Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Less than 3 weeks after firing the Federal Executive Council, Nigeria's acting President not only submitted a new list of Ministerial candidates but had his nominees confirmed by Nigeria's Senate within a 3 day period. As a result, Nigeria has a new administration of Ministers hopefully charged with working on behalf of the nation. Questions abound about many of the new Ministers and whether or not they are suitable for the challenges the face. However, the biggest unknown remains what exactly Goodluck Jonathan plans to do during what is technically a short spell as President of Nigeria and whether the thirst for power and an opportunity at a full Presidential term will compel him to produce results for Nigerians.

Nigeria's Senators typically do not sit on Monday's but, chose to do so in order to speed up the confirmation process. And when it was time for the former Minister of Information and Communication to appear before the body, the results were raucous. Senate Whip Kanti Bello queried Akunyili as to whether she ever cooked for President Yar'Adua's wife and suggested that she was disloyal to the previous administration due to her February memo which encouraged fellow former Ministers to reveal Yar'Adua's incapacity to the public. Akunyili calmly responded that she was loyal to "the nation" and the Senate erupted into shouts for and against her. She was eventually confirmed and is once again, Minister of Information and Communication.

Nigeria Information Minister, Dora Akunyili, speaks during a press
 conference in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday)
But, Akunyili's return to Information raises questions about her ability to tow the line and not make public utterances that could embarrass Jonathan. Akunyili is notorious for creating an international incident when she reacted to the US inclusion of the country on a now-defunct "Terror Prone" list. This, in addition to not only her January memo but a Channels TV interview in which she revealed that Jonathan was yet to see Yar'Adua provide valid reasons to be concerned about whether or not Akunyili is a team player. However, her ability to "go rogue" was well known before the first time she appeared before the current Senate for confirmation when nominated by Yar'Adua. Also, her previous work as the head of the food and drug agency, NAFDAC, increased her national profile, making it hard for either Yar'Adua or Jonathan to exclude her from a high powered position. As head of Nigeria's rebranding project and the official mouthpiece for the government and country, Akunyili will continue to be a face regularly seen by the public and international media.

As the former Minister of Mines & Steel Development, Diezani Alison Madueke traveled selling Nigeria's mining capacity to investors and interests around the globe. In 2009, she sponsored an event in Los Angeles where Nigerian gemstones and jewels were showcased so as to create strategic relationships with top jewelers. Jonathan gave Madueke the position of Minister of Petroleum, arguably the most important ministerial position in a country where oil drives the economy. She will now be the first female Minister of Petroleum in charge of stewarding the petroleum sector towards full deregulation, solving bunkering problems and a host of other issues.

Diezani Alison
Ailing President Yar'Adua's nephew, Murtala Yar'Adua, was given the position of Minister of State for Defense. With no public office experience, Murtala Yar'Adua was previously a business man and his appointment is considered an attempt to groom him for future office. He also has no previous experience in military and state security matters. This lack of experience begs the question of why Jonathan placed him as the junior Defense Minister, particularly as Nigeria is currently experiencing political/religious/ethnic violence in the Jos region, continued insecurity in the Niger Delta, airport security concerns and the threat by a Nigerian 'Taliban' group promising to attack American targets. Yar'Adua's position in the cabinet does not encourage confidence in Jonathan's vision of what his administration is to achieve given Nigeria's present and future security challenges. However, the younger Yar'Adua has the opportunity to prove doubters wrong and be a part of working with other responsible agencies to improve national security.

Although he has selected his cabinet, Jonathan is yet to specify what goals his administration will accomplish before the upcoming 2011 Presidential elections. Instead, he informed the Ministers that the 2010 national budget provides direction for what steps they need to take next. The acting President said,
"The blueprint for the actualisation of government objectives are there in the budget and in the various policy frameworks now gathering dust in our archives. No minister will be allowed to go on a mission of endless search for solutions. You must hit the ground running! Time is of fundamental essence and no distraction in our mission will be tolerated..." [sic]
Unfortunately, the ambiguity of this statement fails to highlight exactly what solutions the Ministers aim to create. There are numerous problems in Nigeria that demand attention and considering the time frame this administration has, elections are scheduled for early 2011, it is possible that Jonathan and his ministers will only be able to address some issues. Consequently, the Nigerian people deserve to know what issues this government will focus on. After all, Yar'Adua provided the nation with his 7 point agenda plan for making Nigeria a top economy by 2020.

Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that given the perception that Yar'Adua failed to accomplish much of anything, Jonathan's administration need only do a minimum to be considered successful by many Nigerians. Yar'Adua promised the generation of 6000MW of electricity by December 2009, and instead, the NEXT media outlet reports that the country currently generates approximately 2000MW. Hence, an improvement in electricity generation and supply that is felt by some and seen by many would go a long way to cement a reputation of Jonathan as results-oriented unlike the perceptions of his predecessor.

Assuming that Jonathan seeks a full term as President, he will likely ensure that he, his ministers and others create the very solutions he advised the new ministers to achieve. That drive could lead to long lasting benefits for Nigerians who despite their nation's wealth in resources and human power, continue to live in poverty. Thankfully, he has given the ministers 2 weeks to come up with actionable policies. However, Jonathan is yet to announce what objectives he has and how these will benefit Nigerians in both the short and long term. Until that happens, Nigerians will continue to wonder what Jonathan will be able to do while in office or whether he will, like others, blame the faceless and nameless cabal for his failures. Informing the public about some basic plans will not only empower the administration but help limit the detrimental conception that Nigeria's leaders are incompetent - a perception that ultimately limits democracy. It will also give Nigerians a benchmark by which they can judge the performance of Jonathan and his new cabinet of ministers.

5 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

F said...

And let the games begin...

AliceDCL said...

i am especially impressed with the fact that he plans to handle the power ministry by himself, some of his ministers are good choices, some are doubtful, but i am going in with an open mind and giving him a chance to prove himself,
drumroll somebody..........

t said...

Jonathan probably did better than my fantasy team , also here, at least in Finance (with Olusegun Aganga from Goldman Sachs, i.e. he knows modern finance and founder of NLI i.e. i trust him to have integrity and network excellently and know that he can grow a lean / efficient / intelligent institution) and in Power (with himself.)
I love that the prez is taking responsibility for Electric Power. If things fail, we know where to aim the coconuts, at his most reverend head. If things go well, great for Nigeria, and he would be greeted with kisses from hotties wherever he goes after. I'm offering to go first.

webround said...

I love that he's taking charge of Power but if I'm not mistaken, Obsanjo took charge of power briefly and yet nothing happened.

hmm, I really don't understand the rationale for assigning Yardua to Defence. It smacks of 'political settlement'. One should not be putting 'green horns' in such strategic positions. But again, maybe this is a political strategy. Yardua could be sidelined there and end up only taking care of 'personnel' matters

NneomaMD said...

Anyone else popping bottles in celebration of the exit of Ojo Maduekwe?

Anyway, I have a feeling the Dora was probably a favorite of Jonathan primarily because she questioned the absence of the president. A Yar'adua loyalist does NOT equal a Jonathan loyalist. In fact the very act of dismissing the Yar'adua's ministers and poo-poo'ing the Seven Point agenda suggests that Jonathan was probably not much of a fan of Yar'adua in the first place.

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