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A ministerial screening

In what appeared to be a choreographed engagement, senators last week expeditiously screened nominees for ministerial appointment albeit with a tinge of seriousness.  But a few of the nominees had their hearts in their mouths just before they appeared for screening and eventual confirmation.

By Jide Ajani , Deputy Editor

The senators appeared determined to do their job.  At least for once! But beneath that veneer of seriousness was the urge to get even with some ministerial nominees.

Also, there was the need not to be seen as constituting a clog in the wheel of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.  So, how come what was expected to be a fire-spitting screening session became tamed?

Sunday Vanguard discovered that most of the ministerial nominees who had expected the senators to “deal with them” set to work quite early.

On Wednesday, March 24, the day after the first list of ministerial nominees was sent to the National Assembly, Professor Dora Akunyili was at the Abuja residence of a very influential PDP leader. This was 24 hours after her name did not appear on the first list and just a few hours after the second set of nominees was sent. The former Information and Communication minister who could be credited for setting in motion what eventually led to the dissolution of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, last month, had gone to meet with the PDP big shot in what turned out to be a round of consultations.

An Aso Rock Presidential Villa source, who was contacted on whether Akunyili had thought she would not be re-nominated, said, “Akunyili’s problem has nothing to do with whether her name appeared on the first list or not; the truth of the matter is that some senators have promised her hell and that did not sound funny”.

Besides, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that “the majority of those up in arms against Akunyili are Yar’Adua people and it has nothing to do with her position on Yar’Adua’s health”.

From Left; Sanusi Daggash ; Josephine Anenih and Prof. Dora Akunyili during the Ministerial screening at the National Assembly.

Meanwhile back to Akunyili
Apart from the residence of the PDP bigwig which she visited, Akunyili had been insinuated into a possible
appointment as the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.  This rumour got more lift when her name did not appear on the first list.

But Akunyili was not alone in making consultations before the screening. Senator Sanusi Daggash, who was sometime ago Minister of National Planning and who had had a brush with his colleagues when he served in the executive branch knew he needed to go back to his colleagues and make restitution.  He did.

Therefore, when the screening commenced and the fireworks started, it became obvious where each senator stood.

Unlike in times past, senators were a bit more serious in their conduct and in the nature of the questions they asked the nominees.

While it did not turn out to be a joke as some other screening exercises were reduced to, those who asked questions simply did so from the points of view of their interests.

First was their resolution which empowered Goodluck Jonathan to function as Acting President.  That resolution of February 9, 2010, which empowered Jonathan came with all its contradictions and irony – but it was hinged on the doctrine of necessity.

Second Republic Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Richard Akinjide explained in an interview what the doctrine entails: “The first one is what is known as the doctrine of necessity.  The National Assembly is right and was properly advised but what he did not mention are the doctrines.  There is also the doctrine of efficacy, because if there is necessity and you take steps which are not provided by the constitution or are not foreseen by the constitution and the steps you take are not efficacious, then the doctrine of necessity is not meaningful. Apart from these two doctrines, there is also the doctrine of consequences.  If it is necessary on the doctrine of necessity; if it is efficacious on the doctrine of efficacy, then you have to take into account the doctrine of consequences.”

Therefore, having empowered Jonathan and swinging in the same direction with public opinion that there was an urgent need for a cabinet reshuffle or dissolution, a senator who didn’t want to be named told Sunday Vanguard that “we would have become a laughing stock if we had pushed certain things beyond certain points”.  (See interviews with senators).

Then, there was the aspect of senators from states where PDP was not the state governor.  Lagos State, for instance, was the biggest surprise of most, where an unknown Oluwatoyin Aganga was nominated.

And whereas Taraba State and Ebonyi State are yet to have their slots filled, the process of screening this time around appeared objective and then voting, matured. But between Senate President David Mark and Acting President Jonathan, there was an unwritten deal that the Senate should be supportive of the processes leading to the composition of a new EXCOF.

Earlier before the cabinet dissolution, the leadership of the National Assembly had dinner with Acting President Jonathan.  Although there was no specific talk of the steps expected of the senate in the event that nominees for ministerial slots are sent in, the body language at that dinner signposted a working relationship between Jonathan and the legislators, specifically the senators.

Why we screened nominees like that, Senator Wilson Ake (PDP, Rivers, West)

I think I am satisfied with the rigours involved. It is important that Nigerians see the quality and depth of their would be ministers before they are confirmed. We have done the job to ensure that whoever is put in a position is properly scrutinized, properly examined by all Nigerians and most of them have come up to make promises of what they will be able to do if they have the opportunity of being given any of the portfolios.
It is something on record that we are going to watch out for.

Senator Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East)
I think they have existing traditions, but to my mind I think it should be more rigorous. The only way you can apply that rigour is one, if you do pre-screening on the committee level because of the set up you are going to be more thorough, more intensive and dig into things and their backgrounds.
Number two, the nominations should come with portfolios, therefore you can then assess people based on the job that they are going to do. You look at the CVs and see if they are fit for the job they are going to do.

Senator Joel Danlami (PDP, Taraba)
The process is not very new to us, I believe that some of them were ministers before and we have had oversight on them, some of them have their best.

I believe that the Acting President  did some consultations before the names were forwarded and I believe that we have done the best job, we don’t want the country to be stagnant and we want the country to move forward.

Senator Satty Gogwim (PDP, Plateau Central)
As far as I am concerned this is not a screening exercise, the best we could have done was not to have even screened them in the first place!

Senator David Mark

We have spent several hours to be able to screen and confirm the ministers. It is our wish and hope that once these ministers are allocated their portfolios and they assume duties, they will earnestly do what they promised us here. I think we will ensure that through our oversight functions they do precisely what they told us here. I will like to use this opportunity to ask Mr. Acting President, Commander-in Chief that any minister who does not live to expectation should not be spared. He should immediately be removed from office so that so that he/she doesn’t become a clog in the wheel of progress. We have done this in the interest of this country. We have done this because we want to move the nation forward as quickly as possible in accordance with our doctrine of necessity we have also hastened up the screening of the ministers.

Ideally, this would have taken much, much longer. Inspite of the fact that it has taken a short time I think we have done a thorough job and we hope when these ministers are deployed they will live to the expectations of Nigerians.

FULL LIST OF NOMINEES
1.  Fidelia Akuabata Njeze    (Enugu)
2. Adetokunbo Kayode         (Ondo)
3.  Dora Akunyili         (Anambra)
4.  Sen. Akinlabi Olasunkanmi     (Osun)
5.  Isa Bio Ibrahim         (Kwara)
6.  Elder Godsday Orubebe    (Delta)
7.  Arc. Nuhu Somo Wya     (Kaduna)
8.  Henry Odein Ajumogobia     (Rivers)
9.   Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke (Bayelsa)
10 Shamsudeen Usman         (Kano)
11 John Ogar Odey         (Cross River)
12 Aderemi Waheed Babalola     (Oyo)
13 Mr. Humphrey Enemakwu Abbah (Kogi)
14.Chukwuemeka Ngozichineke Wogu (Abia)
15.Iyom Josephine Anenih     (Anambra)
16. Labaran Maku         (Nasarawa)
17. Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi     (Edo)
18. Alh. Suleiman Bello         (Zamfara)
19. Alh. Murtala Yar’adua     (Katsina)
20.Sanusi M. Daggash         (Borno)
21.Sen. Bala Mohammed     (Bauchi)
22.Nduese Essien         (Akwa Ibom)
23.Miss Josephine Tapgun     (Plateau)
24.Mohammed Bello Adoke     (Kogi)
25.Navy Capt. Ernest Olubolade     (Ekiti)
26.Mr. Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga (Lagos)
27.Prof. Mohammed K. Abubakar     (Kebbi)
28.Alh. Adamu Maina Waziri     (Yobe)
29. Awodele Najeem Adewale Alao  (Ogun)
30.Alh. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed (Gombe)
31. Yusuf Suleiman         (Sokoto)
32.Prof. Ruqaiya Rufai         (Jigawa)
33.Arc. Musa Sada         (Katsina)
34. Prof. Sheikh Abdallah     (Niger)
35.Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho     (Imo)
36.Sen. Jibrin Martins Kuye     (Ogun)
37.Aliyu Idi Hong         (Adamawa)
38.Samuel Odeh         (Benue)


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