Governor Buni’s Cabinet and a Journalist’s Take

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Hassan Gimba

The Arbiter

It has been awhile. The last time I put fingers to the keyboard in relation to The Arbiter (a well earned sobriquet for the Yobe State chief executive) was about a month ago. The spirit was willing but the body wasn’t up to it, as I have been in and out of hospitals while at the same time reorganizing my new office. 

During the period, many things deserving attention have occurred. Many, many things. However, like a speeding car races in opposite direction with rushing trees, some have rushed past. They are now history for those who remember, and blissfully forgotten by majority because we are an amnesic people.

What caught my attention over the weekend was a list of those who made it to the commissionership in Yobe State. There had been one or two write-up in the media regarding the delay in forming cabinets in some states of the federation and Yobe was always mentioned.

There are many things that affect any chief executive’s speed in appointing his cabinet. Out of them, prudence is surely one. A chief executive’s ability to govern, exercise good judgment to circumnavigate dangers and risks as well as apply shrewdness or sagacity in the management of state affairs are dependent on his prudence.

From my objective observation, the list is generally about the best since the creation of the state. The area that is now Yobe State has been blessed with intellectuals right from the days of the North Eastern State and up to the old Borno State. But perhaps many people will be shocked to the marrow to know that apart from medical doctors who generally supervised the ministry of health, Yobe State has never had a Ph.D. and a Professor holder as commissioners in one cabinet.

I am ecstatic because the list we are talking about not only has Ph.D. holders but even a professor. It is not as if only people with higher qualifications can deliver. And it is not because earlier governors were perhaps afraid to sit in council with eggheads. No, not at all. But it is hoped that highly educated individuals can make a whole lot of difference and when you have more of such in a team, it is naturally expected that the team has more chances of delivering the goods. There are some people whose presence can potentiate a team while some others can only inhibit it. It takes a visionary leader to scout for, recognize and pluck the former from wherever they are while avoiding the later like the plague.

Of course, in any such lists there must be one or two that people may say do not fit, but that is one of the interventions of human nature that makes man and his judgment imperfect. The most important thing is for the good to outweigh the not-so-good. And this list has that character.

A commentator described the inclusion of Abdullahi Bego, the longest serving media aide of governors (he has spent about 13 years serving three different governors) as “shocking”. But there should be nothing shocking about it because having spent so many years at Government House, the next logical step is a commissionership, if not secretary to the government.

What should be shocking is how a former senator and two former members of the House of Representatives, who left the Green Chamber this year, made the cut. They had all been multiple-times commissioners and members of the state assembly before going to the National Assembly, and yet they are back as commissioners. Someone pejoratively but aptly likened it to a camel coming to drink up the water meant for birds.

It is also shocking how those whose previous stewardship had been deemed unsatisfactory have found themselves favoured above others or is it a case of the poor student repeating class so as to get it right? Or is it that there is no one else capable from where they come from, or perhaps they do not even have a son or daughter or anybody they have mentored (since apparently it is their slot) to hand over the baton to?

But perhaps in Nigeria, nothing can be shocking when it comes to doling out – and accepting – public office. We are living witnesses to some former governors soliciting for and accepting appointments into offices they would have disdainfully looked at when they held their states by the jugular. The same applies to members of the National Assembly.

In Nigeria, there are those who believe that states, like Yobe, were created for them or that they cannot survive outside public office. Unfortunately all over Nigeria, such individuals might have started pounding the corridors of power when a current chief executive was learning the ropes of politics, and in more cases than one, under their feet.

Governor Mai Mala Buni has a positive policy of “Yobe First”. The driving ideology behind this policy is that anything a Yobean can do or Yobe can produce, then let a Yobean do it or the state produce it. For instance, since his assumption of office, any job that can be executed by indigenes was contracted out to indigenes. He is also resuscitating the state-owned Aluminium Roof Company, so that any contractor doing any type of building in the state would use its products.

This policy will doubtless empower a people long impoverished, a people who have known what capital flight is. And such a policy, if adopted by state governors, especially those of the North East, would no doubt impact more on the lives of the people far better than the cosmetic empowerment programmes of non-governmental organisations.

There is therefore no fear that a man with Governor Buni’s vision for the state would make a mistake when it comes to apportioning portfolios to his commissioners. He will definitely put round pegs in round holes. It is also hoped that his pet project – a project close to his heart – revamping of education, would get a fillip through assigning it a man who would realise his dreams.

However, there is a general misconception that a journalist is only good for the information ministry. This is far away from the truth. In a team such as a cabinet, you may come to the realization that a journalist among them may be more knowledgeable about other sectors than even the commissioner in charge of that sector. You cannot be reporting on everything without knowing something of everything and perchance everything of something, to paraphrase late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s description of the journalist.

A journalist can do wonderfully well in the ministry of education, works, agriculture or any other sector that is not statutorily reserved for a particular profession. After all, it is all about policies, their formulation and implementation. A journalist may know of newer, better and cheaper tools and trends in the health sector than even a medical doctor.

The ministry of education could do well with one of those educationists on the list. However, I’d rather a journalist headed the ministry than have it fall into the hands of the old brigade on whose watch Yobe found itself where it is – the most backward in the country educationally. The man to man this ministry must change this statistic, drastically. And that man cannot be under whose watch Yobe’s backward march, educationally, continued.

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