For close to four years, President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen not to make changes to his security team. Apart from the removal of the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, which was done by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the mandatory retirement of Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, every other security chief has remained in place.
You would have to be blind or in denial to suggest that no progress has been made in the fight against Boko Haram in the north eastern part of the country. Fewer bombs are going off and although there are occasional raids on military formations by the terrorist group, in the last year or two, the challenges of insecurity have evolved to crimes like kidnapping and banditry. And even though it is not the responsibility of the armed forces to combat internal security challenges, Nigerians are however holding them responsible and so far not everyone thinks they are doing a stellar job.
First on Mr. President’s priorities in his second term, therefore, should be tackling the growing level of kidnapping, banditry and terrorist attacks in different parts of the country. There’s no denying it that the government needs new ideas and fresh set of eyes to assess the security challenges and map out strategies on how to bring back a sense of normalcy. The acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has so far shown to be more responsive in addressing incidences of insecurity but only time will tell if he can deliver results.
There is a good chance that Buhari has already made up his mind on all of the men and women he wants to make up the ministerial cabinet in his second term as president. He has already made promises on forming his cabinet quicker than he did back and 2015. So, it is safe to say that the president already has his list tucked away somewhere.
In every aspect of governance – law enforcement, security, the economy and even politics – the people he chooses will likely define his tenure of office and the things he will be remembered for. In his present cabinet, there are ministers that have caused the president a lot of trouble and have succeeded in generating a lot of bad blood between the president and the Nigerian people. There are also those that work quietly and tirelessly in quenching the day-to-day fires that are lit in the course of governance. The latter category is made up of ministers and advisers who have been the backbone of the Buhari administration and have delivered the services demanded by the Nigerian people.
Looking beyond the cabinet, some political appointees stand out and represent the best of what the Buhari government has had to offer. They won’t necessary make it into Buhari’s cabinet, but there is no doubt that they have a future in government. The qualities of such people are what Buhari should look for in forming his next team. There are would-be appointees who would likely come with some baggage but if they are able to get the job done, who cares? There are thousands of such people within the and the president only has to take a deeper look within. In Nigeria, there is never a shortage of talent. You just have to be searching in the right places.
In the four years he has been president, Buhari has managed to invest heavily in agriculture. But that has not slowed the rising level of unemployment in the country. This is an indication that the government should turn its attention to manufacturing and commit an equal amount of resources to it to cut down the 23 per cent unemployment rate. As things stands today, commercial banks are not lending to manufacturers. The banks are satisfied lending to the government at high interest rates and are making record profits. With the government budgeting over N2trn a year servicing debts, it is as good as subsidizing the banks. It is also one reason why new jobs are not being created.
In his first term, Buhari had virtually no one with requisite experience with international financial institutions. What he had a lot of are people with experience in the civil service which is crucial in getting things done and bypassing bureaucratic bottlenecks. But to raise the much needed finance to develop critical infrastructure, it is just as important to have in his cabinet people with a network on the international stage. Maybe the only person that fits that profile presently is the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu. But he came from the oil industry and has struggled to build more refineries or even revamp existing petroleum infrastructure.
The government has committed to completing key infrastructure projects like the railways, the second Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Transportation in Nigeria is still in the 19th century. Progress has been made in the last four years, but there is still a long way to go. The government has however been stuck when it comes to projects like the Mambila Power Project because it cannot finance it. On the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, the government has also been stuck. Yet, the country has no real shot at industrialisation without the plant. That is why the president needs one or two ministers with the right connections.
Shuaib, a former editor of Leadership Newspaper, writes from Abuja
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