Last week, President Bola Tinubu swore in 45 ministers. Three of the minister-nominees are yet to be cleared. So, we are expecting a full cabinet of 48 ministers.
Clearly, this is the largest cabinet to be unveiled by any Nigerian leader, military or civilian. That the president decided on such a large cabinet at the most austere time in the history of our nation is instructive.
One, it shows that the president is unyielding to call for cutting down on the cost of governance. Rather than cut down the cost of governance, the large cabinet will escalate it.
Two, the large cabinet shows that cronyism and patronage are very high in this government and with these, Nigeria will remain stunted. When a leader is sold to patronage and cronyism, he finds it difficult to drop some people. Thus, he dilates the system to accommodate as many ‘boys’ as possible. Thus, the cabinet is bound to be filled with all possible rather than plausible candidates.
We have other evidence to show that the cabinet choice of Tinubu reeks of cronyism.
The new defence minister, Abubakar Badaru, was the governor of Jigawa State between 2015 and 2023. The state was not particularly safe as a result of the governor’s ingenuity in security management. His name only pops up for the appointment of 51 aides: one for street lights, one for population control and one for each of his three wives. However, he is an All Progressives Congress bigwig who played a big role in the election of Tinubu and should be rewarded.
The Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, governed one of the most insecure states in Nigeria: Zamfara. That notwithstanding, he has recently become ‘very popular’ in the social media for parading a curriculum vitae that showed limited education at the Township Primary School, Maradum and Vocational Training Centre, Bunza.
Honourable minister, don’t mind them. It’s better to be honest than to pad educational attainment. ‘Who em elp?’ Some schools don’t even know some politicians who claim they attended them.
Loquacious Nyesom Wike made Tinubu’s list after mortgaging his conscience, if there is anything like that, to help the APC win election at all costs after denigrating them. The ministerial slot is the price or prize for helping the APC perform some magic in Rivers State. That’s disappointing for a man who had been a minister before. Of course, he knows how cold it could be outside the corridors of power. Now, any time Wike tells you, “I cannot be a minister” or “I don’t want to be a vice president,” understand that he is actually campaigning for the office.
Another piece of evidence that the president‘s cabinet reeks of cronyism is the presence of Mr Festus Keyamo. Keyamo’s nomination seems to have been an afterthought. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria was remembered after his adversaries taunted him for being left in the cold despite the yeoman’s job he did for Tinubu in the media. The president needed to pay him for indefensible and ridiculous statements he made during the campaign, including the claim that ‘great men’ like Tinubu didn’t need to go through primary and secondary schools before taking a quantum jump into the university.
The nomination and abortion of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is interesting. If there was anyone that Tinubu didn’t need in his cabinet, it was El-Rufai. Apart from stoking religious emotions recently, El-Rufai had publicly shown that he abhorred the person of Tinubu. Nonetheless, Tinubu showed that he was a master in the game of politics. He stooped to conquer and having conquered, he had the knife and the yam to cut any portion to any man. El-Rufai doesn’t pretend for too long. That he supported Tinubu was only a matter of convenience rather than conscience and the president must have seen through this.
The number of cabinet seats Tinubu allocated to each of the six political zones in the country showed that there is reward for labour. The South-East could only get the minimum number required by the constitution: five! Candidate Tinubu had promised to give to the region “sliced soaked bread.”
In its analysis, Premium Times said, “In the 48 he nominated for screening, the president had added 12 to the 36 he is mandated by the constitution to appoint. However, the immediate concern that arose was over geo-political representation in the list.
“From the 12 extra slots, he gave the North-West and South-West three each but overlooked the South-East entirely. The North-Central, North-East and South-South got two each from the remaining slots.”
The replacement of the Ministry of Water Resources with the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy as well as the appointment of the president’s nephew, Gboyega Oyetola, is a pointer to where the government is headed. It is hoped that the marine assets of the country would be expanded to allow Lagos enjoy some breathing space.
The president retained the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The presidents that did this in the past did not show any particular brilliance. Could this be an early sign that Nigeria is not going in any new direction in the petroleum industry with overburdened old presidents also saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the Ministry of Petroleum Resources? Things got worse in the oil industry with Muhammadu Buhari as petroleum minister. More than 70 per cent of the country’s oil production was allegedly stolen with the general who had been petroleum minister before in charge. Cry, the beloved country!
One of the appointments that have excited Nigerians, especially those that know, is that of Bosun Tijani, a young information technology expert who co-founded the Co-Creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos. It is hoped that the appointment of the square peg in a square hole would bring a new dispensation. As a tech enthusiast, I had written in Technology and Development: An African Perspective, “The diseases, the hunger, the deprivation, the paucity of infrastructure, the darkness and the insecurity threatening Africa only provide opportunities for the continent to harness its human resources. They provide opportunities for the continent to explore the technology in the heads of its people.”
The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has the responsibility to enunciate policies that would take the country forward in this digital age as the world steadily marches towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, it takes more than policies to unleash the creativity of Nigerians in the technology space or any other space for that matter. The dearth of inspiration and the reward for bad behaviour are two things that can kill creativity in any nation.
The appointment of Mr David Umahi into the Ministry of Works seems to be another appropriate one. Umahi had shown that he could be trusted with projects. His iconic projects during his tenure in Ebonyi State speak for him. He proved his mettle as an engineer. The challenge people had with him when he governed Ebonyi State was his messianic approach to issues. From a distance, he spoke like an emperor that could never be wrong. Now, he must learn that the buck does not stop at his table. Umahi has started well by first visiting the Lokoja Bridge which is perennially flooded without any attention from the government.
The assignment of the FCT portfolio to Wike has also attracted excitement. Some are pleased to see that a southerner can hold the FCT portfolio. Others are excited that Abuja would witness action from a man who dislikes dull moments. It is also for this same reason that some people are apprehensive. Whatever emotion that residents of the city will wear in the days ahead is to be determined by how Wike dances to the tone that Tinubu plays for him.
There is so much to be said about the president‘s cabinet. They cannot be exhausted in this short piece. However, let’s conclude this by saying that it was disappointing that the nation had to wait for so long for such a flat cabinet. It is unfortunate that the nation keeps getting into a bind with men who claim they had spent their entire lives preparing for office only to get there to show they had either since passed their menopause or were playing all along.
- Dr Amaefule writes via firstname.lastname@example.org