There is no better illustration of Nigeria’s political leaders acting like drunken sailors having a revelry in a sinking ship than the bogus appointments they’ve been making despite the precarious fiscal state of the country. Nigerians thought they have seen it all when Speaker Tajudeen Abbas appointed 33 aides until Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State gleefully announced his appointment of 47 media aides. As if trying to outdo themselves, President Bola Tinubu has now broken an all-time record by appointing nominating 48 ministers to serve in his government. Not even when the economy was buoyant did any President amass such a large cabinet. Yet, this is a President who has implemented the harshest of economic policies that severely pauperized Nigerians.
In a bid to beat the 60-day post-inauguration deadline set for him by the Constitution, Tinubu on July 27 transmitted the first batch of nominees containing 28 names to the Senate. A few days later, he followed up with another list of 19 ministerial nominees which were also presented to the upper legislative chambers by his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila. Amid criticism against his nomination of the high number of ministers ever, Tinubu in a communication read by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio on Friday added one more nominee bringing the total number to 48. It will perhaps make more sense to look at this development from a historical perspective.
This fourth republic started with President Olusegun Obasanjo appointing 27 Ministers between 1999-2003, raising the tally to 30 in his second term (2003-2007). The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010) took the number to 39, thereby introducing the Minister of State nomenclature to accommodate all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in his cabinet. President Jonathan (2011-2015) reduced his number of ministers to 33 but in 2014 a year before the general election reshuffled his cabinet and injected some politicians which took up the number of Ministers back to 37. The immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023) introduced the extra bonus of six geopolitical zones nominees to his cabinet to take the tally to 42.
Tinubu has now taken the number to 48 with Nigerians looking at footing the bills of a Federal Executive Council that is close to 70 appointees. This is when the 20 special advisers appointed by him are added to the mix. It is disheartening that Tinubu will opt for such a bloated government when he has been the chief advocate for Nigerians to make sacrifices and bear with him over fallouts from the removal of fuel subsidies and the floating of the Naira. These twin policies have skyrocketed the prices of goods and services along with an increase in electricity tariffs so much so they have been protests in parts of the country with the refrain “let the poor breathe” gaining momentum among citizens.
The burden that has been placed on Nigerians by the Tinubu government has made them uber-sensitive to the indiscretions and extravagances of government officials. This was the number of SUVs in the motorcade of the President when he visited Lagos was a topical issue just as Nigerians lambasted Akpabio for having a convoy that comprises V8 SUVs, Mercedes Benz cars and power-bike outriders. All of this is amidst calls for a reduction in the cost of governance which according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Michael Olawale-Cole, “will demonstrate to Nigerians that the leaders share in the suffering and sacrifice of the people”.
Naija News regrets that the President has chosen to be deaf to this voice of reason. To better appreciate what such a high number of ministers will cost Nigeria, one only needs to consider that each of these ministers will also ride in convoys of about five SUVs the fueling of which is at the government’s expense. They are also entitled to appointing special advisers all of which bloats the overhead expenditure of the country which is already borrowing to pay salaries! Such wastage shouldn’t be allowed by a country whose debt stock is N46.26 trillion ($103.11 billion) as of December 2022. In April this year, the World Bank warned that Nigeria was already spending 96.3 per cent of its revenue on debt service. How is it then that Tinubu who has since resorted to raising taxes amidst other austerity measures is at the same time burgeoning the cost of governance?
The President will do well to remember his fiercest opponent at the polls who defeated him in his home state and is currently at the tribunal demanding to be declared winner of the presidential election. The wind in that candidate’s sail during the electioneering was his famed frugality and shrewd management of public resources. His performance at the polls was phenomenal because his message to prioritize production over consumption resonated with Nigerians. The President has by his nominations discountenanced this sentiment which was quite audible at the polls. This feeling was so poignant during electioneering that candidate Tinubu had to accrue political IOUs in order to be declared the winner of the highly competitive election. The President had better use other means to settle these IOUs than appointing spent forces into positions that require vibrant technocrats to pull Nigerians from the current doldrums.
To ameliorate the situation, Naija News insists that the President must find a way to deploy among the 48 ministers, square pegs in square holes. He must also be prepared to supervise such an unwieldy number ensuring that every minister lives up to the responsibilities they are charged with. With the ministerial list containing nine former governors, we recommend that these ex-governors forfeit their emoluments and be contented with the mouthwatering benefits they collect from their states as pensions. Tinubu, as a former governor, should lead the way in this regard. Naija News expects that the performance of these ministers will be periodically reviewed so that ineffectual and unproductive ones can be promptly weeded out from the lot.
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