The president-elect should begin to put his team together, says Ehimare Ebhohimhen
Now that the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is back, he must immediately get to brass tasks to tie up knotty issues and other loose ends that will make his government get cracking from day one. He certainly must begin to look beyond the pomp and revelry that will dog his swearing-in on May 29th. Not daunted by the huge responsibility of leading Nigeria, Tinubu, an acclaimed political war horse, says he’s ready and as fit as a fiddle.
“I’m happy to be back. I have rested, I’m refreshed and I’m ready for the task ahead…Forget about what the rumour mill may have told you. I’m strong, very strong,” he reassured the large crowd of supporters that welcomed him at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja after a little over a month’s holiday in France.
Asked about his plans for the country, Tinubu said he had been consulting and planning with a view to putting together a strong team so he could hit the ground running once he assumes office on May 29.
“I am extremely excited to be back home and deeply humbled by the warm welcome I received on my return to Abuja today. Thank you all for your love and support. Our promise to deliver a nation of Renewed Hope for all Nigerians remains in motion,” he later tweeted.
To avoid the pitfalls, indecisiveness, and unnecessary prevarication of President Muhammadu Buhari, who took six months to constitute a cabinet, Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor and an astute political player, should be ready with not just a list of his principal aides but also his ministerial list. Thank God, his job is well cut out as a consolidation of the gains of the ruling APC Buhari government.
President Buhari may have attracted specks for not being sensitive to the ethnoreligious cum regional divides of the country in making his appointments, particularly that of his security chiefs, but his administration has made huge gains in the area of infrastructure-roads and railway development and has committed more funds to those areas including healthcare, education, and housing than any government since 1999.
Beyond the focus on completing inherited and abandoned projects, the Buhari administration has creatively unlocked public and private sector financing for infrastructure in Nigeria, through such initiatives as the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), the Infrastructure Company (InfraCo), the Highway Development Management Initiative (HDMI), the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Sukuk Bonds (that have collectively raised close to a billion dollars), and the Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme.
The ball is now in Tinubu’s court to raise the tempo of these gains. In the next few days, he should be wrapping up the array of capable hands including some outgoing governors that will make his list to wean a first-rate cabinet. Now that elections are over and the President-Elect has reached out to all irrespective of parties, with his olive branch, he should also leap forward by bending backward to head hunt brilliant talents outside the APC to join him in the tasks of building a more prosperous country. While we grant him his indulgence of always grooming talents, Tinubu may at this point not be looking for rookies or persons who’ll be coming to learn the ropes because the stakes are high and he cannot afford to disappoint the expectations of the citizenry.
Those ministers who have carried out their tasks exceptionally well under the present government should not be allowed to leave in a hurry. He should for instance endeavor to retain poster ministers of the Buhari administration like Mr Babatunde Fashola who has worked hard to drive the road projects and got contractors on their toes. Since the exit of former Transport Minister, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the glow of work on the railways appears to have dimmed. This is the time for realism and getting the work done and not one for vain political expeditions. Tinubu must, therefore, reach out to energetic and highly resourceful persons who will deliver democratic dividends to the citizenry like yesterday.
He needs ministers who will get familiar with brass tasks from day one. The numerous ongoing road projects across the country including vital highway projects like Lokoja-Benin City, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Uromi-Igueben-Agbor, Enugu-Onitsha, Lagos-Abeokuta, and the recently approved reconstruction of Benin-Sapele-Warri amongst others will require close monitoring and supervision. Tinubu requires a point man with a vigor that saw the completion of prime projects like the 2nd Niger Bridge, the 2.055-kilometer Loko-Oweto bridge across the River Benue, the Lagos-Ibadan, and the Kaduna-Kano expressways. In the same way, he needs a minister who’s very familiar with the strive to begin construction of the Ibadan-Abuja, Itakpe-Abuja rail lines and kickstart the groundbreaking event to build the 1,400-kilometer Lagos-Calabar railway to link the western to the eastern parts of the country.
I’m not sure there are any laws that say the incoming President must wait for the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly in June to push forward his list of ministers for ratification by the Senate. He cannot afford to wait endlessly for the next National Assembly to take shape and constitute its committees before taking this step. After all, Tinubu has nothing to fear as the present Senate not only boasts of his loyalists in the leadership but has an APC majority.
One pressing task as Tinubu settles down may be the need to avert the brewing feverish contest for leadership of the 10th National Assembly which has seen aspirants reaching for the cudgels, from snowballing into another ethno-regional crisis. Tinubu should prevail on aspirants not only to sheath their swords but also tone down their rhetoric and accept the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) directive on the issue. Now that it’s clear that the opposition parties are in the majority in the incoming House of Representatives and may also be in contention, the APC should apply brinkmanship by tapping from Tinubu’s rich experience as a master of strategy to perfect its scheme of retaining the leadership. Extending the carrot and courting some members of the opposition could be a masterstroke for achieving a healthy working relationship in the 10th National Assembly. Tinubu should counsel his party men and women to avoid the banana peel of luring members of the opposition parties in the legislature to cross the carpet to the APC since they will end up losing their seats if their party’s leadership insists on getting their pound of flesh.
Kudos for the resolve to dissolve the APC Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PCC) whose officials were still carrying on as if elections are not over and reveling in rhetoric that is antithetical to Tinubu’s much-needed conciliatory posture. It was important to reign in the officials who constituted the council that the focus is now to assuage passion and reach out to the varied sections of the Nigerian populace irrespective of their political leaning in the huge tasks to rebuild the country.
Ebhohimhen is an Abuja-based social commentator