By Josiah Oluwole
It took President Muhammadu Buhari six months in 2015 to put together a ministerial team for his first administration. In spite of the long delay, Buhari would later confirm the allegation by his wife, Aisha, that his government was hijacked when he stated at a reception for the new leadership of the National Assembly on July 19 that his first ministers were foisted on him by his party.
He said he had to get to know them by meeting with them two or three times in a month for three and a half years. Buhari had a second chance to act faster, but he did not change his style.
While addressing the leadership of the legislature, the president promised he would appoint only those he knew “This time around, I’m going to be quite me in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.” Many took his statement for a hint that a good number of his ministers in the last administration would return. 14 of them eventually returned.
Constitutionally, the president is not expected to know “personally” all persons nominated for the office of ministers.
Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended states that, “Any appointment under subsection 2 of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this constitution provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.
Section 14(3) speaks of the appointment of ministers in line with the federal character of the country.
From the foregoing, each state is expected to produce a minister. In satisfying that constitutional provision, the president would exercise the right of appointing other ministers as his cabinet would accommodate.
However, there is no fixed political formula in the nomination of ministers from the states. The governors, if they are members of the ruling party, wield much influence in determining who represents their state.
The making of the 2019 ministerial list, was the game of the governors and the godfathers, showing their strength at the corridors of power. The governors are noted for taking all at victory. There are others, notwithstanding, who are ready to take on the governors in the fight for a share.
Making good his promise to appoint those he personally knows, the president ensured the return of 14 of his former ministers. They are Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Chris Ngige (Anambra),Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Geoffrey Onyema (Enugu), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Hadi Sirika (Katsina), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Lai Mohammed (Kwara), Osagie Enahire (Edo) Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Mustapha Shehuri (Borno), Musa Bello (Adamawa) and Adamu Adamu (Bauchi).
Findings show that most of the new ministers-to-be were either nominated by state governors or by the top party hierarchy. The president is, therefore, not completely immune to the plague of his last administration of not knowing most of his ministers.
Festus Keyamo, who represents Delta State in the new cabinet, was the Director of Strategic Communication in the Buhari 2019 Campaign Organization. His rabid support for the president’s reelection bid may have earned him a place in the government. In the same manner, Godswill Akpabio, a recent APC stalwart in Akwa Ibom, risked all when he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to support the Buhari reelection. He lost his bid to return to the Senate and it appeared only natural for the APC to give him a political lifeline.
The tango in the southwest, where the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinnubu, calls the shots, is a little different. While he is the Jagaban of Lagos, his allies in Messrs Babatunde Fashola and Olorunimbe Mamora may have attained a status of their own.
The Governors versus the Godfathers
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his counterpart in Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, ensured that their candidates in Tayo Alasoadura and Niyi Adebayo respectively scaled the hurdles to be nominated by the President. Akeredolu virtually abandoned his duties in Ondo, relocating to Abuja to ensure that a swap or a last-minute dropping of his candidate’s name did not occur.
Even the out-of-favour former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, successfully pushed his candidate, Lekan Adegbite despite his suspension by the APC, through to the amazement of Tinubu and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Amosun’s swift ride against the tide could only be a testimony of his closeness to the President, especially considering his antiparty activities during the governorship election in Ogun State. Adegbite had served as Commissioner for Works under Amosun.
The emergence of Sunday Dare for Oyo State could not have been possible without the invisible hands of Tinubu. Dare, a former Editor with The News, had served as Tinubu’s Chief of Staff.
Rauf Aregbesola, the immediate past governor of Osun State, is comfortably the winner in Osun. While it could be taken for granted that his emergence deserved, owing to his records as a party man close to both the party leaders and Aso Rock, his nomination did not come easy. The State governor, Gboyega Oyetola, had pushed for the appointment of Iyiola Omisore, to cement the memorandum of understanding reached between Omisore and the Osun APC during the rerun of the governorship election.
It was learnt that Oyetola forwarded his name to the presidency, not in any particular effort to thwart the ambition of his predecessor, but to secure two nominees from the state as is the case in Lagos, Edo and other states.
Tinubu’s 2023 stakes
Bola Tinubu’s rumoured ambition to run for the presidency in 2023 seems to have its imprints on all his political moves. It is believed that his plan to have his men in place ahead of the event has been successful so far. Despite the fact that he did not nominate all of them in the southwest, he is on political high ground, capable of drawing loyalty from the current beneficiaries. Having the southwest firmly in his grips is non-negotiable. His team comprising Messrs Aregbesola, Mamora, Fashola, and Dare are salutary to his interest.
Although Niyi Adebayo was nominated by the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, they and the national leader of APC are allies.
Emeka Nwajiuba, a member of the House of Representatives, was a surprise beneficiary of the politics of ministerial nomination. He was in Accord Party before his nomination. He was a beneficiary of a court verdict which upturned the election of Chike Okafor of the APC for not being validly nominated. Nwajiuba defected from the AP to the APC barely 24 hours after he was nominated for ministerial appointment. He is reported to be a staunch Buharist, and a founding member of the APC who served in the constitution drafting committee of the party. His emergence has a rationale of the party’s growing need of a stronger foothold in the southeast region.
Feelers from Abia State indicate that Uchechukwu Oga was nominated from the state on the strength that he was the governorship candidate of the APC in the last governorship election. The party in the state had complained earlier in the year that the former Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, was not performing and representing them well.
From Bayelsa, former governor Timipre Sylva is replacing Heineken Lokpobiri in the federal cabinet. Sylva, who had attempted to return to the governorship seat on the platform of the APC in previous elections, might be leaving the space for Lokpobiri, who has already picked his form to contest for the governorship ticket of the party in the state. Sylva’s nomination is not unexpected, given that he is the leader of the party in Balyesa.
Gbemi Saraki was a surprise pick from Kwara. But analysts suggest it was a strategy to keep the party in the minds of the people coming from the stalk of the beloved late Saraki who still enjoy a post-hummus adoration from many people in the state. It was learnt that she was particularly pencilled for a ministerial position owning to her standing by the party when all others, including her brother, Bukola, moved away to the opposition. Lai Mohammed, the returnee minister, was outstanding in ensuring the prosecution of the routing of the Bukola Saraki structure from the state. To many, Mohammed deserved his “wages” and should it have been otherwise, it would have been a slight on his efforts.
Audu Ogbe, the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, did not get “a second chance” to serve as a minister. He debunked the rumour that he rejected the offer to return to the cabinet, stating that the president did not offer him a chance to return to cabinet.
Ogbe’s replacement, George Akume, is a loyal party man, who is a former governor of the state and represented the people of Benue North West senatorial district for three consecutive terms of 12 years. His nomination is certainly a reward for his stand for the party, especially with the defection of the governor, Samuel Ortom, to the PDP.
Solomon Dalung did not hide his crave to return to the federal cabinet when in an interview, he said no one could stop him from returning to the cabinet except God. His failure to make the list was a disappointment, as another former minister, Pauline Tallen emerged to take the Plateau slot in the list of ministerial nominees. She had turned down an ambassadorial appointment last year for reasons that she could not leave her sick husband behind in the hands of others.
The absence of the name of former Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, on the list of nominees, in spite of his earlier humiliation from the governorship race, is hard to comprehend. His nomination was widely speculated but he eventually lost out to the heavyweights in his state.
There is every reason to agree with stakeholders from all political divisions, that the 2023 elections are in focus with the configuration of the new cabinet. The summoning of the political juggernauts from the “four winds” of the nation’s polity in preparation for the battle could be setting the stage for another bloody affair when the time of transition finally comes.