A founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, talks about President Muhammadu Buhari’s incoming cabinet in an interview with LEKE BAIYEWU
What is your expectation from the new federal cabinet President Muhammadu Buhari is about to inaugurate?
Let me tell you the truth: I don’t know the distribution of the portfolios, so I will not be able to assess the capability of the ministers to perform. Let us wait for the President. But my expectation is not from the cabinet, it is from the whole government. From 2015 when Buhari was elected to date, the solution I expected to happen to our problems – lack of power, unemployment, poverty, insecurity; they are even more, they are worse than they were in 2015.
Buhari came into power without preparation. With a four-and-a-half-year experience, I hope he will get his priorities right and we will see a different situation by the time he completes his second term. I don’t know if he is prepared for that. I don’t want people to think that I am biased but I am not that optimistic.
Does it mean you have no expectations from those who will work with the President as a government, considering the personalities of those he has assembled?
The trouble is this: it is not the personalities, it is the power; whether he will allow them to do what they have to do. For instance, everybody knows in Nigeria that when Buhari was sick and the Vice-President was running this country for a limited period of time, we saw improvements and changes that we could count. So, it depends on the latitude the President gives his ministers. If you are given the latitude to do whatever that you think is right in the ministry assigned to you, and if you have the capacity and capability, you will be able to make a big change. Where you are restricted and you cannot do anything until you clear with the President, and the President will take a long time before he attends to it, nothing will change. We have seen the mega ministries (of Power, Works and Housing) of Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi (Transport). What can you say both Fashola and Amaechi achieved in the last four and a half years? Fashola handled Power; power came down instead of going up.
Then, were you surprised that several former ministers were nominated again for the coming cabinet?
I granted an interview recently in which I said the number of ministers the President has returned has not given me much hope that things will be done differently this time round. But let us hope that things will get better. My prayer is that we should get it better.
What is your advice to the President on the assignment of portfolios to the ministers-designate?
There are two things that are equally essential: first is their capability and capacity, and the second is the allowance and latitude the President will give everyone of them to do their job. For instance, in America and England, once you are appointed a minister, you are completely in charge. You only go to the President where the constitution requirements force you or make it compulsory or mandatory for you to seek his clearance. Otherwise, you are free to decide on how to run your ministry. It is not the case in Nigeria. My trouble now is that Nigerians now look at public office as an avenue to make money. I don’t know which of the ministers-designate who is prepared to go there and work or go there and make money. That is the problem.
Should performance targets be set for the incoming ministers?
It all depends on the latitude. If you are not given the latitude, you cannot do anything until you clear with the President. Our experience is that ministers line up in the office of the Chief of Staff (Abba Kyari) even to see him (the Chief of Staff), not to talk of seeing the President. If we continue with this, I don’t expect any miracle to happen. -PUNCH