Thursday, 12 November 2015

President Buhari: I Have Round Pegs In Round Holes

PRECISELY 167 days of assuming office, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday completed the process of setting up his cabinet with the inauguration of 36 ministers.
The ministers were also assigned their portfolios at the inauguration, which held in Abuja.

The inauguration was witnessed by top politicians, especially chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, including the party’s chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

But the APC National Leader and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, did not attend the event. As of the time of the inauguration in Abuja, Tinubu was at nearby Kaduna State, also inaugurating a new taxi scheme of the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai.

Buhari named Tinubu’s successor in the Lagos House, Babatunde Fashola, as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing and another ally of the APC leader, Lai Mohammed, got the information ministry portfolio.

Fashola’s ministry, a merger of three ministries – Power, Works as well as Housing, Land and Urban Development – is believed to be the biggest under the Buhari administration.

The President, before assigning the portfolios to his ministers, had announced that the number of federal ministries had been reduced to 24. He also reiterated his self-appointment as Minister of Petroleum Resources.

Those who attended the event included Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, among others.

Shortly after the inauguration, Buhari presided over the maiden meeting of the Federal Executive Council.

Mohammed, the new information minister, later told State House correspondents that the meeting reviewed the report of the two-day ministerial retreat held last week.

He added that the President used the occasion of the maiden meeting to reiterate his charge to the ministers to see their appointments as calls to duty.

He said that Buhari also asked the ministers to understand the current precarious situation of the country, urging them to justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in them.

Mohammed added, “The press contributed immensely to the success of the APC, so we also owe you a duty to reciprocate.

“It was not the APC you supported, you supported Nigeria. Any government that sees the progress of Nigeria as its priority will always get your support.”

‘I avoided my predecessors’ mistakes’

Buhari on Wednesday said in appointing his ministers and assigning portfolios to them, he was conscious of the need not to repeat mistakes made by previous administrations where the right people were allocated wrong portfolios.

The President said the wrong choice of persons to head government departments led to poor performance by former ministers.

Buhari said this shortly after administering oaths of office on his 36 ministers inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He described the inauguration of his cabinet as another milestone in the evolution of his government.

He said, “Today we have reached another milestone in the evolution of our new government, which Nigerians overwhelmingly voted into office in the March 28, 2015 general elections.

“Today we witness the swearing-in of new ministers of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Since our inauguration on May 29, 2015, the Vice-President and I have been mindful of the need to constitute a cabinet that will best deliver our expectations of a better country than we inherited.

“We want to work towards a prosperous nation, respected for the right reasons, and whose citizens can hold up their heads anywhere in the world.

“And we are optimistic that bringing this set of ministers into the service of our country today is a step in the right direction, a timely move towards realising our positive goals for our country.”

The President added, “Since we assumed office in May, I have been mindful of the need to ensure that the appointment of new ministers translates into putting round pegs in round holes while showing sensitivity to our diversity as a people and our various positions as groups of stakeholders in our country.

“I have also been conscious of the need not to repeat such mistakes of the past where the right people were allocated the wrong portfolios, which translated into their performing poorly to our collective detriment despite their obvious capabilities.

“Also, I have responded to the counsel to consult as widely as possible, given the need to build a stable and all-inclusive government by reaching across our various ethnic and political divides.”

Govt good to go

Buhari said with the inauguration of the ministers, his government would continue to implement its policies more decisively in respect of the economy and in other areas.

He said while working hard to maximise revenue from oil in the face of a sharp decline in the price for the commodity, his administration would diversify the economy in agriculture in order to enhance employment and explore solid minerals as a major revenue earner.

The primary aim, according to the President, is to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of such staples as rice and wheat and to become a major consumer and exporter of both items as well as solid minerals.

He said his government intended to pursue policies that would generate massive employment for millions of the youths.

Buhari also promised that his administration would continue with greater determination and focus to pursue its goal of ensuring improved security for the country and its citizens, without reneging up on its fight against corruption.

He added that the government’s commitment to defeat Boko Haram and all the threats it constituted remained as strong as ever.

The President also stated the administration’s resolve to root out vices and neutralise the various forms of criminalities that threaten the social peace of Nigerians.

Achievements so far

Buhari took time to enumerate some of the achievements so far recorded by his administration since inception.

He said, “While recognising the challenges we face and the need to surmount them, let us not fail to note the progress we have made in the short life of this government, as an indication of how much better we can do as a people driven by patriotism and a common resolve to do things right.

“On the moral sphere, trust is slowly but steadily being re-established between the government and the people.

“Now, when the government speaks, the people listen; and when the people’s expectations are not met, they appreciate that it is not for lack of commitment or trying on the part of government. In effect, government business is now being conducted with transparency and cynicism is waning as a result.

“Our adoption of the Treasury Single Account has resulted in the blocking of financial leakages in the public sector, making more funds available for the business of governance and ensuring the welfare of our citizens.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria has also assisted more than 30 states of the federation with concessionary loans to offset salary arrears for their workers.

“On the monetary side, the CBN has also implemented country-specific and innovative policies that have helped to stabilise the exchange rate and conserve our reserves.”

Buhari urged the new ministers to proceed to work speedily and do their best to justify the confidence he had placed in them, not only in their conduct but also in their performance in their various positions.

In all, Buhari said the nation’s economy was poised for sustained job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

“Regardless of the present challenges we are confronting, I believe all Nigerians will keep hope alive and sustain their optimism about the future of our economic well-being,” the President concluded.

The Peoples Democratic Party has charged the newly sworn in ministers to quickly settle down and focus on rescuing the economy, accusing the Buhari government of “heavily dramatising routine procedures and processes.”

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, who said this in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, added that the much-expected assignment of portfolios to the ministers did not inspire confidence that there was indeed any change being introduced in the system.

He said, “Whereas President Buhari had announced that the nation is bankrupt to the extent he cannot pay his ministers, his new Minister of Information (Lai Mohammed) had contradicted him directly by stating how the government is buoyant and ready to deploy $2.5bn infrastructure fund, save N1.4 trn with another N2.5tn ready as special intervention fund, which goes to say that the country is not actually broke.

“These new ministers should note the challenge before them regarding the image of the country, which the APC government has changed from being the ‘Heart of Africa’ and a country of ‘Good people, Great nation’ to that of ‘Corrupt people, Broke nation.’

“Furthermore, we counsel the ministers, especially those who will be the face of the government, to note that the campaigns are over.”

Apparently tackling Mohammed, Metuh said that Nigerians would “no longer condone propaganda, lies and deceit but expect a responsible dissemination of information based on truth, honesty and openness from the government.”

‘Solve Nigeria’s problems’

The APC National Leader, Tinubu, though absent from the inauguration of the Buhari cabinet, later issued a statement in which he urged the new ministers to solve the problems of Nigeria.

Tinubu said in his statement that the ministers must remain aligned with the change philosophy of Buhari.

The statement read in part, “The challenges before you are enormous. People’s expectations are very high and expectedly so. The people’s hope is hinged on the change our party promised. You are now the foot soldiers of that change.

“You have to be creative, proactive and bold. You are men and women of talent and experience of the moment and are lucky to be chosen. After the luck comes work. It is a new dawn for our country. Virtually every facet of our national life needs urgent attention.

“After the devastating effects of the mismanagement by the previous administration on our economy and the psyche of Nigerians, you have been selected to help bring Nigeria back from the brink. Your assignment will not be easy. You bear the responsibility to move Nigeria forward into the rank of developed nations.”

The former governor of Lagos State urged the ministers to come up with new ideas that would address modern problems.