The President and vanishing hope of early Ministerial List

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Most Nigerians looked forward to July 2, 2019 with great expectations for two main reasons. First, it was the date fixed by the 9th National Assembly, which was inaugurated on June 11, to resume plenary after a two-week adjournment.Secondly, leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, who was also inaugurated for a second term in office on May 29, 2019, was to drop his list of cabinet nominees.

In terms of weight, it could be said that expectations of an early ministerial nomination by the President conferred importance on July 2, more than the mere fact of revving up proceedings by the new National Assembly. Not a few citizens expected that the President would make up for similar time he lost during his first term, when he delayed the ministerial list for six months.

But, Nigerians observed that President Buhari behaved true to type by living up the expectations of the citizens in the breach. The talks of sending a list to the Senate, was not only a no-show, it also provided another opportunity for rumour mongers to fertilize their imagination, as well as draw the President’s spokesmen out to come up with refutations.

Although the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, kept faith with its time schedule by resuming plenary on July 2, despite the fact that Buhari’s ministerial list failed to grace the table of Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Nigerians knew that ‘something must have happened to stop it.’

It was therefore that ‘thing’ that aborted Buhari’s list that precipitated national apprehension, especially against the background of recent protest by Buharists on the overbearing influence of unelected fellows in and around the Presidency.By the time that Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Public Affairs, came out with clarifications, virtually all adult Nigerians have heard about the horse-trading trailing the nomination of ministers.

What Shehu’s statement could not disclose was that the President, as usual, was held hostage by entrenched interests, both economic and political. Next to those groups, some powerful stakeholders in APC were also said to be sending clear signals to the President that his second term would not be business as usual, especially given the way the February 23 Presidential Election was ‘won and lost’.

On top of all those, the President was at the receiving end of the contending forces from the bases of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on one hand and within the Southwest caucus of the same defunct ACN.

In the midst of the shifting strategies is also President Buhari’s desire to empanel a team of astute technocrats to put vibe in his second term agenda and correct the established notion of nepotism and sloppiness against him.For instance, sources close to the President’s insiders say one of the ways the President wants to earn public confidence and trust in his proposed cabinet is to get a petroleum minister from Southeast, while the power counterpart moves from Southwest to the northeast.

Yet, at the heart of such an ambitious contemplation is said to be the President’s fear of courting internal opposition from a former Lagos State governor, whom he considers a big ally.In the long run, not being accustomed to quick decision taking or independent judgment, Buhari’s ministerial list is also being afflicted by a variety of influences leading to the delay of more than one month after his inauguration. Should the President’s list of ministerial nominees come in bits and batches, the development should be blamed on the following:

Executive setbacks
At the height of similar delay in coupling his cabinet in 2015, President Buhari had quipped that ministers are more of noisemakers than haymakers, even as he hinted on his preference for civil servants to get things done quickly.As the President prepares for his next level second term, civil servants, particularly Permanent Secretaries and Director Generals of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are said to be encouraging the delay in bringing in the ministers so as to continue to execute running contracts.

One federal Permanent Secretary told The Guardian in confidence that it was to their advantage that the ministers have not be named, stressing that the vacuum affords them the opportunity to undertake programmes and projects according to the stipulations of the 2019 budget.“But, why are Nigerians so much interested in ministers? Is there any project that is not running? What would ministers do that we are not doing?” he said explaining that the presence of ministers not only delay execution of projects, but also increases cost.
CPC, ACN rivalry

IN the amalgam of former fringe opposition political parties that formed APC, stalwarts of the defunct CPC were consoled by the fact that one of them in the person of Buhari emerged President.

Meanwhile, as time wore on in the life of the immediate past administration the CPC aboriginals began to engage in subdued sulking, lamenting that a greater part of the pie was taken by members of former ACN, especially in the areas of appointment and strategic offices. It was against that background that at the onset of Buhari’s second term, his loyalists in the former CPC began to remind him they want to serve prominently in his Next Level tenure.

CPC apologists were said to have reminded the President that apart from Abubakar Malami and Babachir David Lawal, who later lost his exalted position of Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), they (Buhari’s loyalists in CPC) were not rewarded as their counterparts from former ACN.

The former CPC faithful were also said to have discovered to their chagrin that they were not as cohesive as ACN members, who aggregated around former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to occupy many ‘exciting’ positions. It happens that this time around, the ACN flank in APC has taken a strong stand against the idea of allowing the President and his cabal to determine who gets what in the emergent government.

Helped by the fact that it produced the national chairman, the ACN playmakers insist that in the spirit of party supremacy, the party should have a say in how officials of the government that would deliver on the manifesto of APC are recruited.

Caught in the middle of these contending forces, and his desire to go solo on the issue of nominating would be cabinet members, the President was forced to thread the similar route that cost him six months before setting up a proper executive governance structure in place.

While he remained flummoxed by the tug of war among disparate economic and political interests, loyalists from the various camps floated fictitious lists that were short of setting a pattern for the President that is, otherwise, putting words into his mouth. To compound matters, within the same ACN that defunct CPC members accuse of appropriating a Lion share of appointments and visibility, the Southwest caucus came up with their own issues

Perhaps stung by the aftermath of 2019 gubernatorial election in Lagos State, some governors and former governors from the Southwest came up with the idea that each state should make its recommendations without recourse to a ‘powerful’ individual. The powerful individual was also accused of reducing his peers to yes-men just so he remains the only cock crowing in the geopolitical zone. He was accused of usurping a planned visit to President Buhari by the class 99 governors penultimate week.

Sources in the Presidency said how to wade through the Southwest schemes and allegations became a big source of headache for the President, such that he decided to keep everything about who should make his Next Level cabinet to his chest.
Siege of governorship

BARELY two weeks to the proposed inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, APC governors under the auspices of Progressive Governors Forum, visited Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

Although the visit came unannounced, it became the centre of further speculations on the delayed cabinet list, as most commentators associated the meeting with the series of intensive lobby by various blocs in the ruling party for ascendance in the emerging scheme of things.But, Presidency insiders disclosed that the governors came with a shopping list of issues affecting their political bases, including their inferences on the last general election vis-à-vis the demeanour of the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

Exasperated by the loss of a number states, principally Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Oyo and Zamfara, the governors were said to have complained about the treatment meted to immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, which culminated in his failure to seek a second term in office.

On the way forward, the governors tabled a set of demands before the President, including being allowed to run their states without undue interference from APC NWC and indemnifying their colleagues that could not make it back to office with a ministerial inclusion. However, despite accounts from multiple sources the Progressives Governors denied that their visit was ostensibly to make inputs or play any role in the selection of ministers.

Presidency’s silent actors
THOSE who protested the influence of Mamman Daura, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and Businessman Isa Funtua, include those who want to appropriate their closeness to President Buhari and tilt appointments to their side. Both the President and his inner men believe that most of those that worked for his re-election did so not essentially for patriotic reasons, but for the 2023 election cycle.

It was gathered that based on that realisation, President Buhari and his close allies decided to keep issues regarding the selection of ministerial nominees with utmost secrecy.But while the President was said to have taken his men into confidence about the need to have a crack team of performers, it did not take long before words started making the rounds of desperate individuals inducing some Presidency staff to smuggle their names for President’s attention.

Those familiar with the workings of the Presidency and Buhari’s personal capabilities said it was impossible for the President to work alone in nominating his ministers.As such at the height of the rumours about gratifications and inducements, acolytes of a serving state governor from Northwest and lieutenants of an APC big wig decided to move against the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and his kinsmen, Mamman Daura and Isa Funtua in a street protest.

The protest was said to have alerted the President to the acute level of desperation among party chieftain, specifically in the light of the fact that the appointment holds the key to the future cohesion of APC and his administration. Sources also disclosed that the mid-June protest disrupted plans to have a list of cabinet nominees for members of the 9th Senate, who had resolved to proceed on a long vacation after inauguration.

Reporters learnt that the combined effect of the Abuja street protest and invasion of Mamman Daura’s residence in Kaduna prompted a sweep by intelligence officers as ordered by the President. How long would the security cordon last? It is obvious that the President’s path to his Next Level would not be seamless.

The President and vanishing hope of early Ministerial List 1

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