News Analysis by Clifford Ndujihe
Nigeria – FIFTY-FIVE days after his swearing-in for second term, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, sent a list of his 43-man ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation.
The number is seven higher than the 36 he submitted in 2015. This time he did it in less than two months compared to the 124 days or four months it took him to send his first list of nominees on September 30, 2015.
In terms of 30 per cent Affirmative Action, there is little or no difference in the number of women nominated in 2015 and now even though the lot of women was marginally better four years ago. In 2015, there were six women (16.67 per cent) in a list of 36. Now, there are seven women (16.28 per cent) in a list of 43.
The seven women nominated are Pauline Tallen (former minister and deputy governor of Plateau); Mariam Katagun (Nigeria’s ambassador and permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO); Sadiya Farouq (federal commissioner of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons); Sharon Ikeazor (Member of APC BoT and executive secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD); Gbemisola Saraki (former senator); Ramatu Tijjani ( national women leader of the APC), and Zainab Ahmed (immediate past minister of Finance).
Unlike in 2015 when the lawmakers had returned from their annual recess and had up to three months to screen the 36 nominees before proceeding on Christmas and New Year break, the legislators have three days (Wednesday to Friday) to screen the 43-man list before proceeding on their yearly two-month recess.
As it is, the lawmakers will not begin their recess on Friday. Senate Spokesperson, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said, last week, that in national interest they would screen the nominees any time they get the list. And yesterday, he said the lawmakers have shifted their recess by one week to ensure thorough screening.
Unlike in the past, every nominee must earn his or her confirmation. So, eight of the nominees, who are former members of the National Assembly, in the tradition of the Senate, would not be asked to take a bow and go.
Expectedly, the 43-man list is raising dust in the polity with commendations and criticisms here and there.
Last week, President Buhari of Nigeria said he would only appoint those he knows to drive his Next Level agenda. In the current exercise, he dropped 18 of his past ministers and retained 14 in what presidency minders said was to reward performance, hard work loyalty, and role in the All Progressives Congress, APC electoral successes at the last general elections.
Among those one or more of these factors worked for include former Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; former Transportation Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, immediate past Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Muhammad Bello, former Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, former Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, former Minister of State, Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
However, talking about reward for electoral success, tongues are wagging over the nomination of those who could not deliver their states to Buhari in the presidential election. Such nominees include Amaechi, Ngige, Onu, Akume and Ehanire.
States that President Buhari lost at the polls include Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, FCT, Akwa Ibom, and Abia.
A cynosure in the list is Senator Godswill Akpabio, who resigned his Senate minority leadership position on the platform of the PDP and defected to the APC before the election. His move was expected to boost APC’s chances in Akwa Ibom State. He picked the party’s senatorial ticket for Ikot Ekpene zone and squared up against former Deputy Governor Chris Ekpenyong and lost. The matter is still at the tribunal. Some stakeholders of APC kicked against moves to nominate Akpabio as a minister, arguing that it would polarise the APC in Akwa Ibom and discourage a host of long-standing members. The plea did not jell with the president, hence Akpabio’s nomination, in what an Uyo resident said was to compensate Akpabio for the abuses he received from the PDP.
The nominations of Lai Mohammed and Gbemisola Saraki are seen as a befitting reward for hard work. The duo joined other APC stalwarts in Kwara to stop immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki from being elected. They also ensured that the PDP did not win any electoral slot in the state at all levels.
So striking is their electoral output that it has been described as the master stroke that ended the Saraki political dynasty. Gbemisola is Bukola Saraki’s younger sister. The former Senate President opposed Gbemisola’s quest to succeed him as governor in 2011 and sided Abdulfatah Ahmed. Then, the Saraki Patriarch and Second Republic Senate Leader, late Dr Olusola Saraki, was in favour of Gbemisola, which Bukola opposed. Since then, the relations between Bukola and Gbemisola had been frosty hence Gbemisola’s backing of the moves that ousted Bukola.
Looking at the list, one question on the lips of observers is whether or not they can drive President Buhari’s Next Level Agenda. No doubt, most of them boast of fine credentials and experience but a host of them were part of the last cabinet, whose performance has been wrapped in divergent arguments. The list include seven former governors, seven former senators and lawmakers, a collection of party leaders in some states, a handful of technocrats, and a couple of fresh nominees, whose names do not ring a bell in the political firmament.
As the Senate begins screening today, it is to be seen how many of the nominees will scale through, and how far they will go in helping President Buhari improve socio-economic fortunes.