…Say his ‘overbearing influence’ may jeopardise performance
Against the backdrop of allegations that most of the immediate past ministers did not live up to expectation on their various beats because President Muhammadu Buhari did not allow them free hand to do their job, Nigerians have urged the President to trust the incoming ministers by allowing them discharge their duties without encumbrances.
In line with the timetable released by the Presidency, the minister-designates would be having a two-day retreat starting from Monday, August 18,2019.
Observers say that no amount of retreat would do any magic unless there is a remarkable shift from the old order, and the willingness of the President to grant them the latitude to do their job without “suffocating them with his overbearing influence.”
It was alleged that many of the past ministers had no access to the President and that they could only submit proposals through Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the President. These were said to have hindered optimal performances by the ministers.
There were also allegations that some past ministers ran into road blocks with the Office of the Chief of Staff that was said to have been difficult to penetrate. It was also alleged that on many instances, a lot of ministers did not get to see the President one-on-one to discuss important programmes of their ministries.
“I think from what we heard in the last administration, a number of the brilliant ministers failed because they did not have the necessary approval from the President. You may have great idea; if it is not financially backed, it would not fly. That was the situation the other time, or at least, what was alleged,” James Ajayi, a Lagos-based consultant, said.
“If what we heard is anything to go by, it would mean that no amount of retreat and workshop will do. The new orientation that can work is for the President himself to have a change of attitude and set a target for each and every one of them. Those targets must have timelines and must be supervised to put them on their toes. There should be proper communication with the Nigerian people on who is drawing the country back or those doing great. Rumours thrive when there is no proper communication. Those who think it is business as usual should be shown the way out as soon as they show signs of non-performance. Nigerians are in a haste to see real governance. Excuses will no longer be tenable,” Ajayi said.
Recall that the President had said that the incoming ministers would be guided to meet the targets of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government for the people. The President was quoted as saying recently that regular monitoring of their performances and scaling up of targets would be done by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, giving the assurance he would ensure compliance with laid down targets on key sectors of the economy that would directly impact on the livelihood of Nigerians.
The Presidency had also said that among other issues to be discussed at the retreat include acquainting the appointees with the roadmap for delivery of government’s priorities and next level agenda (2019-2023), as well as deepening the understanding of participants on best practices in conducting government business.
Some Nigerians have however, expressed the pessimism that going by Buhari’s penchant to take military-like actions and decisions, he could incapacitate his cabinet by his actions and inactions.
Many Nigerians have raised eye brows over the recent Presidential directive on food import ban, wondering if the President had the power to give such a unilateral order in a democracy.
President Buhari had flatly ordered Godwin Emiefele, the CBN governor: “Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country”!
But Kingsley Moghalu, a professor and a former deputy governor of the CBN, who recently contested the presidential election on the platform of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), said: “The Central Bank Act of 2007 makes it clear that the bank is independent. It is not supposed to be taking direct instructions from politicians. The trajectory in this administration is that we have seen a very clear tendency for the President to direct people. Increasingly, Nigeria’s institutions have lost independence.”
The President, who is yet to inaugurate his 43-member cabinet, has been accused of being in a hurry to take a decision that has far-reaching implication for the country and the people, without adequate and appropriate consultations.
Bismarck Rewane, an economist and the head of consultancy firm, Financial Derivatives, reacting to the forex ban on food import, wondered if the policy emanated from a holistic, cross-pollination of ideas after the rubbing of minds from the relevant stakeholders such as farmers, food processors, marketers, the Customs Service as well as the Ministry of Agriculture across the country?
Rewane, an astute economist, who has in recent times been consulted by the Presidency to render some services, had expected government to be democratic enough in its decisions. He was the Technical Advisory Committee on Implementation of the National Minimum Wage.
Daramola Akinwale, a systems analyst, expressed the optimism that the yet-to-be- inaugurated ministers would perform better than their immediate predecessors, saying that he expects the Buhari administration to be more circumspect this time around than in his first term.
“I think that no matter the posturing in public, government knows its weak points. The drivers of the APC government cannot beat their chests and say they have acquitted themselves well in governance since 2015. However, I see something great coming out of the incoming cabinet through conscious efforts to do things right this time around. It is against this backdrop that I sincerely wish them successful outing in their retreat tomorrow and next,” Akinwale said.
To make an appreciable impact this time around, an insider source in the Presidency told BDSUNDAY that the President would even benefit the more by allowing the ministers unfettered access to discuss with him about their programmes.
“These people are coming from different fields with robust experiences. He must also value their contributions and in his own interest, tap into their wealth of experiences. He can enrich himself through these great ideas. After all, when they succeed, he takes the credit,” the source said, pleading anonymity.