By Zayyad I. Muhammad
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has assigned portfolios to his Ministers-designate, bringing an end to weeks-long speculation but also bringing to the fore new discussions and analyses on the ministers’ portfolios and the new ministries created. A journalist and an editor, Jaafar Jaafar, said, ‘The Northwest has many ministers but no weight’.
While a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adamu Garba, said, “It is one of the most balanced ministerial portfolio allocations of recent history. Adamu also pointed out that “President Tinubu – dedicated Infrastructure and Finance to the South. While Agriculture and security are to the North. Soft infrastructure like health and education to the North, and Humanitarian and Innovation to the South. Productivity and Job creation in the North- The North needs more security and agricultural productivity to grow and industrialise, while the South is good with services and infrastructure.”
In Tinubu’s ministerial portfolios, there were surprises, and there were no surprises, so to speak.
In most democracies, ministers are selected from politicians who contributed to victory at the polls and from technocrats with strong professional track records. Cabinet ministers are not just a team but a collection of great thinkers—silicon valley-thinkers—men and women who can move the government with the speed of the imagination of most Nigerians, and their sense of judgment must be centred on the challenges of unlocking the future for ordinary Nigerians. and also bring new thinking and synergy to the public sector’s role in providing for the needs of all Nigerians.
Most Nigerians expect Tinubu’s ministers to be not just members of the cabinet but to add value to governance; they must be propellers for greater equality of opportunity for all Nigerians. They must be able to build a system that will swing the government away from the traditional methodology of concentrating on only the ‘off-the-shelf way of improving society.
Some Nigerians are complaining that Tinubu’s cabinet has too many politicians. However, the truth is a right-thinking President brings on board top-notch grassroots politicians to hold the political front for him when the need arises. President Tinubu and the Dr Abdullahi Ganduje-led APC should, as a matter of ‘need’ maintain and ‘oil’ that area. This is where the synergy between the Executive and party supremacy comes into play.
President Tinubu and the APC, as a matter of policy and politics, should make sure that those appointed as ministers know what is expected of them. A ministerial appointment is a call for a national assignment. Nigerians expect ministers not only to saddle themselves with the responsibilities within their respective portfolios but also to be team players that will bring feasible ideas and be at par with local and global realities. Nigeria will be keen to see new ideas for fighting poverty, tackling the skyrocketing prices of food commodities, improving electricity supply, and finding new ways to fight insecurity in the north and southeast, etc.
On the political side, apart from supporting the president, ministers should see themselves as the ‘faces’ of the APC in their respective communities; their political presence and contact with locals are very important. For example, during the 2019 presidential elections, most of Buhari’s first-term appointees, especially from the north, became mere spectators in their states due to their weak link with the grassroots. Tinubu’s ministers may find themselves in such situations if they operate with weak links with the grassroots and poor rapport with the public. In this regard, in the weeks to come, many eyes will be on Nyesom Wike, FCT, and Ministers, whether he will remain ‘a PDP’ or crossover to the APC.
On the other hand, there are some young people in Tinubu’s cabinet, so many eyes will be on them. Their performance or underperformance will greatly impact youths’ participation in governance and politics, as well as give the Tinubu government the ‘strength’ to boast that youths are adequately represented in the government. This will also create a strong link between the government and the youth, who form more than half of Nigerian voters. This would also serve as an impetus for a good image and a sound political strategy for the All Progressive Congress (APC) because young people’s political participation and engagement in governance are essential at this moment.
Lastly, President Tinubu should, as a matter of importance, be firm in assessing every member of his cabinet. Non-performing ministers should be replaced quickly so as not to lose time and also keep others on their toes.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja via email@example.com.