Why Buhari should abolish Minister of State By Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu

Buhari-Beware-of-the-Tambuwal-Effect-By-Jibrin-Ibrahim-640x359Recently, leading Ni­gerian newspapers reported that Pres­ident-elect Muham­madu Buhari was straining at the leash to abolish Minister of State positions. He would turn the page on the aberra­tion of a minister of this coex­isting with a redundant spare gratuitously designated Min­ister of State for This.

The fact that Buhari was in a hur­ry to inaugurate an era of modesty, of one ministry, one minister sound­ed like good news. That he has al­ready sent a proposal to that effect to the National Working Committee of his party, the All Progressives Congress, as an earnest of his inten­tion captured the fetal shape of the change that majority of Nigerians lingered in the sun and in the rain to vote for on April 11.

But reading the story further, with a craving to collect other details that would reinforce your expectation, you encounter a killjoy! The spokes­man of APC, Lai Mohammed. And he spikes the attribution.

Mohammed cheekily says, “I think you have been listening to a lot of gossips; nothing like that was discussed. All these issues of minis­ters and MDAs are your own imagi­nation’’

Well, Mohammed’s defence boils down to flight and escapism. He ran as though he must put as much distance between his party and the circulating idea as possible. He re­sponded as though he was confront­ed by the need to defend his party against a grave allegation, the need to stress that his party knows better than to entertain the idea.

In a sense, Lai Mohammed’s outright renunciation, the absolute rejection of the suggestion together with its apparent merit, depicts the proposed load shedding as a no-brainer, too prohibitive a course of action to be acceptable for debate. To countenance the pruning means forfeiting some tokens of appre­ciation that should be handed to certain individuals who sacrificed a lot for the campaign. No, some people must not be offended in the afterglow of this Presidential vic­tory even if the price would be the retention of one of the signposts of Nigeria’s malfeasance.

This is somewhat scary. Because it doesn’t portray Buhari as a re­former poised to demolish a dys­functional construct. It represents him as some cartoon Moses tiptoe­ing, as commanded, on the holy ground of the Burning Bush.

It’s almost incredible that we have to remind the APC why its candi­date won a mere few weeks after the polls held.

Buhari won because the elector­ate could not bear the thought of en­during a President Jonathan second term. Buhari was elected to govern differently. He was elected to effect drastic measures that will register on the standard of living of the people. Not to act as a substitution obligated by the strictures of the script to pro­long the character of his predeces­sor.

In case Lai Mohammed and the movers of his party wanted to warn that they take exceptions to citizens “listening to a lot of gossips’’ and exercising “your own imagination’’, Nigerians have earned the right to project their hopes on the incoming Buhari administration. Nigerians gave Buhari their thumbprints; that makes them his employers. And em­ployers have a right to set standards of expectation for their hires.

Nigerians have more than enough justification to preempt Buhari’s first Presidential acts. He ran on the promise to redirect government to the service of the people. Nige­rians know it is superfluity in high places that accounts for the misery at the grassroots. They have a right to imagine that Buhari would alter the order, not preserve it.

Again, with the perfect storm cre­ated by the drop in oil revenue and a mix of pressing problem, it’s only natural for citizens to discuss solu­tions to the dilemma. It is shame­ful that APC’s discussion ‘’on how the government can hit the ground running’’ did not prioritize, or even include, the subject of reduction of the size of government and curbing waste.

While it is too early in the day to make projections, APC must avoid the temptation of playing Buhari’s puppeteer. The party should freely contribute inputs to policy formu­lation and implementation. But it should not assume the power to veto Buhari’s plan. That would be trivial­izing the President: And it would be subjugating the country under one party.

The drastic reforms that Bu­hari needs to effectuate within his first 100 days in office and beyond should not be at the mercy of parti­san opinion. APC’s part in Buhari’s Presidency should be to encourage him to take steps that telegraph the dawn of a new governance philoso­phy. Not to examine his proposals based on which one suits the inter­ests of its biggest sponsors.

In all probability, Buhari, a man of lean frame and ascetic taste, rec­ognizes that stopping the bleeding of resources is a choice he has to make in order to have a viable coun­try to administer. His aides may have divulged the proposal so that they can gauge the tentative backlash of the political class, the potential im­mediate victims, and to secure the buy-in of the people.

But just in case Buhari is still mulling the decision and weighing it against the political cost, he can be sure that he will have the backing of the Nigerian people. The support of the masses will swallow up the reac­tions of the aggrieved politicians.

Let’s face it: It is pure foolishness to hire and retain ministers in excess of distinct spheres. No private firm harbors high maintenance execu­tives with no distinctive job descrip­tions. But we have long accepted that what doesn’t make sense in a small company is okay for a grand concern such as a country, our own country.

The Constitution provides that all states be represented in the Execu­tive Council of the Federation. The intent is to impact a feeling of equal­ity and inclusion. The problem is that successive administrations do not stop at the prescribed number. They have always added extras to the cast.

At times, the President identifies a brash fellow and makes them Minis­ter of State so that they can convert the advantage of their new weight into some set electoral results in their home states.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one example of a place where the joke of Ministers of state is very se­rious. There you have (count: one, two) three ministers. One is the Min­ister of Foreign Affairs, the second is Minister of State for Foreign Affairs 1 and the third is Minister of State for Foreign Affairs 11.

Now, by the virtue of the presence of a trinity of Ministers, the Minis­try of Foreign Affairs should be a literal heaven. But it is hardly one of the best run ministries in Nige­ria today. A more vibrant conduct of foreign policy has not resulted from their synergy. Their voices make no case for the pardon of a Nigerian on death row overseas. They have not enhanced the functionality of Nige­rian embassies or made the renewal of passports there easier.

Still, they live and move and have their Ministerial being at the expense of the Nigerian taxpayer. Their wages, their long motorcade, their retinue of aides, are all on our money.

Again, lack of circumscribed borders (an institutional lapse) and jealousy (a propelling human vice) often makes the Ministries with plu­ral Ministers theatres of internecine wars, with junior ministers battling their seniors for territorial control. Staffers have to take sides. And of­ficial routines suffer.

Buhari needs to scrap the Min­ister of State positions and prune ministerial positions to the essen­tials. The proliferation of the role across Ministries, judging from the principle of mathematical prob­ability, increases potential loci of corruption. The number of people creating or maximizing opportuni­ties for personal enrichment has to be reduced to the barest minimum. There are civil servants with many years of experience who can fill the putative vacancies the so-called Ministers currently occupy.

President Buhari doesn’t need a huge crowd besieging the Vila ev­ery Wednesday. This is a time to elevate governance over patronage.


1 Comment

  1. I hope they realize that we are in a dire situation hence the need to take drastic actions to save the nation from sinking? This is not the time for them to be debating if our world record cost of governance should be cut. As it is, that is the only way forward. Nigeria can be likened to a man whose source of income has reduced by 50%, but insists on living as before without due consideration to real income. This is self denial.

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