By Nwangwu Uba
Until Tuesday, July 23, 2019, nobody had expected that the 43 ministerial nominees of President Muhammadu Buhari, presented to the Ahmed Lawan All Progressive Congress, APC, controlled Senate would be chips of the old block.
This is because the Katsina state born Nigerian President has created the impression that he would only appoint people he knows personally into the new Cabinet. He alluded to the fact that he could not deliver on his electioneering Campaign promises in his first term in office because he did not know most of the ministers as they were imposed on him by the party National Executive Council, NEC, and some powerful members of the party.
This may have informed the reason why the President turned his back on the party NEC directives that all former governors who contested on the platform of the party but lost their re-election bid should be Compensated with the ministerial slot of their respective states. Going by the directive, Akinwumi Ambode, a former governor of Lagos state , who was denied a second term in office by Ahmed Bola Tinubu , a former governor of Lagos and the godfather of APC members in the state could have clinched the ministerial slot of the state , Mohammed .A. Abubakar, Bauchi and Jibrilla, that of the ministerial slot of that of Adamawa state.
The fallout was that Ambode lost out to Raji Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of the state and who was incidentally Buhari’s minister of Power, Housing and Works, in his first term in office. The situation was the same for the ministerial slot of Bauch state as Adamu Admu, a long time close associate of the President was recalled despite his below the average in his first term, thus blocking the way for Abubakar , a former governor of the state to make list. Bindo had been favoured by the party leadership to fill the Adamawa slot but the President retained Bello Musa, a former minister from the state, who had worked with him in his first term in office.
The President may have had his way in selecting the ministerial nominees of his choice, thus, sending a signal o Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state and the party National Chairman, that the era of imposing political appointees on him is over.
Many had expected that with the two months of \ delay before the presentation of the ministerial nominees list to the Senate , he would keep to his promise of introducing more fresh hands into the government, particular , women and Youths. He had promised to give 35 percent of the ministerial appointments to the women alone.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have disappointed Nigerians when he finally unveiled the 43 ministerial nominees, comprising of 36 men and seven women, who were found to be chip of the old block, an indication that there would not be much difference in the execution in of the government policies as witnessed in last four years. Note that the returnee ministers , former governors and Lawmakers who made the list are those who were’’ known him personally’’. He may have have had a soft spot for Ambode, the immediate past governor of Lagos state to work with him in his new government, notwithstanding the party directive, but his conscience would not allow him to drop Fashola which had remain loyal to him since 2015 and found to be trust worthy.
Political watchers had expected Lawan, the Senate President to mobilise his Colleagues to properly drill the returnee ministers as Nigerians believe that most of them had performed below expectation in their first term. The Senate President had raised people’s hope that the ministerial nominees would never be rubber stamped as alleged in several quarters.
But the Senate has proved Nigerians right going by the way he has so far handled the ministerial nominees screened and approved.The President had presented the ministerial list to the red Chamber on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, while the Lawmakers on their part started the screening exercise on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, without carrying out a detailed investigation on the nominees to avoid a repeat of what happened in Buhari first term in office where most of the ministers failed in their duties. Recall that the Senate President had given the President , Friday, July 26, 2019, as deadline for submission of the ministerial list to the Senate as they had concluded arrangement to proceed on their annual two months recess.
The president may have rushed to beat the deadline to avoid having a frosty relationship with the new Senate leadership by submitting the ministerial list to them ahead of the time given to him to do so. The screening of Godswell Akbabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom and Senate minority leader may have gone on smoothly but the turn of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and returnee minister of Transportation was almost getting a K-leg. Lawan, had asked Enyinnay a Abaribe, People’s Democratic Party, minority leader if he had any question for the former minister , now standing before the Hallowed Chamber for Consideration and approval to serve in the new government as minister. Abribe had sought to find out if the ministerial nominee from Rivers state has the backing of the Rivers Cacus in the Senate., an indication that the Rivers state elected Senators on the platform of the PDP may have whispered to his ear that he does not enjoy overwhelming support of the people of the state to occupy the ministerial slot of the state.
Amaechi, who presented an intimidating Curriculum Vitae, CV, to Senate had expected the he would asked to take a bow and go as a former Speaker of Rivers state House of Assembly. He was said to have to have been told that the Senate does not recognise the position of the House Assembly Speaker and therefore must be made made to go through the screening exercise. Lawan may have taken advantage of the APC majority in the Chamber to overrule all sideline talks on the matter insisting that the privilege enjoyed by all former Lawmakers on the ministerial list to take a bow and go must be extended to the former minister of Transportation. It was put to vote and the APC Senators carried the day, thus giving the former returnee minister a breather to take a bow and go. Indeed,he intervention of the Senate President may have saved Amaechi, the embarrassment which the PDP rivers Caucus in the Senate were ready to give him for daring Nyesom Wike, the state governor.
The PDP Senators going by their conduct on the floor of the read chamber appear to have prepared their mind to play the spoiler’s role during the screening of the ministerial nominees. Take for instance the direct question posed to Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and ministerial nominee from Delta state to recite the ‘’National Anthem’’. But Lawan, the Senate President who would not allow of the President’s ministerial nominees to be embarrassed by the opposition PDP Senators was said to have intervened, urging the legal practioner to ‘’ignore the recitation of National Anthem as demanded by the PDP, Senator from Kogi state. As at Friday, July 26, 2019, the Senators had screened and approved 31 ministers, out of the 43 names presented to the Chamber by the President for approval. The Top on the list of the approved ministerial nominess wer Godswell Akbabio, George Akume, a former Governor of Benue state, Niyi Adebayo, a one- time governor of Ekiti state, Festus Keyamo, Image Maker, Buhari Campaign Organisation, and Olalilekan Adegbite, who clinched Ogun state ministerial slot.
Other ministerial nominees who had be cleared as at Thursday, July 25, 2019 include Rotimi Amaechi, Ogbonnay Onu,Seri Hadi, Adamu Adamu , Sharon Ikeazor , Ikechukwu Ogah, Emeka Nwajiuba, Oloruimbe Mamora among others. It is expected that the remaining 12 ministerial nominees would be screened and approved between Monday and Wednesday next week. The Senators may have rushed the screening and approval of the ministers to win the heart of the President to reciprocate the same gesture to them whenever they put up any demand that could help in do their legislative work for the country.
According to sources, President Buhari is very happy at the speed at which the Senators have handled the ministerial screening exercise under the closewatch of Lawan, the Senate President. This is a marked from the President’s first term when he had worked without ministers for about six months, forcing Nigerians to cry out.
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