Finally, the lid has been taken off. The identities of some Nigerians who would head federal ministries, as ministers, have been unmasked by President Muhammadu Buhari. For now, there are 21 people nominated for the approval of the Senate to make up the Buhari cabinet. Other nominees are expected in the coming days.
As expected, the development has received mixed reactions. While some are excited, others say that if the nominees so far unveiled are Buhari’s best, there was no need to have delayed the constitution of the federal cabinet till now. However, nobody seems astounded that the list was unveiled at the time the president did. The reason is clear: Though the release of list of ministerial nominees was long in coming, many had their eyes fixed on September. And it was based on the firm assurance by President Buhari that he would constitute his cabinet in September.
Indeed, the President has been in power since May 29, precisely four months now. Within the period, he worked with permanent secretaries and a handful of political appointees, instead of constituting a cabinet.
Many were not amused by the situation. And they showed their disapproval of that by pelting the President with flaks. The massive pressure from the public may have forced President Buhari to step out to announce September as the deadline for the constitution of his cabinet.
While the nation, deservedly, are thumbing up for the President for keeping to his September date, the quality of his nominees are drawing mixed reactions. Concerns about the credentials of the nominees are not something anybody can gloss over or even brush aside. Each time Nigerians kicked and raised questions about the unusual delay in the appointment of ministers, the Presidency explained away the situation on the need to source and engage credible and impeccable individuals who would drive his lofty vision and plans for reinventing Nigeria.
Now, the list is out and it is made up of known figures who have either always been with him in years he contested and flunked and several others who joined forces with him in the last election. The development is curious, just as it is inexplicable. Why the long delay when only familiar politicians would be named at the end of the day?
A study of the ministerial nominees shows that of the 21 so far unveiled, five are ex-governors. To be sure, the list has such former governors as:
Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi) and Chris Ngige (Anambra).
Onu was elected governor in 1992 on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC), during the stillbirth Third Republic being midwifed by then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. His tenure has short-lived, when the late Sani Abacha toppled the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Ngige emerged as Anambra State governor in 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but was kicked out of office by the court, which ruled that the then candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Peter Obi, won the election. Amaechi became governor of Rivers State in 2007, after the court pronounced him the authentic governorship candidate of the PDP.
He was dropped as the governorship candidate, after his name had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In its place, his cousin’s name, Celestine Omehia, was sent. PDP went ahead to win the election, but the courts ordered that Amaechi should be sworn in as governor. Fayemi was governor in Ekiti for four years and lost election to incumbent Governor Ayo Fayose. Fashola is the immediate past governor of Lagos State.
Also, aside that there are some old and uninspiring faces among the nominees, the presence of such recycled politicians in past administrations attracted tirades. They are also not liked in the new picture.
It will be hasty for anybody to draw a conclusion on whether or not the nominees will fail or succeed. It is for the future to tell. One thing however, is incontrovertible: The ministers not fitting into Buhari’s vision will result in the administration galumphing.
The natural question to ask is this: How were the ministerial nominees chosen? Daily Sun sources revealed that there were intrigues, lobbying by godfathers and the president’s determination to compensate those who contributed immensely to the victory of the APC in the March presidential election.
Sources revealed that some national leaders of the APC had lobbied for their candidates to be listed as ministers. Such godfathers also lobbied against those they did not want as ministers. In the face of the lobbying, Daily Sun gathered, Buhari never gave indication that he was rejecting or accepting those so presented, but played his cards close to his chest.
However, in making the choice, consideration was made on the role some of the nominees played during the electioneering and election. People like Amaechi and Fashola were favoured because they provided the bulk of the finance for the campaign. The private jet, which Buhari used in traversing the length and breath of the country for campaign, for instance, was provided by Amaechi.
Fayemi, who headed the APC presidential candidate nomination committee, got the favour of Buhari, as he was touted as one of the strategists in the campaign, while Onu was considered for his integrity.
Now that the ministers would soon be in place, concerns of many are not limited to the ability of the people so nominated to perform. The concerns have also to do with the readiness of President Buhari to effectively explore and exploit their skills. The comment by the President, during his recent visit to France, that ministers are mere noise-makers has aided these concerns. There is now a growing fear that the President’s appointment of ministers may not necessarily be on the conviction that they can help him drive his administration but, pitiably, for perfunctory reason. Certainly, if that is the way he thinks, the expectation of the incumbent administration effecting the desired change would be stymied.
Many, understandably, are withholding their opinions on the nominees, but that is in the interim. They will definitely take a stand when the nominees are confirmed by the Senate and are assigned portfolios by the President. How the President allocates the portfolios will determine the accolades or missiles he would get from the public. His previous appointments were buffeted with criticisms, as many accused him of unduly favouring the North. The reason offered by his aides remains flighty and dismissive to many. Sure, such hue and cries will be visited on the President again if he is seen to be selective or bias in the allocation of ministries considered to be in the ‘Grade A’ class.
While the public is waiting to see how he handles the distribution of the portfolios, they are also keen to see the shape the screening of the nominees will take. Is it going to be ‘take a bow’ for some of the nominees, as in the past? Will the current travails of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, slow down the pace of the screening or affect the exercise in any form? Will senators reject any of the nominees? These and other issues will occupy the mind of the public in days to come. -The Sun