Babatunde Fashola: President’s super minister

Fashola_lagos_stateThe wait is over. President Muham­madu Buhari yesterday assigned portfolios to the 36 ministers, end­ing weeks of suspense and specula­tions regarding the ministries those who would make his cabinet would oversee. With this development, the Buhari government has taken full shape.

Interestingly, in the allocation of portfolios, Buhari clearly singled out one minister as what would pass for his trump card or anchorman. Yes, the allocation of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to former Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, easily makes him a super minister. This shows that Buhari sees Fashola as the man to rely on, as the sectors (power, works and housing) are critical to the development of Nigeria.

However, the allocation of portfolios to the ministers has been greeted with fanfare in some circles. It has also received a knock in other quarters. Such mixed bag of reactions is expected. Those who are happy about the President’s decision believe he has put round pegs in round holes in the distribution of the portfolios. President Buhari himself said so while inducting the ministers. However, such argument does not excite some people.

They do not see any sense in anybody applauding the President’s choice of individuals for certain ministries. This thinking is rooted in the fact that some ministers were assigned portfolios that are wide outside their professional callings.

Yes, many are wont to argue that the job of a minister is to effectively and efficiently apply technocrats and professionals in his ministry to achieve government’s objective. Such argument is plausible. But the fact remains that you cannot be talking about a round peg in a round hole when you take a minister to an area that is outside his professional competence, compelling him to spend months learning the ropes in his new domain. The likes of Babatunde Fashola (a lawyer), Chris Ngige (medical doctor) and Amaechi (English graduate), among others are in this mould. The other thing that may take sometime for many Nigerians to come to terms with is the decision of the government to hand clearly three unrelated sectors to one minister. For instance, Fashola is to oversee Works, Housing and Power sectors.

No doubt, not a few Nigerians support the pruning of the number of ministries by Buhari. But they expect ministries that are closely related to be merged. For instance, nobody will query the lumping together of the Budget office with the Ministry of National Planning, but it is curious how power, works/housing are one ministry.

In the distribution of ministries, all geopolitical zones got their fair share of full ministership. The South East got four full ministers (Science & Technology, Labour & Productivity, Trade & Investment and Foreign Affairs. The zone got only one minister of state (Education). The South West got five full ministers (Solid Mineral, Communication, Power, Works & Housing, Finance and Health). The zone got one minister of state. The North Central zone got three full ministers. (Youth & Sports, Agriculture and Information).

The zone has three ministers of state (Environment, Land and Employment, and Solid Minerals). The South South has three full ministers (Transportation, Niger Delta and Budget & National Planning). It also has three ministers of state (Health, Agriculture and Petroleum).

The North West has four full ministers (Petroleum (Buhari), Water Resources, Justice & Attorney General, Defence). It also has three ministers of state (Aviation, Budget & National Planning and Trade & Investment). The North East has four full ministers (Women Affairs, Environment, FCT and Education). It also has two ministers of state (Foreign Affairs and Power).

In the coming days, Nigerians will know if the allocation of ministries goes down well with the geopolitical zones. However, it will not be surprising if some sections of the country pick hole in the type of portfolios allocated to ministers from their zone. Such claims, arguably, may win the sympathy of dispassionate observers.

Now that the ministers have begun work, the attention has shifted to how far they can go to keep to the legion of rules handed to them by the President. Will they be able to keep to the two vehicles order? How about slicing their appetite for a number of things? Time will tell. -The Sun

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