President Muhammadu Buhari and His Team (II), By Sesugh Akume

President Buhari; img: Tolu Jinadu

By Sesugh Akume

When the list of ministerial nominees was unveiled one wondered why it took so long to come up with this mishmash? It was simply a recycling of the same members of Nigeria’s political elite–which is her bane–and some technocrats. Some were well-known others unknown. Some with cases of legal corruption hanging on their heads, others with cases of illegal corruption. (Legal corruption is when one spends an outrageous N78m to build a website which the contractors say the did for N10m, but there is nothing you can hold the official responsible for, because all the processes are legally followed to the letter). Some with sterling records; others known for nothing in particular.

Of 36 ministerial nominees only 6 were women. In a country where 47 years is the average life expectancy, and over 70% of the population is under 40, none of them was less than 45 years of age; the youngest were 48 years old. In a country where 15% of the population has some form of disability, none was on the list. In 2015 when everyone was preaching diversity and inclusion, the list didn’t give much consideration to these but Nigerians still didn’t mind.

The senate confirmation hearings themselves weren’t meant to achieve anything of worth. The nominees didn’t have their portfolios attached, so the hearings weren’t directed at anything but open ended. When asked about his thoughts on countering Boko Haram, Adebayo Shittu said he has a family and wouldn’t want to comment on that. This same individual who openly expressed no faith in the Nigerian state’s ability to counter the terrorists, and put self above country was successful, and is presently the minister of communications. This shows how careful thought wasn’t given in the selection process, and the standards for qualifying were extremely low or nonexistent.

Except for Aisha J Mohammed of environment, Kayode Fayemi of solid minerals, Babatunde Fashola of works, power and housing, and Abubakar Malami of justice, who have spelt out what direction they and their ministries are headed the rest are quiet. No one knows, but can only sense their lack of direction or misdirection from their utterances and/or actions.

The minister of science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu says we shall start making pencils in 2018! And he wasn’t joking or speaking figuratively.

Instead of tackling Lassa fever as a matter of urgency like Ebola was tackled, the health minister Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adebowale held a press conference specifically to blame the outgone administration, as if that was a solution to the daily spread and the resulting loss of lives, 101 so far. He also announced that the federal government would be constructing 30 000 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) across Nigeria, because primary healthcare is the weak link in Nigeria’s healthcare sector. For the record and clarity, primary healthcare isn’t a primary duty of the federal government, but of the local governments. The minister doesn’t think the solution is to make the system work, but to construct buildings, as if buildings in themselves constitute the system. There are PHC constructed under the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) programme that aren’t being utilised. No one is talking of ensuring that they become useful. The solution is to construct more.

In order to address young people’s sexual and reproductive health issues, and to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, the federal ministry of health came up with what they call Youth Friendly Centres (YFCs). These are supposed to be in every PHC in Nigeria, so that young people may go there to access services, as the best way of reaching out to them. Of the 776 local government areas and 6 area councils in Nigeria, presently there are a grand total of 2 YFCs across Nigeria, located in 1 area council, and in Abuja! Of the numerous issues in Nigeria’s health sector which like all others needs turnaround reforms, this minister sees blaming the immediate past administration and constructing 30 000 PHCs as top priority.

Well, his case is a bit better than Audu Ogbeh’s, the agriculture minister, who blamed Ibrahim Babangida’s who left power since 1993 for Nigeria’s woes today. Whereas no one contests that, how blaming an administration that left power 23 years ago solves present-day problems and creates opportunities remains to be understood.

Anthony Anwukah, the minister of state for education woke up one day and declared French as Nigeria’s second official language and ordered it compulsory from kindergarten to the university, when hosting the French ambassador to Nigeria. Just like that! Performance in the current West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination is abysmal. In 4 of 104 Unity Schools, not one candidate had 5 credits including maths and English, yet it doesn’t signal an emergency yet. What is most important presently is compulsorily learning French at all levels. Perhaps it’s the one-stop solution to the myriad problems of the education sector.

Kemi Adeosun, finance minister is quiet. No one knows what she is up to or where Nigeria’s fiscal policy is headed. We are all looking helplessly. No one is explaining what is happening to the value of the naira, and what is being done to stop the slide, and to boost confidence.

Lai Mohammed, information and culture minister hasn’t grown up to be a transcendental spokesperson for the federal government of Nigeria, but is still thinking, speaking and acting like an opposition party spokesperson.

Ibe Kachukwu, minister of state for petroleum had said Nigerians would be furnished with facts and figures of the oil and gas industry on a monthly basis ‘as a matter of right’, he said. If he kept his word, we should’ve had 4 reports by January 2016 ending or early February. There’s absolutely none that I’m aware of. His administration oversaw a slight price reduction in the price of petrol, but a high increase in the retail price of kerosene on which Nigeria’s desperately poor–over 70% of the entire population who live on less than 1 US dollar per day–rely on daily, thus rather increasing hardship.

There is a video of Abdulrahman Dambazau, minister of interior sitting at a public function and setting his legs for a fellow dressed in a suit and a pistol strapped on him, to clean his shoes. That for me is the lowest we have gone. And for the fact that he wasn’t reprimanded for a such demeaning action toward a Nigerian citizen, I choose to deem it a signal to Nigerians as the view they are seen by the political elite, as undignified subjects. Not dignified citizens. And we had better get used to it.

Babachir David Lawal, the scribe of the federal government led the team that represented the president in Dalori after the terrorist attacks. The residents reported getting absolutely no relief from the visit, material or psychological. Lawal didn’t borrow a life from the vice president who does an excellent job representing the president on such occasions. Je connects with the people, shares in their pain, expresses the president’s heartfelt sympathy, gives them hope, holds their babies, and gives them material support from the president. I guess Lawal visit turned out that way because the president’s specific instructions instructions didn’t include borrowing a leaf from the vice president. So he mechanically went, fulfilled all righteousness and returned to Abuja.

A sparrow does not make a summer, neither a tuber of yam a harvest. President Muhammadu Buhari alone CANNOT make any much meaningful difference within 4 years without a serious-minded team at different levels of seasoned individuals of sound competence capacity, and character; with clear tasks to deliver on within specified timeframes. We need complete sectoral overhauls. We need to build strong institutions. We need to carry the citizens along. We need unity and social cohesion.

If we fail to get this right, 4 years would come and go, and we’d be wondering where time went.