Friday, October 31, 2008  

Yar'Adua and the cabinet shake-up

By Reuben Abati

That President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua needed to restructure his cabinet, to ensure greater efficiency and better rhythm is a generally admitted point. But the first step that the President has taken in this direction: the sacking of 20 Ministers on Wednesday this week is so clumsily executed, so obviously lacking in impact and depth of reason that the perception is again re-affirmed that this is indeed a poorly organised government. The first thing that rankles about the change of cabinet is the unnecessary long delay. Why did it take the President five months to change the cabinet?

It was in May 2008 in the course of his one-year anniversary address that the President first hinted at a likely cabinet change. A month ago, when he announced a restructuring of the Ministries, including the creation of a Niger Delta Ministry, a cabinet change became an inevitable follow-up. But rather than act swiftly, the President allowed the Federal government to be overtaken by undue stasis (nobody took their assignments seriously as everyone in the corridors of power awaited a series of exits and entrances), speculations (by members of the public who found it convenient to indulge in permutations as to who will remain or leave); lobbying (by persons seeking to join the government, or remain in it), confusion (on the part of the general public and investors in the Nigerian economy who needed a clearer picture of the character of government for the purposes of investment planning).

Altogether the President's indecisiveness created so much unease in the land. To spend five months to plan a proposed cabinet change is the ultimate sign of weakness. And now that a list of 20 expelled Ministers has been announced, it is difficult to see how the President made his selection. It will be recalled that we had been told before now, that the President had set up a Committee to assess the performance of the Ministers and advise him accordingly. Except for three or four Ministers, most of the Ministers that have been sent away are marginal players, relative unknowns, whose presence or absence in the government makes no difference. Agreed, there are a number of award-winning non-performers who have been nicely booted out, including the Minister of Education, the former Minister of Commerce and Industry, the former Minister of Sports and the former Minister of Women Affairs.

But many of those who have been retained have no business staying a day longer in that cabinet. To cite an obvious example: what is Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke still doing in the Federal Cabinet? She has made two famous contributions to Nigeria's development process so far: weeping profusely over the poor state of Federal roads and lamenting like a rejected wife, at the Benin-Ore Expressway and excusing the non-performance of her Ministry on the grounds that the Budget for her Ministry has not been cash-backed. In the past eighteen months, there have been crises in the justice administration sector and the economy. But the Ministers in charge have been retained.

There are at least three persons in the list of dismissed Ministers whose rejection by the President is difficult to explain: One, Aliyu Umar Modibbo, the FCT Minister. If performance is one of the yardsticks used, the former FCT Minister who was one of the more diligent members of the Yar'Adua cabinet should be attending the next Federal Executive Council meeting. Why sack a productive Minister? Two, Mohammed Daggash, the former Minister of National Planning was one of the very few stars of the Yar'Adua Government. And three, the same can be said of Sarafa Tunji Isola, the former Minister for Solid Minerals Development. And to some extent, Halima Alao.

One newspaper, The Nation has already tried to provide an explanation for the President's decision as follows: "Five factors accounted for yesterday's elimination of 20 former Ministers from the cabinet" it writes. "Investigations by The Nation revealed that the Ministers lost out due to the following: slow rate of performance, lack of knowledge of their assignments, bickering with their godfathers and political ambition which pulled some ministers against their governors. And the newspaper quoting an unnamed "highly-placed source", adds: "The President took his time to assess the Ministers. He was so meticulous that he did it independently. I can tell you that only the President compiled the score sheet himself and consulted extensively on those he would drop".

The Nation may be speculating, but this is the best that can be guaranteed in the absence of any explanations by the Presidency. But if slow rate of performance is an issue, it is the entire government that should be guilty as charged". Lack of knowledge of their assignments"? This is a system-wide problem. "Bickering with godfathers". This certainly should not be an issue. Differences between some Ministers and the Governors in their states? This is no useful criterion. The Nation, on page 3 provides further explanations, but what is confirmed is the President's obvious confusion. Who is talking about being meticulous? And definitely, President Yar'Adua lacks the moral authority to accuse anyone of, of all things, "slow performance".

But the President can still be granted the benefit of the doubt. His choice of Ministers is his prerogative, subject to Senate confirmation, under the 1999 Constitution. And although he has dropped 20 Ministers, he still has an opportunity to re-organise his cabinet in a manner that signals his priorities. But he must realise that the entire country is waiting, Nigeria's partners in different parts of the world are also waiting, even more anxiously. Truth is: eighteen months after the Yar'Adua government assumed office nobody knows where the Nigerian Government is headed. There is the slogan about seven-point agenda and that other clich� about Vision 20-2020. But what else?

It took President Yar'Adua more than two months to announce a cabinet in 2007. Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France and Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, did the same thing immediately they assumed office. It has taken our President five months to change his cabinet. Hopefully, he'd not have to spend another five months before announcing his new Ministers! Naming new Ministers and assigning portfolios to them should not require excessive planning (a major shortcoming of this government) or the setting up of a committee (the perfect vehicle for inaction in Nigeria). If the President were sure of his programmes, he would have announced a new cabinet by now, to allow the Federal Government to focus more on productivity, rather than the current endless drift, to re-energise the civil service, and to reassure the international community.

The President allegedly accuses the Ministers that have been dropped of non-performance. The main problem is the President's own pace and style. Leadership is about focus, action and results. The Yar'Adua government at the centre needs to become more efficient and this must begin with the President setting a different example and encouraging a new work ethic. One major shortcoming of this administration is its indecisiveness. The President changes his mind, too often on policy issues. This is a President that has acquired a reputation, sadly, for unending self-reversal. For example, the Federal Government openly blacklisted Siemens, the German company, for its involvement in the bribery of Nigerian officials, and the violation of the ethics of corporate governance. Less than a year later, Siemens' sins have been forgiven; the company has been rewarded by government with a huge power project contract. All the top Nigerian officials who were named as having collected bribe from Siemens are walking free and enjoying the interests on their loot.

Here is a government, which promised in June 2007 to negotiate with ASUU and recall the UNILORIN 44. But it soon changed its mind on that too. The other week, the President turned down the proposal to host the FIFA-organised U-17 World Cup. The President was alarmed that the tournament would cost Nigeria as much as N35 billion. He then asked members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the tournament a number of salient questions. He wanted to know what Nigeria stood to gain from hosting the event. His various questions have not yet been answered but the government has since reversed itself. Reason: members of the LOC reduced the budget for the tournament from N35 billion to N9 billion - a totally suspicious action. In more serious societies, those creative book- keepers in the LOC would be with the police by now, undergoing rigorous interrogation.

So much indecision on all fronts: to be added to the foregoing is the Federal Government's somersault on the Niger Delta Summit, the re-denomination of the Naira, Nuhu Ribadu's headship of the EFCC, the sale of refineries and the unbundling of the NNPC. This government changes its mind wilfully. No one should be surprised therefore, if any of the dropped Ministers is suddenly re-appointed or rewarded with a bigger appointment. But there is an unwritten moral dimension to the prerogative that the President exercises in appointing his ministers. The inability of our President to act with greater resolve and follow-up promises with dynamic action is a comment on the quality of leadership in Abuja and invariably on the People's Democratic Party, the majority but ineffective party in power which is threatening to rule Nigeria for more than 60 years!

President Yar'Adua has a bigger stake. The nature of his legacy is already being constructed. We expect from him today, not tomorrow, a list of Ministers. We need to know, quickly, who is in charge of what. Not out-of-their-depths Ministers who may be in transit, overseeing other Ministries, thus further complicating an existing web of confusion. We need Ministers who are knowledgeable and capable, not the yes-men or girlfriends of obtrusive Godfathers and Governors.



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Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Employlawone posted on 10-31-2008, 09:45:15 AM
Thank you, well articulated and precisely what I atrying to convey in the article I sent to you for publication sometime ago. This man needs help.

Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Olu Affairs posted on 10-31-2008, 10:41:37 AM
The whole country not only the "Slow Coach" called President needs divine help. We are the laughing stock of the entire planet and those other countries that have any dealings with Nigeria only do so to make more dough out of the sinking ship called Nigeria.
I wonder where and what all our General Overseers, Imams, Reverends, Oluwos etc have been doing since all these years.
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Omo naija posted on 10-31-2008, 13:04:58 PM
Fellow Nigerians, we don't have a government in Nigeria at the moment, we just have a government in transition. I lost all confidence in Yar Adua's government since May 2008, the man has no clue, we are only deceiving ourselves if we think Yar Adua we leads us to the promise land, I pray the Supreme Court annulled the whole rubbish, so we can have a really elected government (wishful thinking?).

Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Allaccess posted on 10-31-2008, 13:05:10 PM
Mr Abati,

As a man who wrote tirelessly (for business and pleasure) during the coronation of UMYA as president over an electorate he never won, you sure surprise me everyday when you call the man "president"

Have you now caved in and agreed he won an election that made him the president of Nigeria?

Journalism has gone to the dogs in that country, what a shame.

Where is Dele Giwa?
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Gbenga Ezekiel posted on 10-31-2008, 13:28:36 PM
While we quibble about on how and why Yar' Adua is who he is? Why Assembly members, Governors and political office holders seem to be blindly intent on aggravating class differences between them and ordinary Nigerian by virtue of provisions made in budgets and constitution for officially approved embezzlement? Why everything apart from (OBT) Oil, Banks and Telecommunication has collapsed and gone degenerate? We need to take more urgent and strategic actions to ensure our national existence, security and posterity.

By now we should start to base-line possible worst case scenarios for the economy and social infrastructure which clearly imminent at the end of this regime, and how we can or possibly intend to launch out from there. Our eyes are wide enough to see that this Yar'Adua simply has not got the capacity. It remains baffling, to me personally, why Obasanjo with his intellect, exposure, experience, and unique favours chose such a great disservice to this nation by imposing a man who was, and is not, ready to lead. Why he would confidently rob the country of quality leadership? A country he fought for and was privileged twice to serve as its head!

We should earnestly start to look beyond Yar'Adua, assuming he completes his 4 year term. According to Abati, we now have a clear idea of what to expect from this government. Of strategic importance to us as a people seeking change is finding answers to some pertinent questions, some of which may include:

Is Nigeria a sustainable entity?
What makes it sustainable?
Do we really have any realistic idea of how or what we want the country to be?
What in-dept analysis have we got or can we make regarding several issues in-order to have a clear understanding of our current position, consequent implications and way forward?
How do we collectively ensure that our future leaders have capacity and are visionary?
How do we rally people to distinguish and understand the differences between purposeless and purposeful leadership?
How do we sensitize and win support for the ideal, ideas, values and way of life we seek and the capacity to reflect this in choices at subsequent elections?
How do we ensure future elections are not brazenly rigged, knowing that rigging is not in done in heaven?
How do we emancipate ourselves from the seeming perpetual powerlessness over how our affairs are governed and conducted?
How do we coordinate ourselves to demand and get more to improve our living standards?
How do we source funds to execute a psychological campaign to reawaken ourselves and our hope for a free, fair and prosperous society?
How do we come to terms with the reality that the old order would not yield willingly and as such prepare adequately to meet the necessary opposition?
How do we provide and sustain necessary resources, relationships and competencies that will lead to the realisation of the desired society?
How do we strategize and position our children to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond?

These and many more should be the content of our thinking at the moment. We deserve better governance and leadership than we have ever had. We know as a people that we are better and we know that the quality of leadership up till this moment does not accurately reflect our inherent abilities and capabilities. We must be wise by now to have realised the road to doom.

We are freeborn, intelligent and capable! We have sacrificed and paid so much in suffering, dehumanisation, misplaced and misguided education, ill health, ill housing, migration, poverty et al. How else would we look our children in the face and tell them their inheritance is the experience of going through HELL while still on earth? We tell them that relief is only in religious activities and trances while patiently seeking the coming of the Lord to put an end to the suffering?

Would we have simply refused to protect generations from vision-less and corrupt leadership who insist on driving us to penury while they lounge on our tax and oil financed opulence, in the land of our fathers? Or can it then true that "A leader is only as good as its people"?
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Desgiezd posted on 10-31-2008, 15:20:29 PM
It is worrisome how this president takes so much pleasure in acting slowly. Taking five months to reshuffle a cabinet in an administration that has a four-year life span is simply unacceptable. About a month ago, this same president failed to attend a UNO meeting telling the whole world that he wanted to reshuffle his cabinet. One wondered then why cabinet reshuffle could not wait till after the United Nations meeting. One also felt that the reshuffling would take place within that space of time but it is now clear that the president refused to attend the meeting and didnt know the excuse to give for staying away.

It is doubtful if the four-year life span of this administration would not be a waste. This year has just 61 days to go yet it is doubtful if the year's budget has had a 25% implementation except the recurrent expenditure part of the budget. What a shame!!
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
MrOneNaija posted on 10-31-2008, 16:51:56 PM


It remains baffling, to me personally, why Obasanjo with his intellect, exposure, experience, and unique favours chose such a great disservice to this nation by imposing a man who was, and is not, ready to lead. Why he would confidently rob the country of quality leadership? A country he fought for and was privileged twice to serve as its head! ...

We should earnestly start to look beyond Yar'Adua, assuming he completes his 4 year term.

Obasanjo's "intellect"? How risible! And, by the way, how does one give what one doesn't have?

Well, the answer to your question is simple. It is also at the heart of the sorry spectacle we have in Abuja today. Please do take the time and read this essay by Aonduna Tondu: "Contemplating Nigeria Without Yar'Adua and Jonathan"[I][/I] It is available on the website of the Nigerian Village Square.

At any rate, the crux of the matter is that the Nigerian people cowardly allowed and continue to allow Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and their confederates within the PDP and their allies to have their way, at the expense of the nation. Yar'Adua can change his cabinet one million times but the overall result will most likely be the same - incompetence and the failure to meet the genuine aspirations of the citizenry.

It is amazing how otherwise enlightened individuals tend to put emphasis in the wrong places. It is almost as if they find in such posturing a convenient alibi for their abdication. Nigerians remember, for instance, how much of the national media inanely sang the praises of so-called "technocrats" and "stars" within the cabinet of the ex-tyrant, Olusegun Obasanjo. Some media men went to the extent of claiming that there was what they termed "a religious rationalization" at the heart of the tin god's presidency! By that, it was meant that Christian values formed the basis of the man's governance! It is apparent that these media people were merely parroting a mendacious official discourse that was at variance with the profoundly corrupt and inept identity of the kleptocratic despotism of Kabiyesi.

It is instructive that at the end of the day, the big lie collapsed exposing the Augean stables that was Aso Rock under the regime of Obasanjo and his acolytes in the el-Rufai and Bode George hue. All that, to say that right from the word go, Obasanjo was a fraud and no amount of neo-liberal rant (as represented by the likes of Okonjo-Iweala and el-Rufai) was likely to change that. Today, the nation is worse off, thanks, chiefly, to the electoral illegitimacy which characterized Emperor Ali Baba's reign of terror and profligacy. The fact that the Yar'Adua/Jonathan imposition was the handiwork of the same backward forces that systematically ruined Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 should be a sobering reminder for us all.
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Ajimoh posted on 10-31-2008, 18:24:55 PM
First, to the author, I say thanks.

Messrs Employlawone & Olu Affairs have nailed the points to the wall so aptly, I thank you and the other commentators.

Allaccess, Dele Giwa was sent on an errand by IBB and has failed to return, so go and ask the Chairman of Nigeria (sic) and tin god of Minna where Dele Giwa is.

I must return to Olu Affairs:

[INDENT]The whole country not only the \"Slow Coach\" called President needs divine help. We are the laughing stock of the entire planet and those other countries that have any dealings with Nigeria only do so to make more dough out of the sinking ship called Nigeria.
I wonder where and what all our General Overseers, Imams, Reverends, Oluwos etc have been doing since all these years.[/INDENT]

Let us presume that there is indeed a God as postulated by Islam, Christianity and African traditional religions, I assure you that 99% of our General Overseers, Imams, Reverends, Oluwos, etc are doomed for hell fire. These lot are totally milking the emptiness, depression, longings and total helplessness and capitulation of a people searching [vainly] for salvation [and clutching at straws] in the process wherever they could.

Gbenga Ezekiel ponders:

[INDENT]It remains baffling, to me personally, why Obasanjo with his intellect, exposure, experience, and unique favours chose such a great disservice to this nation by imposing a man who was, and is not, ready to lead. Why he would confidently rob the country of quality leadership? A country he fought for and was privileged twice to serve as its head![/INDENT]

That Obasanjo single-handedly imposed UMYA is not in doubt but what else could he have done given his own origin? OBJ was imposed on Nigeria by IBB, Abdu-Salam Abubakar, Danjuma, David Mark, etc, frankly, the same old Military cabal that has led Nigeria to nowhere! The objection of one of them [General Bamaiyi] led to his arrest & [wrongful] imprisonment for several years! The same reason OBJ himself was hamstrung by what he could do is the same affliction bedevilling UMYA; being beholden to overlords, e.g. Ibori, Sarakis, & the other contributors of funds to the last election. As I’ve posited in the past, the present AG will eventually throw in nolle prosequi to the prosecution of most of the ex-governors or the cases will drag on eternally till hunger make us all forget!

Let us not hold our breath, it is business as usual in Nigeria and the calibre of leadership makes for a depressing read. Members of the legislators are busy buying new [unusually expensive] cars (needed for legislating and moving the nation forward!) and cannot even conduct investigation with the most basic of decency; imagine, a legislator threatening to kill a citizen, another one asking “who are you”? One legislator asked a lawyer to disclose his source of information, in a manner akin to asking a journalist to disclose his/her source publicly! Is it not so apparent to these highly intelligent leaders of ours that in a public hearing, it is most unheard of to loudly request someone with a confidential source of information [whether credible or not] to disclose it to the public? What would happen to that source? Ask Dele Giwa, his soul rest in peace.

On the slowness of UMYA, those criticizing him are really being unfair in failing to appreciate the context within which he must act. UMYA is a hostage to the powers behind the thrown and cannot act with impunity. A president elected by the people will not give a damn whose feet are trampled upon. UMYA was installed by OBJ, sponsored by the stolen wealth of Delta and other states, and yet we expect him to perform! Perform what exactly?

It is not all bad news however and I bring you good news about governance in action in Enugu State. According to report in one of the dailies, the whole Enugu House of Assembly members planned a trip to the USA for a seminar on [yes, wait for it…] GOVERNANCE! Kai, sege barawo! Denied Visas and angered by the temerity of the Americans, the “Honourables” have decided to go to Britain instead for the planned seminar. I wonder why they were so confident the British would grant them visas denied by the Americans! O ya, no tribal sentiments please, where are my brothers/sisters from Enugu State, una sanction spending Enugu money this way, abi no be una money? Is Enugu State so awash with money and all the basic necessities of life that the “Honourables can afford to spend money so judiciously?

With the present crop of leaders, need one say more on the future of Nigeria generally?

The foregoing about the House of Representatives purchasing overly ostentatious [perhaps inflated] cars and Enugu Assembly members junketing abroad is a microscopic overview of the state of politics, [mis]representation and [mis]governance in Nigeria. Can someone please tell me what and where the hope is?

Who are we?
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Danmeka posted on 11-01-2008, 00:06:29 AM
Reuben, nice one , you are such a rare breed to the journalism profession but would they(Demorascals) listen or even read your piece. Remember a sick man is always a confuse man,that is why Nigeria is a basket case..........
Re: Yar`Adua and the cabinet shake-up
Udokaamah posted on 11-01-2008, 02:02:06 AM
If the only criticism Reuben Abati has against Yar-Adua is that he is slow and appears unsure and indiscisive, i would say that that is a compliment, given Nigerias' antecedent. I would rather have a reflective and calculated president than an obtuse, rash and presumptous one.

Henry Adams said that "Practical politics consists in ignoring facts." Yar-Adua inherited a damaged mandate and a nation at the brink of a precipice. And the legitimacy of his mandate is still being challenged in court.

His only claim to any form of legitimacy involved horse trading and a hogwash called 'Government of National Unity'. He did not chose his own ministers. Pressure groups, lobbysts and other political parties chose those men in a conciliatory move.

My prediction is that Yar-Adua is only beginning to assert himself and his presidency because all the legal and political challenges to his legitimacy is almost at an end. The next wave of ministers will have his finger print on them. Their only loyalty will be to him. He doesn't need to consult for months to hire or fire the ministers that serve at his pleasure.

The presidency is a "splendid misery"
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