Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday added his voice to the criticisms that has trailed the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari directing his ministers to channel all their meeting requests to him through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Independent, George said asking ministers to go through the Chief of Staff will slow down governance and delay decision-making.
It will be recalled that the President had at the close of the two-day retreat organised for the ministers, asked them to always go through Kyari for meeting requests and through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, for issues relating to the Federal Executive Council.
He reiterated the same thing on Wednesday while inaugurating the ministers.
He said, “As I said yesterday (Tuesday), in terms of coordinating communication, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channelled through the Chief of Staff while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in order to speed up the process of decision-making.”
George, who said he cannot fault President Buhari’s methodology, however, said Ministers should be able to have direct access to the President having appointed them as his assistants in overseeing strategic ministries.
He said under the PDP, ministers have direct access to the President and they are not restrained from discussing challenges in their ministries or sharing ideas on how to improve productivity.
“My take is this: there is a saying that different stroke for different times. Maybe that is the methodology the President wants to adopt. During the era PDP was in power, the way we operated when we were in government, ministers have direct access to the President because as executive president, he appointed them and entrusted the running of such strategic ministries to them to manage”.
“ If he now decides to have a clearinghouse or chokepoint, to me personally, that will delay decision making. As a Minister, when you go to the President, you have discussions with him on the challenges you are facing in your ministry and if you need his assistance in one way or the other, you can tell him immediately. That is the way we operated”.
The Atona Oodua of Yorubaland also argued that asking Ministers to go through the Chief of Staff will slow down governance rather than speeding it up as the President had said and that according to him will not be in the best interest of Nigerians.
He said the Chief of Staff also has his daily busy schedules and asking him to add Ministers’ brief to it will only make the job more tedious.
“ There is no legality about it so if the President thinks that is the best style he wants to adopt, I wish him the best because he will delay decision making. There is no time to fritter away now in Nigeria. Every minute matters a lot in governance because the people are hungry and they are therefore very angry. That is one major issue”.
“As a leader, you fast-track decision making but when you are mandated to see the Chief of Staff before seeing the President, it means you have to first take your case to the Chief of Staff before he now takes it to the President”.
“Don’t forget, he is also human and he has his duties already. He is responsible for the daily programmes and activities of the President, in terms of his timing and arrangement so that there is no collision of events”.
“If a Minister wants to see the president, he should go straight, see him and take quick decisions. The whole thing will slow down governance and that to me will not be in the interest of Nigerians” he said.