‘Awolowo was a lawyer but finance minister’ — Fayemi tackles Agbakoba on portfolio mismatch

Kayode Fayemi, minister of solid minerals development, has described as “unfortunate” Olisa Agbakoba’s criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari for “mismatching” ministers with portfolios.


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The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) had said: “How many ministers are actually competent to deliver on their ministries? For instance, the good friend of mine Dr. Kayode Fayemi has no competence to be minister of mines because that’s not his background.

“What is the competence of another good friend, a nice chap and a successful man, Udo Udoma (SAN), to be the minister of budget when he is a lawyer? Another good friend Geoffrey Onyeama is an intellectual property lawyer. He has no competence to be a foreign minister, but he’s there.”

However, in an interview, Fayemi said: “Olisa Agbakoba is my brother, we were in the civil society movement together, and we worked closely. I have a lot of respect for him. But I am quite surprised that such a comment will come from someone as exposed as Olisa Agbakoba.”

Fayemi has degrees in history, politics and international relations from the Universities of Lagos and Ife.


But he gave the example of Obafemi Awolowo, former premier of the defunct Western region, who served as minister of finance in the Yakubu Gowon government.

“Our sage, a lawyer, ran the civil war economy as finance minister and did exceedingly well,” Fayemi said.

“Geoffrey Onyeama is a lawyer, but he has been an international diplomat, who worked with the World Intellectual Property Organization for years, rising to become the deputy director general of a United Nations agency. What does it take to be an international diplomat and foreign minister? Apart from being a lawyer, he also has degrees in political science. So I don’t honestly know what Olisa Agbakoba meant by saying Geoffrey Onyeama is not fit for the office or that he is a mismatch.

“Coming down to Udoma, yes he is a lawyer, but Udoma has been the chairman of the boards of at least two major institutions in Nigeria that are in the field of ensuring that the economy grows, the United African Company and the Union Bank of Nigeria. Apart from being a commercial lawyer, Udoma was the chairman of the appropriation committee in the senate for eight years. What does the appropriation committee do except considering budgets?

“He knows the in and out of the making of the budget, he has legal education right and he has extensive experience in economic matters so he couldn’t be more qualified. If you really look at the economic recovery and growth plan that he spearheaded on behalf of the government, I don’t think any better economist would do a better job than he has done.

“Coming to my humble self, yes I am not a geologist, I admit that but I have been the governor of a state, and in that capacity, I superintended over the affairs of all ministries. But let us take away what we have been, what we have done and what we have not done. What is the job of a minister? The job of a minister is about policy making, supervision of the task that has been set and agreed with the president and managing the affairs of the ministry that you superintend.

“Gordon Brown was the chancellor of the exchequer before he became prime minister (of UK). He has a PhD in history. George Osborne read politics and practised as a journalist. So I don’t understand the logic of Olisa’s argument.”

Fayemi conceded that Agbakoba has a right to his opinion on reshuffling the cabinet.

“Olisa may have reasons why he believes the cabinet should be reshuffled. There is nothing wrong with that. He is not the only one who shares the view that the cabinet should be reshuffled and the president reserves the prerogative to reshuffle his cabinet at any time,” he said.

“I don’t think people should come up with any of the silly arguments as to why cabinets should be reshuffled because there is a mismatch in the qualification of the minister. I really think it is really not a tenable argument for me and I wish Olisa would review his thought process on this.”

culled: The Cable


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