In less than two weeks, the Senate confirmed the ministerial nominees of President Muhammadu Buhari. All 43 are now ministers-designate.
They will be inaugurated on August 21, 2019. There is a planned retreat preceding the inauguration which will remind the new team of the expectations of the President in relation to his next level agenda and expectations of Nigerians.
14 of the ministers-designate are returning for the second time. They were part of the failures, challenges and successes of the President in his first term. Many of the challenges are yet to be surmounted.
Most of the in-coming ministers are new even as they have held top positions in the past, including former governors, former senators, technocrats, and activists who are not new to the challenges facing our country.
It is imperative to point out that in virtually all the sectors of the Nigerian society, there are challenges that will task their ingenuity.
The statistics are staggering and frightening, requiring urgency from the ministers-designate. A few examples will suffice. One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school.
Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
Nigeria has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world and one of the highest new infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria also has the fourth largest tuberculosis epidemic in the world, with HIV and TB co-infection now becoming an increasing concern for people living with HIV. About 80 million Nigerians living in 8,000 villages across the country lack access to electricity, according to World Bank report. Experts insist that Nigeria has 20 million housing deficit, a figure confirmed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
These are clear challenges that show the new ministers that there is work to be done, and more importantly there is no time to waste.
Furthermore, in 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87million Nigerians, or about half of the country’s population thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. Nigeria thus became the poverty capital of the world. The findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute, show that more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number.
For security, the indicators are alarming. We are now known as a terrorist country. The Global Terrorism Index Rankings in 2017, Nigeria ranked first in Africa and third globally, largely due to the activities of Boko Haram. At least 15 out of Nigeria’s 36 states are currently experiencing violence and upheaval from Boko Haram, bandits, cattle rustlers, herders/farmers clashes, armed robbery and all manners of criminality including kidnapping. These figures as alarming as they are should become a bulwark that will galvanize the ministers-designate once they have been assigned portfolios to start work immediately. Incidentally, they are coming into office to take charge of the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari is eager to put in place legacy projects, policies, and programmes that will permanently etch his name in the heart of Nigerians as the leader that spearheaded the transformation of the country to an economic powerhouse of Africa.
They cannot afford to disappoint Mr. President or, for that matter, Nigerians who re-elected him for another four-year term.
This is not the time to beat about the bush. It is not the time to come up with bogus frames of corruption that most often ensure we do not make progress. With our meager resources, anyone contemplating corruption at this time should excuse him or herself from the cabinet.
The team the President has just assembled is not bad. It can do the work only if they apply their mind to their briefs. They must accept the urgency of the moment and apply themselves diligently to the task before them. There must be no room for undue politicking, grandstanding or show-boating. Nigerians are not prepared for excuses any longer. To whom much is given, more is expected.