April 13, 2024

Tinubu Should Review Many More Appointments

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Tonnie Iredia

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By Tonnie Iredia

Due to public outrage, president Bola Ahmed Tinubu immediately withdrew his nomination of Engineer Imam Ibrahim Kashim Imam, as chairman of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency FERMA.

The loudest criticism of the appointment was that the appointee lacked adequate experience to give appropriate direction to the board of a federal agency.

Ordinarily, with the Not Too Young to Run Act of 2018 which prioritises youth participation in governance, the appointment of young Engr. Imam should have been embraced by all, but the issue of suitability raised a question mark for the appointment.

Considering that Imam has not had sufficient exposure to board room politics and general administration, his appointment is obviously deficient – an issue that would not have arisen if he was just a board member of the same agency.

It therefore makes sense that president Tinubu withdrew the appointment in line with public opinion.

But then, the controversy should not be held against the appointee who in this case is an outstanding young Nigerian that deserves to be given a place to maximize his potentials. Engr.

Imam is a first class graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Brighton University, from where he also earned an MSc with honours. He therefore deserves another appointment where Nigeria can benefit from his brilliance.

However, his appointment illuminates some hidden issues in public placements in Nigeria which if not checked will leave our nation with stunted growth.

Until his nomination for FERMA’s chairmanship, young Imam had reportedly only served briefly as Special Assistant to David Umahi, Nigeria’s Minister of Works who by law is expected to supervise the same FERMA.

Should Nigeria allow a person who is appointed a minister to elevate his special assistant to become the chairman or chief executive of an agency that such a minister is also mandated to supervise?

Of course, if that is allowed to stand, how FERMA would be run can best be imagined.

Yet, the contrivance occurs often in Nigeria because top office holders cherish the opportunity to run certain agencies as personal concerns.

This is why it has become necessary to call for the establishment of a dedicated clearing house to intensely and discretely examine the likely impact of public appointments before they take effect.

As of today, it is an open secret that many appointees do not meet the requirements for appointment into positions that they hold.

The worst pain of the trend can be located in our senate that specializes in the blind clearance of nominees whose eventual deployments are known only to the nominating authority.

Under the circumstance, how does the guess-work approach of the senate help the nation to identify who can best do a job?

Interestingly, the senate routinely tells many nominees to ‘bow and go’ without questioning or without rational answers to some feeble questions.    

There are other cases where strong characters that would have been celebrated in certain areas are poorly deployed to positions that elicit criticisms in other areas.

Here, I will focus more on the public media – my area of cognate experience.

For longer than 7 years, Osita Okechukwu, a brilliant Nigerian politician and perhaps the strongest voice in the defense of government and the ruling party was appointed Director General of the Voice of Nigeria VON.

All through his tenure, Osita who left office only a week ago was most visible in political party rallies making vibrant and coherent statements concerning politics which have minimum bearing with external broadcasting – the main mandate of VON.

Indeed, some young Nigerians may have since been misled into believing that VON is an organ for political communication because of the disposition of its chief executive.

Osita would have earned all the available marks for excellence in service for both government and his ruling party, if he had been made a minister or the president’s political adviser.

The case of the National Orientation Agency NOA probably better reflects Nigeria’s dilemma of poor deployments.

For the greater part of the current democratic experience, politicians did not appear to appreciate the rationale for setting up the Agency; instead, they often behaved as if it was a platform to compensate persons who actively contributed to the victory of the ruling party during elections.

Hence, each time, the chief executive of NOA was to be appointed, the ruling party merely looked back into its media campaign team to pick the appointee.

In truth however, the National Orientation Agency Act which set up the agency specifically disallows a partisan chief executive.

In the words of section 6 of the Act, the Director-General of NOA is expected to be “an experienced and tested administrator, non-partisan and with a wide knowledge of Nigeria, her people and culture, to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister.”

This writer who served as the pioneer secretary of the agency in 1993 has drawn attention severally but in vain to the incapacitating factor of appointing a politician as NOA’s DG.

The main mandate of NOA is to lead the nation’s value re-orientation framework.

The rationale was that every vice or misconduct in our nation, be it electoral violence, poor sanitation or pervasive public indiscipline can best be redressed through massive public enlightenment on attitudinal change.

Apart from poor funding which is not restricted to NOA, a major problem which frequently confronts the agency is lack of public acceptance.

Whether it is through jingles and posters or through public rallies where such vices are highlighted for change, all opposition parties and their supporters shun NOA as an organ of their opponent set up to work for the ruling party since their chief executive is always a known politician.

In many countries, broadcasting is regarded as a tool too powerful to be allowed to function without control. This is what explains the emergence of broadcast regulation.

In Nigeria, the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC is the official broadcast regulator for the country.

The deregulation of broadcasting in Nigeria in 1992, saw an end to government’s monopoly of the industry and the coming on board of individuals as private broadcast owners.

With this, the need for a non-partisan regulator became self-evident. But our ruling political parties – the Peoples democratic party PDP from 1999-2015 and the All Progressive Congress from 2015 till today seek to undermine private broadcast stations.

It is certainly ridiculous to hide under broadcast regulation to stop critical private stations from transmitting content that is not pro-government.

The way out is for the NBC to function as a non-partisan regulator which cannot be attained where a politician is named as Director-General or where a Minister of Information is allowed to teleguide the regulator.

This ought to be at the back of the mind of the president when appointing a DG for the NBC.

In fact, the Legislature ought to amend the National Broadcasting Commission Act to make the NBC an independent regulator as it is in all other progressive societies.  

But each time this unassailable points are canvassed, persons who for the time being, are in office or the government of the day convert the messenger into a political opponent.

Interestingly, until what we are saying is done, Nigeria will continue to operate a tense broadcasting system in which the NBC is used to stifle the private media through illegal fines and threats of license revocation.   

Government should therefore desist from making appointments that exacerbate the tense atmosphere in and around public organizations.

We will for instance, kill the NYSC slowly if we allow persons who evaded service or who are unable to present valid discharge or exemption certificates to be cleared to serve in higher capacities.

Adebayo Shittu who was allowed to do so from 2015-2019 as minister of communication did claim that he was free to partake in any type of national service such as functioning as a state legislator.

In which case, Shittu was mobilized and deployed to do his own type of national service by Oyo state voters and not by the NYSC.

Such type of weird claims by which we undermine certain laws/institutions can only create bad blood.

Government should follow the law at all times; no one should be appointed in contravention of law.

Privileged members of the ruling party can serve on the boards and not the management of Parastatals.

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