March 18, 2010

Ministerial Portfolios that could Change Nigeria

With the dissolution of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) by the Ag. President and Commander-in-Chief it is once again an opportunity for the Executive leadership to get it right. There are just about four Ministerial portfolios that have the capacity to change the face of governance in the country and positively affect the lives of millions of ordinary Nigerians as follows:

  1. Ministry of Health – the last I heard of a performing Minister in this area was during Ransome-Kuti’s tenure. Yet the Minister of health should be one that affects the delivery of quality health services throughout the country. Many people have to travel abroad to get the slightest medical treatments. And this includes even the President himself. Nigerian state hospitals could easily be mortuaries at best or a place responsible for the deaths of millions of people yearly.

  2. Ministry of Power, Mines and Steel – It is a well known fact that the state of the power sector is a serious hindrance to investment, opportunities and sense of wellbeing among millions of Nigerians. The one Minster that tried to change this sector was Bola Ige. It can be argued that his efforts here may be one of the reasons why he was murdered at a later. There are powerful interests benefiting from the comatose state of Nigeria’s power sector. The permanent secretaries and the power generator sellers. They continue to milk the state through contracts awarded for power stations and for maintenance of these installations. President Obasanjo invested billions in this sector and promised aplenty followed by President Yar’adua yet so little has been accomplished.

  3. Ministry of Petroleum Resources – This portfolio is arguably the root of all of Nigeria’s problems. Like the Power sector billions have been invested by past administrations to bring some sanity into this area, but unlike the power sector this area has been a literal drain pipeline as well as a waster of all other national resources. There are, as well, powerful interests consisting of the refinery cabals, the petroleum products import cabals, and millions of other local oppressor groups both native to oil producing areas, from other parts of the country and even foreign companies and individuals. To my notice, no minister has actually tried to scratch the dept of problem in this vicinity. Even President Obasanjo held this ministry under the presidency for so long during his term of office because no one else appeared powerful enough to grapple with the enormous work needed here. This position is also politically charged making it difficult for any President to appoint capable individuals with inflaming geopolitical sensitivities.

  4. Ministry of Transport – This is one ministerial portfolio that packs an amazing possibility to affect the lives of ordinary citizens but is unattractive to most people for some reason. The country actually has no recognizable National road system. Millions of the roads are actually accidents waiting to happen. Casual statistics will show that more people die on the roads yearly than by the many religious or political violence we have daily. Road signages are not existent, road markings (even lane demarcations) are a complete nice to have on most roads. Maintenance is non-existent and driver education is practically unknown. The public driver licensing and vehicle testing is a joke. Yet billions are voted each budget cycle for transport related infrastructure but non gets completed. May be this portfolio is a little dear to me being a chartered transport and logistics professional and having done some work in asset management in one of the few rail networks in Africa (METRORAIL SA).
There are other  portfolios (non-ministerial as well as ministerial) that could also rapidly change the face and perception of Nigeria by Nigerians as well as the outside world. Chief among these would be the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the NAFDAC, INEC etc. The ministries of Finance, Economic planning, Industry, Agriculture and Water Resources, etc all are vital portfolios.
If I could for one minute have the ears of the Ag. President I would recommend the following people for some of those portfolios mentioned above and I would give a few reasons. The recommendations are based on public knowledge of these individuals as people with the characteristics that could possibly meet the challenges in those ministries.

  • Ministry of Health – Prof. Dora Akinyili. This woman did do a good work at NAFDAC. It appears her particular penchant for tackling tough issues and tackling the corruption in the health system is now mostly needed here. I believe this portfolio should have been a natural growth from her work at NAFDAC.

  • Ministry of Power (may include Mines & Steel)- Mr. Ribadu. The former EFCC boss should be recalled. I believe his anti-corruption war would have equipped him to tackle the Czars in this industry.  A lot of anti-corruption work needs to be done here to deliver the billion dollar works promised from the time of President Obasanjo.

  • Ministry of Petroleum Resources – This area also needs a complete anti-corruption police to run it. Rilwanu Lukman has not done badly but I believe he is quiet old for the energy level required by this portfolio. I really do not know of anyone (in the public eye) that can do this work so any surprise package is welcome. There is also a need for fresh thinking in this area. I cannot see why deregulation is the only way forward. We do not have to live according to the dictates of some foreign powers. Every investor thinks of how to maximize his returns and the World Bank and the oil majors must be thinking in those lines. Nigeria is also a stakeholder, someone must tell them how deregulation maximises his benefits.

  • Ministry of Transport (& Public Works) – Prof Wole Soyinka did a good job when he lasted at the FRSC(Federal Road Safety Commission) but he has a better and more important job with the Save Nigeria Campaign now. An academician is needed here. Someone who can also fight the federal contract cabals and deliver the worth of the billions of investments in this area.
Enough is Enough
Enough of my recommendations. But the fact remains – If the Ag. President appoints someone in any of the ministerial position which is deemed unsuitable Nigerians should rise up and reject the appointment by putting pressure on the National Assembly to withhold the confirmation. We can no more accept appointments as if they are military postings. This is a democracy for goodness sake. The struggle to change Nigeria begins with the right people being appointed into the right positions. You will remember that the EXCOF also has some powers as we see in sections of the constitution so they must be responsible people. The public must get involved through their constituencies represented in the House and make sure that Ministers of selfishness do not get appointed. Here comes the civil democracy organisations.
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