Posted by By Bolade Omonijo, Group Political Editor on
EIGHTEEN months after the inauguration of his administration, President Umaru Yar’Adua yesterday took a firm step in reconstituting his cabinet.
EIGHTEEN months after the inauguration of his administration, President Umaru Yar’Adua yesterday took a firm step in reconstituting his cabinet. He had served notice in September, shortly before the independence celebration, that he was set to reposition his government for the challenges of the moment. To drive home the point, he sacked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and replaced him with the then Minister of Defence, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.
The sack gave an indication that the President understood that Nigerians were not pleased with the performance of his administration. Many Nigerians had complained that he had been slow in tackling fundamental problems confronting the government.
The sack of 20 cabinet members indicated that he has seen them as the weakling in the administration’s plans. By retaining 20, the President indicated that they were those who had performed to his satisfaction. It was difficult to see what he saw
in many of those he retained. Many were unknown even after
serving for one-and-a-half years. Their pedigree did not show that they had what it would take to take the country to a greater height.
All eyes were then turned to the new additions. Again, the president chose to do things his own way. It has taken three months to partially constitute the cabinet. Until this morning, some posts are still vacant. Thirteen ministers were sworn in yesterday; three more have just been cleared by the Senate and at least four more would-be ministers are yet to be nominated. This is hardly an indication that the government is set for a better performance.
What about the quality of the men and women just added to the team? The three nominees who have just received the endorsement of the Senate are: former Imo State Governor Achike Udenwa, an economist, Dr Rilwan Babalola from Osun State and former SGF, Chief Ufot Ekaette.
The 13 brought on board by the president were Professor Dora Akunyili assigned to the Information and Communication portfolio, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman as Petroleum Affairs Minister, Dr. Shettima Mustapha who is now the Defence Minister and Dr. Ibrahim Lame as Minister of Police Affairs.
Others include: Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who was moved from the National Committee on AIDS to take charge of the Health Ministry, Senator Adamu Aliero, a former governor of Kebbi State who has been handed the Federal Capital Territory Ministry and Senator Bello Gada now to take charge of the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
Dr. Sam Egwu, a former governor of Ebonyi State is the new Education Minister, Senator Ibrahim Kazaure, a retired ambassador, is the new Special Duties Minister. Nuhu Way, an architect, is Minister of State, Power. Alhaji Isa Bio, a former member of the House of Representatives and, until his ministerial appointment, Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, is now Minister of Transport. Alhaji Sani Ndanusa is Sports Minister while Alhaji Jibril Maigari is a Minister of State in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Alhaji Ikra Bilbis is the new Minister of State for Information and Communication.
The new team has more persons with name recognition. However, even where persons who have demonstrated ability in previous assignments were brought to the cabinet, the allocation of portfolio does not show that Yar’Adua actually realises the import and urgency of the task at hand. One of the few who had caught national attention is Mrs. Akunyili; but she has been assigned the information portfolio. She is believed to have tackled fake drugs with unusual commitment and expertise. But she has now been taken out of her area of competence. As a pharmacist, it remains to be seen if she can add value in information management.
Mustapha is a renowned agronomist, former agriculture minister and a seasoned politician. He has been assigned to the Defence Ministry. There is nothing in his academic and career experience to have prepared him for this role. Ibrahim, a pharmacist, is taking over from Diezani Alison-Madueke in the transport ministry. Way is to assist the Minister of Power, a crucial ministry to the realisation of one of the items on the Seven-Point agenda of the Yar’Adua administration. Omotoba, an economist is the Minister of Aviation and Aliero who retired from the Customs is in charge of the FCT.
Those retained include Dr. Abba Ruma in Agriculture, Ojo Maduekwe in Foreign Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia remains the Minister of State, Petroleum and Chief Mike Aondoakaa remains the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Those redeployed include: Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank who until yesterday presided at the Finance Ministry. His new station is the National Planning Commission where he is the deputy chairman and minister.
The President may have thought he might not be able to cope with the coming financial challenges.
Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode who was in Culture and Tourism Ministry is now in the Ministry of Labour which is a strange terrain to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, but his good performance on the last beat may have recommended him. Dr. Hassan Lawal, former Labour Minister, who was one of the few retained from the Obasanjo cabinet, has now been moved to Works and Housing. The president had appointed Lawal to oversee the Health Ministry following the removal of Prof. Grange.
The nation is still awaiting appointments into the very important ministries of Power, Niger Delta and Finance. What the President does in respect of the appointments remain to be seen. But, with most of the cabinet positions already filled, it is doubtful if the Yar’Adua administration is capable of improving on its pace and quality of delivery.
One phase of the administration is over. It was characterised by lethargy, poorly articulated policies and inappropriate appointments and postings. It will be a pleasant surprise if changes are noted in the new phase.
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