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Too little, too late

Too little, too late
November 06
11:06 2017
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President Muhammadu Buhari last week announced that more ministers would be appointed to inject fresh ideas to his government. It was at the meeting of the executive council of the president’s party, APC that the announcement was made.  

For me, there are two angles to this statement. First is the view that our president has made a 360 degrees turn to play politics the Nigerian way; he surely must have learned the ropes. Contrary to his pretentions since 2015, Buhari eventually showed us that he is just another politician. Though his rabid supporters could as well claim that he has tried or he is trying his best – depending on their mood whenever you encounter them, the president is simply playing the politics of expediency. We will get to economic angle of such claptrap decision to increase a cabinet of 36 members in a government that is more than half way in its tenure. Elections are scheduled for February 2019, folks, always remember that.

At the meeting, which by the way was quite necessary as the rainbow coalition that birthed APC is already disintegrating, what with the CPC block stylishly launching a campaign to reelect the president with a snide remark to the former PDP members of the coalition that “they have hijacked Buhari”.  “ (The) compressed federal executive council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at Federal Level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government,” Buhari said at the meeting. He added also that it was a way of rewarding the party supporters who have been anticipating such. Nothing bad in rewarding party members, but it must be done with an eye on the bottom line.

This was a party that promised a leaner government while campaigning or maybe it was a consultant that inserted that and “just pushed it out” without consulting the party hierarchy as it was in the issue of medical tourism by our president and other government leaders. But without consideration or maybe ignoring the economic realities on the ground, Buhari wants to increase the number of noisemakers as he called ministers as “job for the boys”. Surely this will increase our recurrent expenditure and the cost of business for a government that had already borrowed to finance substantial part of this year’s budget even as we wait eagerly for the presentation of 2019 estimates to the National Assembly. Findings last week showed that about 25 new agencies might come up if the bills to establish them scale through the national assembly. Recall that we established one recently, the Northeast Development Commission.

We have a government who promised to implement the Steven Oronsaye report and prune down the number of parastatals, departments and agencies as a way of cutting cost, but apparently that was just a gimmick to get to power, it was never going to be implemented. Our oil earnings will not likely get to the level it was before Buhari assumed the reins of power but we are still continuing as though there is a constant supply of cash somewhere that will keep feeding the monster of recurrent expenditure. We need to tell the president that Nigeria does not need more ministers but better ministers. Even the most loyal APC member will agree that there are some dead woods in the cabinet that do not deserve to be there. I mean how could a minister tell us that this government had created seven million jobs so far, when honour and fidelity to facts take a flight, a public official has nothing left to offer. It is possible, however, that we are expecting too much from noisemakers as their principal referred to them.

The second aspect of the president’s speech at that gathering that we need to bother about is the fact some boards of parastatals were yet to be constituted as at last month. The lethargic pace of this government is well know to all Nigerians by now, from disciplining to acting on reports of investigation or probes to taking action on major issues but it sure takes the befuddlement a bit higher that statutory dissolution of boards whose tenures expired has not been done. Hear the president, “Some of us in this meeting may know I had given instructions since October 2015 for this exercise to start. But there have been inordinate delays through several Committees in an attempt to get the balance right and to make sure all parts of the country are equitably represented.”

Not sure the president read his own words before coming out to say such in public, instructions since 2015 and they have not been carried out two years after? Medical people tell us that scar tissue tends to accumulate but our president’s torpor surely must dwarf the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s whom Nigerians nicknamed snail. His speech last week was simply too little, too late.

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