In London to avoid distraction
To consider capacity, merit before party
Many ministers may not return
By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Features Editor
UNLIKE the usual practice of placing party and other considerations above merit in the appointment of ministers, President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet members would emerge strictly on competence, Saturday Vanguard authoritatively gathered.
Already, the President is keeping many close persons, powerful interests and even the All Progressives Congress, APC, leadership in the dark as to what his cabinet would look like.
A top Presidency source, who revealed these to Vanguard, explained that to achieve the objective in the face of what he termed growing pressure from lobbyists, Buhari’s departure to London last Thursday, became inevitable although other things may follow.
The impeccable source added that the President needed an environment devoid of distraction to be able to select an efficient team in line with his template.
He dismissed suspicions that the President may have embarked on the 11-day working vacation for medical check-up, saying Buhari would have handed over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, if he had travelled for only health reasons.
He cited the tone of the statement announcing the President’s visit to the UK, as proof that the formation of the cabinet is a project the President is deeply committed to.
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The statement which was issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, last Thursday, said Buhari was leaving for the UK for a private visit.
“At the end of the visit, President Buhari will be proceeding to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5, 2019,” the statement said without further details.
However, the source said Buhari found the act of lobbying for positions in his next cabinet irritating and a distraction.
“He doesn’t want anybody to influence his decisions. Lobbying even irritates him. Lobbying attracts disqualification. If he was considering a name and that person begins to lobby that disqualifies the person.
“He will disappoint many people who think it will be business as usual. He will shock even party leaders. Even some people considered to be in his cabal do not know what is in his mind. Nobody is sure of anything, not even party leaders. He will consider capacity, merit before party or even support for his re-election.
“He will consider Nigeria first before any other interest. Even his wife Aisha does not influence him and will not influence him now on ministerial appointments. He is not looking for another term after 2023, so all his attention is focused on serving Nigeria better. And he needs a good team to do better in his second term.
Merit is a primary
“If he was going to London on vacation he would have handed over to Osinbajo. But he is in London working for Nigeria even if it would afford him little time to rest and do any other thing. But tinkering is what he is doing.”
Another Presidency source, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, explained that the decision not to patronise the usual channels for the choice of ministers was borne out of the belief that most of the current ministers performed below expectation.
This, he said necessitated the President’s resolve to make merit the primary condition for anyone who would make his cabinet.
He said: “The President is very concerned about the quality of ministers to be appointed. The man does not want to repeat the mistake of 2015 when ministers were appointed without considering how suitable they were to their respective portfolios. Some are handing over now, making presentations but many don’t even have anything to hand over. Buhari is aware of the public perception about the current ministers and he wants to shock everyone including APC. I can assure you that the ministers would be appointed on merit. That is why he is in London to avoid distractions.”
Continuing, he added that the President would be guided by the 1999 constitution, which stipulated that a minister should be appointed from each of the 36 states of the federation including Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Guided by constitution
Section 147(3) of the constitution said: “Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.”
Going by what the sources said and the consequences of the late appointment of ministers in 2015, the new cabinet may likely be announced shortly after the May 29, inauguration.
However, there is no constitutional provision that specified when a new administration should appoint ministers, but the joint committee of the National Assembly, NASS, on constitution amendment had proposed the appointment of ministers, commissioners within 30 days.
The committee in the report which was presented in 2017 had altered Section 147 of the constitution to provide that once the President takes Oath of Office, he has only 30 days to appoint his ministers.
The amendment was among those the President did not sign on May 31‘, 2018 when he signed a fourth constitution alteration bill seeking to reduce the age qualification for aspirants running for the office of President, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly respectively.
Perception of underperformance
Saturday Vanguard recalls that apart from the perception of underperformance by most ministries, especially key ministries, in-infighting among junior and senior ministers also characterised the activities of the ministers.
These resulted in the absence of synergy that could have emanated from interministerial interface.
The situation informed sustained calls from the public for the rejigging of the cabinet and even outright sack of some ministers.
Such calls were not heeded by Buhari, who only witnessed the resignation of five ministers and the death of one.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba Ibrahim, had resigned on February 16, 2019, to run for an elective office in Damaturu/Tarmuwa/Gujba/Gulani Federal Constituency of Yobe State.
Alhaji Ibrahim Jubiril also resigned his appointment as Minister of State for Environment following his declaration as an Emir.
Hajiya Amina Mohammed, on February 24, 2017, resigned as Minister of Environment following her appointment at the United Nations as Deputy Secretary-General.
The incumbent governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi also resigned on May 30, 2018, to contest for the governorship position of his state.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan, also known as Mama Taraba, resigned from the cabinet and from the APC hinging her resignation on her disqualification in the screening for the 2019 Taraba State governorship election by the party’s National Working Committee.
In September 2018, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun resigned as the Minister of Finance as a result of allegations that she falsified her National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Exemption Certificate.
In March 2016, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Mr. James Ocholi ,SAN, died in a road crash that occurred at Kilometre 57, along Kaduna-Abuja highway.
Some ministers gave a bad face to the President’s anti-corruption fight. But they survived. There were ministers who were even so petty that they applied and collected estacodes of aides for trips the aides never made. There were some who collected full estacodes and paid their aides half or even less.
There were also some the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC simply failed to investigate allegations brought against them. They all survived a Buhari administration that allowed the ministers so much freedom and didn’t do enough to monitor them. All that, we gathered, may change in this second coming they have tagged THE NEXT LEVEL.