Monday, September 7, 2015

100 Days without a Presidential Team

As we reach the crucial milestone of the first 100 days of the Buhari presidency, many would argue that his administration has not approached this critical period in the typical way they are accustomed to. Some people have accused the president of being “slow,” while his defenders would argue he is being “methodical.” At the heart of the argument of the former is the fact that the president has not only delayed in forming a cabinet, he has not laid out any clear policy direction for his government and the country. Perhaps 100 days is too short to assess a government that has a four-year mandate, but we believe it is enough time for any government to provide the policy foundation on which governance will be based. One of the expectations of Nigerians in the first 100 days of this government was the formation of a formidable cabinet to help the president steer the ship of state. That hasn’t happened. While the delay to some has been justified as there seems to be a systematic deconstruction of patronage structures and instruments used by “cabals” that have held the country to ransom, particularly in the oil and gas sector, it has left the country directionless as far as State policy is concerned. In the first 100 days, the administration appeared still to be focused on its vision for change that won it such a clear mandate from the people; and its mission is being demonstrated in a level of commitment to the fight against corruption not seen in recent times, coupled with the dogged demand for improvements in the approach to fighting terror, but very little has been seen in terms of the long term policy thrust of the administration in such important areas like the economy, national integration and foreign policy. The country appears to have made some gains in the war against terror with the president’s outreach and inclusive approach to tackling the problem of Boko Haram. The President’s moves against corrupt structures are reassuring. The emerging picture is one of greater alertness in the Federal Civil Service and greater seriousness about improving service delivery. But the president needs to do more by strengthening institutions that will continue to tackle these corrupt structures in the long term. One of the things the president has been accused of in his first 100 days is the lopsidedness of his appointments. Mr. President would do well to take this issue seriously in the future, considering the diversity of the country. Any student of governance understands that vision can lead nowhere without an underpinning strategy and structure. The president managed most of the 100 days on his own, but real strategy is intertwined with the process of policy formulation and structure needs to be driven and defined in collaboration with ministers whom the President will be delegating delivery of targets to. The process of establishing the mission and core values of this administration suggests that only the “very clean” will have a chance with this regime since there would be zero-tolerance for corruption. This is good as it is in line with expectations stakeholders have of the change ideal. However, we also need competent, experienced and entrepreneurial types if Nigeria is to come up with the innovations it desperately needs to pull out of the economic dark hole it has now sunk into. If this is all the president achieves in 100 days, then it is worth the wait. PREMIUM TIMES believes that the Administration has waited too long to appoint ministers who provide the policy thrust for the regime. It is the action of ministers and other political appointments that will tell Nigerians that rules, processes and procedures are being followed and that other members of the governing team are indeed following the anti-corruption line of the new administration and acting with integrity. We advise Mr. President to carefully construct a skills matrix for his cabinet such as any forward-looking board of directors of any entity would do. He needs people who are committed and selfless, people who can generate ideas to radically transform various aspects of our nation. The president should consider a mix of the young and bright, the competent and experienced, male, female, northern, southern, Christian, Muslim, and so on without diluting the ethos or compromising the mission or vision of the new administration. Nigerians would be disappointed if due to pre-conceived ideas, old preferences or prejudices even, having waited for so long for ministers to be appointed, a lacklustre line up is presented to them. Nigerians who voted for change deserve to see real change in the makeup and composition of the cabinet of a Government supposedly committed to change. The President’s delay in forming a cabinet, whether by design or not, has allowed all and sundry to see clearly the values, ethos and core purpose of the new administration, thus setting a sufficiently high bar for all who want to be minister. The road ahead is tough enough and the operating environment difficult, Mr. President should therefore give himself a fighting chance to deliver on his promises by choosing the right kind of team. The people he chooses as ministers will, to a great extent, determine the direction of his government.

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