Governor Ayade’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A few things are evident from Premium Times’ piece on Cross River Governor Ayade’s decision to create and operate a Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

First, Governor Ayade is simply given to theatrics, or at best, mere experimentation, in the way he has chosen to structure his government. The disruption attendant upon creating sundry Ministries, with exotic but hardly meaningful names, cannot be justified by whatever positive governance outcome he seeks. This is aside the financial cost of branding and rebranding same Ministries in new names. The hood does not make the monk, that popular saying goes.

The truth is that Governor Ayade really does not need a separate Ministry of Climate Change, for instance, to protect the Cross River environment. Isn’t ‘Science and Technology’ a more generic name for everything on science, innovation and invention than ‘Artificial Intelligence and Robotics’ which he has created?

Secondly, the Commissioner for Information, who is quoted copiously in the Premium Times write-up, comes across as some ignorant fella. This is clear from the way he answered the question on Foreign Affairs, and the status of the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution. You may disagree with the basis of the listing of foreign affairs on the Exclusive List, but you cannot sustain the query, ‘what is exclusive about foreign affairs?.’ I am not aware of any federal constitution that places foreign affairs in the hands of sub-national units. That would be the very recipe for crisis.

Ayade’s Commissioner does also not seem to know that foreign affairs is much more than foreign investment! Even under the 1960/63 Constitution, with all its federalist credentials, the best the Regional Governments could do was send Trade Representatives abroad. If that is what Governor Ayade chose to do, it would just have, at best, been tolerable under extant Constitution that is unitary in everything but name. Setting up a Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, to that extent, ill advised. Governor Ayade has to be prevailed upon to scrap it, as such a step is patently unconstitutional.

Even in the restructured Nigeria of the restructuring protagonists, nobody envisages that foreign affairs would be anywhere other than under the central government. The 1999 Constitution may be inappropriate for a federal republic, but it remains the grund norm. If Ayade has issues with foreign affairs being in the Exclusive legislative list, he should approach the Supreme Court for whatever pronouncement he considers a better alternative. Until then, the 1999 Constitution remains like Ayesha, in H.R. Haggard’s 1887 novel, “She Who Must Be Obeyed”!