By Kabir Abdusalam
President Muhammadu Buhari had on September 1, 2021 sacked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, and Minister of Power, Engineer Saleh Mamman. He apparently cited commitment to breathe new air and consolidate legacy achievements in the government as reasons for the decision.
Presidential Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, added that, the two ministers were sacked after an independent and critical self-review of their performances and evaluation through sector reporting.
The presidency noted that their contribution was below expectations and not in tandem with the goal of the current administration of building cohesion and synergy in governance, as well as managing the economy for the improvement of Nigerians.
However, two years after their appointments, there are no major media reports to showcase the achievements of their ministries. Does it mean the sacked ministers do not engage the media?
Meanwhile, during the 2019 World Food Day celebration, the minister said that the federal government’s agricultural policies like the Anchor Borrowers Programme had ensured that food is made available and accessible to all Nigerians.
According to Nanono, agriculture has created jobs for millions of citizens, hence leading to drastic reduce in poverty, while also insisting that ‘there is no hunger of any form in the land compared to what is obtainable in other countries’.
There were also a lot of collaborative projects and initiatives on agricultural developments which were not made public by the ministry. For instance, in deliberate efforts to boost food production, combat shortages and effect of climate change, the ministry secured Hungarian scholarship programmes in that regard. Surprisingly, the agreements and other deals on the project are only published on the Hungarian embassy’s website.
Though traditionally bad news sells faster than good news, worthy initiatives attract media attention too. It was not surprising that the minister received bashing over his controversial “N30 Meal”. Meanwhile, the truth is that such controversy should trigger other positive narratives from the ministry on the projects.
In fact, there are many controversies that trailed the activities of the former agriculture minister including the leadership tussle of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN; his concealed wedding with 18-year-old Fulani lady in Kaduna state; the N30 million saga for the construction of herders’ mosque; and open attack on Anchor Borrowers Programme of CBN, among others.
Similarly, when President Buhari appointed Engineer Sale Mamman as Miister of Power in 2019, the government was aware that Nigeria’s power sector required a hand-on supervisor. Mamman, a masters degree holder in business administration from Bayero University Kano had identified the challenge confronting the power sector, pledging to stem the tide.
Unfortunately, under Mamman’s leadership, power system collapsed and there are several cases of power tariff hike controversies which at times forced the government to dialogue with the organised labour and consequently reversed the tariff hike in some instances.
Mamman’s achievements have been described by some stakeholders as a cosmetic approach to addressing biting power challenges. On several occasions, the national grid collapsed, and the media feasted on that in their reportage.
Controversies also trailed Mamman as he was dragged to the mud over the suspension of Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi, the former Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Few weeks later, President Buhari ordered the reversal of the suspension in clear overrule of his earlier directive.
It could also be noted that, more internal crises within the power sector agencies culminated in the removal of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr Usman Gur Mohammed, in May 2020. That move did not go well with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and generated ripples from labour unions in the power sector.
Another story attributed to Mamman that gained media attention is the issue of the former Managing Director of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC (NBET), Dr Marilyn Amobi. The latter also had an impulsive encounter with the former minister until she was sacked.
Subsequently, the removal saga of Prof. James Momoh, then Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), after attaining 70 years, earlier than his tenure ending by 2022 is another force to reckon with among controversial issues of the sacked minister.
It is evident that, Mr. Saleh just like his agriculture counterpart, suffered several reputation mismanagements due to lack of strategies and effective ways of deploying crisis communications as well as stakeholders’ relations to earn media visibility and counter negative narratives.
It is apparent that every organizations, government official, celebrity or dignitary needs effective PR management strategies that will spur their activities.
For instance, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Professor Ali Pantami, and his Finance counterpart, Zainab Ahmed, and few others will be sympathised by Nigerians if such occurred, as their track records built in this administration have gained visibilities in the media.
For this reason, public relations as a process of communication management through planning and implementation of strategies, the ministers should have deployed it to build their reputation and effectively use media relations for press coverages. There is no doubt that his media team were not effective in discharging their responsibility.
Most of their positive narrations were buried in media for negative to fly that consequently degenerated to the level where their principal shoved them out of his cabinet.
However, it is crucial that this recent event serves as warning to others on how they steer the affairs of their respective ministries. Thus, they should deploy PR techniques in crisis management and communication strategy for smooth running of their activities.
Kabir , Wuye, Abuja