Former presidential aide, Laolu Akande, has lauded the recent inauguration of the cabinet by President Bola Tinubu, saying the ministers can deliver while raising concerns on the need to avoid duplication of roles in ministries.
For this reason, he called on the president to clarify where “innovation” as a portfolio would be based and to further make public articulation of social welfare which has now been added to the health ministry.
Akande, who is the spokesperson to immediate past Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, made his views known while responding to questions, as he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, August 25, 2023.
According to him, there has to be clarity in the area of who takes charge of the “innovation” portfolio which has been duplicated between two ministries.
He said, “An important thing we may have to look at is, if you look at the list of the ministries, there are two important questions the Federal Government has to answer, I think the President has to answer this: number one, where is innovation? We have the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and we also have the Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, which has to be sorted out.
“Are we going to have a situation where you have innovation here and you have innovation there? Probably this has been sorted out by the two ministers because reason, why this is important is because in the previous administration even when you didn’t have innovation under the Science and Technology Ministry, the people in the Science and Technology just assumed that the innovation was under their purview and the people in Communication and Digital Economy also made such assumption.
“So you find out that there were meetings where both of them were contending tough battles so I think it is important for the president to clarify where is innovation?”
“Secondly, people have even noticed that the President now has two coordinating ministers: (Minister of Finance) and Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Social Welfare. So what is social welfare? Is social welfare what we used to have under Social Development which was in humanitarian affairs but no longer there?
“So, that has been changed from Humanitarian Affairs, Social Welfare and Disaster Management to Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, but social welfare is now taken to health. Now, is social welfare the same thing as social development?
“I understand what the president is trying to do by bringing social welfare in line with health is, while he is trying to advance the microeconomic issue in the economy maybe 4-5% GDP figure in a positive trajectory, he also wants to keep an eye how that impacts the people in real-time, as why he brought the idea of social welfare which is a very commendable thing but it is important for us to clarify is that socio-welfare the same thing as social development?”
When also asked about the likelihood of conflicts of interest and possible tension among ministers in the course of carrying out their duties, especially the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, a former commissioner, who has to supervise other ministries with former governors as ministers, Akande said, “What we must understand is that the Federal Executive Council is the President’s cult; it is what the president wants in terms of the setting and arrangement that would prevail.”
“These ministers are appointed at the pleasure and they serve the pleasure of the president. He can hire and fire at any time, that is the reason you can see he made some changes, which are completely within his purview by law. He is the one that sets the KPIs, he is the one decides by law what should be done,” Akande said.
Referring to Lagos State, Akande noted, “I understand that in Lagos State, you have a situation where commissioners and special advisers are members of the executive council, but in the Federal Government, from my experience and what we have known, the members of the Federal Executive Council are only cabinet-rank ministers but nothing stops the president, for instance, from saying that I want even special advisers to sit in council.
“There are two that are always sitting there anyway. The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the National Security Adviser are always sitting in FEC meetings, but the president can even add more.
“My point is that we have a coordinating minister of the economy, Mr Wale Edun, a former commissioner, who is going to supervise other ministries that have to do with the economy, including one that is managed by a former governor. Guess what? That is what the president wants, so it is the president’s call, and the president has taken all of these.
“I imagine, and put into consideration when he picks people, and I think he is more concerned about getting the job done and using the people he understands to have the overall competence in that area.”
Also against a recent controversy over her appointment, Akande expressed his support for the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa, stating that she is a “very bright and innovative person” capable of bringing innovative ideas that will take the ministry to greater heights.
His comments came on the heels of accusations from the Human Rights writer’s Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), faulting the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Musawa, for undertaking the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme while she is still a member of President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet.
But Akande said she is a “very bright and innovative person” capable of bringing new ideas that will take the ministry to greater heights.
“If we are able to overlook some of these issues, she is clearly a very bright and innovative person… there are clearly a lot of expectations that somebody like her might bring, new thinking to the government. She comes with quite a formidable profile for the job, and I think that is something good to know,” Akande said.
Recalled in a statement on Thursday, the group, HURIWA, had alleged that years ago, Musawa abandoned her NYSC programme in Ebonyi State but later appeared recently to complete it and she was posted to a law firm in Abuja before she was appointed minister.
In its statement, HURIWA “wondered why the correct status of Musawa wasn’t made known to the members of the public before the senate sensationally failed to screen her as it should,” while urging the NYSC to compel Musawa to focus on either her national youth service or the ministerial appointment.