By Henry Umoru
SENATE leader Victor Ndoma-Egba at the resumed session of the 7th Senate and prior to the commencement of the screening of ministerial nominees sent to the upper legislative chamber by President Goodluck Jonathan said that there would be no application of the “take a bow and go” treatment to any of the nominees.
According to Ndoma-Egba, the screening of the ministerial nominees would give no room for special treatment for anybody. Given the mood of the Senate, every nominee would be subjected to the same kind of screening.
The Senate President, David Mark, had on Tuesday, 28th June, 2011 presented to the Senators the list sent to him by Jonathan on Monday. Ndoma-Egba, at a press briefing on Tuesday, disclosed that screening of the nominees would start the next day, Wednesday, 29th, June, 2011, and that the Senate would have no reason to delay the screening, adding, “we will begin the process tomorrow to enable Mr. President constitute his cabinet.”
The Senate carried out its function in line with Section 147 (2) of 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria (With Amendments 2011) which provides that any appointment to the office of the Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.
Recall that the Senate had in the past extended the “take a bow” courtesy, where the nominees would not be required to answer any question, to former members of the National Assembly and others considered very important in the screening process.
On that Tuesday, Senate President David Mark had read out the full names of ministerial nominees Jonathan presented to the Senate and the list included 14 ex-ministers. Emeka Wogu, Sen. Bala Mohammed, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Godsday Orubebe, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd), Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Mohammed Saada, Mohammed Adoke, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, Labaran Maku, Yusuf Suleiman and Obadiah Ando.
Others were Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Zainab Maina, Professor Ita Bassey-Ewa, Mrs. Stella Ogiemwonyi, Abba Moro, Dr. Samuel Ortom, Bukar Tijani, Mike Onolememen, Professor Barth Nnaji, Senator Idris Umar, Professor Viola Onwuliri, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, Bolaji Abdullahi, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Olusola Obada, Ms. Olajumoke Akinjide, Tonye Cole, Dr. Yerima Ngama, Amb. Bashir Yuguda and Zainab Kuchi.
Days after the President had sent the above list, another letter was sent to the Senate President. It read, “In accordance with section 145 (2) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I hereby submit the following names with the CVs, for confirmation as Ministers by the Distinguished Members of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They are Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe, Plateau; Mr. Edem Duke, Cross Rivers; Nyesome Wike, Rivers; Ms Ama Pepple, Rivers; Mrs Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, Kaduna; Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, Jigawa; Mrs Omobola Johnson Olubusola, Ondo and Dr. Mohammed Pate, Bauchi.
Barely 24 hours after Ndoma-Egba had boasted that there would be no preferential treatment for any of the nominees, the very day the Senate commenced the screening exercise, behold, he could not adhere strictly to his vow of no take a bow and go. Soon after it began, it became a festival of take a bow and go. The first to participate in the festival was the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA and a nominee from Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed. Mohammed who retained his FCTA position as a Minister was given that recognition by the Senators because he was one of them. He was followed by Hajia Zainab Maina from Adamawa State and former President, National Council of Women Societies, NCWS. She may have taken a bow and go, not as a former Senator, but for her being a mother, her eloquence and as a member of Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. She is now the Minister of Women Affairs.
Another nominee who was also asked to take a bow and go was Comrade Abba Moro from Benue State. Moro was not a Senator, not even a member of the House of Representatives, but the intrigues and politics that gave him that honour was the fact that he anchored the campaigns of Senate President David Mark as the Director General of his Campaign Organisation.
There was no opportunity to ask him questions, but he scaled through to be a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because he campaigned for the Senate President. It was a very good credential to have. He is now in charge of the Ministry of Interior.
Another nominee from Benue State, who attracted the sympathy of the Senate was Dr. Samuel Ioraer Ortom, the immediate past National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He told the senate that he was a Gboko motor park tout and this earned him a bow and go honour courtesy of Senator Ehigie Uzamere who moved that with his background, from grass to grace with hardwork, determination, and perseverance, Ortom should take a bow and go and he did. He is now the Minister of State of the new Ministry of Trade and Investment.
The immediate past acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed spent only 22 minutes and he used most of the minutes to talk about himself, his achievements, especially ensuring that the PDP won the April general elections. When asked why at his age and in government for many years, he could not leave the stage for the young ones, the PDP Senators overwhelmed the opposition because he was their chairman. And they would not let the PDP National Chairman be harassed. There was commotion for three minutes. To bring the Senate to order, Senate President Mark had to ask the three senators from Kebbi State if there was no fresh air in the state. They all agreed that there was. At this junction, the Senate President who would not want his Chairman embarrassed, called for a take and bow. He left without answering the only question that was asked not because he was a senator but because of the role he played as the Chairman of the ruling party. He took a bow and left. He is now the Minister of Defence.
When it was her turn to answer questions from the Senators, Ms Olajumoke Akinjide from Oyo state and daughter of former Minister of Justice and Attorney- General, also took a bow and left. The Senate sympathised with her because she lost the senatorial contest to an Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN candidate and also for the fact that her husband is a member of the Federal House of Representatives. She is now the Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA.
Ambassador Bashir Yuguda from Zamfara for being an ambassador, was asked only a question, and she took a bow and left, just as Senator Idris Umar from Gombe like his colleague, Senator Bala Mohammed, took a bow and left because he was a Senator of the Federal Republic.
Former Head of Service, Ms Ama Pepple from Rivers also took a bow and left. She was given the recognition because she once served as Clerk of the Senate.
While those who took a bow and asked to go had their names confirmed and sent to President Goodluck Jonathan to be assigned portfolios, former Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Obadiah Ando, dressed in his native Junkum attire, atop a white kaftan with black shoes to match, was the second on the Senate order paper the day he was to become a Minister. Again, he came out to appear before the Senators at 11.20 am, used 14 minutes to speak about himself and his achievements. At exactly 11.34am, he rounded off and the Senate President asked if he could take a bow and leave. He did without any question from the Senators thereby raising his hope that he will scale through.
But Ando was shocked to his marrow when at the end of the screening exercise for the day, the Senate President at 1.11pm asked the Senators if they approved of his nomination. The entire chamber was silent, but when it was the turn of Nays have it, life came to the chamber as the Senators all responded and that was how the dream of the former Minister returning to the Federal Executive Council was nailed.
Yet, the Senate questioned a former Minister of Finance and a Managing Director of World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was literarily begged to come to Nigeria, from 12.10pm to1.17pm. Olusegun Aganga, 1.17pm, to 2.35pm. Professor Barth Nnaji , from 10.31 am to 2.03 pm, among others?