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Yar’Adua’s New Ministers: Square Pegs in Round Holes

December 30, 2008
‘Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without edge, fitter to bruise than polish’’ ---Ann Bradstreat.


When President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, tarried before appointing his cabinet members on assumption of office on May 29, 2007, many Nigerians believed that we have arrived. It was argued in many quarters that the president was deliberately taking his time to assemble the best technocrats who would turn things around for the country. While some armchair critics pointed to the fact that, the former Governor of Sharia state of Katsina, was confused, bootlickers and political jobbers insisted he was consulting widely so as to pick the best for the various ministries.



When finally the list was released, there was really nothing new as most of those appointed were green horns. It did not take months before most of the appointees began to show signs of inexperience and mediocrity in their assigned ministries. The result was that the government ended the year 2007 and 2008, without anything to show for it. All the areas where Nigerians were expecting magic, such as electricity, roads construction, security, housing, employment generation, improved healthcare, education  and others, were not only left unattended to but were deteriorating. Virtually every sector of the Nigeria economy is in comatose. Today an average Nigerian is confused as to what the administration seeks to achieve in its first tenure.  


However, the president not oblivious of the under--performance of his cabinet members, decided to show some of them the way out prematurely, in view of the public outcry against their activities in the ministries in which they held sway. At the last count twenty of them were dropped. After dropping them,  Nigerians heaved  a sigh of relief, not because they expected angels to come down from heaven to replace them but because some of them were already becoming a burden and constituting  nuisance to the society.

No wonder one of them wept on receiving the news of his sack.


While Nigerians awaited the announcement of their replacement, there was already growing discontent on whether the present administration is capable of  instituting a team that can take Nigeria to ‘Eldorado’. Such skepticism became very apparent when news began to circulate that,  names of some immediate past State Governors were being considered to make the ministerial slots.  Some viewed the attempt as serious insult on the psyche of Nigerians. There was this general believe that most or all the immediate past governors should be investigated and even if legally not found guilty should not be appointed into any political office so soon. There was also this unconfirmed rumours that an octegerian  was to make the list. This also generated controversy as some believe, there are several new breed, intelligent enough to handle the situation in the oil ministry. . The creation of Niger Delta Ministry and who would occupy the ministry also became subject of media speculations. For those concerned in one way or the other, anxiety mounted but for the average Nigerians looking for two square meals a day,  life goes on.


Meanwhile, Yar’Adua later submitted first,  sixteen names to the National Assembly (Senate) and later six for confirmation and approval. But that was after those involved might have undergone security vetting. Among the six were three former governors, who later made the final list and were so appointed ministers of the federal republic.


Before assigning them portfolios, Nigerians have been speculating on who goes where based on the antecedents of the prominent ones among them. But at the last count, surprises trailed the assignment of portfolios to the newly appointed ministers. And this has left many Nigerians wondering what manner of advisers does the administration has. What happened in the current appointment of ministers and the ministries assigned to them tends to re-enforce the insinuation in some quarters that the administration lacks focus on how to move the country forward.


The truth is that , some of the individuals assigned have no business going to those ministries assigned to them, while some have outlived their usefullnes to continue to be relevant and in reality are facing diminishing returns. And in the law of economics it is obvious that they will never perform magic in terms of improving the economic lives of Nigerians. From the look of things the appointments were just mere political compensations by either the president or the state governors who nominated them.


It is pertinent to look at some of these appointees and the ministries they so occupy.

Dr Sam Egwu was the immediate past governor of Ebonyi state, from 1999-2007. Before then he was a university lecturer. Now Egwu replaced his brother Dr Ajah Nwachukwu as the Education Minister. If Egwu had been appointed education minister in 1998 or 1999, one would not  need to complain but after serving as governor for 8 years, and even nursed the ambition of the president,  with its attendant politicking,  it is very doubtful if he can scratch the enormous problems plaguing education in this country. He may just end up playing politics with our education system. From all indications his nomination was just a thank you job, while his clearance and appointment was a loyal PDP affair.


When John Odeh appeared before the Senate penultimate week to defend the 2009, Budget proposal for the ministry of Information and Communication, he lamented that the ministry had barely N800million for the 2008 budget, which did not give the ministry room to execute any meaningful project in the year 2008. He has every reason to complain. If the National Assembly would be spending close to N1billion on impress (the last time we heard they had spent over N800million), then it is a pity that a ministry would spend a paltry N800million for a whole year.  But that is not the crux of the matter. The issue now is that Odeh has been moved to the Environment ministry, to do what? May be the PDP, can supply the answer to Nigerians in due course. As if that was not enough, Prof. Dora Akunyili,  a world renowned pharmacist and highly revered Director General of NAFDAC, was assigned to take over the Information and Communication ministry. I am sure this is the beginning of the war against Journalists. I see the appointment of Akunyili to the Information  ministry as a grand design to quietly ease her out of the plumb job of NAFDAC. I am not a prophet but I would not be surprised of a mallam from Sokoto or Borno takes over from Dora. There is also the possibility that she is being molded to take over from Peter Obi. In the final analysis whatever was the reason for her appointment it does not suggest seriousness on the part of the government at all.


The case of Rilwanu Lukman has been over flogged. For him to have agreed to come back to serve fully as a minister for Petroleum seems there is more to him in that ministry which laymen like us really can not  see. This is a man who has seen it all as far as the black gold is concerned. There is no position in that ministry which he had not held before. Does this mean that any day  Rilwanu Lukman drops dead that ministry would cease to exist? I watched with utter disbelief when the senators asked him to take a bow when he appeared for screening and I asked myself,  what happens if this man joins his ancestors, at least at the ripe age of 70 and above he has paid his dues. Does it mean that out of  150 million Nigerians,  nobody has been raised or considered fit enough to replace Rilwanu Lukman? What happened that nobody in the senate was bold enough to stand up and challenge his nomination? Even those our brothers and sisters from the Niger Delta who are complaining of Northern oligarchy none could put up any resistance. What a pity! Was it a conspiracy, PDP family affair or that we have lost all hopes as a nation that we can not detach ourselves from proclivity of the past? The question to both the president and the senators is;  what can the sage offer now when he had been there over the years yet we have not gotten it right. Honestly, Rilwanu’s appointment is counter productive.


Furthermore, what are the expected contributions of Pharmacist Fidelia Nwanjeze in the Agriculture ministry, Adamu Aliero, a full fledged politician, in the FCT, Madueke in Mines and Steel Development, Engr Sani Ndanusa of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, (under his leadership Nigeria has not won any laurel in Tennis), and may others. If Dr Oshotimehin works all round, he may be the only proactive minister in that cabinet. I hope time will prove me right or wrong.


There is no gainsaying that the president, no doubt is already dancing the  tune from the Wadata Plaza and how this will help our economy remains to be seen.


By  Ezugwu Benson Whyte


[email protected]




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