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OPINION: Buhari’s ministers and barring order

By Faith Berewa

At last the president has sworn in those he knows personally as ministers. Six months after being declared winner of the 2019 presidential elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and almost 3 months into his second term as President, the President did not disappoint.

He was very typical. It took him this long to figure out those he knew personally to make up his cabinet. A look at the 43 men the president knows – 14 of them are returning ministers, some are ex-governors, ex-lawmakers, former speakers, ex-this, ex-that.

This leaves much to be desired, so very easy to be dismissive of them, expectation of them are low. One would then wonder so why did it take him so long? just true to type.

The most colourful of phrases in describing the ministerial list when it was first released came from the Human Rights activist, Dr Chidi Odinkalu. Speaking on channels TV, he piqued that the list was environmental friendly made up of recycled hands!

The former governors, what did they achieve while in office in uplifting the people they were elected to serve? And the returning ministers? Together with the president, formed the band that nose-dived this country.

How can you recycle failure? And expect success? Ice cold blocks of water has been poured into any flicker of hope that things might just be done differently this time around.

Even before they hit the ground running they have started on a wrong footing. The president, in his closing remark at the two day presidential retreat for the incoming ministers told them to make sure they engage and benefit from the experience of the older ministers and former governors in the cabinet. Oh dear, talk about a recipe for failure, how do you learn from non-performance?

Secondly, I think the most disconcerting statement that came out of the retreat was the president telling the incoming ministers to submit any request meant for him to his Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba kyari, and all executive matters to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha:
So it is Official.

Abba Kyari is the de facto President of Nigeria. Vanguard newspaper puts it more succinctly “President bars Ministers from direct contact with him”. This is ridiculous. He just doesn’t get it. But then, this is very recent history repeating itself.

What do we call this style of governance? How do you abdicate the responsibility you sought the votes of the electorate for? If you do not deal directly with your ministers, who do you deal with?

They are your foot soldiers implementing your policies and programmes and ensuring the success of your administration.

Just when you are hoping that the president would make a detour this time around in his leadership style, he is digging in his heels. How do you expect positive results if you do not change the way of doing things?

I’m not sure if even Governor Nasiru el- Rufai, who is a choice son of the president, will agree that his own Commissioners should not see him directly on State matters, rather communicate with his Chief of Staff or the Secretary to the State Government?

The president’s directives smack of gross incompetence; a dereliction of duty. How do you get the best out of your Ministers if you do not listen to them, talk to them, and engage them directly?

Being the president of a nation is serious business. It is a weighty job requiring a deep sense of responsibility. It is a sacred calling to promote the wellbeing of every citizen.

I have stated this before and would like to repeat it, a nation goes the direction of its leaders and Nigeria is in dire need of direction. Mr. President wake-up to your duties.

A vital leadership trait is competence, and competence thrives on the ability of a leader to be visionary, ingenious, and passionate about the cause he is into and breathing same into his lieutenants.

The President’s major duty is to harness and unleash the potentials of his ministers on the country’s problems for lasting solutions and progress.

Therefore barring the ministers from direct contact with you, Mr. President, means you are delegating your main duties to someone else. This is a risky leadership style, and the consequences? We can only wait to see.

Thirdly, while addressing the ministers designate, the president said “once again the challenge that lie ahead of us as a country are significant. But I have no doubt in your individual capacities and our collective patriotic commitment to deliver a better Nigeria for us, our children and a brighter future for all”.

This is the big deal. A better Nigeria. But his words sound like mere words without any commitment if the ministers won’t be having the opportunity to meet with the president frequently, especially on pressing national issues.

Ministers must have unhindered access to the president without protocols. To say the least, Mr. President erred in barring his own Ministers from direct contact with him. This looks like legalizing the Cabal. These are no good signs.

My concern here is not about individual ministers and their capabilities, but this system the president has structured for the next four years. Last line: The biggest losers are women. Only seven out of forty three Ministers.

Faith Berewa, is a columnist with SAHEL STANDARD Newspapers

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