By Bala Ibrahim.
There is a popular hausa adage that says, “Ana zaton wuta a maqera, sai ga ta ta tashi a masaqa”. This literally means, while the fire is expected to start from the smithy, it turned out to ignite from the textile, or cotton mill.
In a surprise move, President Muhammadu Buhari has announced the sacking of two ministers today and the appointment of those to hold forth their portfolios, pending the announcement of substantive replacements.
The affected Ministers are those of Agriculture, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, and his Power counterpart, Eng.Saleh Mamman. The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abubakar, has been redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, while the Minister of State for Works, Abubakar Aliyu takes over as Minister of Power.
This is the first time in his six years in office that President Muhammadu Buhari would announce a cabinet reshuffle, and the bullets seem to arrive from a direction far from expected.
For long, Nigerians have been calling on the President to rejig the cabinet, with a view to giving the traction of the government more steem. But typical of the President, he maintained silence and refused to even give any inkling about the likelihood of any reshuffle.
Although no categorical reason was given for relieving the Ministers, speculations are rife about ineptitude and evident inability to successfully work in line with the vision and expectations of the President, as some of the grounds for the disengagement.
According to the statement issued by Mr.Femi Adesina, the President stopped short of saying the former ministers were incapable of moving in tandem with the time, particularly where he said, “Mamman and Nanono were sacked after an independent and critical review of their performance. Many Nigerians have continuously complained about the poor state of power and high price of food in the country. Two years and some months into the second term, the tradition of subjecting our projects and programs implementation to independent and critical self-review has taken firm roots through sector reporting during Cabinet meetings and at Retreats.
I must commend this cabinet for demonstrating unparalleled resilience that helped the government to navigate the disruption to global systems and governance occasioned by the emergence of COVID-19 shortly after inauguration. The weekly Federal Executive Council meetings were not spared, because the traditional model was altered. As we are all aware, change is the only factor that is constant in every human endeavor and as this administration approaches its critical phase in the second term, I have found it essential to reinvigorate this cabinet in a manner that will deepen it’s capacity to consolidate legacy achievements.”
Although the President said such changes would be continuous, the popular expectation of the public is that the changes would start from ministries that are more unsettled.
The Ministry of Health, Labour and the Niger Delta have been bedeviled by challenges that are undoubtedly disturbing to the government.
While the challenge of the Minister of Health is how to resolve the prolong strike by the Resident Doctors, his counterpart in the Ministry of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige is being threatened by the University lecturers, who have once again indicated interest to go on another strike.
As for Mr. Godswill Akpabio, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, his problem is the failure to inaugurate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, long after the severally promised dates. While the stakeholders are accusing the Minister of refusing to tow the line of inclusiveness, he is saying the people are the problem. “There are 12,128 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta area, with most of them taken over by hoodlums”, he recently said, after the submission of a long awaited forensic audit report.
The ministries of Agriculture and Power are not unfamiliar with unexpected changes of ministers. Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura was the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in the cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was dropped in a reshuffle in 2001. But unlike Nanono, non performance was not the reason.
Before his death in 2001, Chief Bola Ige was appointed the minister of Mines and Power by President Obasanjo. He was moved to the position of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in 2000. Also, he wasn’t accused of the lack of capacity.
Whoever eventually comes to replace the Minister of power, would surely be confronted by the frustration of many Nigerians over the worsening power supply problems lately.
The same would apply to Agriculture, where inflation and food insecurity, are conniving to inflict maximum pain on the public.