President Bola Tinubu has assigned portfolios to his ministers-designate ahead of their inauguration on Monday.
Out of the 48 nominees the president sent to the Senate in three batches for screening and confirmation, the senators approved the nomination of 45. They declined the confirmation of three under the guise of waiting for ‘security clearance’.
Those whose confirmation was declined were the immediate past governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, Stella Okotete from Delta State and Abubakar Danladi from Taraba State. Following the furore that greeted his non-confirmation, Mr El-Rufai said he no longer wanted to be a minister.
Although the president is yet to nominate a replacement for Mr El-Rufai from Kaduna State, as expected by Nigerian law, Mr Tinubu has reserved the Ministry of Environment for whoever the person will be in the state.
The allocation of portfolios to the yet-to-be-inaugurated ministers has, expectedly, generated mixed reactions among Nigerians.
While some of the ministers’ portfolios align with their pedigrees and records of previous service either in the public or private sectors and are, therefore, considered as good, some are a mismatch. Some, from the outset, are rated as ugly mainly because of the antecedents of the nominees.
Perhaps the latter group may prove doubters, cynics and critics wrong in the long run, but if we are to go by their capacities, competencies and previous records in service, there is little promise that they will deliver on the new responsibilities they are being saddled with.
Using the urban renewal project of his administration in Ebonyi State, coupled with the quality road networks constructed during his two-term tenure as governor, Dave Umahi’s deployment to the Ministry of Works can be considered a good portfolio allotment by President Tinubu.
Mr Umahi, who, until recently, was the Deputy Senate Leader, having been elected senator for Ebonyi South on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), acquired a degree in civil engineering from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology in 1982
He is expected to bring his professional knowledge and practice to bear on the discharge of his responsibilities as the works minister, plus his modest public service record as deputy governor and governor from 2011 to 2023.
The immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari made some appreciable progress in road construction. The Tinubu administration must build on the achievements to construct more quality roads which are critical to the transportation economy of the country.
With proper budgetary allocation to the ministry, Mr Umahi has his work cut out for him.
Almost all public commentators predicted that Wale Edun would be the Minister of Finance before the portfolios were assigned.
The predictions were premised on the academic and public service credentials of Mr Edun, who was Mr Tinubu’s finance commissioner when the president was Lagos State Governor between 1999 and 2007.
Mr Edun has a rich background in economics, international finance, merchant banking and corporate finance at the national and international levels in reputable organisations. He holds a BSc in Economics from the University of London and a Master’s in the same course from the University of Sussex, England.
Mr Edun, a close associate of the president, is also going to be the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, a position last held by another finance wonk, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who served in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, now the director-general of the World Trade Organisation(WTO).
With his experiential knowledge spanning fiscal and monetary matters acquired over the years nationally and internationally, Mr Edun, who previously served as the Special Adviser to the President on Monetary Matters, will constantly be on the public radar because whatever policies and reforms he initiates will automatically impact the fiscal regime of the government.
Already, fiscal experts and other policy-minded commentators have set agenda for him, including stabilising the naira, managing the burgeoning debt profile of the country, growing the country’s foreign reserves, and diversifying the economy away from over-dependence on petrodollars, among others.
By some consensus among industry players within the Lagos financial ecosystem, Mr Edun’s time as finance commissioner was a success as he initiated reforms that boosted the revenue generation capacity of the state, which included blocking loopholes and leakages, as well as improving the ease of doing business in the state.
Like Mr Edun’s prediction to head the finance ministry, Ali Pate’s deployment to the health ministry is a round peg in a round hole.
An internationally renowned academic and public health expert with vast experiences acquired at home and abroad, including, at the World Bank, Mr Pate from Bauchi State also has an added responsibility: He will be in charge of Social Welfare, a new addition to the health ministry. His new title is Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare.
The health ministry is not entirely new to Mr Pate, as he was the Minister of State in the ministry from 2011 until 2013 when he resigned to take up the position of Professor at Duke University’s Global Health Institute in the US. His performance then was not too noticeable as he was just a junior minister.
Before he was appointed a minister of state, he had served as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Agency between 2008 and 2011. At the agency, he introduced reforms that improved the organisation’s interventions in public health practice nationwide.
With multiple competencies in internal medicine, infectious diseases and public health, Mr Pate, a serial contender for the governorship seat of his home state, is expected to rejig the country’s ailing health system to meet the needs of Nigerians.
At 46, he is one of the young Turks in the cabinet. He had a gruelling moment with senators during his screening.
He had made disparaging comments on his social media handles, especially Twitter, where he once described Nigerian senators as a bunch of morons. He did not spare appointees working in the Presidential Villa either. Bashing the government was his regular pastime until recently.
At his screening, he apologised for his past comments.
He, however, justified why the president nominated him and also validated his exciting resume by the way and manner he answered questions relating to digital creativity, innovations, ICT and communications generally.
His performance during the screening, coupled with his sterling records in the digital creative and tech space and enterprise development in Nigeria in the last few years and on the African continent, made many public commentators push for his deployment to the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy.
Fortunately, Mr Tinubu assigned him the important portfolio. He is now expected to bring his rich private sector experience to bear on the digital economy, which is being touted as the new crude oil.
Young Nigerians are taking to IT and its sundry subsidiaries to find their feet and rhythm in life. Mr Tijjani has to create an enabling environment through the right policies and infrastructure to enable these young creatives to thrive and contribute to the nation’s economy rather than migrate abroad, which has been the fate of many of them in recent years, leading to brain drain.
Mr Fagbemi is one of the three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) nominated by President Tinubu to serve in his cabinet.
As soon as his name surfaced as a ministerial nominee, many had tipped him to be the next federal attorney general and minister of justice, otherwise known as the country’s chief law officer.
A successful lawyer who has proved his mettle over the years, his deployment to the justice ministry is adjudged to be a very good one because of his avowed commitment to the rule of law and utmost respect for the sanctity of the Constitution
During his screening, most of the questions he was asked bordered on the criminal justice system, rule of law, and anti-corruption fight, which further indicated that he’d end up at the ministry.
Mr Fagbemi, from Kwara State, now has the ball in his court. It’s time to walk the talk, especially regarding some of the policy tips and reforms he mentioned during his senate screening.
Assigning Nyesom Wike to the FCT ministry has been dubbed a masterstroke by President Tinubu, although some critics disagree.
Mr Wike is a product of compensatory politics in the cabinet of Mr Tinubu. His appointment is believed to have been occasioned by the role he played in dividing the PDP and helping the president win Rivers State in the February presidential election against the candidate of his party, Atiku Abubakar or even Peter Obi, who came second in the state.
Despite his controversial political actions, Mr Wike, the immediate past governor of Rivers State, is considered a no-nonsense public administrator.
His record as the helmsman of the oil-rich state earned him the nickname ‘Mr Project’. He was also able to bring relative stability to Port Harcourt, the capital city of the state, by keeping criminals and cultists at bay during his tenure.
He also reduced street teen prostitution, which was almost becoming a broad-day light market in the city until he became governor. Port Harcourt is wearing a new look courtesy of the infrastructural development embarked upon by him.
It is expected that he will replicate the same urban renewal in the FCT, which has suffered inertia and neglect for years now. If given the necessary backing by Mr President, the FCT may return to the glory of the El-Rufai days.
All eyes will be on Mr Wike as he takes over the leadership of the FCT as the first Southerner to be appointed as its substantive minister since 1979.
No law says a minister must be assigned a portfolio that matches his academic qualifications and job experience, nevertheless, but it is easier for ministers to excel in familiar turfs of professional knowledge and job experience.
Bad in the context of this analysis is essentially about the mismatch in the portfolios allotted to some of the ministers as against their pedigree, competencies and the portfolios they held in the past.
Most analysts and commentators had thought Dele Alake would head the information ministry based on his impressive background in the media as a newspaperman for years, in addition to his public sector experience.
In fact, it was a wonder when the president nominated him to be a minister, having previously chosen him to be his special adviser on media, publicity and strategy.
Mr Alake, from Ekiti State, acted as spokesperson to Mr Tinubu, a job he did with aplomb in the short time before his nomination as a minister.
So, many had thought, including most of the senators who screened him, that he’d be handed the information ministry – his natural turf. He served Mr Tinubu in that capacity in Lagos State.
Alas!, Mr Alake, one of the closest men to the president, will superintend over the Solid Minerals Development Ministry. How will he navigate this terrain which is quite asymmetrical to his training and job experience?
Of course, ministers rely on technical experts at the ministries while they provide political leadership and administrative guidance in tune with the vision and mission of the president. Mr Alake will have to do this to help the administration develop the solid mineral sector as a veritable source of revenue and employment generation for the country and its teeming youths.
The senior lawyer is a bit lucky this time; he will be the substantive minister of aviation, unlike in his previous junior portfolio in the immediate past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari
However, aviation is not his forte, nor is he a regulatory person, which is essentially one of the core responsibilities of the ministry, aside from ensuring strict compliance by aviation players with standard operating procedures.
At least, one would have expected that he would be given a ministry where his previous public service experience would come in handy or a less technical ministry.
Like the case of Mr Alake, Mr Keyamo will rely on technical assistants to guide him through policies and reforms that will put the aviation sector on the pedestal it should be according to the president’s plan and global best practices.
A technocrat in finance, accounting and banking, who had previously served as a Deputy Governor (Operations) of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Adebayo Adelabu is to superintend over the power ministry, a critical sector vital to the revitalisation of the ailing Nigerian economy.
Given his well-known public service records, many had thought he would be given the Budget and National Planning or at least a portfolio where his core expertise would be needed, say Trade and Investment.
In any case, like the other ministers in this mismatch category, the Ibadan-born first-class accounting graduate will have to find his level and give the ministry his best shot; otherwise, he stands the risk of having his stellar resume dented if he fails to live up to expectations regarding his new national assignment.
Many commentators were not happy that the immediate past governor of Zamfara State got a cabinet portfolio in the Tinubu administration, even less so now with his being assigned to the Ministry of Defence as the junior minister.
The performance of Mr Matawalle, in most circles in Zamfara State and outside, is considered sub-par as his tenure was marred by needless controversies. Allegations of corruption also currently hang on his neck.
Perhaps his miserable performance in office was why he was voted out of office for a second term in the March governorship election. His governorship was accidental as he came a distant second in the 2019 governorship election in the state but became governor when the Supreme Court nullified the victory of the APC candidate.
Under his watch as governor, bandits controlled a large part of the state, despite the state’s chief security officer constantly receiving his security votes as a first-line deduction from federation allocations.
Although, as governor, he had no control over the police or military, his general attitude to insecurity in the state was nothing to write home about. There are strong allegations that he even tried to shield some notorious bandits from being arrested or neutralised by security agencies under the guise of giving them ‘amnesty.’
For instance, there is a video by PR Nigeria on Youtube where the village head of Chonoko accused Mr Matawalle of preventing Nigerian troops from going after bandits who allegedly ransacked his village in Kebbi State.
Nigerians are asking their president: How can a man who failed to secure his people in Zamfara be one of those in charge of the country’s defence? The answer to this multi-million naira question is flying in the wind.
He will head the-all important and sensitive Budget and Economic Planning portfolio, which is essential to whatever development plan Mr Tinubu has for the country.
Mr Bagudu is one of the two – the other being Wale Edun – that Mr Tinubu nominated into the Presidential Transition Council empanelled by former President Buhari to prepare the ground for the new administration.
Both Messrs Edun and Bagudu have the ears of the president. Little wonder the duo have been saddled with the most onerous task of rebuilding the country’s beleaguered economy.
Although his impressive background in finance and economics recommends him for the portfolio, his past egregious deeds as the bagman that helped the late tyrant Sani Abacha launder stolen money in foreign bank accounts and offshore companies remains a considerable dent which may make foreign development partners, and investors lose confidence in Nigeria.
He, in 2003, as documented by PREMIUM TIMES in several publications, admitted to financial malpractice when he agreed to return about $163 million to the Nigerian government to avoid being extradited to New Jersey for prosecution. Before the admittance to the malpractice, he was jailed for six months in a federal prison in Houston, Texas, while awaiting his extradition to New Jersey. The deal to return the aforesaid amount was to halt the extradition.
It is an irony that a frontman in the reckless plundering of Nigeria’s resources in the dark days of the Abacha regime will head the country’s economic planning. It’s even more ironic that the president who was at the forefront of the pro-democracy struggle to sack Mr Abacha now has an arrowhead of the late tyrant’s regime as his right-hand man.
Young and vibrant, some pundits had predicted that she would head the Youth Ministry or even be in charge of Women’s Affairs because of her age and natural connection with the youth demography, plus her pro-women activities in civil society.
She could have also been assigned to the new Marine and Blue Economy Ministry because of her training in the legal aspects of marine affairs from the University of Cardiff, Wales, to help prepare the legal framework on which the ministry would be anchored. She wouldn’t be an odd choice either in the oil and gas ministry because of her postgraduate degree in Oil and Gas Law from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
More well-known as a newspaper columnist and lawyer in private practice, though, the president has another plan: Ms Musawa will head the Ministry of Entertainment Economy and Cultural Economy.
The reason Ms Musawa falls into this category is due to the controversy surrounding her participation in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps. PREMIUM TIMES reported how the previous Senate refused to confirm her appointment by then President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to take part in the NYSC. That controversy still lingers but was ignored by the current Senate which approved her nomination.
The NYSC scheme is compulsory for Nigerians who graduate from universities or equivalent institutions before they are 30 years old.
Participation in the national service is a statutory requirement for government and private sector jobs in Nigeria. The NYSC enabling law prescribes punishment for anyone who fails to participate in the scheme, absconds while in service or forges the programme’s certificate, this newspaper reported.
Ms Musawa is, however, not being punished for that violation. Rather she is being rewarded; a factor that could affect the morale and attitude of millions of young Nigerians towards the NYSC scheme.
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