By Clifford Ndujihe, Emman Ovuakporie, Dapo Akinrefon & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
NIGERIANS waited for four months for President Muhammadu Buhari to nominate his ministers. During the wait, the polity was suffused with claims, counter-claims and controversies over the necessity or otherwise of the delay.
Criticised, the Presidency, among others, said it was searching for credible people; there was need to be thorough and not rush the issue to the detriment of the polity; it got handover notes four days to its swearing-in on May 29 and hence needed time to study the notes and hammer out the way forward, etc. At a stage, the Presidency assured that the appointments would be made in September.
When it appeared that the September time-line might not be met, Buhari, on September 30, told Nigerians that he had forwarded names of the first batch of ministerial nominees to Senate President Bukola Saraki and that the second list would follow shortly.
He did not disclose the number of nominees on the list and their names, a development that left the door ajar for speculations. Saraki confirmed receiving the list on September 30, but insisted he would not open the letter until the plenary of the Senate the following Tuesday, October 6.
And when Saraki unveiled the 21 ministerial nominees as promised, the announcement appeared to have increased the controversies. Nigerians were clearly divided over the issue leading many to wonder if the long wait was worth it given the calibre of people he nominated. The nominees were a mixture of very old politicians, retired military men, immediate past governors, technocrats, former political appointees and new faces.
The President also continued with the old ways of not attaching portfolios to the nominees to aid the lawmakers in their screening as is done in some advanced democracies like the United States of America.
The nomination of 21 persons from as many states meants the waiting game will continue in the remaining 15 states.
The nominees include Abubakar Malami (SAN), Kebbi; Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau, Kano; Aisha Jumai Al Hassan, Taraba; Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Kwara; Babatunde Raji Fashola, Lagos; Adebayo Shittu, Oyo; Solomon Dalong, Plateau; Senator Chris Ngige, Anambra; Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers and Chief Audu Ogbeh, Benue.
The rest are Mrs. Amina Ibrahim; Dr. Osagie Ehaneri, Edo; Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Delta; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Engr. Suleiman Adamu, Jigawa; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Ogun; Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Abia; Hon. Ahmed Musa Bello Ibeto, Niger; Ibrahim Usman Jubrin, Nasarawa; Senator Hadi Serika, Katsina and Senator Udo Udoma, Akwa Ibom.
States awaiting nominees
The states awaiting ministerial nominees are Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
Sunday Vanguard sought the views of eminent Nigerians on the development and their opinions are mixed even though most of them pooh poohed the list as falling short of the standard Buhari promised Nigerians before he was elected.
It is not the best we have been waiting for – Ikokwu
Second Republic politician and lawyer, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said the list fell short of expectations.
His words: ‘’The ministerial list does not reflect the best the nation has been waiting for these past months. Each zone ought to have at least three ministers in the list to have fairer spread. Some zones are presently short changed. There are those on the list sent to the Senate for proper screening and disqualification under their oversight functions. It will be business as usual and a negation of the change mantra if they just go and take the usual bow.
‘’There are very few women in the list where as there should be at least 12 in the cabinet, which is even less than their electoral participation. We need more technocrats in a government of change than old politicos with hidden past agenda and misadventures under their carpets.
‘’Nigerians are watching and wondering aloud and praying for the mantra. The screening is now in the public domain and social media which is now scrutinising the list. The president is very watchful and wants also to be guided. We want a cabinet that will enthrone discipline, accountability, equity, fairness, education, health, diversification, devolution of powers, and restructuring so that the nation can move forward at at least nine per cent, which is a quantum growth rate for Africa’s biggest economy with production and reduced consumption of imports as a dumping ground.’’
It is a dream team – DPC
The Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) commended Buhari for nominating patriotic, credible and dynamic Nigerians for ministerial positions.
DPC National Chairman, Rev. Olusegun Peters, said: ‘’We believe the ministerial nominees are the dream team that will actualize President Buhari’s transformation agenda and fast track the nation’s dwindling economy. It is statesmanship at its best.
“Nigerians need men and women of integrity with exceptional passion to serve the fatherland and direct the ship of the Nigeria state to the part of rectitude, progress, development and advancement. Inept leadership has been the bane of the country’s socio-economic and political development. President Buhari’s dream team is a giant step forward towards economic emancipation and political salvation of our long suffering compatriots.’’
Noting that the expectation of Nigerians and indeed the international community from the ministerial nominees is high, Peters urged the Senate to ‘’thoroughly screen the candidates to ensure none of them has any skeleton in his or her cupboard. President Buhari has zero tolerance for corruption and assured the nation that his ministers will be people of impeccable character. The Senate has the onerous task to ensure they are free of corruption to avoid unnecessary scandal that will distract the Buhari administration as their failure will bring the nation into disrepute.’’
The team can’t drive change – LP
However, National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, disagreed with the DPC, saying the team cannot drive Buhari’s avowed change.
“Buhari has succeeded in creating problems for the people in some states. For instance, in Niger state where I come from, the governor is from Kotangora and the person he has nominated is also from Kotangora. In Plateau, the governor Lalong and Dalong are from the same local government. In Oyo state, Barrister Shittu who has been rejected by all the APC people, he has included his name on this list. For us in Labour Party, we did not see anything like change here,”he stated.
Some nominees dent Buhari’s image – Rep Oghene Egor
Also speaking, Rep Oghene Egor, PDP, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, said the President should be commended for keeping his promise of not exceeding September.
However, he picked holes in the credibility of some nominees, saying: ‘’Looking at the ministers’ list, I want to say that some of them dent the image of President Buhari because Buhari is somebody people respect, even we who are in PDP in the National Assembly we respect him. But for him to take people who have been accused of serious financial malpractices into the list reduces the integrity of the President.
‘’So what I think is that we need to give the people the benefit of doubt for them to prove whether they are corrupt or not because, as the law goes, you are not guilty until you are found guilty. But because of the integrity of Buhari, the fact that he wanted the best and he said he has been spending all this time, over three months, looking for the best, for him to just come back and pick these people, speaks volume and I don’t think it is good for the President.
‘’Also, look at Audu Ogbeh. The father of present President of the Senate the (late Senator Olusola Saraki) considered him for ministerial position more than 35 five years ago. For him to come now come into the regime of Mr. President, I think Mr. President needs some young minds, some freshers. The President’s age is on the high side, let us say that is experience, which is good for the nation but he needs to complement it with young minds, young hands. Even the President himself confessed at a time that he wished he became President when he was much younger.
‘’So, what I thought he would have done will be to bring some younger people. What we are seeing now is the same people who have been involved in politics at a time that he accused people of being fraudulent and corrupt. I would have thought he would have taken people from the private sector, taking more technocrats, people who have not been there before, people who have not been associated with governance.’’
It shows Buhari is not serious about fighting graft – Rep Nwonu
To Rep Anayo Edwin Nwonu (PDP, Ezza-North/Ishielu, Ebonyi), the pedigree of the nominees indicated that the President is not serious about fighting corruption.
He said: ‘’Nigerians have been complaining and have also complained to the National Assembly. With President Buhari, as somebody that said he wants to change the country, we are surprised that he appointed past governors that are very corrupt and some people who have held government positions and have been accused of corruption. They are not worthy to hold public office. Somebody, who says he is fighting corruption, with such list, it shows he is not serious in the fight against corruption.’’
There is nothing special about the list – Oseasochie
Also speaking, Rep Ogun Sergius Oseasochie (PDP, Esan North East/South East, Edo), said: ‘’There is nothing special about the ministerial list. These are the names we already know. Is it Rotimi Amaechi, Chris Ngige or Babatunde Fashola that we have known that should take him up to four months to nominate? There is no adequate representation of women and even no youth on the ministerial list. But I think we can give him the benefit of doubt.’’
Buhari came up with recycled materials – Pondi
In like manner, Rep Julius Pondi (PDP, Burutu Federal Constituency, Delta State), said: ‘’As an individual and a Nigerian, President Buhari told us to wait as he wanted people that are corruption free only for him, after the long wait, to come out with the kind of characters he has nominated. He could have done that after inauguration but he just came out with recycled materials. What he came up with is not worth waiting for.’’
Buhari took time to block loopholes – Akpatason
However, Rep Peter Akpatason (APC, Akoko-Edo, Edo State), said: ‘’To start with, there is nothing new on the list; they are old persons we know, people that have been around and familiar persons. The waiting is President Buhari’s personal decision as he is trying to understand the system and the ministers so that when they come on board, he would be able to know what they are doing. He took his time to have a grasp of the system so that he would be able to assess what they will do. He has taken this time to get information from the civil servants, the permanent secretaries so that he will be able to block all the loopholes the ministers may use to manipulate the system when they come on board.’’