to that highly revered technocrat, Chief Martin Elechi, before he became governor in 2015, emerging one of the few deputies in Nigeria’s political history to succeed their bosses. Trained as a civil engineer, he showed his stuff as governor of Ebonyi. This is what Chooks Oko, a commentator, wrote on Umahi’s stewardship of the state on the occasion of his 60th birthday: “Umahi is noted for gigantic enduring projects and the mounding of men. He started with flyovers and concrete roads and by the time he left office, he had constructed the highest number of solid flyovers and the largest concrete road network in the entire country. Most of the projects rank among the biggest and most solid in that category.” Former governor Umahi is Minister of Works in President Tinubu’s cabinet.
There is Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate, a renowned physician who was previously a Professor of Public Health Leadership in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard University. He was formerly Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency of Nigeria. He recently bagged a prestigious job as CEO of Gavi Vaccine Alliance but declined the offer, prefering to serve his country instead. He is today Minister of Health and Social Welfare.
In the line up of outstanding and capable ministers is also an economist and investment banker, Mr. Olawale Edun, who is the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy. Mr. Edun worked at Chase Merchant Bank (later Continental Bank) in Lagos before joining the World Bank in September 1986 through the elite Young Professionals program, where he worked on economic and financial packages for several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1989, he co-founded Investment Banking & Trust Company Limited (now Stanbic IBTC). He was also Commissioner for Finance in Tinubu’s administration in Lagos.
The ministerial team parades veteran journalist, former editor and pro-democracy activist, Mr. Dele Alake, who contributed immensely to the democratic dispensation we have today. Mr. Alake holds the Solid Mineral Development portfolio. There are also former Jigawa State governor Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, who is Minister of Defence, and his former Kebbi State counterpart, the brilliant Senator Atiku Bagudu, who is manning the Budget and National Planning Ministry. That Alake is saddled with Solid Minerals, the next big thing in terms of generating the much-needed revenue for the country, should not rankle anyone because as a reputable intellectual and editor, he has the knack for providing solutions to many hydra-headed problems as a strategist.
Former Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola, an insurance guru and astute administrator with loads of integrity, emerged the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy. Also in the cabinet are former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, a scion of the late Chief Adegoke Adelabu and former APC governorship candidate in Oyo State, who is now the new Minister of Power. In the cast are prominent lawyer, activist and former Minister of State for Labour, Mr. Festus Keyamo, now Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development; legal giant Mr. Lateef Fagbemi who is the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, and former Acting National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abubakar Kyari.
There are also Senator John Enoh who is the Minister of Sports, and a prodigious member of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and Publisher of Blueprint newspaper, Alhaji Muhammed Idris, who is the new Minister of Information and national Orientation.
For a country with energetic and talented youthful population, the young at heart and women are also not left behind. There is technology expert, Mr. Bosun Tijani, who is the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy; prominent diplomat and former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf Tuggah, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and former House of Representatives member, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, now the Minister of Interior.
The women parade a galaxy of stars like the highly educated surgeon and former Commissioner for Health in Cross River State, Dr. Betta Edu, who is at present the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation; former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, now Minister of State, Labour and Employment; former banker and former Commissioner for Finance in Imo State, Mrs. Doris Anite, who is Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, and the new Minister of Women Affairs, Barrister Uju Kennedy. The list also includes another lawyer and humanist, Hajiya Hannatu Musawa, who is Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, former Director-General of the National Refugee Commission, Mrs. Imaan Suleiman-Ibrahim, now Minister of State for Police Affairs, and Mrs. Lola Ade-John, who is at present Minister of Tourism.
But will this array of stars deliver on the assignments before them and meet the yearnings and expectations of Mr. President and Nigerians for a new lease of life? The answer will provide itself with time!
-Rahman, Former Editor Thisday on Sunday is a Presidential Aide