- Power, Works & Housing Minister Reveals A Lot Of Shocking Details
In 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari announced his cabinet many people were shocked when he gave former Lagos Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola 3 portfolios to coordinate.
He made him supervise over 3 key ministries that directly deal with infrastructures across the country.
Fashola was to run the Power, Works and Housing Ministry. Over the years, previous governments had appointed 3 ministers to oversee the affairs of these ministries.
But in the wisdom of Pres Buhari, he collapsed the 3 ministries into one and picked Fashola to oversee the powerful ministry.
Why did Pres Buhari do this? Why did he pick Fashola to head it? What really happened? Last week, Fashola told City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE the story. It is interesting. Below are excerpts.
When you were first made a Minister in 2015 with 3 portfolios there were those who felt that this was huge. They were wondering why BRF would be saddled with the running of 3 key ministries. They felt it would be challenging for you to run. How did you feel at that time when you took up the job?
How I feel is not important, really. For me, its a job. And every job I have had to do, I have simply said look, what does this job entail? And so, if you had followed what happened, my first 3 months were daily briefings from all the perm secretaries, from all the directors, from all the heads of parastatals under my ministry, to get a measure of what they do there. Having gotten that, you will recall that I then presented a roadmap, an address to the press that this is what we were going to do. So, this was just a job.
I think the important thing to say is to commend President Buhari for that decision. I don’t know how he came upon it. But it is one of the smart things that he has done, that we must institutionalise. Certainly, I won’t be there forever. But it is helpful. Before I go into details, let me quickly say that my job as Minister has given me the opportunity to represent Nigeria at many international fora, like in the UN-Habitat fora, in the Lagos-Abidjan Road Committee, in the West Africa Power Pool Committee and so many places. What my interactions with my brother ministers from other countries say to me, clearly, is that this is what is going on in many other parts of Africa. Housing is being merged with Water Resources and Roads in different countries. I remember that my colleague in Zimbabwe runs 3 ministries. In Kenya, 2 ministries were merged together. Across the board, you see them managing 2 or 3 ministries. It has a lot of advantages. It allows for integration, because in any event, if you have a Minister for Housing and you need Electricity you have to go and talk to the Minister for Power. To get the road to your housing project sorted out, you have to go and talk to the Minister for Roads. If all the similar ministries are consolidated, then it is easier. You can see that Pres. Buhari has done a similar thing in Transport. He has merged Rail, Air, Sea, Transport together under former Rivers Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. He has put an expert in Aviation, Hadi Serika (a pilot) as the junior Minister, as the Minister of State for Aviation.
Thinking long term, I would even recommend that Works, Transport, Power and Housing should ultimately become one Ministry of Infrastructure. You can have one person leading it, and then appoint Ministers of State in charge of specialised sections. So, that is how building and integration can be more efficient because those are the indices you need to operate and answer questions like how quickly can you move? How much energy do you have? How much access do you have to housing? These are the ministries that drive economies and the quality of peoples lives. Even as former Rivers Governor, Amaechi is supervising Rail, he still has to interface with my own ministry. Sometimes he needs us to remove a bridge, sometimes he needs us to change a design so that the rail can pass. Those are matters of top priorities in my Ministry. Once the requests come we deal with it very quickly. On the Lagos-to-Kano rail, which goes through Abeokuta and Ibadan everytime they send us a report, that they need us to do this, we are responding as quickly as possible.
Yes. People might say a Minister running 3 portfolios might be a large team to probably have. It depends on how committed you are to achieve results. Let me explain further. One of the things we’ve done in my own ministry is that the people in POWER, the people in WORKS, the people in HOUSING, who before now had been in different ministries didn’t know themselves when they were first merged. What have we done? We’ve all bonded now. Every quarter we go on a retreat. Now, the people in WORKS, now know the people in POWER. The people in HOUSING now know the people in WORKS and that integration has helped. So, every time we go on retreats for us to see each other, for us to interact with each other.
It might interest you to know that when I came in as Minister I found out that even some people in the same Ministry don’t know themselves. Some wanted metres, some wanted Electricity connection, they don’t even know who in the other Ministries can help them, or who to go to that could solve it for them. Now we are overcoming that by quarterly retreats. We are welding into a team. Our next retreat is between the 2nd & the 4th November in Sokoto. We have had one in Kano, one in Akwa Ibom, we have had one in Lagos, one in Abuja. It’s called Team building. Team Building is what ultimately brings efficiency.
Finally, on this matter, let me say to Pres. Buhari’s commendation, that one of the issues of the day when he was elected or before he was elected, was the huge cost of running the government. And so these 3 ministries used to have at least 3 ministers. In some cases, each one had 2 ministers, making 6 and each one had a Perm Sec. Now he has brought that down to 2 perm secs and 3 ministers. That’s a huge cost saving.
So, 3 of us are doing the work that at least 6 of us used to do. 2 perm secs are doing the work that 3 perm secs used to do. And I dare say, we are doing it better than it was done before.