Nigeria: President Buhari and His New Cabinet

23 August 2019
opinion

Adamawa State — Zayyad Muhammad writes that the ministers must prove that they have what it takes to impact lives

President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated his new cabinet and assigned portfolios to all the ministers. The ball is now in the courts of the ministers and indeed the president as well. Nigerians expect a lot from them. The ministers are coming on board at a time the country is facing new challenges. The performance of the new cabinet will make or mar President Buhari's government and All Progressives Congress in 2023.

In most democracies, ministers are selected from technocrats with strong professional track record. But a right-thinking president also brings on board topnotch grass-root politicians to hold the political front when the need arises. President Buhari and the APC did very well in that area.

The 43 ministers are people who know what is expected of them. They know they are called for a national assignment. Nigerians expect them not to only saddle themselves with the responsibilities within their respective portfolios, but also be team players that will bring new and feasible ideas.

The performance of returning first term ministers was excellent, while the new comers are men and women who will enliven the cabinet with development initiatives. However, there are new challenges that require fresh dynamism and off-the-shelf approaches. President Muhammadu Buhari rightly reiterated to the ministers to get ready for laborious days ahead as the government is committed to tackling these challenges which include kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.

The cabinet should build on the work already started and pioneer fresh ones that will impact on the generality of Nigerians. For instance, Minister of communication, Dr. Ali Pantami is expected to uplift the ministry into one alive to latest technological trends. All eyes will be on Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva to drive the ministry from less talk to more action, especially in the face of tumbling oil prices in the international market. The new minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare is expected to reorient the ministry as a body for addressing delinquencies among young people and make sports a tool for productively engaging the nation's teeming youths. A golden opportunity is given to Sen. Godswill Obot Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, to bring his mastery of infrastructure development to the fore in moving his home region forward, issues like the Ogoni clean-up project and bringing the South South region to the mainstream APC politics. Among the returning ministers - all eyes will be on Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, if the dreamed Nigeria Air will finally come to reality.

Babatunde Raji Fashola, Works and Housing Minister is expected to complete ongoing projects and put his signature on the nation's infrastructural outlook. The recently growing display of senselessness by IPOB abroad should be a top task for Geoffrey Onyeama - Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Apart from supporting the president, ministers should see themselves as the 'faces' of the APC from their respective communities - their political presence and contact with locals is very important. During the 2019 presidential elections, most of Buhari's first term appointees from the north became mere spectators in their states due to their weak link with the grassroots. Buhari's personality won him the north.

President Buhari should be firm in assessing every member of his cabinet. Non-performing ministers should be replaced quickly so as not lose time, and also keep others on their toes.

President Buhari has directed Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha to put in place a framework for continuous assessment of the ministers. They will have realistic and measurable goals to achieve within a set period. This idea will strengthen ministers' commitment and leapfrog development. The cabinet will become an engine-room for the Buhari government to fulfill its promises especially to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.

Muhammad wrote from Jimeta, Adamawa State

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