By Oludare Mayowa
A week ago, President Bola Tinubu inaugurated his 45 ministers, and since then, many of them have started talking and revealing their policy intentions and directions as soon as the swearing-in ceremony was over, and Nigerians are listening and hearing them loud and clear.
First was the minister of the federal capital territory, Nyesom Wike, whose sound bite shows that he would embark on massive demolition of illegal buildings in Abuja, revoke land yet to be built by allottees, and give the staff of the FCT “high blood pressure” if they fail to keep up with his pace.
His outburst, as usual, is already generating controversy across the length and breadth of the divide. While some are hailing him for his plans to restore the master plan of the city, others are worried that the president may sacrifice him sooner or later to appease the ‘god’ of the land if he fails to tread cautiously in his avowed plan to rid the city of illegal structures.
But his most distasteful action was parading a vehicle with a market value of N300 million as his official ride, triggering chains of reaction from the people who think he is not sensitive to the economic mood of the nation.
Many also queried the source of money for purchasing a private vehicle of such value for a man without industry or a business venture other than being a former junior minister and governor for eight years.
The next one is the minister of art, culture, and the creative economy, Hannatu Musawa, who said her preoccupation would be how to rebrand Nigeria and ensure a theme song for the country is launched very soon.
“The Minister pointed out that one of her key plans in the immediate future is to have a national theme song for the Nigerian brand. She therefore encouraged Nigerian songwriters and musicians from the six geopolitical zones of the country to begin to think in that direction.
Musa-Musawa also promised to do her best to rebrand Nigeria’s image and maintained that the country can no longer be associated with negativity such as poverty, fraud, terrorism, and other forms of criminality.
One would have thought that her responsibility was greater than what she had encapsulated in her first outing, giving the impression that she may not have understood her brief properly or that she is not in sync with the assignment given to her by Mr. President.
In his maiden interaction with officials of the Ministry of Justice, the new Attorney General, Lateef Fagbemi, said he was open to suggestions and criticisms.
“There is nothing wrong with criticism, but it has to be constructive,” he added, stressing that in view of the critical position of the Ministry in the coordination of the affairs of the nation, he would expect maximum cooperation from all the staff members.
Besides, the AGF warned that he would not condone any form of indiscipline or breach of protocol.
“I don’t expect a director to come to me straight without passing through the appropriate channel, just as I will not encourage a junior officer to bypass protocols.
“If you are not satisfied with what your immediate senior does, you always have layers and address mechanisms.
“I also want to plead that we should not deliberately delay files. When we do things the way they are not supposed to be done, we open our flanks for attacks,” Fagbemi said.
While his instruction to the officials of the ministry not to breach protocol could sound good in the ears of some of the established bureaucrats, the idea is seemingly old and outdated and may not fit into the modern-day workings of a progressive government.
Many expected that he should have qualified what he meant and clearly mapped out a process that could be short-circuited by officials who may have a better understanding of the system but were discouraged by such protocol.
But Fagbemi, whose intention is not to upset the bureaucracy, may soon learn his lesson as he progresses on the job and as development unfolds; but he is considered a well-rounded legal luminary to handle the affairs of the ministry.
Also, the minister of education, Tahir Mammam, on his part, said, “I work like a bricklayer. How does a bricklayer work? Every day he goes to the site, the foreman gives him 100 or 200 blocks to lay for that day. By the end of the day, he wants to see the building rise to a certain level. So in three or six months, the house will be built. We have to measure. We shall be working with KPIs.”
“I am a committed welfarist,” he declared, adding, “We have to work together. I will emphasize this. I never carry any work on my head. If you have a duty, you have a duty. Sometimes you can help your neighbor or your colleague; it’s a good thing to do.”
The minister may need to make himself clear in the coming days on his bricklayer metaphor; otherwise, he may be misconstrued because a bricklayer is more concerned about his daily pay and therefore may seemingly make progress in laying the blocks assigned to him but may not do a good job unless he is properly guided by the site engineer and architect so that he can build to specifications.
However, despite the unclear message of the minister, there are many people who believe he has the pedigree to perform his job if he is not derailed by the bureaucrats within the ministry, who may have their own motives beyond the one specified by the minister or his superior.
The Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, said his plan is to ensure that government policies solve problems and not add to the challenges of Nigerians.
He also promised to initiate policies and regulations that can protect Nigerians from devices that contradict these technologies and transform the industry.
According to him, he would build on the gains recorded so far in the ministry through effective collaboration with key stakeholders in the industry.
He said, “I think it is always good to also take stock. You cannot improve what you do not know. It is impossible for us to move forward if we do not assess what we have accomplished.
“Our goal is not to come up with policies from the public sector, whether it is from this ministry or not, that will put people in pain before they can access government services.”
On his style of administration, he said that the ministry is open to collaboration with other countries, adding that there is no country that can become strong technically without collaboration.
Tijani seems to be clear about his mission in the ministry and what he intends to achieve for the nation and its people. Judging from his pedigree, he also appears to be a round peg in a round hole.
But the jury will be waiting for his first six months in office to know if he will be able to navigate through the bureaucratic bottleneck that usually slows down the best of intentions.
The lineup of President Tinubu has been described as a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly, which translates to mean that some of the ministers are well suited for the ministry they have been assigned while others are misfits, with the hope that others will be able to find their level at some point in their assignments.
People like the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Wale Edun, are well suited for their positions, having been a banker and commissioner of finance in Lagos and having other private sector exposure that would guarantee an understanding of his brief.
But the clog is in his counterpart at the Ministry of Budget and National Planning; do they have a similar pedigree and understanding of what it would take for them to achieve their assignment?
Also, the minister of information and orientation, Mohammed Idris, is seen by some professionals in the field of public relations as a fit and proper person for the job, and he seems to have started well considering the content of his response to Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki’s criticism of the federal government’s policy.
Idris appears temperate and mature in his language, which is different from what we have witnessed in the recent past.
However, going forward, the public will scrutinize his performance based on the antecedents of the immediate past occupier of the position and judge him based on his ability to make a marked difference from the ugly past.
The two ministers in the Ministry of Defence, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and Bello Mohammed Matawalle are among those to be closely watched and monitored by the president because of what many people described as their poor ratings as former governors in their respective states.
Aside from the fact that they do not possess any background in the armed forces or in security-related fields to qualify them for the job, the state of insecurity in the states where they presided in the last couple of years left much to be desired.
People are also expecting a form of ego clash between the two ministers because of their backgrounds as former governors who would rather see themselves as equals and may want to contend for space and power rather than focus on the real job at hand.
Notwithstanding the defects and pluses of the ministers, Nigerians will hold the president accountable for the performance of his ministers since the bulk of the work is on his table and he has the mandate to ensure that the people feel the impact of governance and their fortunes change for the better.
A constant appraisal of the ministers by the president is required to ensure that they perform to measure, while those who are unable to match his brief should be shown the way out without any qualms.
(Contact; firstname.lastname@example.org; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)