August 26, (THEWILL) – Last Monday, President Bola Tinubu officially swore in 45 out of the proposed 48 ministers.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, 84 days (about three months) after the President’s inauguration on May 29, 2023.
It is important to note that the event was the seventh to be held in the country o be held in the country since 1999 and the third time that the All Progressives Congress (APC) have formed a government at the Federal level after its birth in 2014.
Political analysts and watchers of political developments in the country have observed with dismay that despite the lean resources of the country, Tinubu’s cabinet is the highest since the advent of the Fourth Republic.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed 36 ministers in his first term in office and in his first term, Buhari named 42 ministers. Former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 named 33 ministers in his cabinet, including nine from the Umaru Yar’Adua Administration. In 2007, Yar’Adua named a 39-member cabinet made up of 32 men and seven women. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo initially named 42 ministers in 1999, but he reviewed his cabinet to reduce the number of ministries and ministers to 27 and 40, respectively, before he left office.
THEWILL recalls that in 2011, the Steve Oronsanye Committee recommended that the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs) of the Federal Government should be pruned to save the cost of governance. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented, 12 years after. Former President Buhari failed to keep his promise to implement the White Paper of the report.
As the ministers settle down to carry out their expected duties, one worrisome issue is how the additional new ministries, such as Ministries of Marine and Blue Economy; Youth; Art and Culture and Creative Economy; Tourism and Steel Development will have enough resources to carry out their duties, bearing in mind that the current budget did not envisage the creation of new ministries.
How to equip the ministers to perform their duties effectively and efficiently is a challenge that may stare President Tinubu in the face. Political analysts and watchers of political developments in the country believe that the first thing the President should do and timely, too, is to organise a retreat for the new ministers as a way of guiding them on how to go about the Renewed Hope Agenda of his administration.
Some of the ministers are already behaving like drunken men who just emerged from a beer parlour in the manner of their utterances. They need to be guided before they destroy the goodwill currently being enjoyed by Tinubu’s administration. This must be done on time and effectively too.
A public affairs analyst and commentator, Mr Jide Ojo said, “Each of the 45 ministers should have a proper job description, scope of work or terms of reference together with key performance indicators. This delineation of duties will help to properly guide each of the ministers, thereby avoiding friction. I also do hope that the former governors will not be throwing their weight around and bullying their colleagues in the cabinet the way some of them do to their commissioners.
“All the ministers should understand that they serve as lieutenants of the President. Indeed, they are just elevated presidential aides who can be dropped without prior notice. That’s why I don’t seem to understand someone leaving elective positions, such as the Senate and House of Representatives to become a minister that has no security of tenure. I’m sure someone will remind me that ministers control budgets and there might be more money to be made in the executive arm of government.
“Anyway, I implore the new ministers to shun personal aggrandizement and know that they are called to serve and not to corruptly enrich themselves. I do hope they will all be exemplary in the task of implementing the president’s Renewed Hope agenda. Nigerians are impatiently waiting for good governance”.
The task before Tinubu’s ministers is enormous because the country is currently on its knees and requires surgery on all its organs to bounce back to life.
Nigerians have looked forward to the constitution of the cabinet and they are praying that key areas, such as security/ defence, power, economy, infrastructural development, health and more, will be effectively handled. This was conveyed to the ministers during the swearing-in ceremony when President Tinubu informed them that they must meet the expectations of Nigerians.
The President noted that the ministers were selected, based on personal experience, to continue with the work of nation-building, stressing that the challenges before them could be “very daunting” but that the government was hell-bent on the push to introduce renewed hope.
He said, “It is all about a great team and I believe we have it here. Nigerians are highly expectant. They believe that you will serve with integrity and deliver. I will hold you to account,” the President added.
Tinubu acknowledged Nigeria’s “daunting” challenges and said that with his cabinet there is an opportunity to implement “long overdue reforms.”
“We must hold each other responsible; we have to do the job to meet the expectations of all Nigerians,” the president told the ministers. He urged the new ministers to note that their assignment begins immediately, even as he also urged them to restore faith in governance so that the governed could believe in government.
“I welcome you to the administration of Renewed Hope. We are in this boat (together); this is a vehicle and I am the driver. The entire nation is watching as we navigate this vehicle. We have to do the job to meet the expectations of all Nigerians,” he said.
Security should be the major task for the Bola Tinubu Administration. In 2015 when former President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, he made security one of the three main thrusts of his administration. Despite the emphasis Buhari claimed to have placed on Security and the funds he claimed to have expended in that sector, the security situation in the country still leaves much to be desired.
While the insurgency challenge in the North-East may have abated, there are still some pockets of banditry in the North-West and North-Central geo-political zones of the country.
Also of note are the activities of unknown gunmen and separatist agitators in the South-East, as well as kidnappings in other parts of the country. These have resulted in abductions, killings, and the disruption of economic and social activities in many parts of the country.
With the report that insecurity resulted in the death of up to 63, 000 persons in the last eight years, it is obvious that President Tinubu –led administration, must take decisive actions to tackle the challenge it poses to the country. Insecurity repels investors, creates fear among the people and causes a general sense of instability.
Speaking on the economy, Kayode Komolafe, an economist based in Abuja, said, “On the economy, Nigeria’s debt profile, as the Debt Management Office, DMO, reports, reached N46.25 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2022. This constitutes a serious drag on the nation’s economic growth. Nigeria is groaning under the yoke of this debt burden. It is expected, therefore, that the new administration will seek debt forgiveness. One of the ways to achieve this is through the appointment of technocrats who understand the dynamics and politics of foreign debt, into the economic management team.
“There is also the need to cut down on wastage and reduce the cost of governance, which has become a serious burden to the growth of the economy”.
Komolafe commended Tinubu for removing the subsidy on fuel. “In the 2023 Appropriation Act, Nigeria set aside N3.36 trillion (about $7.5billion) for the payment of subsidies until the middle of the year. “This gives insight into the humongous amount of money Nigeria spends on subsidy every year, which many have said is unsustainable”, he said.
He counseled that the huge expenditure could be channeled to such sectors as education, health and human capital development that have direct impact on the people.
“Tinubu’s withdrawal of subsidy shows his political will and courage. It also means that government must ensure that palliatives to cushion the effect of the policy on Nigerians are put in place and get to them on time.
“Rising inflation has continued to affect the standard of living of Nigerians and so something must be done urgently”, he said.
Speaking with THEWILL, Comrade Sola Olawale of the Campaign for Democracy said Nigeria is currently enjoying 24 years of uninterrupted democracy and the citizens have resolved to continue on this path for sustainable development.
He however warned that the sustenance of democracy can only be guaranteed by ensuring that institutions that support democracy stand and are strengthened. He mentioned the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) as the main institution that must be strengthened for democracy to stand firm.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission, ICPC, must be strengthened with a view to making them truly independent”, he said.
The health sector is another key sector that Nigerians are expecting so much from the new minister. Fortunately, all Nigerians agree that Muhammad Pate is a round peg in a round hole. He was certified by the American Board as a medical doctor in both internal medicine and infectious diseases, with an MBA (health sector concentration) from Duke University, USA. He also bagged a Master’s Certificate in Health System Management from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in the United Kingdom (UK).
On the global scene, Pate was in 2000 appointed by the World Bank as a young professional to work on contemporary issues of health, including HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and malaria across many regions including Africa and East Asia.
So, in spite of his rich profile, the task ahead of Pate is huge because in Nigeria, public health sector investment is not among the best globally; maternal and infant mortality remain among the highest in the world while brain drain is surging.
Also health emergency preparedness remains low; HIV and AIDS remain of public health concern and Universal Health Coverage still low, the new minister already has the work cut out for him.
Nigerians eagerly await and expect the best from the new cabinet and the performance of the cabinet members in the next few months will bring hope or disillusionment to the citizenry.
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