In the next couple of days, President Goodluck Jonathan will hand over the nation’s mantle of leadership to the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari. The five-year tenure of the President was topsy-turvy because of the motley crowd in his cabinet. In this piece, BELLO IMAM takes a look at cabinet members who actually failed to deliver, which later rubbed off on Jonathan as he lost the goodwill of Nigerians.
THE reality of leaving the posh Aso Rock Presidential Villa has finally dawned on President Goodluck Jonathan. Before stepping aside, the President has spent the past few days on retrospection climaxing in an emotional thanksgiving service last Sunday at the Presidential Villa chapel. A penitent Jonathan asked for forgiveness and specifically admitted that “we should not have done certain things we did.” In a rare spirit of sportsmanship, Jonathan decided to bear the liabilities of his administration, some of which he never knew; some he inadvertently ignored; and some he did not imagine could cost him a return ticket to office.
While the President recedes into a solitary retirement, having been abandoned by some friends and associates, the activities of some of his cabinet members remain in the realm of public discourse on how they failed Jonathan. Jonathan’s troubled mandate has led to a $60billion debt for his successor, Muhammadu Buhari. It is inconceivable in Nigeria’s history that the nation will run into another debt trap because his predecessors, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, left the economy in a stable condition. While Obasanjo secured debt relief for the nation, Yar’Adua left about $40billion in foreign reserve. Yet, some members of Jonathan’s team failed him. These powerful cabinet members wore a larger-than-life image and were actually untouchable. More importantly, their latitude placed the majority in servitude.
Constitutionally, Vice President Namadi ought to be the coordinator of the nation’s economy but he was technically denied the opportunity by his boss. He was, however, in charge of the National Economic Council, the management of the power sector, the privatisation of government-owned companies, especially the power sector. Although seven new plants have been inaugurated under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), only 4,700 megawatts will be added to the national grid. Two major challenges affecting the energy sector are poor gas supply and transmission of the megawatts.
Persistent outage nationwide in spite of the over $16billion invested was one of the campaign issues against Jonathan. In fact, Jonathan in 2011 assured the nation that before the end of his tenure, Nigerians would have sold their private and noisy power generators. Instead of fulfilling the promise, most homes, offices, Ministries, Departments and Agencies are in perpetual darkness. The crisis of confidence between the VP and ex-Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, also slowed down progress and almost eroded the little gains made in the sector. Sambo was seen as unfair to the North in the privatisation programme and it was one of the reasons most Northern elite conspired against PDP.
Anyim Pius Anyim
Though the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is an appointee of the President; he is the spirit of the cabinet because of his role as the political guardian angel. Apart from his primary duty of giving the presidency a direction, the SGF is expected to advise the President on the application of the principles of equality and Federal Character in appointments in order to preserve the unity of the country. The outgoing SGF, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, came into the cabinet with a cosmopolitan credential but he has ended as a tribal bigot and a local champion. Worried by the marginalisation of the South-East in the past, Anyim used every opportunity to favour the zone in flagrant violation of Section 14(3) of 1999 Constitution. The section says: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity…”
Out of 50 key appointments made by President Goodluck Jonathan, the South-West belatedly had three. It was evident that Anyim never forgave his clash with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo when he was the President of the Senate and he went all out to deal with the region. The same neglect of the North-East, North-West and even North-Central accounted for the loss of the presidential election by Jonathan in these four zones. As at the time Jonathan was seeking re-election, he was already wearing a tribal cloak. This reflected in the huge votes he got from the South-East and the South-South on March 28. The President realised the tribal colouration of his administration very late in the day. He sacrificed and attempted to salvage the situation but he could not survive the gang-up by these four zones. Anyim also veered off his mandate by engaging in partisanship with the coordination of the selection of 12 million signatures for the re-election of Jonathan by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). Unsuspectingly, the President did not realise that TAN was a deft move by Anyim to escape being purged from the cabinet. He had his cake and ate it but Jonathan was the ultimate loser.
The apparent collapse of the economy under the watchful eyes of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, showed that she might have been over-priced or over-rated for the job. The indices have clearly indicated a sick economy but the minister kept on reassuring the nation that it is healthy. The liabilities are as follows: fuel subsidy scandal; outstanding N200billion fuel subsidy; $60billion debt for Buhari administration; the mismanagement of the controversial $20 billion or $1 billion oil cash; borrowing of N473billion to pay salaries; the depletion of Excess Crude Account to a paltry $2billion and arbitrary granting of waivers. Today, annual budget implementation is less than 50 per cent, capital projects are stalled and most states cannot pay salaries to workers. Even Oknokjo-Iweala’s colleagues knew that her economic pill was voodooist. It was in this hard-time circumstance that Jonathan sought the mandate of the electorate who rejected him at the poll. Nigerians voted for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to change the status quo. Notwithstanding her braggadocio, three major newspapers in the country have written editorials to write off Okonjo-Iweala’s so-called performance. In his verdict, a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, said: “Our public finance is haemorrhaging to the point that estimated over N30 trillion is missing, or stolen or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged.
“Under you as Minister of Finance and Coordinator for the Economy, the basket of our national treasury is leaking profusely from all sides. Just a few illustrations! First you admit that oil theft has reduced oil output from the average 2.3-2.4million barrels per day (mpd) to 1.95mpd, meaning that at least 350,000 to 450,000 barrels per day are being stolen. On the average of 400,000 per day and the oil prices over the past four years, it comes to about $60billion stolen in just four years.”
About emerging as the worst Minister of Federal Capital Territory since 1975, under Sen. Bala Mohammed’s watch, a less than three to five-kilometre road leading to his office from the NTA axis could not be completed for five years. He was more preoccupied with allocation of plots of land than building on the legacies of his predecessors. Once Bala Mohammed gets praises from the Presidential Villa, he is okay even if the residents are in pain.
He struggled to manage his predecessors’ projects haphazardly. Some of these projects are the Vice President’s residence, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua highway to the airport, Kubwa-Zuba expressway, and Senate President’s and Speaker’s official quarters. A few days ago, Mohammed wanted the President to inaugurate the Umaru Yar’Adua highway when it was obvious that the project (paid for upfront by the administration of the late President) has not been completed. A clever Jonathan said he was only around to inspect the project (not to commission it).
The ‘legacies’ of Bala Mohammed include non-functional street lights, decrepit six districts in the FCT, high rate of crimes, general insecurity, dysfunctional CCTV, dilapidated school structures, poor waste management system, importation of one-year life span buses for mass transportation.
The inability of Mohammed’s administration to live up to his promise to rehabilitate the UN Building destroyed by Boko Haram and insecurity in Abuja contributed to the erosion of confidence in Jonathan’s administration by some countries like the US, the UK and others.
Arguably the most powerful minister Nigeria has ever produced, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke presided over the oil sector with such a tight grip as if she is on an everlasting assignment. In the last five years, she has incurred the wrath of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) which are divesting in Nigeria’s oil sector. Some of her defects in office are unending fuel scarcity nationwide; fuel subsidy scam; instability in NNPC having worked with five Group Managing Directors; alleged lavish spending of a whopping N10billion on chartered flights by NNPC for her use and other operations; $20b oil funds unaccounted for; fall in the sale of crude oil; non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB); award of N4billion pipeline contracts to ex-militants and militia leaders; increase in oil theft and lack of accountability.
The oil sectors stank to such extent that an external auditing firm, PWC was commissioned by the presidency to look into the account of the NNPC. Under Diezani, the nation does not know how much oil it is selling, the whereabouts of the proceeds and the accruals from the excess funds gained from crude oil benchmark. The minister by her actions and inactions became a liability to the presidency, to the extent that Jonathan’s government was judged by the rot in the oil sector. Unfortunately, the President could not muster courage to check the perceived excesses of the minister. Nigerians, however, voted out Jonathan on March 28 because they were tired of the story of corruption in the oil sector.
The lousy ex-Minister of Defence, Amb. Musiliu Obanikoro virtually abdicated his constitutional responsibilities and used the influence of his office to embark on ‘Operation Conquer South-West’ for Jonathan. Backed by the Armed Forces and other security agencies, he went about the conquest mission as if there will be no tomorrow. Along the line, he burnt his fingers in Ekiti State where he was accused along with others of engaging military intelligence to rig the governorship poll for Governor Ayo Fayose in 2014. The video of the plot went viral and Obanikoro’s gangster politics was a stigma for Jonathan.
But Jonathan tolerated him because he needed votes from the South-West electorate. Rather than support Jonathan, the sophisticated South-West voters proved a point that the region believes in Omoluabi (a perfect gentlemanly conduct) and not gangster politics. Obanikoro was one of the reasons Jonathan lost South-West and why Lagos State was impenetrable for PDP. When Jonathan realised this, it was too late. The President made Obanikoro a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to drum a message into his ears that he knew all along that he was not an asset. The ego of Obanikoro was deflated on the date of his swearing in when he was announced as a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. It took the intervention of some of his colleagues to cheer him up by saying “a minister is a minister.”
Twice, the President was shocked that the Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, is a political paper weight. As part of the dummy sold to the President, Adesiyan was touted as a politician who could tackle the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West having been part of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD). Jonathan was oblivious of the fact that Adesiyan’s appointment was used by the lobbyists to shore up his image, which was battered as a result of his arrest over the assassination of the late Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige.
Since coming on board, Adesiyan attracted more controversy to Jonathan administration with the use of policemen to intimidate political opponents. His impunity reached its peak with an assault on a former Governor of Osun State, Chief Isiaka Adeleke, by his police/security aides. That singular thug-like assault cost the PDP a big loss in Osun State during the governorship, presidential and National Assembly elections. Since the humiliation of PDP, Adesiyan has withdrawn to his shell pretending to be concentrating on a job he has not made any impact since he was appointed.
The tardiness of the Ministry of Interior, especially the Nigerian Immigration Service, under Abba Moro led to a disastrous recruitment exercise which caused the death of 15 graduates in March 2014. For a year, the administration of Jonathan suffered an image crisis and it could not recover during the poll. The rating of Jonathan fell when he succumbed to pressure from some National Assembly leaders and governors to retain Moro, a former local government chairman who adopted local benchmark in his attitude to issues, including such a recruitment tragedy.
While Jonathan treated Moro with kid gloves, a minister in the same shoes in South Korea resigned from the cabinet. By the time Jonathan came up with N75million compensation for the families of the recruitment scandal on March 15, 2015, it was obvious that it was because of his re-election bid rather than empathy for the deceased. Nigerians voted for change, not the re-election of Jonathan.
In February, the Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen, wasted no time in scoring himself a little below 50 per cent in office. Speaking on a radio programme, he said the Federal Government had completed only 62 out of the 133 projects awarded.
He said: “What is important about all these projects embarked upon by this government is that out of 133 of them awarded by the Jonathan administration, 62 have already been completed and tremendous progress has been made on the rest. When we set out to reposition our roads, we noticed a gap in the funding of road infrastructure in Nigeria. If you merge our requirement, which was an average of about N500billion yearly, against the budgetary provision of about N120billion, it is clear that we needed to do something quick to bridge the gap.”
The reality is that most of the arterial roads in the country are bad; they include Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway; Lagos Ibadan Expressway, Ajebandele-Shagamu Road. Onolememen, in September 2014, assured the nation that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will be completed 18 months earlier than
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, is a prayer warrior in the cabinet but the magic wand has not effected any change in the power sector. He does not have the capacity to manage the sector like his predecessor, Prof. Barth Nnaji. The installed capacity of the power sector is now 4,700 megawatts but generation is a little over 2,000megawatts in spite of the privatizsation policy. As at May 19, it was reported by a daily that eight distribution companies have declared force majeure in their operations. Besides the eight, the Bureau of Public Enterprises has engaged in a share buyback deal leading to the payment of N29.2billion to Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Company(IEDM), which is the investor in Yola Electricity Distribution Company.
The situation in the power sector is clumsy, unstable and scaring to investors. The epileptic power supply nationwide worked against Jonathan during the poll.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Aminu Wali, has been running a lack lustre ministry, which has not earned the confidence of the diplomatic community unlike the case when the late charismatic ex-Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, was in charge. Jonathan’s administration is bowing out with its international reputation at its lowest ebb because there is no effective salesman in charge. This setback was obvious during the last elections when the US and the UK issued a joint statement warning against alleged plans to tamper with the results. The conspiracy was obvious because the foreign affairs policy has been on a wheelchair.