With Tinubu’s renewed hope agenda, a new dawn in governance – Jisalo

The Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Honourable Zephaniah Jisalo, was a two-term chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council, (AMAC) a two-term member, House of Representatives, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, coordinator of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council for the 2023 election. In this interview with CHAMBA SIMEH, the minister dwelt on issues that are germane to the success of the renewed hope government of President Bola Tinubu, especially the newly launched 5-year strategic plan by his ministry and how it would impact the growth and development of the nation’s economy; and many more.

Congratulations on your appointment as the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Thanks a lot.Though it has not been easy but it is really an opportunity for us to contribute our quota to the growth and development of our country and nothing more.

What were your expectations when you were nominated by Mr President as a minister, were you surprised by your appointment?

As you are aware, I was the coordinator of the APC Presidential Campaign Council of the FCT and I can tell you with every sense of responsibility that I never accepted the appointment then with a string attached. I agreed because I knew ab initio that of all those seeking to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as president of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the best. I accepted to serve in that capacity because I wanted the most qualified to lead the country. I never asked to be nominated as a minister after victory was achieved but President Tinubu, being a leader that is known to be the best recruiter of leaders, saw in me the qualities that would contribute to his administration and decided to appoint me as a minister for which I would be eternally grateful.

When you were screened and cleared as a minister by the senate and you were assigned the special duties and intergovernmental affairs portfolio, what was your first impression?

I was filled with joy and gratitude to God and the president for finding me worthy of this appointment. Indeed, you would recall that my people, and by my people, I mean the Gbagi people of the FCT, have for many years clamoured for a ministerial slot. It’s President Tinubu, who broke the jinx, and we shall always be grateful to him. The Ministry for Special Duties I can tell you is a very important ministry in any administration because of the functions assigned to it and fo me as the minister is even very special.

Many are of the view that the Ministry of Special Duties does not perform any meaningful function as it is just a ministry to reward loyalists. Do you agree with this view?

This assertion, I think, is being made out of ignorance because the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs was created, among other things, to authorise payments for all constituency projects executed in the name of the federal government and to evaluate and monitor the implementation of the decisions of the Federal Executive Council and report back to Mr President. Given the mandate of this ministry, as I have explained to you, how would a sane person imagine that this important ministry is just for the purpose of jobs for the boys?

It seems you are already into the business of changing the narratives of your ministry that many seem to say, hitherto, did not live up to expectation?

I have a lot to do because of my zeal to achieve the ministry’s mandate. Mr President, in his wisdom, mandated me to reform the ministry and make it a veritable vehicle for the achievements of government’s policies and projects. We also, as you are aware, have some interventionist agencies under our supervision like the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, the National Lottery Trust Fund and the National Merit Award. I am really here to reform the ministry and its agencies to carry out their responsibilities holistically.

In deciding to carry out reforms to change the narrative of the ministry, you must have discovered some factors militating against the successes of the ministry and its agencies. What are these factors?

You would say categorically because I am not one that lives in denial that the ministry in the past could have done better. What was lacking was a measurable plan built on an overarching vision to achieve the goals for which the ministry was created in the first place. And this had impacted negatively on the performances of the ministry.

Let’s digress a little. What kind of leader do you think President Tinubu is, especially as the situation in the country is today very confusing?

This is a very important question, my friend. Throughout history, no nation has achieved any substantial leap without a vision, strategic thinking by it’s leader and a clear, coherent plan built on evidence and realism. China under Deng Xiaoping, Singapore under Lee Jean Wo, and South Korea under Park Chung Yee are ready examples. I can tell you that this president  (Tinubu) is one that all Nigerians should be proud of and thankful to God for giving us at this point in time. This is because President Tinubu, like those leaders that have transformed their countries through their leadership sagacity, has the vision, strategic thinking and a clear, coherent plan built on evidence and data to lead us to the promised land.

The situation on ground in the country, many say, is already rubbishing these very good leadership attributes of the president. Don’t you think so?

I beg to differ. The situation on in the country today was never created by this president but by the many years of bad choices made by all of us, directly or indirectly. We should be grateful that President Tinubu is not one that wants to shift the blame but taking responsibilities to solving them. We agree that the times are hard for all of us in the country but there are no easy solutions that can solve this problems in a day. This time calls for trust for the present administration, it calls for prayers, it call for the patience of all that are patriotic to make the plans for this country work for the benefit of all. The bitter pills we are swallowing today in this country as approved by this administration like the removal of fuel subsidy and the elimination of the dual exchange rate regime were not intended to inflict hardship on Nigerians but necessary steps to solving the problems in future. We shall prevail.

The body language of Mr President today, according to many, depicts cluelessness and one overwhelmed by the problems. What is opinion?

I am really surprised by the assertions easily flying around by those who should know of where we are coming from. This is a democracy, which is unlike military dictatorship where power is monopolistic. In a democracy, it is required that government takes the form of political action plans and business plans combined. No amount of whimsical, unplanned and hurriedly reactionary plans or even inactions can trump the excellent and well articulated strategic plan being judiciously executed for the country’s benefit by President Tinubu, and you can take that to the bank. We all need to be patient as you cannot judge a government in office for just nine months.

You recently launched the strategic plan document as it regards your ministry. This time around what are the assurances that it will be holistically implemented?

As you are aware, the five-year document is a conscious and deliberate policy to confront the challenges of the moment in our country and I can tell you with every sense of responsibility that this policy would be implemented to the letter. The challenge before me, as I make efforts to see to it that my ministry achieves its mandates and discharger its constitutional responsibilities to the people of Nigeria, is to burst the routine bubble and venture beyond the familiar in policy formulation and implementation. I am, as you are aware, changing the narrative of the ministry through some reforms we are faithfully implementing  So, we will see to it that this document is implemented for the benefit of our country.

President Tinubu has the overarching vision and significant strategy goals. Key performance indicators would show you that we are compelled by the challenges of the moment to make a difference. This administration has gone beyond manifesto thinking to a dispensation of strategic thinking and planning which forms the basis of my confidence that we shall prevail.

We, as an administration, acknowledge that these are not the best of times for Nigerians, but we are working assiduously to make sure that soonest we come out of the woods. Our president has stated continuously that he feels the pains of the citizens and we must also know that the removal of fuel subsidy and the new foreign exchange regime are necessary to make our future great and country work again. We must be patient as nine months is too short a time to judge an administration. The government is doing all it can to cushion the effects of its reforms on all citizens and with time we shall outlast our challenges.