NANONO And The Customized Marking Scheme That Sacked Him
by Dr Gani Enahoro
The immediate past Federal Minister of Agriculture Mr. Sabo Nanono, was unceremoniously removed from office along with his counterpart in the Power Ministry, Mr. Saleh Mamman on August 25, 2021 and thereby made a history of sort from a President who gave so much freedom to his appointees even when they appeared like lame duck in public reckoning and despite what the public sees as inglorious activities from them. The President, Muhammadu Buhari had consistently turned a blind eye to public ratings and would not sack people he appointed to office, no matter their blemish. Why did Nanono and Mamman get the special treatment? What seemed like the answer came from the Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina that his principal was fixing weak areas of governance as monitored through independent self-appraisal, hence the need for a minor cabinet reshuffle. In other words, weak or poor performance was therefore the main reason for sacking Nanono. Although not a few believed there were other reasons characteristically concealed by this government and suspected there could be more than met the eyes. They reasoned, when did performance accountability ever mattered to this government? In actual fact the questions to ask are legion, and for me I usually wonder who normally crafts the mandates on which Ministers are supposed to be accessed, and do they have the flexibility for initiatives and brilliance of their own? Now, looking at what the beauty of democracy should ideally give us, what quality of oversight functions, the “checks and balances” in government or integrity checks for those who hold senior political appointments are we getting from the National Assembly as a nation? Whenever the foundation of a structure is weak, whatever appurtenance on top of it would cheaply collapse like a pack of cards.
I remember how Nanono, a Business Admin university graduate was asked by the Senators to “take a bow and go” in 2019 when he appeared before them for the serious business that should have been his screening. That was not a strong enough foundation for his journey in governance. The noise from his acquaintances in the Senate was deafening and suspicious, as if they worried about the quality of answers that he would have offered if thoroughly questioned. There was nothing in his curriculum vitae that gave the hint that he would end up in the Ministry of Agriculture, although no sooner his portfolio was made public, his promoters were quick to loudly affirm that he was a successful farmer in the past and therefore holds the enviable criteria for success at his duty post.
This manner of screening Ministers has always been clumpsy and not peculiar to President Muhammadu Buhari administration, it is truly a sad reminder of the hollowness in presenting minister-designates for Senate screening without their potential portfolios attached.
Can we ever forget about Kemi Adeosun, the finance minister who resigned at the heat of her NYSC Certificate forgery, in this same government that got our votes for the promise of impeccable character and zero tolerance to fraud? It is possible that Nanono and his co-traveller had reasons other than performance that warranted their sack from office, and it could have been negotiated as a soft landing from prosecution. We live in a country that does not punish wrong doers.
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Although, I didn’t have a one-to-one with Nanono as a Minister, the closest was in a group of 20 or so, during the inauguration of the Governing Board of a parastatal which he supervised and he also came to declare open the retreat of the same Board a year later in December 2020. He didn’t particularly look very smart in my assessment and did not have the confidence and charisma to command the deserved respect of a Minister of the Federal Republic in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture. So when the news broke at some point that he expended huge ministry funds to build a worship center for a community, I chuckled and felt he had headed for the hilts, in a worrisome sense of judgment that will not take the nation to Eldorado.
The fact that the Secretary to the Government of the federation organized what the President publicly commended as a successful mid-term performance review retreat for Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and top government functionaries at the State House Conference Centre, on the 11th and 12th October 2021, which was barely two weeks after the sack of Nanono further confirms that performance could not have been the major reason for his sack. Although the statement conveying this presidential appreciation was curiously not from the traditional duo of Femi Adesina or Mallam Garba Shehu, but Willie Bassey as Director of Information, it was never disclaimed.
The self-appraisal of government on the retreat did not match public expectation who thought that the Nanono treatment was going to be served on so many deserving ministers rather than what came out as a pat on their back. So what exactly did Nanono do that provoked the President so much that he could not even tarry a while for two weeks for him and Mamman to be part of the ministerial retreat. Were they graded on a different marking scheme for performance that was not used for their colleagues? Who is advising this government on public sentiments? At least there would have been a positive public relations stunt for the government if it had announced their removal in the communiqué from the retreat as non-performers, and the public would have rested their minds and brush up in hopes for a better tomorrow. Well, Some have opined that it was a mere jamboree meant to divert the attention of the unsuspecting public unnecessarily as if government was indeed working.
Looking at even the ministerial retreat, it calls to question the peculiar style of doing things in our Nigerian ways. The publicity and coverage about it was top pitched but it ended without anything let out of their bags, then why let us know that a retreat was in the offing? Most retreats in highly successful multilateral organizations are held unknown to the public, with frank talks, tough love and target rave reviews with the consequences known to the participants no matter how highly placed, and that is the reason for the enviable productivity seen in the private sector. Nigerians are very believing in their leaders despite the special reservations against todays’ information managers, and this time again they would continue to wait to see if anything will change positively before the tenure end in 2023. If government system works well, the public knows and they need no publicity or any information minister tutoring them on what constitutes fake news and they would loudly applaud. For those who were thinking that we have a commenced a new dawn where leaders would now be held accountable for their activities through retreats in performance assessment reviews, it is like they have a long wait to make. Nanono’s sack is a case study for the academia, and when the announcement came on air after the Wednesday weekly FEC meeting, it was like several organized stakeholders in Agriculture wanted it to have happened much earlier. The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) that we believed was his constituency celebrated his removal so soon for reasons am yet to fathom. Their President Arc. Kabir Ibrahim boldly spoke to the press barely a week afterwards denigrating the tenure of Nanono on September 2, 2021. For me like other veterinarians and Animal Scientists and Husbandry and Health Technologists that operate in the livestock sector, of the Ministry of Agriculture, I did not know how to blame or praise Nanono because no Minister before him also ever truly cared about the high potentials that lay buried in the livestock sector, a scenario that continued with him except that issues around animal agriculture were more in the news for wrong reasons bordering on insecurity, such as cattle rustling, banditry and more farmer/herder clashes, kidnappings and evil stories. The livestock sector may never attain its glorious days as long as it remains lumped up in the Ministry of Agriculture. I think the famed Orosanye report also missed that out in their assignment. They should have looked at countries that have separate ministries for livestock resources away from Agriculture and the successes they consistently record in terms of comparative contributions to their countries GDP. That should have been one creation of an additional Ministry that would have benefitted Nigeria.
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The sectoral allocation to livestock from the nation’s budget for the Ministry of Agriculture bares it all and the reason is not far fetched. A one-time Hon. Minister of Agriculture who today looms large in achievement at the international sphere once told me when I was President of Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association that the gestation period for investments in livestock is too long for him to be politically correct, and that he would rather focus on cassava and other crops that would yield their outcomes repeatedly within the tenure of the government he was serving, and the public would hail him. I was mouth agape and then decided to champion a campaign for the creation of a separate ministry of animal resources, like they have it in some countries in the Sahel Africa, and today many states in the North has profitably benefitted separating livestock management from crops. If we fail to do it today, I bet it would become the cornerstone in future whether it is in our generation or not.
Dr. Gani Enahoro
CEO, Gan-Rovet Animal Hospital, Warri.
Vice President, African Veterinary Association.
Past President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association.
Past Councillor for Africa at World Veterinary Association.
Board Member, Veterinary Council of Nigeria.