By Omoh Gabriel
When President Muhmamadu Buhari was elected in April 2015, the expectation of Nigerians was that he was well prepared for the task ahead having attempted to occupy the high office three times and failed but succeeded at the fourth attempt. But to the surprise of many after taking office, it took the President and his party almost five solid months to nominate ministers for senate confirmation. The list expected was kind that will get the nod of majority of Nigerians.
As I look through the list in far away Lima, Peru, I am worried that the President has missed the mark from the very start. He has nominated men that will be a burden to him and the country when it comes to delivering service to Nigerians.
The list of names, which was expected to break from a tradition of rewarding party cronies and supporters has however included former governors of Lagos, Rivers and Ekiti states, as well as a few operatives from Buhari’s APC party. There are also a few new names.
The 21 nominees in the first batch of names forwarded to the senate are: Dr. Chris Ngige – Anambra, Dr. Kayode Fayemi- Ekiti, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi – Rivers, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN – Lagos, Udoma Udo-Udoma – Akwa Ibom, Abdulrahman Danbazau – Kano, Aisha Alhassan – Taraba, Ogbonaya Onu- Abia, Kemi Adeosun – Ogun and Abubakar Malami (SAN) – Kebbi.
Others are Senator Hadi Sirika –Katsina, Barr. Adebayo Shittu –Oyo, Suleiman Adam –Jigawa, Ahmed Musa, Solomon Dalong –Plateau, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu –Delta, Osagie Ehanire –Edo, Audu Ogbeh – Benue, Lai Mohammed –Kwara, Ahmed Isa Ibeto –Niger and Amina Mohammed – Kaduna.
The lack of adequate female representation on the Buhari ministerial list will certainly raise eyebrows and questions over the involvement of women in Buhari’s administration from Nigerian women voters. The long wait for ministers was understood by Nigerians to be as a result of Buhari’s supposed avowed careful selection process to find people who fit in his administration and with the fight against corruption being an obvious reason, several integrity checks were supposedly carried out.
Despite these checks and the long selection process, some people on the list have had major allegations of corrupt practices. A cursory look at the list does not give one hope for the change the nation is clamouring for. It is like business as usual as appointments of party men and loyalist has not changed.
On the list are the usual old horses that have been around for God knows how long. They have used up every idea in them and cannot provide the spike and energy needed for a change mantra. President Buhari is old and there is not much he can do on his own to run the nation. He needs young and vibrant men with clear vision, men who can stand on their own; principled gentlemen of proven integrity and honour, men who believe in the greater Nigeria, men who with little or no supervision will make things work.
The President has said that economy will be his priority, he will need to be at the driving seat of the implementation as the chairman of the National Economic management team. Yes, it is time for Mr. President to think economy, talk economy, dream economy and act on the economy. He should start with a comprehensive review of import subsidies and waivers granted to companies, give priority only to companies expanding domestic production and creating jobs.
Reviving the economy will require men and women who understand the nature and operation of the economy as a whole. The Nigerian economy is largely dominated by the informal sector. In other countries, they call it the small and medium scale enterprises which are the engine of growth. For economic policies to work and move the nation forward, the President needs to appoint men and women with integrity, vision and clear understanding of the clarion call to revive the economy.
It is not about being a graduate from Harvard Business School or the London School of Economics but about men and women who understand the culture and workings of the economy. Many London-groomed economists have come into the country and failed. Because they could not come to terms with the fact that theories are culture-based.
For any minister to succeed, he must be practical, meet the people, understand how they do their business and mobilise them for national economic integration. Ministers must be men who know the potential of made in Aba, Awka or made in Nigeria products. They must see the beauty in tie and dye dire, they must understand the potential of the Fulani handloom dressmaker.
He must learn the technology to be derived from those militants who refine petroleum products illegally in the creeks and the so-called illegal miners in the north. They must be ministers who adopt rather than import technology. They must wear the face of Nigeria like Dr. Okonjo-Iweala did who where ever she was, ties her gele headgear and wore her Nigerian dress and was proud of it.
A minister who sits in Abuja and talks at people he is supposed to supervise instead of talking to them, can only harvest policy failures. The desired minister must be energetic, ready to work and go to where the people work. The problem that needed to be tackled is the duality of the nation’s economy. The duality between the formal and informal sectors is an important factor in the lack of competitiveness of the economy.
In each of the major sectors of the economy, there is a sharp divide between a small number of highly productive, internationally competitive producers and a very large number of small producers/service providers with low productivity. The duality of the economy results in a lack of dynamism and competition.
Addressing the duality of the economy is therefore vital for strengthening and sustaining job creation. The President as he enters into the next phase of his administration must realise that consistent with the high level of informality and low productivity in the economy, job creation is insufficient
The ministers that will help to transform the economy must be one of those that understand the basic principle of the dual economy and integrate the two into a large performing economy. We no longer need ministers who are treasury looters in active connivance with companies that exist on paper. Nigeria needs ministers who will not be compromised to giving individuals concession and waivers for their financial benefit instead of sectoral benefit; ministers who will not deal with businessmen on account of their persons, or self-centred solutions, but on basis of being a member of a group that represents group interest.
Most if not all of the President’s ministerial nominee do not possess these essential qualities. Most of them were tested in the past and failed. Nigeria needs ministers who will see the country as a whole as their jurisdiction, ministers who will begin a mass mobilisation of Nigerians for productive ventures.
Ministers who will assist to integrate the informal sector into the formal sector. Emphasis should be on small and medium scale enterprises which in every economy, generates jobs more than the large companies. The Federal Government in the next four years should focus on creating and sustaining small and medium scale businesses in both the agricultural and industrial sectors along the value chain. Mr. President some of these men cannot deliver on their mandates.