Finally, what has been the subject of many private debates over the last year came to the public fora; the inability of some ministers to access the president on key decision within the government, due to the influence of a select few and the insensitivity of a strong-man president.
Just yesterday, Ibe Kachikwu’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the “undoings” of Maikanti Baru, NNPC group managing director, leaked and made its way into the public domain, highlighting what many ministers have been dealing with in their various ministries. It also confirmed the inability of ministers and some heads of influential parastatals to see the president.
In his letter, Kachikwu wrote: “Let me start by welcoming you to the country, and by thanking God for your recovery froom ill health. I join millions of Nigerians who rejoice and thank God for granting you the grace of healing and the strength to continue the good work you have done for Nigeria in your long illustrious career in public service. I would have wanted to see you personally after receiving you at the airport to fecilitate with you and discuss matters herein contained. However, I have been unable to secure an appointment to see you despite very many attempts”.
Clearly, seeing the president is at the instance of those in charge of the appointments. And ministers have to book time and again to see the president who appointed them as co-pilots of the Nigerian project over the next few years. Kachikwu letter was dated (or written) on August 30 — 11 days after President Muhammadu Buhari returned from the UK.
Recall that in May, when the president was in the UK, Kachikwu visited London, perhaps with hopes to see the president, and granted an interview to BBC’s Stephen Sackur, where he said the president was still working from London, but did not state if he made any success with seeing the president.
In response to the leaked letter, Idang Alibi, director of press in the ministry of petroleum, said the leak was distressing, but did not also state if the minister has been able to eventually meet (one-on-one) with the president since August. It may be safe (or unsafe) to say, Kachikwu has not been able to have a heart-to-heart with his principal for four months to six months.
Many people have gone on to say why should these ministers work for a president who they cannot see or one who has a system in place, structured to make them fail. Social media has been chewing this civil discourse as a show of shame between Buhari and his ministers. I have seen some of these politics with an insider’s perspectives and I know that there is more to it than meet the eyes.
KACHIKWU IS NOT ALONE
I had the opportunity to attend the last two International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Washington DC. At the meetings, Nigeria was well represented by ministers, lawmakers, economists, tech CEOs, Bank MDs, policy wonks, heads of parastatals and diplomats from across major spheres of the Nigerian life.
The country made giant leaps of progress in discussion with the World Bank, IMF and other financial institutions present. The ministry of water resources recorded some major deals with the World Bank, the ministry of finance and CBN were able to put in good words for Nigeria with rating agencies like Moody’s, Fitch and S&P.
At one of the meetings, Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing also unveiled Nigeria’s power sector recovery plan, which was lauded by the World Bank. The bank also offered financing, stating that the power plan is “realistic” as it captures all the problems in Nigeria’s ailing power sector.
Many other deals, which were carried over from previous meetings, were discussed and needed the approval of the president and commander-in-chief.
After the meetings, upon return to Nigeria, the plans with the financial institutions were supposed to take a full swing, but seeing the president became a challenge. One of the ministers at the meetings said on national TV that seeing the president has not been possible since the conclusion of the meetings. Kachikwu is not alone on this.
The manner of insurbodination revealed by Kachikwu had also played before us as we watched the matters between Isaac Adewole, the minister of health, and Usman Yusuf, the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The NHIS boss rejected the suspension by the minister, stating that “except removed from office by the president under circumstances specified in the NHIS Act,” his appointment is for a period of five years.
The national assembly asked Adewole to recall Yusuf, despite the appointment of Attahiru Ibrahim as acting executive secretary. You know how this kind of stories end in silence from presidency. Kachikwu is not alone on this too.
IF YOU CAN’T SEE HIM, RESIGN
You must have heard statements like this in the Nigerian discourse, but I’m afraid, it is never that easy. Many Nigerians have seen the level of corruption perpetrated under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and have said, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should have resigned. The same has been said to ministers who have aired any kind of grievance against the government they are working with.
It is never that easy; public officers are thinking of the reforms they have initiated and would love to see them through. They are also thinking of what legacy they would have to leave behind: For Kachikwu, would it be the legacy of quitting on the nation he calls fatherland or being the minister who ended the importation or petroleum products? Ultimately, ministers are also thinking of the victimisation by the powers that be, which they would have to face upon resignation. For many of them, it is better to be sacked than to resign.
In all, President Buhari must put his house in order, if not for his good image, he should do this for the progress of the nation he swore to serve. Kachikwu’s memo must not get lost in our memory before action is taken.