The Pulse editorial floor is often a study in energy, positive vibes and plenty of buzz.
The banter is endless, the friendly jabs are a thing and the decibel levels aren’t for the faint-hearted.
But when we sat down to review the performances of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers, you could hear a pin drop in the room. The atmosphere was one of dejection, disappointment and regret.
“To think that we took six months to find these guys”, one editor said with a vigorous shake of the head, his bottle of Coca Cola almost slipping off his grasp.
“I can’t do this”, said another, before returning to his seat a dejected fellow and ready to ‘do this’.
Because it was a job that had to be done.
As the sun made its way to the west around the Lekki peninsula on a busy Friday in Lagos, a pall descended on the Pulse editorial floor.
Over soda drinks, cookies and fruits, our crop of seasoned writers and eggheads, rated Buhari’s ministers on a scale of 1-10.
It was an interesting session…
PS: We had to leave out the junior ministers (read ministers of state) not because they don’t matter in the larger scheme of things, but because they follow the policy directions of the senior ministers. Which is why you are not likely to see a Kachikwu pop up anywhere below:
1. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Abubakar Malami
Like the rest of the Buhari cabinet, Malami has looked out of sorts and in limbo.
When he’s not colluding with the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to bungle anti-corruption cases, he’s publicly contradicting the acting president on the very sensitive subject of presidential nomination for appointment.
The much vaunted judicial reforms won’t happen without the justice ministry, but Malami appears disinterested by it all.
Yet to lead the government prosecution team to score a high profile conviction.
2. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama
When he publicly fell out with Senior Special Assistant on Foreign, Diaspora Affairs to the president, Abike Dabiri-Erewa in March, over a U.S travel advisory, it became clear that Nigeria’s foreign policy under Onyeama is directionless and visionless.
Nigeria has struck deals with China that no one can quantify or put a finger to.
In the sub-region, Cameroonian gendarmes have been putting Nigerians in the Bakassi peninsula, to the sword.
Nigeria’s foreign policy since 2015 has been a shambles and the buck stops on Onyeama’s desk.
3. Minister of Defence, Muhammad Mansur Dan Ali
One of the bright spots in a cabinet that has looked increasingly gloomy as the months have worn on.
Perhaps, thanks to the support of a president with military disposition and background, Ali has fashioned out a blueprint to combat terrorist sect Boko Haram, as much as he possibly can.
A retired Brigadier General, Ali took to the Boko Haram war like a duck would to water.
With NSA (National Security Adviser) Babagana Monguno working with him in the situation room, Ali’s nuanced approach to waging the war against the insurgents has thrown up pockets of success.
However, Boko Haram hasn’t been completely annihilated and soft target attacks from the terrorists have only intensified.
4. Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun
You’ve got to hand it to ‘Aunt Kemi’.
She’s matched a crisp British accent with a pragmatism that has kept the Nigerian economy from what seemed an inevitable collapse.
Adeosun’s gospel of plugging leakages and cutting waste in government, has caught on like wildfire across the States and in the civil service.
And unlike the cast around her, she’s proven a steady pair of hands and a clear head in a perverse system.
Adeosun may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the manner in which she took up the challenge of overseeing a ministry that demands guts and guile, has been reassuring to watch.
Worth the ‘gele’ she dons these days.
5. Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu
Adamu is proof that journalists and newspaper men do not necessarily make decent administrators.
The education sector in Nigeria hasn’t left its pre-2015 state.
Adamu has been as anonymous as they come and has articulated nothing near a coherent policy for the education sector.
6. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah
Like Adeosun, Enelamah has won hearts and minds with the ‘Buy Naija to grow the naira’ and ‘we have to produce what we consume’ campaigns.
His energy while traversing the States, has been infectious.
If Nigeria eventually makes it out of recession like recent numbers suggest, it’s got to be because Enelamah has been saying and doing the right things with plenty of support from the economic management team headed by acting president Yemi Osinbajo.
7. Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige
Looking for Ngige in the Buhari cabinet has been akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.
We had almost forgotten what he looks like when we commenced this review, until someone reminded the team that he once governed Anambra State admirably.
These days, when Ngige says Nigerian workers deserve a better minimum wage than the measly N18,000, you immediately know he’s never come up with a blueprint to effect same or never quite thought it through.
8. Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma
The first budget document he oversaw, was a monumental disaster.
However, the 2017 appropriation bill saw Udoma master the fine art of dealing with sleazy lawmakers.
He’s learned on the job where others have been swallowed by a negative, ravenous bureaucracy.
Udoma was a speaker at the Kano investment summit two months ago and you could tell he’s a better man than he was in 2016.
9. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola
To review Fashola’s mid-term performance, you only need to look at the envelope of darkness in the land and listen to the guttural sounds of generators all day long in Nigeria.
Fashola took up this job with everyone rooting for him and banking on him to replicate the Lagos success story across the federation.
What was better, he was the president’s blue-eyed boy.
Two years on, the former Lagos Governor has offered excuses and more excuses.
When he’s not lecturing from the bully pulpit of a minister, he’s picking fights with lawmakers.
The Fashola tripartite ministry was always going to swallow anyone who didn’t possess balls of steel.
Yes, there’s a power roadmap from Fashola’s ministry but until it translates to additional megawatts on the grid, it remains just that–a roadmap.
It’s not any better in works and housing where years of zero maintenance of roads across Nigeria, is on the verge of crippling the economy; and where a 17 million housing deficit has barely been addressed.
Fashola has his hands full and he probably will deliver someday, but at this rate, it’s wiser not to hedge a bet on that happening any time soon.
10. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh
Agriculture minister Ogbeh, once proposed importing grass as a way out of the incessant pastoralist/farmer clashes.
It was a pointer to the depths the Buhari administration has sunk.
Ogbeh has since recovered from his early missteps, though. Nigeria has announced that it will begin exporting yam and the nation is steadily inching towards sufficiency in rice.
Ogbeh has been there and done that. If he keeps his eyes on the ball, he may well turn out the captain to steer the Nigerian ship back into Agriculture terrain.
11. Minister of Health, Isaac Folorunso Adewole
The hospitals haven’t stopped decaying, primary health care centers remain at pre-independence levels, there’s no health insurance plan for millions of Nigerians, infant and maternal mortality rates are still up there and Adewole appears overwhelmed by it all.
Yes, we fought meningitis and polio but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
And it’s a testament to the state of health care under Adewole, that president Buhari is tending to his health in London.
A complete fail.
12. Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani Uguru
Invisible Usani, our editors called him.
It’s Emmanuel Kachikwu who’s been carrying out the role of peacemaker in a restive Niger Delta region, instead.
Usani has only got a handful of TV appearances to show for his time in office.
He deserves our prayers.
13. Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi
Like Fashola, Fayemi over-promises and under-delivers.
Like Fashola, Fayemi has fancy plans on paper.
The thing is, no one’s got time for excel sheets and slides at this point.
The solid minerals sector will take some time to emerge from the depths from which it has been plunged by successive administrations, but we’ve seen no signs of a revival under Fayemi.
The minister has been quiet as well.
No one’s feeling Fayemi and Fayemi is feeling no one.
14. Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu
We should have known Shittu was going to flounder on the job during his audition on the floor of the senate in October of 2015.
Apart from not knowing what it means for telcos to increase data offerings in a biting recession; and getting shoved this way and that by a powerful telco, beard-gang Mr. Shittu has brought nothing to the table.
If this cabinet is ever tinkered with, Shittu has done a good job of positioning himself as a candidate for the exit door.
15. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed
Mohammed says the darndest things, basically.
It’s the fact that he says them with a straight face, that should worry.
From talking up masquerades as sources of national income, to redefining what defeating Boko Haram means; from putting hollow spins on every presidency misstep to wondering why Big Brother Naija should be shot in South Africa; from threatening to ban production of music videos abroad…
Lai is the gift that keeps on giving.
For an administration that has suffered from dysfunctional communication, Lai Mohammed has been the cherry on a soggy cake.
16. Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung
When we asked our Sports Editor to review Dalung’s performance, his response arrived as a dirge and sarcastic laughter.
“What can I say Dalung has done right?” he asked the room rhetorically.
We couldn’t help, either.
Dalung didn’t expect the Super Falcons to win a tournament, didn’t understand why the Olympic Eagles had to train out of town, he told us the ‘funds SPENDED were properly ‘SPENDED’ and under Dalung, the Abuja stadium is rotting like the Lagos one before it.
Everywhere you turn, sportsmen and sportswomen are complaining about a dearth of facilities and poor welfare.
Here’s the lesson from Dalung–khaki attire and red berets are no recipe for success in sports administration.
17. Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu
Onu has talked up Nigeria’s capacity to produce pencils in an internet age.
We’ll pass, to save ink.
Like, we can’t coman die.
18. Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan
Something tells us that ‘Mama Taraba’ is just biding her time in Abuja, while awaiting another opportunity to make a governorship run.
She isn’t interested in this job. Probably never will.
19. Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi
This former Rivers Governor has spent all of two years telling us how he hates money, while picking up fights with his successor in the oil rich State.
There’s a lot of work to be done in the transport sector and Amaechi has got it all cut out for him.
Whether he likes money or hates kilishi, is really no one’s business right now.
20. Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau
Since an orderly stooped to clean Dambazau’s shoes at a function, the minister hasn’t made the news for anything noteworthy.
Not how to deal with the nation’s porous borders, tackle internal insecurity, deal with marauding herdsmen or give the nation’s prisons a facelift.
We are scoring Dambazau for at least having his shoes cleaned without interfering.
21. FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello
As Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Bello is only visible when Buhari is leaving the country.
Some folks have called him the umbrella minister, but we’ll resist the urge to describe him in those pejorative terms.
Under Bello, Abuja’s street lights have stopped working, development of satellite towns have been abandoned, there’s robbery in broad daylight on the streets and refuse heaps are beginning to emerge. Even more worrisome, the city’s masterplan is being abandoned and trampled upon.
Government insiders say Bello runs Abuja like a ministry–stacking up files instead of dealing with issues headlong.
We’ll be rating him for always showing up at the Abuja airport to receive or see off dignitaries.
22. Petroleum Minister, Muhammadu Buhari