By Nkiru Jasper
With the federal cabinet firmly on the ground and strategically reinforced to execute far-reaching innovative policy initiatives and projects, the next level of the Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s reform-focused agenda is systematically taking shape.
The stage was set for a radical redefinition of ministerial responsibility for giving direction and ensuring efficient attainment of set goals by the convening of a presidential retreat for ministers-designate. The retreat sensitized the appointees to the status of the implementation of policies, programs and projects of government from 2015 to date, formalized a functional platform for synergy, teamwork and acquainted the appointees with the roadmap for delivery of government’s priorities and next level agenda (2019-2023).
It was a reassuring indication that the Buhari Administration was convinced that readiness of ministerial appointees for their national assignments requires much more than the theatricals and horse-trading rigmarole of legislative screening and necessitates an intensive session of equipping them with the relevant information, insight, and orientation to enable them to discharge their responsibilities as expected. The retreat featured presentations on Cabinet Processes and Procedures, aligning government policies with the ideology, manifesto and campaign promises of the ruling party, Budgeting, Civil Service Reforms, Public Procurement, the Relationships among Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, and Effective Partnerships between Executive, Legislature and State Governments, among others.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, whose office organized the retreat, used the occasion to introduce a new Cabinet Memorandum Review and Approval Process aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of government decision-making and policy implementation and increasing coordination and coherence within the government.
The ministers-designate also received clear targets with their portfolios as the Buhari Administration has resolved to ensure that targets are complied with and performance of ministers will be closely monitored by the office of the SGF. Participants were reminded that the challenges ahead of the administration remained significant and urged to work in collaboration to give their best to the task of delivering a more prosperous country for all Nigerians. But, each minister will get a mandate, based on the assigned ministry, which will spell out priorities, deliverables, and timelines.
The first-time ever agenda-setting retreat for ministers-designate was applauded as clear evidence of the outcome of the Buhari Administration’s diagnostic endeavor to identify the inherent problems bedeviling the machinery of government. It was part of remedial measures to enhance the capacity and efficiency of government thereby raising performance levels for timely attainment of good governance. As an incoming administration taking over from an entrenched government characterized by almost two decades of economic mismanagement, corruption and maladministration in 2015 and sworn to implement a change agenda of sweeping reforms and corrective refocusing of government for meaningful development of the country, the Buhari Administration inevitably devoted most of its first term to stopping the rot.
Remarkably, President Buhari demonstrated courageous commitment by simultaneously tackling the hydra-headed threats to national security, territorial integrity, and safety of lives and property that held the country to ransom.
Thus, he saw to the substantial subjugation of the rampaging Boko Haram terrorist insurgency even as security forces grappled with widespread incidents of kidnappings, farmer-herder violence and daring gangs of murderous gunmen wreaking havoc in rural areas.
Refusing to be distracted by the wailing of opposition culprits and detractors, the President waged a relentless and revealing war against corruption, especially in government affairs, exposing humongous diversion of public funds to private pockets and recovering hundreds of billions of naira in stolen assets whilst vigilantly pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources.
He focused the attention of relevant government agencies and institutions towards steadily turning the economy around through value-added investment in agriculture and manufacturing, boosting our foreign reserves, curtailing inflation, rehabilitating and expanding the country’s infrastructure.
Taking comprehensive stock of these praise-worthy accomplishments against the background of entrenched decadence of government, deliberate campaigns of calumny targeting remedial measures, emerging impact of past mismanagement of the economy and escalating fallouts of raging terrorist insurgency inherited from the Jonathan Administration, the magnitude and significance of President Buhari’s first term takes on a spectacular shine.
He was also spearheading full-blown research and analysis of the failure factors in governance and prescribing potent antidotes and innovations that confounded cliques of noisy and nonsensical urban PDP critics who alone saw nothing good in such an impressive record of performance against all odds. Significantly, the President created a completely new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, which for the first time brought critical aspects of governance challenges and human distress together in one ministry for long-overdue upgraded government intervention and re-established the police affairs ministry to accord due priority to the management of the police force.
From the quality of the deliberations at the presidential retreat, it is an appropriate launchpad for the realization of a more impactful “next level” of the progressive redefinition of governance and responsible leadership pledged by President Buhari.
We also have the assurance of Defense Minister Bashir Magashi that the next level cabinet is fully conscious of its responsibilities as he declared recently “Nigerians should blame us for failure or otherwise of the regime. President Buhari should rest and allow us now to take full responsibility for what happens in his government.”
Except that under the Buhari Administration, failure is not an option!
Nkiru Jasper writes from Owerri, Imo State
By Nkiru Jasper