Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, has responded to everyone who still criticizes President Muhammadu Buhari for taking forever to name his cabinet.
Inaugurated president in May of 2015, Buhari only revealed his ministers and their portfoliosin November, as Nigerians railed and wailed against the delay.
Economic pundits partly blame the delay for why Nigeria plunged into a recession as soon as Buhari assumed the reins, with investors waiting for policy direction from the new president before deciding whether to hedge their bets on Nigeria or not.
Speaking on Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsuji's TheSheetTV, Fashola said forming a cabinet is hard work as he found out at as Lagos Governor from 2007 to 2015.
"I think I must have taken about three months before I constituted my team. And it is a very painstaking process, first because of our constitution", Fashola said.
"And even by the time we constituted the team here (in Lagos), one local government came out and said, you didn't pick us and I said, Ok, I’m the Commissioner from your local government, don’t worry. Because the cabinet was full and I said there is no more chair!
"And they would now tell you, o, you didn’t pick from this place, you didn’t pick woman, you didn’t pick youth…there are too many politicians…too many technocrats. Those are all the interests. After they finish that, they will say the Muslims are more than the Christians, the Christians are more than the Muslims. After that, they will say the Pentecostals are more than the Orthodox.
"One day, I got so exasperated that I called my team and said just check for me. They say they are more Muslims in the cabinet. I didn’t set it out that way. But I just looked for good people. When they printed the list for me and I looked, it was a dead heat, divided in the middle. 50:50 Christians and Muslims. In that cabinet. Those are all the interests you have to deal with".
Buhari cut cost of governance, Fashola says
Fashola added that Buhari should rather be praised for cutting the cost of governance when he took over from Goodluck Jonathan .
"Now the president that they are talking about, he made it clear that he would listen to them on the issue of reducing the cost of running government. He collapsed 42 ministries to 24. You don’t do that just by waving a wand!
"You need to know what they are doing, which one you can merge with what and then he ended up with 24. That’s why my own ministry became three with a reduction in number of ministers. There should have been six. Minister of State and substantive Minister. That’s a cost reduction. And you are blaming him for that?!", the minister said.
No need to shuffle a working cabinet
Fashola insisted that those who are criticizing Buhari for not shuffling his cabinet in three years, have no idea what they are talking about.
"Now, let’s do the math. 42 days and each day, the president was taking one ministry to brief him. 42 days is one month and almost half a month. During that period, he travelled. He was doing Boko Haram, doing this, doing that, breaking down the ministries. Do you think you just get there and mix it up?
"Then you are talking about longevity of ministers and commissioners. One of the reasons why I think we sit here today is longevity. The rules in government are different from your everyday rules. You first have to learn.
"If they (the ministers) haven’t been changed, the person who appointed them is satisfied with the work they are doing for him.
"I want young people who watch sports, especially those who watch football, to see government teams the way they see football teams. You spend all your money to buy the best players in the world and in the first or second season, they don’t win the league, because they haven’t acclimatized, they have left their countries, they have to eat a different food, they have to play at a different speed.
"Ministers are no different. Many of them are just getting to Abuja for the first time. They don’t have homes, they need to settle. Some of them have never worked in government. They are human beings just like sportsmen!! Which entertainer gets on the stage and that night, he makes the platinum sale. In one night?
"The reason why some of us were able to settle down quicker was because we’ve been in government. It’s not the same structure. It looks the same—state and federal—but some things are different.
"This rush to change and change, go and survey all the states that changed, what did they deliver?", he said.
Some ministers in Buhari's team have been criticized for not pulling their weights and not knowing what their job descriptions essentially entail.