Why Tinubu should appoint people and assign them responsibilities based on their core competencies

One of the age-long fundamental problems impacting effective service delivery and beneficial governance in public service in the country is the issue of putting square pegs in round holes. 

It’s a problem that has traversed different political dispensations and even during military administration, which was a complete aberration that stymied the growth and development of the country for years.  

In most cases, thrusting people with mismatched skills into critical leadership and governance positions are driven by ethno-religious considerations and other mundane factors, such as prioritising loyalty over competence and valuing brotherhood and friendship more than capacity. 

The combination of all of these mundane considerations in the country’s leadership recruitment process has contributed in no small measures to retard the wheel of governance, whose by-product is the perennial inertia witnessed in almost every stratum of the country’s public service, be it at the state or federal level.  

For Nigeria to make measurable progress, there must be deliberate efforts to engage people with the requisite skills and competencies to man the various leadership positions in the public service, just as it happens in the private sector, where only those who have the skills and job aptitude are employed to drive and actualise the company’s organisational goals. 

Time was when the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was arguably the star agency during the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed the late Dora Akunyili, a professor of pharmacy to head the agency. NAFDAC, under Professor Akunyili, was vibrant and proactive in the discharge of its mandate responsibilities, which include ensuring food safety, and fighting drug counterfeiting, among other core functions. 

Of course, there was no debate as to why Akunyili was able to achieve those remarkable feats during her tenure as the head honcho of NAFDAC. It was simply because she had the requisite skills, technical know-how and the will to make the agency live up to its responsibilities to the Nigerian people. 

For a while now, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has been virtually in the news for good reasons, as the agency is trying to rid the country of illicit drugs and drug couriers with almost ruthless efficiency. The appointment of Buba Marwa, a retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army,  by ex-President Muhammadu Buhari to head the agency marked a unique turning point in the life of the agency. 

Similarly, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), under the erstwhile leadership of Dr Yemi Kale as its Director General, became the darling of data analysts, researchers, and policy formulators, among others, because of the vast impacts the DG made during his tenure in hugely transforming the bureau through various progress-laden initiatives and innovations. Dr Kale was able to make the massive transformation because he was in a place where his skills, intellect and degrees aligned with the core objectives of the bureau. His was a case of a round peg in a round hole. 

In the last four years or thereabouts, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has become a reference point for what sound and capable leadership could trigger in the life of an organisation, especially in the public sector where officeholders run government operations with a lackadaisical attitude, which often results in poor performance and ineffectiveness. 

The appointment of Engineer Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad by former President Muhammadu Buhari as the chief executive officer and managing director of the agency in December 2019 made a substantial positive difference in the agency and has continued to do so because the renewable energy expert has the needed expertise and know-how to help the agency to meet the objectives for its establishment. 

Like Dr Kale’s headship of the NBS then, Engineer Ahmad’s leadership of REA at this critical time when rural Nigeria and other hard-to-reach communities need electricity is a fitting appointment in the sense that the CEO and MD is conversant with the workings of the agency, which has helped in a great deal to help the agency to deliver on its mandate. 

Founded in 2005 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the agency, whose maiden purpose is to help deliver electricity to the rural parts of Nigeria not connected to the national grid via alternative energy sources, was largely redundant and practically non-existent until Engineer Ahmad, a well-trained engineer and policy wonk, took over the organisation’s reins of leadership in 2019. 

Since his appointment till now, the agency has been living up to expectations, meeting its responsibilities. Such was the significant impact the agency made in discharging its statutory responsibilities that the immediate past minister of state for power, Gody Jedy Agba, had to declare it the star agency in the ministry during his tenure in office. 

Perhaps had ex-President Buhari not appointed Engineer Ahmad, 39, in 2019, REA might still be in limbo now, thereby depriving those currently benefiting from the contributions of the agency from doing so. 

One’s persuaded to submit that the example of Engineer Ahmad’s headship of REA and the aforementioned trio of Akunyili, Marwa and Kale underscores the necessity by those in political authorities to always appoint people into positions that align with their expertise and knowledge base; otherwise, performance may be hampered, which will ultimately affect the overall productivity and efficiency of the organisation.

Given the stated desire of the administration of President Bola Tinubu to fix the country and get it working again, it is imperative to direct the mind of the President, who is reputed for appointing competent people, to not only appoint those who demonstrate capacity, their given responsibilities and roles must match their expertise and skill sets.

Brendan Adigwu, a good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt.