We will meet our new ministers later this week. Do not expect new names, that would be expecting too much and stretching idealism beyond commonsense. As much as Buhari himself would love to deliver a depoliticized list, politics will always feature in these things. It is the reality of governance in Nigeria and it is a fact that would stay on the menu of the pragmatism that Nigeria must live with for a while. It would not be about the ministers as it would be about how we the citizens define the rules of engagement, keep them on their toes, raise our level of expectations and stop excusing mediocrity and failure.
What do we want out of our ministers? Take the ministry of the FCT for instance, whoever becomes the minister over there has his or her work cutout. Abuja has become a mess and its glory continues to wane with every new day. When was the last time this city was fumigated? When was the last time anyone paid attention to the master plan? What happened to those parks and green areas? Why is the transportation in this supposedly well-planned city so chaotic? How come after 8 years of Nasir El-Rufai’s tenure, the “El-Rufai buses” remain a reference point for mass transportation in this city?
Forget corruption for a minute, those who ran this city since 2007 deserve should go to jail for what they did to this city. I have no apologies for that; executive incompetence should be a crime. If you can’t do the job, refuse to take it or take it and resign. At least you get referred to as a former minister, “the one that resigned.” Better that than the disasters we have had as FCT ministers over the last 8 years. The very last one, Bala Mohammed was a disaster of tsunamic proportions. This city needs redemption and restoration; the next minister should be brave enough to get that going. It is time to step on toes again. It would not be enough to target the poor masses in the shacks; the job should begin with the rich people who have since bastardised the master plan.
The minister of education has his/her job cutout. Our education system is a systemic joke. It is a thing of generational shame to see Nigerians run to Uganda, Kenya, Ghana even Sudan to acquire tertiary education. There are even Nigerian students in Ghanaian polytechnics. We spend over N200 billion/year on paying school fees in Ghana. Is that not a shame? What is so difficult with developing an educational system that works for everyone? Why are our schools still teaching courses that prepare students for the jobs of the 1960s? Are we still training Nigerians to take over from the colonialists? Do we need a messiah to land from the skies to show us the mess that is our education system? Why do we keep running the system as though it’d change somehow? It cannot change automatically; we need to be intentional about changing the paradigm of education in Nigeria.
Nigerians are living without health insurance. Our compatriots die like chickens of diseases that are curable. Maternal mortality this side of the world remains one of the highest, child mortality numbers are disgraceful. The minister to manage this space must get it straight right away; something has to shift. We cannot run the system the same way. We burn time and billions of dollars on medical tourism to India. A governor built a world-class hospital in his state and commissioned same in May of 2015, by August of 2015 he was flown abroad to get treatment after an accident. Suddenly, the world-class hospital in Akwa Ibom had become farther than that in the UK. These expensive jokes must stop!
We are a country of 160 million people! We have no business finishing outside the top 10 of the Olympics medal table, we have no business not finishing first in the All Africa Games every 4 years and we have no business not having competitive teams in at least the sports we currently care about. This country is underserving itself and it is shortchanging its destiny. We’d create millions of jobs via sports development, attract foreign investment and build Africa’s most virile and most competitive sport industry. If only we just try.
There is a lot to touch on but for space; but it is clear enough, we need a shift. Our incoming ministers must know that this is not a tea party. If you are not competent enough for whatever portfolio you are chosen to handle, resign before you take the job. There will be more shame if you take the job and fail. We need to get these things clear now before the conversations start to be about, “why are you people against me?” Rest assured, we will not give any minister time to fail. Nigeria no longer has time to fool around. It is time for this country to deliver on its promises and potentials. We will make sure of that!
© Japheth J Omojuwa