FACES OF BUHARI’S NEW CABINET -TONY ADEMILUYI

After the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789, he said he would need a group of highly intelligent and patriotic men to govern the country with him. He proposed that he would appoint them and he alone had the right to fire them but their appointment would be subject to confirmation by the Upper chamber of the Congress – the Senate. He proposed that they should be made up of the finest minds in the country that will see their positions as a great opportunity to serve their fellow countrymen to the best of their abilities and etch their names in the footprints of the sands of time. He named it the cabinet and it included the brightest of minds in the country like Thomas Jefferson who was the Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton who was the Secretary of the Treasury who gave the then young nation a national bank amidst radical economic reforms that helped the United States survive as an independent country without any form of external aid. The name ‘cabinet’ stuck and spread to all democratic countries to describe a key component of the executive arm of government.

It took Buhari six months to name his cabinet in his first term. He dismissed them as mere noisemakers and was highly contemptuous of them when he governed the nation alone. Coming from a man who had contested for the exalted office a record four times, it was highly disappointing that he didn’t have a crack team that could get the nation rolling out of the doldrums.

In the end his nominations were an anti-climax as they were the same familiar names and not some magicians from the moon that he made Nigerians expect to see. They were mostly political compensations with a few star performers. He never really made a cabinet reshuffle which gave them some sort of security of tenure.

As his second term starts in less than a fortnight, the nation awaits with bated breath the faces that will dorn his cabinet. It will be good to do some analysis of how his present one fared in his first term.

Babatunde Raji Fashola who could aptly be described as the prime minister in view of the fact that he handled three strategic ministries – power, works and housing has been called the minister for darkness by his critics. The power sector has been largely comatose with many companies folding up as they cannot afford the prohibitive costs of diesel and petrol purchases to power their generators. There wasn’t any national policy for mass housing like what the erstwhile Lagos state Governor, Lateef Kayode Jakande did in the aborted second republic. Many civil servants after meritoriously serving their nation for 35 years retire into homelessness as they cannot afford the expensive cost of houses. The mortgage policy is still not affordable to the generality of the common men. Most of the roads are still death traps with a high number of avoidable deaths being recorded there. I will be amazed if Fashola is reappointed. Some pundits are speculating that soon to be erstwhile Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode will get the slot of Lagos state to compensate him for his electoral loss recorded early this year. Others contend that Abike Dabiri-Erewa may be appointed as the substantive Foreign Affairs Minister as a reward for her good work as the Presidential aide on Diaspora matters and to make Buhari more women friendly as his adversaries have opined that he is hostile towards women and the youths. Some analysts contend fiercely that the former broadcaster turned politician has been duly compensated as the Chairperson of the Diaspora Commission arguing that Buhari has a special love for Ambode and its only one minister per state. Time will tell on who is really right.

Rotimi Amaechi performed below par as the minister of transport. Most of the railway lines were hurriedly built in the build up to the re-elections with many lines still remaining unconnected. Nothing was seen in the area of waterways transportation. This greatly untapped mode of transportation had no clearly defined national policy for its usage. Water transport will go a long way in decongesting our roads and greatly reducing the gridlock or traffic jams that make commuting an existential hell.

The former Rivers State Governor preferred to play needless politics by causing mayhem in his home state when he imported a lorry load of military men to battle his arch foe, Governor Nyesom Wike. At the end of the day, the APC candidates at all levels were disqualified. He then pitched his tent with the candidates of the All Action Congress but they failed in their collective herculean mission of dislodging Wike from the Brick House. The massive deaths that were recorded has made Amaechi more of a liability than an asset despite his role as the D-G of Buhari’s re-election campaign team. It remains to be seen if he would be two time lucky in being compensated with another ministerial appointment.

Geoffrey Onyema the Foreign Affairs Minister was rather lacklustre in his performance. Abike Dabiri was more visible in external affairs matters that she could be mistaken for the minister. The Cambridge trained diplomat was rather laidback and may not return to the cabinet except a miracle happens.

Zainab Ahmed, the finance minister has been more fortright in her role than her disgraced predecessor, Kemi Adeosun. She may retain her role or be replaced by Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the budget and national planning minister.

Senator Godswill Akpabio may get an appointment to compensate him for being among the few south-south indigenes who pitched their tents with the ruling APC even at the risk of losing everything politically. The only challenge is that he and Udo Udoma hail from the same state. Some critics of Udoma say that the minister was rather standoffish in the last elections and didn’t pull his weight to ensure that the APC won in the state. It remains to be seen how Akpabio will be compensated for his unpopular romance with the APC.

The outgoing Governor of Oyo state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi may be jockeying seriously for a ministerial appointment to compensate him for his unexpected senatorial loss. Many outgoing governors especially those of the APC may be in contention for a place in Buhari’s second term cabinet.

Dr. Ibe Kachikwu is unlikely to make it back to the cabinet as he was demoted from being the helmsman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to being a junior minister. It is most likely that the garrulous Festus Keyamo may replace him in the Federal Executive Council though the portfolio he may get may not likely be that of justice as Buhari still has lots of confidence in Abubakar Malami.

Okechukwu Enelamah, the Minister for Trade and Industry may be eased out as his impact and experience from the highly prestigious Goldman Sachs wasn’t really felt on economic policies.

Nigerians and the international community are hopeful that more technocrats rather than politicians would be given a chance in Buhari’s second and last governance attempt. We also hope that the time frame doesn’t take as long as six months as what obtained in the first. Many Nigerians are fast becoming suicidal and there is no time to waste. We need a cabinet of hope not one of excuses.

Over to you Sai Baba!

Ademiluyi writes from Lagos.

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