Yar’Adua’s cabinet in tatters

One of the reasons for the poor performance of the Federal Government under President Umaru Yar’ Adua showed itself last week Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. Reports had it that as many as eight ministers flouted a standing presidential order that ministers

whose memos were discussed and approved at the weekly meeting should stay back and address the media.

The President left for Brazil last week Tuesday on a two-day official visit. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan presided over the FEC meeting of last week Wednesday.

The media did not, however, indicate whether ministers had always complied with the order until Yar’ Adua travelled out. If that was the case, one would conclude that these ministers do not have much regard for the delegated authority of the Vice President.

It becomes a case of when the top cat is away the rats play. The main issue of interest here is that ministers feel free to disregard instructions of the President. Whenever you see line managers doing this sort of thing, it means the man at the top is not fully in charge.

People will flout directives whenever they feel they can get away with it.

That as many as eight ministers whose memos were treated at the meeting walked away without briefing the waiting corps of reporters was a sign that the directive had been flouted for some time without the President saying or doing anything about it.

There were two curious dimensions to it which should be of particular interest to Nigerians.

Number one was that two prominent members of the so-called Katsina Mafia – the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Abba Sayyadi Ruma (along with his Minister of State, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze); and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Mukhtar (also along with his Minister of State, Mr. Remi Babalola), shunned the briefing even though their memos were entertained at the Council. The Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsideen Usman, also walked away, though he was involved.

Among the others who also did not comply were Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette; his Minister of State, Elder Godswill Orubebe and Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio.

Ruma, Mukhtar and Usman are said to be among the members of Yar’Adua’s inner circle. Ruma is reported to be eyeing the Katsina Government House in 2011 and sticks closely to the President like white on rice as an expression of his loyalty to the President.

But no sooner did the President depart to Brazil than Ruma ignored his directive.

Yar’ Adua has made several efforts to get his ministers to let the public know what his generally perceived non-performing government is doing. Three months ago, he gave a directive for ministers to open up to the media.

Only a couple of ministers tepidly complied. But everyone has gone back behind their iron curtains since then. The media are ready but the ministers are not available.

The second worrying aspect of the ministerial drama last week was what happened between the Minister of Information and Communication, Mrs. Dora Akunyili and her colleague, Alhaji Bilbis Inkra, the Minister of State.

Inkra reportedly abandoned Akunyili when she started her weekly briefing.

Due to scanty information at her disposal, the reports said she was hard put to provide adequate information about funding of projects outside her ministry.

You would know by now that Akunyili incurred Inkra’s cold shoulder when she engaged him in a needless power struggle because she sees Inkra as her junior colleague, which he is not.

There is a lot of petty jealousy and power struggle going on. As a result, many programmes that should be on-stream are hanging.

I wonder what these ministers have to hide. Why are they withholding information even when on two occasions the President has ordered them to tell the public what the government is doing? Is the President really in control? Does he know what is really going on inside his government? Is he really able to lead?

If so, why are the sheep under his keep wandering in all directions?

By Ocherome Nnanna