Going by President Goodluck Jonathan’s self-assessment, he is the most criticized President in the world. He has also come out to say two years may be too short to judge the performance of his administration. “I was Deputy Governor for six and a half years, I was Governor for one and half years, I was a Vice President and before election, I was the President up to April when elections were conducted. People knew me. So, within this period and even when I acted, if I was that bad, would people have voted for me? So, for Nigerians to have voted for me overwhelmingly, that means there must have been something they were expecting and definitely six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgment. But the media condemned me”, the President said.
An age-long Yoruba proverb however says “when it takes a man three years to rehearse for madness, for how long will the madness be exhibited in the market?” In other words, the beginning matters when projecting into the future.
Looking at those who make up Mr. President’s team, a lot of Nigerians came up with different tales of what to expect. Some have even summed it up that the Commander-in-Chief himself may not be the issue but the members of his team. Like it is often said in the Eastern part of the country that “you cannot ask a toad to give you a stool when you can see he is squatting”, Nigerians cannot and should not expect the Government to give what it does not have. With the constitution of the Federal Executive Cabinet, one might be tempted to think Nigerians are asking for too much.
Some of those who make up the executive cabinet have been in the news for obviously wrong reasons. While some have been labeled as incapable of handling the responsibilities that come with their positions, some reportedly got those positions by some criteria other than merit.
Since assuming office, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah has undergone a change of nomenclature. As of the time she was screened for the appointment, her surname was Oduah-Ogiemwonyi. Soon after however, the suffix attached to her surname was dropped.
It is being insinuated that the position was given to her as compensation for a job well done in the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization. Her closeness to the First Lady was also said to have worked in her favour. Her company, Sea Petroleum and Gas was one of those indicted in the fuel subsidy scam that rocked the nation earlier in the year and no one has heard that she or her company has been brought to book.
Her Ministry has been fraught with inconsistencies. First she was locked in a battle with foreign airlines over the disparities between the fares they charge Nigerians and what they do in other West African countries. Nothing much changed.
And after the Dana Air crash of June 3, 2102, the suspension of Dana’s operating license was announced. Three months after however, Madam Minister came out again to say the airline was free to commence operations again as it was suspended in error.
Under the watch of the Honourable Minister, a number of regulations in the aviation industry became mere formalities. For instance, planes older than 20 years have been banned in the country. It took the latest crash to wake the Ministry that some of the aircraft being used have crossed that age limit.
Another controversy came with the recent suspension of Arik Air’s domestic flight operations. The airline alleged that the suspension was as a result of the Minister’s personal vendetta which resulted from the airline’s management’s refusal to grant the Minister 5% equity in the company. Though the allegations have been denied, many Nigerians still wonder if there can ever be smoke without a fire.
Another figure that has been enmeshed in a series of controversies is the Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. Having overseen the Ministries of Transportation as well as Mines and Power, she was moved to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. In October 2009, the Senate indicted Mrs. Madueke for allegedly transferring N 1.2 billion into the private account of a toll company without recourse to due process and in breach of concession agreement.
One other thing that pitched many Nigerians against the Petroleum Resources Minister is her support for the removal of fuel subsidy, which is about the only thing the average Nigerian benefits from the Federal Government. In the Minister’s view, subsidy “poses a huge financial burden on the government, disproportionately benefits the wealthy and encourages corruption.” With the probe conducted by the House of Representatives however, it was found out that most of the main beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy fund who fleeced the country of billions are “friends of the government” and a few elements in the government. With friend’s stealing and benefitting from the nation’s woes, the Hausa proverb, “abokin barawo, barawo ne” ( a thief’s friend is a thief) has become a recurrent issue in most gatherings where Nigeria’s current situation is being discussed.
If there is any member of the Federal Executive Cabinet Nigerian’s expected would come with a magic wand, it would be no other than the Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In view of her role in helping Nigeria to secure a debt pardon from the Paris Club, many felt Nigeria would be better for it if she returned as Finance Minister.
The debts that were reduced to the barest minimum before her exit as Finance Minister have started piling up again, making people wonder the kind of advice she gives to the Federal Government. She remained in stoic support of the fuel subsidy removal. She also remained unusually quiet while the “Emir” of Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi tried to compel Nigerians to accept his newly designed N 5,000 bill.
The economy of the country is said to be improving, meanwhile, the vast majority of Nigeria’s population has not felt that improvement.
Many indigenes of the Niger Delta region believed they had a cause to smile when the Niger Delta Ministry was created years ago. Things however seem to be taking a different turn as the Honourable Minister for Niger Delta Affaris, Elder Godsdey Orubebe has come under harsh criticism even from his own people. An Ijaw monarch from Orubebe’s home state recently alleged that the Minister has lost focus. The monarch stated that instead of putting up viable projects for which his time as Minister would be remembered, the Minister has chosen to focus more on the heavenly needs of the people by distributing Bibles, and cloths to the old people in his locality.
The Minister for Communications, Labaran Maku is one other man Nigerians love to hate. Most people believe Maku is insincere even with himself. As a student leader decades ago, he led protests against the removal of fuel subsidy. Now that he is at the other side of the divide, the Honourable Minister “knows better”. Meanwhile, he has stated that the Labaran Maku that was a student leader died on May 29, 2003, the same day he took oath as Deputy Governor of Nassarawa State. Not a few Nigerians agreed with the Senate President, David Mark when he described the Information Minister as a “careless talker” who talks first and thinks later. It is believed that part of his job description is to do the mop up after any damage might have been done.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke too has a number of eyes on him. For some time, his office traded blames with anti-graft agencies over the prosecution of suspects charged with corruption. So many trials are dragging, causing aspersions to be cast on Nigeria’s legal structure.
In the area of Works, Chief Mike Onolemenmen, the Minister has been criticized severally. Road traffic accidents have been a leading cause of death in Nigeria and there is hardly a Nigerian family that has not lost a relative to the carnage on the roads. Most of the roads are still as bad as they were years ago while some have gone worse and most of them are not receiving attention from the Government.
Though sports development has been on the decline for years, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi doesn’t seem to have an answer to the woes that have befallen Nigeria’s sports sector. The country has performed below expectations in most sporting events lately. For the first time in about 20 years, Nigeria failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations. The country’s representatives at the 2012 Olympics also failed to impress Nigerians. Meanwhile, an indication emerged recently that Nigeria has not learnt any lessons from its below average performance in major competitions. An official of the sports commission has already stated that even if Nigeria starts preparing for the next Olympic Games now, those preparations are already coming late as other countries already have work plans that are being followed.
Not many knew the name of the Police Affairs Minister until a panel recently recommended that the Ministry should be scrapped. The proponents of the idea believe the Ministry has barely lived up to expectations. In spite of Captain Olubolade’s experience in the military, the Police Force is still under-funded and ill equipped in some areas. The country itself also remains under-policed.
The health sector is one other area that saddens a lot of people in Nigeria. It is believed in some quarters that the Minister of Health should be queried on why the First Lady had to travel abroad for medical reasons. Some have viewed it as a direct indictment on the Minister of Health as it is a clear indication that even those ruling Nigeria do not have much faith in the Ministry he oversees.
Worst hit is the area of defence. Lives are constantly being lost to terror attacks. Though a substantive Minister is yet to be appointed, it is obvious that the Minister of State has little or no experience in defence issues.
In the course of his duties as the President’s Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati has attracted a lot of criticism. When he took up the job, some described it as a confirmation that “everybody has a price”.