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Dear President Buhari and his new ministers

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Dear President Buhari and his new ministers

Jide Ojo

Honourable Ministers-Designate, you will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in your various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in line with Government priorities. You must also ensure that Agencies under your Ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.”

— President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, August 19, 2019 at the retreat for the ministers-designate

Dear Mr President,

I wish to congratulate your new ministers as they take their oath of office today. Remarkably, they are coming into office about six months after the February 23, 2019 presidential election and 84 days after your inauguration on May 29 and about a month after their names were sent to the Senate for screening and confirmation. No doubt, the competition for these exalted posts was very stiff. The new ministers are indeed lucky to have made the 43-man list out of millions of members of the All Progressives Congress.

Before addressing you, Sir, let me first counsel the new cabinet. The new ministers have undergone two days’ presidential retreat with Permanent Secretaries and other key government officials in the last 48 hours. I do hope they paid attention to what they were taught during the retreat. It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. I, therefore, enjoin the new ministers to see their appointment as a call to service and not an avenue for personal aggrandisement.

I do not envy the ministers on their appointment because unease lies the head that wears the crown. They are like the chiefs in the palace of the king of Nigeria. Though we are not running a parliamentary system of government, there is a principle of collective responsibility in governance. If the President succeeds in bettering the lives of Nigerians in this second and final term, they all will share in the glory. If otherwise, they will collectively share in the blame and abuse.

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The country is on tenterhooks and many Nigerians are unhappy, disillusioned and agitated about the state of the nation. The ministers are all living witnesses to the call for a revolution and have heard about the humiliating treatment meted out to former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany, last weekend.

I appeal to the ministers not to live ostentatious and luxurious lifestyles in office. Recall power is transient and they’re just merely presidential aides in the real sense of the word who can be removed at will. There is a need for them to lead an austere life and not be intoxicated with power. Those privileged to be named as substantive ministers should not see their Ministers of State as subordinates. The need to work harmoniously for the betterment of the country cannot be over-emphasised.

Besides, I appeal to the minister not to engage in corrupt practices. Unlike in the past when people stole and looted with impunity, these days, there are whistle-blowers everywhere who can blow the lids and open cans of worms. The civil society and the media are already poised to hold them to account and as such, like Julius Caesar’s wife, be above board in all that they’ll do. They should run open-door policy, work harmoniously with the respective Permanent Secretaries as well as heads of agencies and department under their ministries. Our elders say a new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows where the cobwebs and dirt are. Thus, there is a need to carry everybody along.

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To achieve results, the ministers should work as a team. This has been stressed in your address on Monday. That thought was also echoed by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, during his remark at the retreat as well. The full meaning of TEAM is Together Everyone Achieves More. There is strength in unity of purpose. Each of the ministers is like a sub-sect of a whole. The indolence or non-performance of one affects the overall goals of the government.

Nigeria is in a state of emergency and times like this call for patriotic, conscientious and selfless individuals. Please work to make your impact positively felt. Do your work well. I charge you with the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jnr that: “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. If it falls on your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep street like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well’”

I say let the governance begin in earnest. Enough time has been wasted on planning and constituting the cabinet. I beg of you, Sir, do not hold on as Minister of Petroleum Resources. Relinquish that to enable you to superintend over your 43 member-cabinet. Also, demerge the merged Ministry of Works, Power and Housing; Ministry of Information and Culture, Ministry of Transportation and Aviation and Ministry of Youths and Sports among others. Let these ministries stand alone. The fewer Ministers of State we have, the better.

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Also, I appeal to you to kindly put square pegs in square holes. Among the 43 ladies and gentlemen you have assembled are professionals from all walks of life. Put each person where they’re best suited. We need a renowned academic in charge of our education ministry; a world-class physician in charge of Health; an Information and Communication Technology expert in charge of our communications ministry; a legal luminary in charge of Ministry of Justice and a security expert in charge of defence. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that anybody can serve anywhere.

Another appeal to you, Dear Mr President, is to allow your ministers unfettered access to you. The allegation made some time ago by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu that he could not meet with you even as your Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in six months is shocking. Please, meet periodically with them one-on-one and not only during the Federal Executive Council meeting. A frequent meeting will enable them to share with you their progress report and challenges. Finally, take time off to also visit your ministers in their offices and hear directly from their staff about their performance. Any minister who turns themselves into a liability should be relieved of their portfolios. The idea of not reshuffling cabinet or sacking non-performing ministers as witnessed during your first term is neither ideal nor noble. Kindly adopt the carrot and stick approach to governance.

Follow me on Twitter @jideojong

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