The President And His Dream Team (1) By Segun Tomori
Those that had written off President Muhammadu Buhari’s political sagacity must have swallowed the humble pie when the President unfolded the portfolios of his star-studded cabinet. Nigerians, which had been wearied by the endless wait for #TheList as it was fondly referred to on new media instantly jumped up in virtual jubilation and adulation.
The new Ministers portfolios were widely adjudged as a deft move by a President desirous of giving bite to his change agenda. It was one singular act that killed two birds with one stone – rekindled public confidence in Buhari’s administration and effectively stymied the allegation of sectional agenda against the new government.
The man that emerged the first amongst equals is none other than the indefatigable Ex-Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola. He had since become a household name in Nigeria on account of his yeoman’s job as Lagos Governor and his fantastic presentation at the Senate Ministerial screening. Not a few commentators believed Fashola’s suave presentation at the screening was more Presidential than Ministerial. Such is the extent to which Fashola’s stock has risen among Nigerians. It was therefore an enthralled citizenry that enthusiastically applauded President Buhari for literally appointing him the “defacto” Prime Minister that will superintend Power, Works and Housing. This is the first time in our history that one man will be at the helm of 3 powerful ministries whose performance can make or mar any administration. Such is the extent of the President’s trust in the capability of Mr Fashola and Nigerians seem to believe his midas touch will transform the ministries and deliver unprecedented performance.
Other portfolios didn’t disappoint with the brilliant London trained investment banker and former Ogun State Commissioner of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun bagging the Ministry of Finance. She is complemented in the economic team by Sen. Udo Udoma as Minister of Budget and National Planning while ex-Goldman Sachs banker and CEO of African Capital Alliance, Okechuchukwu Enelamah calls the shot at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. I don’t envy this trio; the economy is in such a bad shape, they have their work cut out for them.
While they must work on long-term strategies to diversify the economy and deliver the country from the stranglehold of over-dependence on oil, they must employ quick fixes to stabilize the exchange rate and develop the economic blueprint needed to implement the administration’s change agenda. Addressing the infrastructure deficit is crucial to jumpstarting the economy. That is where synergy with Fashola is expected to come to play. Ex- Rivers Governor Rotimi Amaechi who faced a raging tempest at the Senate before he was finally screened and cleared is expected to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the Transport Ministry. Efficient movement of goods and services is key to the revamping of the economy therefore development inter-modal system of transportation should be a priority. This should include the revitalization of the rail sector; upgrading of aviation facilities; and the improvement of water and road transport.
Those that have alluded a Northern agenda to President Buhari on account of initial appointments will now bury their heads in shame. The President not only made Southerners the fulcrum of his economic team but virtually handed almost all the juicy Ministries with the exception of Water resources and agriculture to the South. With this, Buhari has disproved insinuations in certain quarters that he is an ethnic jingoist but has bolstered the image of a Pan –Nigerian statesman whose focus is on competence and merit. Indeed the President had himself stated he made pain-staking efforts to ensure the portfolios are filled with ‘round pegs in a round hole”. Overall, I believe he delivered on this.
Now that the cabinet has been inaugurated, the time to hit the ground running is now. Buhari has to decide if he’ll want to be remembered as a President that tackled the fundamental structural challenges of the Nigerian state or one who glossed over it but just improved the well-being of Nigerians. If he has to be our own Mahatma Gandhi, he’ll choose the former. For any reform to endure, restructuring of our flawed Federation is crucial. We must return to the era of true federalism where we have a weak centre and strong regions. There must be devolution of powers from the centre to states and Local governments. States/regions should be able to develop at their own pace; explore their mineral deposits and pay taxes to the Federal Government; have their own policing system to complement the obviously over-stretched Federal Police.
Public Affairs Analyst
Twitter: @seguntomori; 08062672869