Members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) got a marching order yesterday from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: perform or be fired.
The President spoke at the opening of a three-day retreat organised for ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies and parastatals at the Conference Centre of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The 2023 Cabinet Retreat is tagged: “Delivering on the Renewed Hope Agenda.”
The President said his administration was racing against time to rejig the economy and upgrade Nigerians’ living standards within a set time frame.
He told the ministers that he would not spare any resources in his bid to change the narrative about Nigeria.
Ordering the FEC members to take governance with seriousness, he reminded them that the government has at its disposal everything needed to lift the country to loftier heights.
According to him, a Result Delivery Unit (RDU) has been established to periodically appraise the performance of the ministers and chief executive officers of relevant government agencies.
The RDU is headed by the Special Adviser to the President on Policy Coordination, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman.
The unit has the mandate to measure the performance of ministers and other top government officials serving in the Tinubu administration.
The President assured the FEC that he would grant members a significant level of autonomy, provided that they demonstrate intellectual curiosity by asking questions about the reasons, methods and timing of the tasks assigned to them.
He said: “At the end of this retreat, you’re going to sign a bond of understanding between you, the ministers, the permanent secretaries, and myself.
“If you are performing, nothing to fear; if you miss the objective, we’ll review; if there is no performance, you leave us. No one is an island, and the buck stops on my desk.
“I assure you, you have a free hand. You must be intellectually inquisitive to ask how, why, when, and why it must be immediate. You have the responsibility to serve the people.
“I’ve taken a young lady, very dynamic, Hadiza Balla Usman, to head that delivery unit. If you have any complaints about her, see me.
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“If you’re ready to work with her, stay there. Delivery, yes, we must achieve it for the sake of millions of our people.
“It’s our country; we have no other one. Let’s be proud that we’re Nigerians and we can do it. You can show leadership. We can fight to make democracy a lasting reference for the rest of Africa.
“Don’t be afraid to make decisions, but don’t be antagonistic to your supervisor. If they are wrong, debate it.
“I stand before you and I have claimed several occasions and I’m saying today again, as the President I can make mistakes. Point it to me, I will resolve the conflict, that error. Perfection is only that of God Almighty.
“But you are there to help me succeed. Success, I must achieve, by all means necessary. We have great minds, great intellects and all that we need.”
In his almost 20-minute remarks, the President said he would not complain about the heavy task of piloting the country through economic and social recovery, stating that he had accepted to inherit all the assets and liabilities of his predecessors.
He said: “I accept the assets and liabilities of my predecessor. It is part of my professional background. You are in this ship, don’t wreck it. See the minister as part of a team that will navigate and take it out of troubled waters.
“Healthcare is a priority; education is a must. No other weapon against poverty than education. You have the opportunity to change things.”
He stressed the need for all public servants to work for the interest of the millions of Nigerians who elected the government, particularly the need to end corruption and pull not less than 50 million citizens out of poverty.
Tinubu said: “We are going through the reform, painfully, and we still have other challenges. Don’t be a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress.
“Let us look forward. Let us be determined that corruption will go; progress will be achieved; better wages for our workers and living wages.
”We must take 50 million people out of poverty; we must build healthcare that works for all; look at the standard of education, look at the classrooms and look at the roads; we can only spend the money, we will find it, we cannot spend the people.
“No crime in borrowing. Thank you World Bank for being a lending friend, but let our achievement be homegrown. The determination that Nigeria can do it is here.
“Our path for tomorrow is charted for our children and grandchildren.
“Don’t be selfish about it; poverty is not a shameful thing, it’s only unacceptable and we have to banish it because it’s unacceptable. Let’s work on other identifiable areas,” he said.
Preaching unity among Nigerians, the president assured that he is a President for all, regardless of religious, ethnic, political or other affiliations.
Tinubu reminded participants that rebuilding Nigeria is a collective responsibility, asking the FEC to join hands with him to renew the foundation of the nation and give hope to the near-hopeless.
“It is our country; we have to build it; we have to renew the foundation. We have to give hope to the near-hopeless. With strong determination, we have brought together the best brains, and the best hands to navigate the future of Nigeria. We can’t complain and give excuses,” he said.
Reaffirming the need for the participants to be determined and collaborate to achieve his administration’s eight-point agenda, the President said: “A great Nigeria is possible and a greater Nigeria will come under our commitment, guidance and resolute determination to give the country a direction.
“I am with you and please be assured that this great country is one family in one house, geographically located, partitioned and living in different rooms, but we are one family.
“And we are here to make allegiance and give direction to that one family, making sure that relationship can only be stronger if we give hope to our people and can only achieve our vision with boldness and strong determination with collaboration.”
Cautioning civil servants against seeing political appointees as opportunists, he said: “I am here to assure you that I will work with you, the best brain we can put to get in civil service, the best brains that we can put together in our democratic parliament chosen for us by the public.
“Don’t see the minister as an opportunist but a partner that you must take this ship forward. Navigate it through turbulent and clear weather. But you are in this ship, you will make good of it but not wreck it.
“We are lucky we have a nation. The challenges are all over the world. You can see the chaos all around you, but be focused and be committed to the values and principles of results that will affect you, your neighbour and the entire nation,” the President noted.
He listed food security, economic growth and development through job creation and poverty eradication as priority evaluation areas for the officials.
The other focus areas are inclusivity (women and youth involvement); security from terror and all forms of criminality; fairness and rule of law; anti-corruption and strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.
The National Assembly leadership was represented at the session by House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu.