Why Jonathan needs a good cabinet

2011-06-01
THE PUNCH Newspaper

If the success of a president is to be measured by his inauguration speech, President Goodluck Jonathan’s name would by now be among the pantheon of great leaders in the world. The speech delivered by Jonathan on May 29 was as inspiring as it was soul lifting. Admonishing Nigerians to lift their gaze “towards the horizon” where they will see “a great future that we can secure” can also be encouraging, especially for despairing citizens, whose lots appear not to have been improved by successive governments.



But, Dear Mr. President, you will not be a great president, or great leader for that matter, just by talking the talk. By May 2015, you would not be remembered by Nigerians for the nice sounding and motivating words you spoke on your inauguration, but by what you did in those four years to improve the welfare of Nigerians. I tell you, not many people will remember any of the quotable quotes of the speech by 2015. So, I advise you to, as they say, walk the talk!



As you begin to walk your way towards your self-avowed national transformation path, you may wish to be reminded, Mr. President, that the people you will choose in the next couple of days to walk and work with, will determine how well and far you will go. Put differently, your cabinet will tell what you can achieve. Therefore, in choosing who to walk and work with, remember you will not achieve the transformation you promised with men and women whose antecedents, pedigree, capabilities and orientation are questionable and deformed. Beware of those who brought us to this sorry pass.







There are two periods in Nigeria’s history when the people’s expectations were as high as they are now. The first was immediately after political independence in 1960 when the citizens of the new nation were both ecstatic and expectant that the country would sooner than later fulfil its manifest destiny. The other was in 1998, on the return to democratic rule after many years of military rule. Nigerians invested so much hope on the emerging democratic order believing, as they do now, that the dividends would be quick and sustainable. Needless to tell you that the high expectations of the later period were dashed eventually, more because public service was seen as an invitation to ‘chop’. And because the overriding interest was to ‘come and chop’, people were appointed into positions based more on such primordial considerations as friendship, religion, nepotism and cronyism.







You need a break from this. More than anything else, Mr. President, you need a cabinet made up of men and women of steel and brain, who can help you drive the transformation train. Nigeria needs them sorely because things are that bad. For instance, as you were making your speech, many Nigerians were battling with needless kerosene and diesel scarcity. The 5th Annual Water for the Poor Act 2009 report released by the US State Department late last year said that only 17.2 per cent of Nigerians have access to pipe-borne water in the country, the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Also, a recent WHO and UNICEF statistics rated Nigeria second, only to India, in maternal mortality, contributing over ten per cent of the world’s total estimate of maternal deaths. One woman, we are told, dies every 10 minutes in Nigeria while giving birth. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth once said that Nigerian roads are worse than those of most war-torn countries. No wonder the Federal Road Safety Corps recently revealed that with 162 death rates from road traffic accidents per 100,000 population, Nigeria currently ranks 191 of the 192 countries in the world with “unsafe roads”. I have chosen not to remind you of the seeming power conundrum. Many are these bad realities you must transform.







This task will remain Herculean, however well you might talk, when you surround yourself with dead woods, expired, irritating and uninspiring politicians. We need not look unto the horizon to get them. We look up to you to provide the ‘transformative leadership’ you promised by rejecting political liabilities and choose those who are ideas-driven, competent, proficient, passionate and committed to the vision of a new Nigeria. Nigeria has them aplenty. And, they are everywhere. Go get them, and do the nation a lot of good. You will do yourself much good too.


















 

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