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President Tinubu and His Fat Cabinet

President Tinubu and His Fat Cabinet

By Dr. Ugo Egbujo –

Fat and flabby. The message is incoherent. In 2015, Buhari appointed 36 ministers. In 2023, after removing petrol subsidies and promising a leaner government, Tinubu has nominated 47 ministers. Removing subsidies and appointing eleven more ministers than we had in 2015 is ludicrous. Tinubu, the acclaimed talent hunter, promised to renew hopes with an innovative cabinet. Now, we have seen a list that contains more chaff than wheat. Tinubu promised an electric Ferrari. But he has gone for a gas-guzzling bolekaja. The president wants the poor to make sacrifices. But he is pampering his fellow politicians with appointments at the expense of the suffering masses. The message is confounding. The attitude is hypocritical.

The government has an overload of overhead costs. Budgetary recurrent expenditures have been growing at a baffling geometrical progression, leaving practically nothing for capital projects. If the debt servicing bill that is currently swallowing all our revenues is factored in, then the decision to fill the cabinet with a surplus of ministers becomes more incomprehensible. If he can’t trim the cabinet to bare bones because he is shackled by an obese provision of the constitution that demands a minimum of 36 then why can’t he stay at 36 while lamenting his difficulties until he champions a prudent amendment of the constitution? The United States, from whom we borrowed the system, has 15 ministers. But we think many ministers will make us rich. The idea that Tinubu is more interested in electoral conquests than salvaging the country doesn’t sit well with the Tinubu legacy in Lagos. Tinubu had campaigned to replicate his successes in Lagos. But in Lagos, Tinubu didn’t compensate thick-headed and pretty-faced political foot soldiers with critical public office.

So what has gone askew? True, Nigeria is not Lagos, but a man that has the guts to yank off the petrol subsidy should have the balls to circumcise his government. Why can’t our leaders lead by example? Often the problem that has stunted the country isn’t the lack of ideas. It is the lack of political discipline and courage to apply trumpeted policies. Incurable dissonance. We don’t help our politicians by celebrating opportunistic manoeuvring for political power. They propound austerity measures and prescribe virtue for the poor, but bother with no moral exertion to lead by example. They can’t even make pragmatic symbolic gestures to make the poor see empathy and feel comforted. How can a government that removed petrol subsidies and begged the poor to bear with it, proceed to appoint 11 more ministers than we had in 2015?

The economy is in a perilous state. That was why the president removed the petrol subsidy before he removed his inauguration agbada. When he did, the citizens clapped. They knew the pain was coming, but they appreciated his decisiveness. Perhaps, they believed he would also be decisive in raising wages and rolling out palliatives. His supporters had boasted that he would approach his cabinet formation with ruthless efficiency. So many hoped. A week after dismantling the petrol subsidy, the president went for a dollar subsidy. We had been propping the naira and dispensing subsidized dollars to enrich a privileged few. Powerful people with crooked hearts had been feeding fat like tapeworms in the lumen of the impoverished country leeching on subsidized dollars while the poor struggled with spiralling inflation and naira depreciation. Again the poor cheered the new president and danced. They were told the difficult decisions would make the naira ultimately stronger after a short period of turbulence. So they persevered.

While the necessary but harsh measures were being instituted and inevitable agony began to spread dilute euphoria, the poor looked out to see if the rich also cried. Nothing worsens such pain like hypocrisy. But as many ordinary folks left their cars at home to trek to work, the politicians embraced longer convoys. Who would have thought that the politicians wouldn’t understand that the removal of petrol subsidies must be followed by a visible and decisive reduction in the length of their convoys?

Across the country, no government has shown that it understands the message the politicians have been preaching to the poor. The list of aides has grown. The number of political jamborees organized to whet their oversized appetites has increased. No leader has manifested the mentality of frugality. None has championed transparency and probity beyond slogans and propaganda.

Now we have gone from a long convoy of cars to a long convoy of ministers. That disposition damages public trust. A few persons have said that the additional ministers might help in service delivery. But how can a man who can’t pay his house rent and children’s school fees, without borrowing, hire more stewards to help with service delivery in the kitchen? Not only has the length of the convoy of ministers increased, but the list also has particularly troubling names. Ancient gas-guzzling automobiles were fingered by the EFCC for damaging the environment.

The question is, of what use is a governor who failed in Zamfara and was voted out of office, to Tinubu, who came to renew hopes? Another man whom the EFCC had labelled as fantastically corrupt, lost elections in the state and organized the most elaborate rigging expedition in Africa. Yet he made his way to the ministerial list. Of what value are these folks to any system that seeks to inspire the youth? Look again at the wretchedness and woes of Zamfara. From both optics and substance, what is the value of a governor who couldn’t produce students to sit and pass WAEC to a federal cabinet? Any man sought by the EFCC for alleged money laundering is innocent until proven guilty, but having engaged the EFCC chairman in an open shouting match of infamy, how does such a fellow make any cabinet more credible in a country that has thousands upon thousands of passionate and credible men and women?

President Tinubu wants the poor to breathe. So he chose Wike, Bagudu, Mattawalle, Badaru, Geidam, Oyetola. Little wonder the Senate President find humour in that expression. The suffocating poor are supposed to look up to these folks with worn-out ideas and believe they are messiahs. The Tinubu cabinet, no doubt, has some serious-minded folks. But the mingling of mediocrity with excellence doesn’t speak of any painstaking urgency to renew hope. If the president wants the poor to breathe, he must offer a moral leadership that prioritises sustainable development over political scheming. The nation must confront its predicament with its best hands.

Among the chosen bunch of ministers are moral reprobates. By the abuse of quantity and dilution of quality, that cabinet is disappointing. If the president wants to renew hopes he must embrace a cost-cutting attitude that begins with trimming the size and cost of his government so that other governments in the country can emulate. Otherwise, squeezing the poor while pampering politicians with gratuitous appointments is unconscionable and counterproductive.

May God grant the president the courage to put the interest of the country above all partisan political calculations.

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