BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
AS he closed the two day retreat for ministers and other senior appointees of his government last weekend President Goodluck Jonathan took time to distance his administration from any preconceived line item agenda.
“I never mentioned any agenda point. We have never promised any number of points. We promised good governance not point. Every sector of the economy is important. We are not running a government of any point agenda,” the President declared.
His claim was a denial of the populist refrains that were in the recent past mantra for some earlier administrations.
Easily remembered is the five point and then seven point agenda of the Umaru Yar‘Adua administration.
His denial nonetheless, the President had just two days earlier admitted to his fixation on some issues.
He may not have described anti-corruption as an agenda, but his passion in combating the scourge was evident last week as he finally gave his key ministerial inauguration speech.
In the long awaited speech he had delayed till the last batch of ministers was sworn into office, President Jonathan took notice of what he described as the national embarrassment arising from the country’s ranking in the global corruption index.
“One critical issue that will also engage our attention is the issue of corruption. There is no doubt that our rating in the Global Corruption Index is embarrassing. Corruption is therefore the monster that we need to confront and defeat, in order to raise the country’s integrity profile. The war against corruption in this dispensation will start at the centre,” Dr. Jonathan said at the inauguration of the six of the ministerial approvals last Thursday.
It was as such not surprising that the President disclosed that he had ordered the anti-corruption agencies to sweep through the records of the ministries and agencies of government between 2007 and 2011.
Given the emphasis he placed on the menace of corruption it was as if the President was re_launching the war against corruption that was first initiated by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State almost thirty years ago. Remarkably, Buhari was his closest challenger during the recent presidential election.
It was in the same vein that the President gave a charge to the new ministers that unlike their predecessors that it was not going to be business as usual for members of the cabinet who he said were going to have it rough in his bid to transform the economy.
“The task ahead is not going to be an easy one. Remember the words of the late Tai Solarin, in a January 1, 1964 essay: “May your road be rough,” he said.
“I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, same on you? I ask no more!” Obviously the road ahead of us may be rough, but with sincere and purposeful leadership, we will surely succeed in transforming this country.
Everything will be done to provide an enabling environment for you to be able to function efficiently. I will also personally ensure that we remain focused as a team, and that the confidence that the people repose in us, is not taken for granted”.
“There will be difficult decisions and tough moments ahead but we must through our efforts show that we are prepared to work in the best way to focus on the people’s aspirations. It only takes committed people to do things differently. I believe you are among the group of Nigerians that can do things differently and help to move our country forward. I believe with a transformational leadership that is willing and committed, we can reposition our country for economic growth and development, and win the support of all and sundry, including those who are in doubt or denial”.
Expectedly the President’s urge has not been universally acclaimed given the controversies that trailed the inauguration of his cabinet.
Fight against corruption
A number of the cabinet members including a chieftain of the ruling party have been smeared and another member has been criticised for helping to thwart the fight against corruption.
Remarkably, the newly reappointed Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN) during his confirmation hearing fueled such insinuations with his umbrage against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Essentially, the President has also boldly invited some notable names regarded as achievers into the cabinet. Prominent among them is an outgoing World Bank Managing Director, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
It was as such not surprising that Mr. Osita Okechukwu who speaks for the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP picked issues with the President’s charge to the ministers.
“President Jonathan cannot be on probation for he has been president for more than twelve months, therefore not starting the job new and therefore we regard his statement that, ‘Honourable members of the Executive Council of the Federation, it is important for us to realize that we are all on probation in the eyes of the public’ as non-starter and inconsequential.”
The criticisms and controversies around some of the cabinet members nonetheless, the President it seems is seemingly determined to carve his legacy in the annals of time.
His success in achieving his broad transformation agenda would be dependent on the efforts of some critical elements in the administration.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala is expected to take control of the Ministry of Finance and head the newly re-jigged Economic Team.
Her inclinations towards improving the basic living conditions of ordinary Nigerians were articulated during her Senate screening.
However, how she is able to combine the often criticised IMF-World Bank economic remedy with her inclinations towards poverty alleviation especially among the rural poor is going to be of great interest.
It has, however, emerged that in negotiations with the administration’s points_men that she had been promised increased leverage in the management of the economy and hence her headship of the Economic Management Team. She is as such expected to rein in government spending especially on the recurrent side.
Mr. Oronto Douglas
Douglas is the President’s Special Adviser on Documentation, Research and Strategy. Above the officialdom, he is also known to be one of the President’s closest confidantes with a wide ranging schedule cutting across everything of interest to the President.
A one time leading human and environmental rights activist, Mr. Douglas is a very articulate and persuasive lawyer whose association with the President dates back to his appointment at the middle of the last decade asCommissioner for Information and Strategy in the Bayelsa State government.
Besides providing intellectual zest and tactical strategies in the articulation of the Jonathan legacy, Douglas would also be at the background in the articulation of the many of the administration’s key policies.
Mr. Aganga has weathered the storm into a second tenure in the federal cabinet despite opposition from some Lagos stakeholders. The President’s decision to reappoint him may not be unconnected to the strategic role he is expected to play in his new portfolio as Minister of Trade and Investment.
He is expected to give fire to the administration’s strategic decision of boosting investment and international trade. In the long run the actualization of the administration’s objective of boosting the economy and creating jobs would rest on Aganga.
Senator Joy Emodi
Senator Joy Emodi who won popular acclaim within and outside the Senate as the Joy of the Senate would be a strategic link between the President and the National Assembly which is expected to give legal framework to many of the issues in the President’s vision.
Given the not too pleasing beginning to the relationship between the presidency and the House of Representatives, it is expected that some rumpus would be bound to occur from time to time. Even for a woman well regarded for her grit and grace, Mrs. Emodi has a tasking job cut out for her.