Monday 16 November 2015

Memo To The New Ministers

New Ministers
by: Babatunde Aribido

Finally, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed the much-awaited ministers who will oversee affairs in the Federal Government ministries for the smooth running of his government. 

One may not be privy to some of the selection criteria of these people but, some of them have a track record and history of being exceptional in their previous roles but, in my opinion (and I stand to be corrected on this) is that, that someone has done well in certain positions before, is not enough to think that he will do well in a new terrain. Yes, the principles of success are the same but, their application and the environment will differ. Also, it’s not so much about experience but, in one’s ability to step back from what one already knows and opens one’s mind to learn new things and be innovative and creative in one’s approach. Hence, the new ministers need to be flexible and willing to adapt quickly to changes in their new portfolios. They should also be innovative and dynamic in their approach.

I would have loved a situation where nominated persons for ministerial positions were taken through a typical job interview process, to be overseen by the President, the Vice-President, the Chairman of the ruling party and an expert in that field that are minister is being nominated for. So, take for instance, if someone is nominated for the position of Minister of Finance, he’ll be given some time to study the ministry, carry out some form of research to understand the problems in that ministry, proffer solutions and give definite timelines for solving the identified problems and the tools he’ll need to address those challenges. He’ll then be invited for an interview that will have experts in that session and evaluate the presentation of the nominated individual. That’s my personal thinking.

But that’s not the case. The new ministers have been screened and appointed and they seem to have their work cut out for them, given the mess that has been left behind by the previous administration. However, there are certain things I’ll like to draw their attention to; some of these things they already know but, some time you can get so familiar with some things that you lose sight of the potential in what can make you innovative and deploy your creative energy to bring about massive breakthroughs there. They need to look with fresh eyes and see from a different perspective on how they can make meaningful impact in their new roles.

First, the new ministers should expect a lot of courtesy visits and congratulatory messages. It’s okay to be visited and congratulated. So, they should expect that secondary school classmates, party members, kinsmen and religious members will gather themselves together to pay visits and some of those visitors will come dressed to the nines in Aso ebi. My suggestion in this regard is simple: Don’t spend productive time entertaining visitors. You’re now in office, get into the trenches, get your hands dirty and get the job done! You have moved from trade to governance. Appreciate their love, care and concern for you but, stay focused on the goals and responsibilities of the new position. You’re not in office to entertain people who have no business being in your office.

Closely tied to the aforementioned are congratulatory messages in the media; beware of it. All sorts of people will want to outdo one another in congratulating you; annoyingly your media aide is likely to be saddled with the onerous task of cutting out all such messages and bring them to your notice. That’s one distraction that must be avoided! Let them channel the money they plan to spend on such congratulatory messages to other profitable ventures, instead of using them as baits to get contracts and favours. Some of them are trying to pour water on the floor, so that they can step on wet grounds, as the Yorubas will say. I pray they don’t slip and end up with fractured ankles.

Also, as you settle down to work in your new ministry, hopefully from today, you’ll get a lot of invitations. You’ll be invited to burial ceremonies, birthday parties, baby christening ceremonies, foundation laying ceremonies and house warming parties. Many of such parties are highly likely to distract and derail one from the primary assignment. If nobody lost his life when you didn’t attend such parties before you became minister, chances are that nobody will even fall ill let alone dying, if you don’t show up at the ceremony. Again, express appreciation for the honour done to you and like Nehemiah said in the Bible, let them know that the task of rebuilding Nigeria and making it great cannot be done effectively if ministers spend productive time honouring invitations to parties. Please, note that you’ll have many enemies when you take such a stand and stand by it. You’ll be criticised and called names. Keep your goal in focus!

In close relation to the above, are the mindless requests for contracts. You’ll get all kinds of proposals from both professionals and quacks. From fashion and style consultants, interior decorators, food, beauty and fitness specialists, shoe designers, car suppliers and many others. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who will swear that they have a calling from God to provide some kind of service to you, and mind you, some will be very close friends and family members, so you must know how to navigate that “landmine”. If you’re not focused and resolute in your decisions, you’ll waste productive time attending to things that will take your mind and time away from why you’re in the office in the first place. You must be careful and very selective of the people you invest your time in.

In addition, be mindful of the fact that you’ll have a lot of critics and “advisers”. Everybody seems to have an idea about how things should be done. Your father’s friend will call you up at odd hours to advise you on why you shouldn’t take certain decisions because it will affect his business. Your auntie in the village will have an opinion on the kind of projects you should embark on and why she’s the only and best person to oversee it. Experts and professionals in your sector will send you tons of proposals; with plenty suggestions and counsel. Bear in mind that you’ll also have critics- some of them are genuinely concerned about you and the ministry; so they’ll always be watching you and call you out when you slip. Other critics are actually angry and jealous, so everything you do will be viewed with that in their minds, so don’t be surprised if they tear you to shreds on the pages of newspapers, blogs and other social media platforms and even beer parlors and “pepper soup” joints. They actually think they know more than you do, they think they’re better than you (that you just lucky), so you don’t deserve the job in the first place and therefore, it’s their sole responsibility to make life miserable for you with their criticisms. Be strong, dear minister, and be of good courage, don’t allow their ranting to distract you.

You have a responsibility to use the platform to make impact and make life better for everyone (note that not everyone will be satisfied and happy with your decisions. Ask Mallam Nasir el-Rufai), so don’t let your media aide get into needless debates with them by writing rejoinders and ripostes. It’s not worth it, most of the time. When they see results, they’ll have no choice than to keep their mouths shut.

Finally and I think, most importantly, don’t use your position to amass wealth and pay back those who have done you evil at some point in time. Here’s what King Solomon said about ill-gotten wealth in Proverbs chapter 13 verse 11: “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished. But, he who gathers by labour will increase”. Please, don’t use your position and power to settle old scores, you’ll leave that office one day and you don’t want to sow a seed whose fruits you’ll eat at the end of your tenure in office. Use your time wisely and make impact. I wish you well!

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