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Buhari must cut down on the number of ministers; see how

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The constitution demands that each state of the federation must have a member in the Executive Committee. By stipulating this requirement in the name of equity the constitution mandates a dysfunctional Executive Committee (EC) and increases the cost of government. Until the constitution is amended presidents must be creative in complying with the letter of the law while reducing the cost of government and creating a staff that is manageable.

Here are some of the ways PMB could do this.

1. Define five or six core areas he would love to be remembered for. I suggest Agriculture, education, transportation, energy, health, and Finance. Make these areas stronger by incorporating similar ministries into them. Thus economic planning would report into finance. Transportation would absorb aviation and railways. Etc. He would appoint five super ministers with comparable powers as Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had.

2. Some ministries he would care less about would be areas like sports, women affairs, foreign affairs, judiciary, and defense. Etc. the reason for downgrading defense is because Nigeria is as strong as it can be. It will never, not in the near future, be able to fight off any major power and if a super power encroaches, it would invite the other super powers to fight for her.

Defense spending could be better utilized in agriculture or education or health. Downgrading the judiciary would allow corruption czars (EFCC, ICPC, etc.) and the court system to do the corruption fighting. The president should focus on what provides food and credible healthcare and education to the largest number of citizens.

3. This is the trick. Foe each of the core ministries he would appoint a strong man or woman with clear instructions on what he wants done. He should appoint a junior minister for these core ministries. For the second tier ministries he would appoint three of four ministers. This is counter intuitive, but the goal is to put these state representatives where they could do little harm. Not much would be expected of them than to earn a ministerial salary but do nothing.

4. The budget of the core ministries would be built at the expense of the second tier ministries. In the second tier, there would not be anything for the three or four ministers to share.

5. PMB would hold a meeting of the core ministers every week from which the second tier ministers would not attend and hold the extended EC meeting bi-weekly. The only purpose of the bi-weekly meeting is photo-op.

6. The more glamorous offices would be assigned to the second tier ministers so that they can host their visitors in style. The core ministers would be too busy to welcome visitors and conduct their meetings in a general conference room.

7. To keep the junior ministers busy they would be assigned to represent the president in ceremonies such as the burial of Obi of Onitsha, or Oni of Ife. They could tag along on foreign trips.

The reason for this proposal is that these are difficult times and require a focused attention on very few areas. PMB is not a miracle worker but just ordinary John Doe. He has limits in terms of resources and time (mere 4 years).

 If he wants to do all the things he is expected to do: end corruption, 24/hour power supply, best-in-class schools and hospitals, end Boko Haram, build bridges and airports, end hunger, hold the nation together, make elected officials responsive to the electorate, etc., etc., he would end up not accomplishing anything. 

He must do target management. A few things done rather well will be much better than many things done badly.

Good luck to Nigeria and her leaders.

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts


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