Let me do some mild comparisons:
1. Timipre Sylva — Rick Perry (Energy Secretary, USA)
2. Rotimi Amaechi/Gbemisola Saraki — Elaine Chao (Transportation Secretary, USA)
3. Rauf Aregbesola — Raya Al-Hassan (Interior Minister, Lebanon)
4. Adamu Adamu — Li Sigrid Andersson (Education Minister, Finland)
5. Audu Ogbeh/Sabo Nanono — Qu Dongyu (China Agriculture Minister)
6. Chris Ngige — Alex Acosta (Secretary of Labour, USA)
7. Isa Pantani — Ajit Pai (Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, USA)
With the names mentioned, can you trust the Nigerian appointed Ministers to be proactive on germane issues like:
1. Timipre Sylva looking forward to reducing costs and balancing the sheets at NNPC, optimizing the petroleum industry industrial base assets, improving the industry’s environmental footprints, and achieving full local refining of petroleum products.
2. Rotimi Amaechi and Gbemisola Saraki looking forward to opening up new routes nationwide, introducing high-speed trains into the polity, investing in water transport, interfacing with transport unions professionally.
3. Rauf Aregbesola adding instituting professionalism into the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Prisons Service, and taking a step back from Abdulrahman Dambazzau who was only adept at announcing public holidays.
4. Adamu Adamu looking forward to closing the technical skills gap as Education Minister, work on halving the 13.2 million out of school under the age of 14, improving pedagogies, investing in EdTech to mention but a few.
5. Sabo Nanono looking forward to guaranteeing food security just like Qu Dongyu is doing in the world’s most populous nation, China. Providing seeds and fertilizers for farmers, investing in mechanized farming, and working on improving the agricultural value chain from the farm to the market.
6. Chris Ngige working at instituting professionalism in the Nigerian labour system making a case for issues like employment background checks, family and medical leave, minimum wage, overtime, and misclassification, unsafe workplace complaints, and conditions, workers’ compensation, wrongful discharge/termination of employment, interfacing with labour unions professionally.
7. Isa Pantani working at bridging the technology divide, together with the private sector investing and democratizing broadband to the nook and cranny of the country, building a federated identity system for the country in partnership with NITDA and the NIMC, making a case for issues like Net Neutrality and Internet Governance. Being forward-looking in partnership with the private sector to underwrite innovations around technology phenomenon such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cybersecurity, Machine Learning. In partnership with the agencies build a robust cybersecurity infrastructure to mention but a few.
Take a vantage look at what I have under-listed. It isn’t overly ambitious. Many nation-states have achieved these and have gone on to doyens in these fields. Can we bring in big thinking into government and the public sector for once and quit the rigmarole and tribal slurs plugged into the very innards of its operation? Ideally, I believe in the famous quote by Deng Xiaoping saying, “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat, if it’s a communist cat or a capitalist cat, as long as it catches a mouse, I’m fine.”
Small thinking and tribalism in government/public sector as evidenced in the Nigerian situation should make us take a cursory look at the dark side of traditions. Their impacts on the citizens’ welfare and the indices used to measure progress is in similitude to the effects of a contagious disease. They influence the assumptions of individuals and obliterate every fact historical and otherwise that will get in the way. Most of this is carried out at a visceral level of human consciousness that resists detection and understanding.
Fortunately, we are not in a helpless situation. All over the world, leaders in government and the private sector are trying out newer models because they know the old order isn’t going to sustain the future. Fabrizio Freda, the President & CEO of Estée Lauder, have laid out plans for his top 250 executives to think outside of the box. He has proposed and implemented that his top executives should have reverse mentors. Each of them now has a 26-year-old or less mentoring them and every day, they get new insights and challenges moving into the new age.
In the public sector, the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum employs this same strategy to aid the culture of entrenched innovation. Just like a Management Consultant will, he asks himself germane questions like: “How are five of the most important decisions that were made in the last ten years made? What were the two decisions that should have been made that weren’t made? I’ve learned not to pedestrianise the power of an individual — the singular visionary who lays the big ideas on the table and sets the vision like Deng Xiaoping did in Shenzhen in 1980 and George Soros did when he broke the Bank of England in 1992.
My optimism today about Nigeria is a rather cautious one. Living in a volatile world and having to deal with institutions that aren’t fit for purpose is an abysmal combination. The opportunities are there, like making more Nigerian participate in the global economy through digitisation. The average washing machine today has more computing power than all the machines that powered NASA to the moon in 1969. This is another chance for the Class of 2023 Ministers to assert themselves and do their best work. This could be the renaissance we so desire if they decide to focus on the right things.
We can make the past useful — only if we will.