18th July, 2011
President Goodluck Jonathan may have stuck to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution when he picked members of his cabinet from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Section 147(3) of the Constitution specifically says â€œany appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the president shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(4) of this constitution: Provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the president shall appoint at least one minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.â€
Although President Jonathan adhered to the provisions of the constitution, he added four more ministers to his cabinet and created a ministry, Trade and Investment Ministry, to accommodate the extra ministers.
At a time cutting the cost of governance is a global issue, the president is increasing it here in Nigeria. He has also appointed 20 Special Advisers who will also have aides that will draw their salaries from the federal purse.
Apart from full ministerial appointees, there are ministers of state in every ministry. When we add up the aides of the ministers and those of ministers of state, the cost of running government can be very huge. But, do we really need such a bloated cabinet? We may not make any headway in this country if we continue to have such a large cabinet with the attendant bureaucratic bottlenecks that could bog down governance.
Rather than have such a large number of ministries, why canâ€™t the National Assembly amend the constitution to pave way for the pruning down of the ministries to at least 10 core ones? We believe that if we have ministries in charge of Education, Health, Agriculture/Water Resources, Defence/Police Affairs, Petroleum/Mineral Resources, Works and Housing, Transport, Information/Technology, Power and Steel, and Sports, it could fast track development. And if appointments into those ministries must reflect federal character, the ministers could be appointed from the six geopolitical zones of the country and the Federal Capital Territory.
A situation where appointments are made on the basis of creating jobs â€˜for the boysâ€™ has not in any way brought about any change in the manner the nation has been governed over the decades. The situation is even made worse when those who do not have much to contribute to national development are repeatedly recycled as ministers. Some even have questionable credentials which they pad up in order to be appointed.
Most of the newly appointed ministers do not inspire any hope in Nigerians that things will get better because of their antecedents and the godfathers they represent in the cabinet, though President Jonathan warned them during their inauguration that they should live up to the expectations of Nigerians. Time will tell if they can deliver on that promise.