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Now That The Federal Executive Council Is In Place



Now That The Federal Executive Council Is In Place

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Last week Monday, 21st of August, 2023, the newly appointed ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were sworn-in. It was a mini ceremony. Surely, most, if not all of them would have gone ahead to throw big parties to “wash” their appointments and eventual taking of the oath of office. Even if they did not want to do so personally, their families, friends and other well wishers must do so. “Won ko le je ki o lo be ni gberefun” (they couldn’t allow such moment to pass in dryness like that).

This is because, Nigerians, especially the relatives and associates of such appointees, see that as “their turn” (awon l’okan). They celebrate in anticipation of what such positions hold in benefits to the appointees and by extension, them, directly or indirectly. But, should this really be the purpose of public service through such appointments? It is unfortunate how Nigerians perceive political positions, whether elected or appointed. It is seen as their time to “chop” and share from national cake. Who is to blame: the office holders or the people? There is more to getting into political offices in Nigeria than meets the eyes. That’s not the purpose of this article. “Oro po ninu iwe kobo”.

Taking such celebration too far by sycophants must have prompted the statement from one of them, the Minister of FCT, Barr. Nyesom Wike, who directed that those who have been littering the whole Abuja landscape with congratulatory messages to him on bill boards should stop. It is reported that such bill boards are seen in different locations within the city. That is the extent of “eye-service” that Nigerians can go to.

The president of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, held his inuagural Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting with these new ministers on Monday this week. It was new as we were used to such meetings being held on Wednesdays. We don’t know if that will be the practice or just for the start. That’s similar to what is obtainable in Lagos. If continued, it shows how the Yorubas treat Mondays, which reflects in their saying that “oyinbo o fi Monday sere” (a whiteman doesn’t joke with Mondays). In that meeting, Tinubu charged them to live up to the high expectations that Nigerians put them against.

It was interesting and encouraging to see some level of seriousness and urgency to make things happen for the good of the people once again, unlike the lacklustre meetings we have seen for many years, which became rituals where memos were just presented for approval without any rigorous debate. Most time, the president just sat there listening, read out already prepared speech and sign-off on necessary documents. Then, everyone goes out to do whatever they like. That charaterised the last eight years in particular.

Even after the meeting on Monday, one could see how charged most of the ministers were. The press conference that followed was rich in information, well articulated and presented. Afterwards, we have also seen them scattered across the country hitting the ground running. Of particular interest to Nigerians has been Nyesom Wike. He seems to have carried his controversial personality to Abuja as he has been trending on daily basis since appointed.

He has been very active, making pronouncements and moving all over, assessing the state of the Federal Capital that he inherited. This has pushed him to make comments that some see as threats. Even the staff of the FCT, especially the directors and top management were not spared. After a long time, Abuja seems to be having another “action man” as the minister after Mallam Nasir El-Rufai left in 2007. Wike has been speaking on right issues and concerns like illegal structures, bad environmental conditions, poor lighting and illumination, insecurities, open grazing within the city, street hawking, traffic and park management, and so on. He is known for being a performer, which earned him the alias: ‘Mr. Project’, when he was the governor of Rivers state. We all hope he brings this to bear on the FCT and restore the fading glory of the city.

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In the last one week, all of them have been seen trying to outdo one another. It is too early for any proper and objective assessment. However, they seem to be starting on good footings. The presidency’s veiled threat that Tinubu won’t hesitate to fire any non-performer among the appointees must have sank in too. This also sounded new. Nigerians were used to seeing poor performers left in office all through a tenure of the government in the last eight years, even when there were clamour and complaints from the public for such persons to be sacked or changed. Former President Buhari always turned deaf ears. That was incentive for many bad behaviours we saw. We can only hope that President Tinubu lives up to his promise of not condoning indolence. We know of his track record in Lagos state. That’s why a person like me has ever supported him. I am holding him to that expectations and I won’t think twice to criticise him if he fails to live up to them.

Another former governor turned senator but now Minister, Dave Umahi has been seen on the tour of duty. He has started his assessment of the outstanding projects under his Ministry of Works, one of the most critical ministries. He did so from the South West region where he visited many federal roads within the region, seeks collaboration with the state governors and the people. He was reputed to have woken up the laid-back sleepy state of Ebonyi while in the state as governor, with many laudable projects he executed. The state now boasts of an airport which he built.

Others have also been engaging stakeholders in their ministries and mapping out plans to deliver on their mandates. These are good beginnings. We hope the tempo and enthusiasm will be sustained.

As Nigerians, people are less interested in activities. All we want are results. Although, nothing happens by magic. There are always processes involved. However, with the situation that we have found ourselves, peoples’ temper is high. The patience level has reduced and hanger fuse is short. “Ebi ki wonu, k’oro min wo be” (an hungry man is an angry man). There is anger in the land occasioned by hunger. This must be topmost in the government’s agenda.

The effects of removing petrol subsidy and the unification of the exchange rates are still biting hard. Nigerians are struggling to survive. So, all the government attention should focus on this. Sadly, we, the people, tend to fixate our minds only on the Federal Government while we neglect those levels of government closer to us: state and local governments. We hardly ask questions as to how our governors are managing our resources, both the ones allocated to them from the central purse and the internally generated revenues.

We know that most local governments are appendages of the states now. Governors have suffocated them. They are not allowed to breathe by confiscating their federal allocations and only give them peanuts, contrary to constitutional provisions. But, can those chairmen in the local governments complain, when all of them were stooges of governor who ‘appointed’ them there, either as Caretaker Committees Heads or through local government elections manipulated in their favour?

We are seeing what is going on in Ogun state, with the whistle blown by one of the local government chairmen who accused Governor Dapo Abiodun of diverting their local government allocations. This is Abiodun’s 5th year. No one dared to say such in the past four years. We have also witnessed the consequence of that bold action of the Ijebu East Local Government chairman, Hon. Wale Adedayo. His councilors, who formed the LG parliament, suddenly remembered he committed infractions and have suspended him, in what looked like “the hand of Esua, the voice of Jacob”.

The most embarrasing sight was seen in the trending video where the rest of local government chairmen were seen begging Dapo Abiodun, who sat there like a ‘demigod’ while they prostrated as they sang to appease him. Is that democracy? Where is the autonomy of local governments? It is action like this that frustrates some people who felt they prefer military rule. Although, that might be borne out of hasty decision. Military has never fared better. In fact, I often put the blames for all the problems that Nigeria has faced till today at their doorstep. Their interruption of our nascent democratic journey in 1966 was a set back. They disrupted all the plans, visions and missions of the founding fathers who fought for the independence. Their case is like “ajogun ewu etu, komoyi agabada nla”.

Granted that the system was still wobbling then but it could have emerged stronger if not terminated. Moreso, the thrashing of the real people’s republican constitution of 1963 and replacement with military unitary decrees, after which subsequent democratic constitutions of 1979 and 1999 were modelled, ruined everything. The political class that emerged at later years was a product of the military. They act in consonnance with the established system, which is more autocratic than democratic. That is why a state governor could treat the local government chairmen as we saw in Ogun state. That is how it is all over the country, with a bit of variance in Lagos state where there is a ‘higher power’ than the governor, who actually dictates what happens in the state. Another complete aberration, though, still better than what happen in many states.

Back to the newly appointed ministers. There are too many things calling for attention and there is no much time. Before you say Jack Robinson, four years will be gone. Therefore, the president and his ministers must act fast. From the constant releases of the activities within the government, I believe a lots are going on underground. However, the positive results need to be seen and experienced by the people. Nigerians are desperate and in a hurry.

Dele Alake said he asked for the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development. Based on what qualifications? His portfolio was one of those I criticised as mismatch. He claimed was that the president needed someone who he can trust to effectively handle the sector. Yes, he is a loyal and trusted man to Tinubu. But, are those enough to deliver on such an important ministry that requires some scientific knowledge and understanding of solid minerals and so on? We look forward to what he will do there.

Another minister I raised a concern about is Minister of Power. I have read some of his comments since resuming and they have not been inspiring, just as I thought. That ministry is a core engineering one. It requires hands-on knowledge, understanding and experience about how things work there, not just some peripheral ideas. Mr. Adebayo Adelabu is a brilliant accountant/ banker, but Power Engineering is not his forte. The earlier President Tinubu reviews this the better. That’s a sector that has been bogged down by too many challenges for decades, which in turn, bogged down the whole country from rising up to its full industrial potential.

I watched the Ministers of State, Petroleum and that of Gas visited the refineries. They promised that Port Harcourt Refinery will come on stream by the end of this year and others will follow later. This is sacrosanct. Even when it does not mean local refining of petroleum products will magically crash their prices, there will be a lot of other benefits that will acrue to the country. The prices will marginally reduce actually, but might not be too significant. However, if we can attain self-sufficiency in local production such that we need not import again, the pressure on naira will substantially reduced. With such reduction, price elements, many of which are in dollars, that make up the cost build-up, will have lower naira amount that is proportional to the improvement in the strength of naira. This will be a big plus. Also, a stronger naira will lower the costs of other imported goods which are currently out of the roof.

Again, the additional employments, formal and informal, directly and indirectly, that functional refineries will generate, will be significant. All the byproducts of crude oil refining, outside the commonly demanded petrol, diesel and kerosene, will stimulate further industrialisation by companies that used them as feeder raw materials. And the chain continues. That will increase overall productivity within the economy and attendant contributions to employment, revenue and country’s GDP. So, President Tinubu cannot afford to fail, as he seems to be the main minister for now, under whom the two ministers of state are working.

We have heard other ministers speak about their plans too, all of which cannot be analysed individually here. Health, Education, Humanitarian Affairs, Justice, Communications, Science and Technology, and so on. Of importance is also Defence. Although, many of us would rather focus on what the security chiefs are doing than the ministers. Since their appointments, the security chiefs have been up and doing, striking the right notes.

Noteworthy is the relative improvement we are beginning to experience in security. Anyone who disputes this should ask people of the south-east region. For over two years, “dem no born anybody well to go out on Mondays”. There has been perpetual sit-at-home in the region. It started as a protest against the arrest and continuous incarceration of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. They did so in solidarity with him.

But, like everything ill-conceived, it soon became a monster. Even when the same citizens wanted it to end, those who have seen it as a form of power exhibition over the people refused. Those who defiled them by going out for their businesses on Mondays paid darely for their actions, including with their lives. But fortunately, with focused efforts of the military, police and the cooperation of the governors and other stakeholders in the region, this was successfully ended some weeks ago. Life has returned to normal on Mondays in Igboland. That is one of the biggest wins for this young administration.

There have been massive onslaught on the bandits and terrorists in the north-west and north-east as well. We have seen many neutralised, captured or voluntarily surrendered when the heat became unbearable. Many victims of kidnappings have been rescued. These are good starts which must be sustained. No feasible development and progress can be achieved in an atmosphere of insecurity. Kudos to our security agencies.

Food security is another critical one. All the planned reforms in the agricultural sector need better attention and focus. Let it not be like many fraudulent agricultural programmes and interventions of the former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, where money was just being thrown down the drain. Where is the rice pyramid? I told people at the time that fraud was being exhibited, that it was all lies. We have all seen it. Rice costs an arm now despite all the anchor borrower’s programmes for rice farmers and others that gulped hundreds of billions of naira. Tinubu should never repeat the same mistakes.

In all, the administration is just three months, yet to clock 100 days. Because of some tough reforms the administration undertook, which have far-reaching painful effects, it is not unexpected that many Nigerians will judge the administration as not satisfactory. This is understandable. However, what must be done must be done. Without those hard decisions, only God knows where we would have been by now, economically.

With various revelations about the true state of our foreign reserve which was said to be about $33 billion before, under the last administration, as managed by Emefiele, only to find out that it is just about $18 billion effectively. J.P Morgan added to our woes when they reported that it is actually $3.3 billion when they factored in some obligations that will mature in few years. Which country survives on such ridiculously meagre foreign reserve? How many days’ demands would that have met with the import forex requests?

Yet, people criticised Tinubu for floating naira. If he didn’t, where is the foreign reserve to be used to defend its value by now? Eventually, we would still have experienced this free fall in value at the parallel market while some people smile to the bank with the arbitrtage they benefit from the lower official fixed rates. That’s double jeopardy to the country, a lose-lose.

So, Nigerians need to be patient with the government. All these initial pains are “bitter pills” that must be administered to unlock greater prosperity for greater number of the people in future. They are temporary. The leadership at all levels are also advised to lead by example. When citizens are admonished to endure, the leaders cannot be living extravagantly, at the expense of the people. We hope and pray for a better and greater Nigeria.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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September 2, 2023.


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