In a bid to beat the 5-day ultimatum given to him, on July 21, 2019, by the Senate to submit his ministerial list and to put an end to the already 2-month wait, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, sent 43 names of ministerial nominees to the Senate for vetting and confirmation.
The letter to the Nigerian Senate came exactly 54 days after he was inaugurated as President.
If Nigerians expected any major surprises, they were shocked to the marrow by the recycling of many old faces. The disappointment was practically driven home by the fact of Buhari’s earlier claims that most of the cabinet members in his first tenure were unknown to him. The nominees, as it turned out, were either party loyalists who had spearheaded his campaign, close associates with whom he traversed the political terrain in search of power, and persons largely perceived to have funded his quest for the presidency.
A look at the list shows that approximately 30 per cent of it is made up of ministers who formed his first term cabinet. They include: Babatunde Fashola (Lagos State), Mohammed Bello (Adamawa State), Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi State), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers State), Chris Ngige (Anambra State), Godfrey Onyeama (Enugu State), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna State), Lai Mohammed (Kwara State), Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa State), Hadi Sirika (Katsina State), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi State) and Osagie Enahire (Edo State).
Many would recall that Buhari had never hidden his disdain for conventional politics and politicians. Critics are reminded of how, when interrogated about the delay in nominating a cabinet in his first term, he retorted that Ministers were ‘noise makers.’
Interestingly, only 16 per cent of nominees are made up of women. They include: Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra State), Pauline Tallen (Plateau State), Mariam Katagun (Bauchi State), Sadiya Farouq (Zamfara State), Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara State), Ramatu Tijjani (Kogi State) and Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna State).
Yet again, this yielded no surprises. The number of women nominees only rose by one, having pegged at six in the first dispensation. Of the lot, majority are close associates who worked with him while he sought refuge in ANPP or CPC.
The President dropped 19 ministers who served in his first term, and their replacements include: Rauf Aregbosola (Osun State), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom State), Uchechukwu Ogah (Abia State), George Akume (Benue State), Festus Keyamo (Delta State), Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra State), Sunday Dare (Oyo State), Adeleke Mamora (Lagos State), Otunba Adebayo (Ekiti State), Tayo Alasodura (Ondo State), Zubairu Dada (Niger State), Goddy Jedy-Agba (Cross River State) and Muhammadu Dingyadi (Sokoto State).
Naturally, criticisms have trailed Buhari’s proposal but that of Tanko Yakassi will suffice here. A founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), he declared that the ministerial list is filled with some fantastically corrupt persons.
“The new ministerial list submitted by the President to the Senate is representative enough, but the nomination of certain people perceived to be fantastically corrupt made mockery of the President’s war against corruption,” he said. Yakassai’s reference to ‘representativeness’ is better appreciated if noted that Buhari is constitutionally empowered to pick a Minister from each of the country’s 36 federating units.
Placed against their antecedents, there is a strong temptation to qualify Buhari’s proposed team as a ‘come and chop’ gang. John Chukwu of Ripples Nigeria takes a close look at some of the striking individuals who made the list.
1. Festus Keyamo
Keyamo was, in April 2018, appointed the Director of Strategic Communications (Official Spokesman) for President Buhari 2019 presidential re-election bid. The distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was very active in marketing the President and showed dexterity in defending any negative report or statement targeted at his principal during the campaigns and election period.
Keyamo might just have been compensated for stridently riding the wind to shore up Buhari’s reputation.
2. Lai Mohammed
Mohammed, who served as the Minister of Information and Culture, can aptly be described as a Trojan in the battle to dethrone the man, Bukola Saraki, whose strangulating hold on Kwara State politics was visible even to the blind.
He is perceived in several quarters to be APC’s ‘lying machine’ as he severally raised propaganda to the level of a statecraft, thereby providing necessary protection and electoral numbers for President Buhari. Under Mohammed’s care, APC saw off Bukola Saraki’s challenge for a Senatorial seat in Kwara State. His place was taken by Ibrahim Oloriegbe who won the Kwara Central Senatorial District election on the platform of the APC.
For Mohammed, his return to Buhari’s cabinet is seen as reward for the endless battles he prosecuted for and on behalf of the ruling party.
3. Gbemisola Saraki
Gbemisola Saraki, 54, the daughter of the late Olusola Saraki, who was a political heavyweight in Kwara State politics is one of the 7 women who made the ministerial list. She is well experienced in Nigerian politics. In 1999, she was elected into the House of Representatives to represent Asa/Ilorin West federal constituency of Kwara State. From 2007 to 2011, she served as the Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District. She contested for the governorship seat of Kwara State; to succeed his brother – Bukola Saraki – who was the outgoing governor of the State in 2011 but she lost. She defected to the ruling APC in 2015 and is believed to have worked against her brother’s re-election bid to the Senate.
Gbemisola may have been compensated for helping to whittle down the influence of his brother, Bukola, and ultimately shaming him out of power.
4. Godswill Akpabio
The two-term former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio, shocked many Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members when he dumped the party in August 2018 and joined the APC. The former minority leader of the 8th Senate lost his re-election bid to represent Akwa Ibom Northwest in the Senate to a former deputy governor of the State, Chris Ekpenyong.
It is believed that his senatorial zone withdrew their political support for him because he left PDP for APC, a party that they were uncomfortable with. His addition to the list must be President Buhari’s attempt to make him politically relevant again, and perhaps position him and APC for the battles ahead in 2023.
5. Rotimi Amaechi
Amaechi would best be remembered for providing the financial means that helped cage the second term ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan and the eventual enthronement of Buhari as President. For his efforts, he was gifted the portfolio of Minister of Transportation during the President’s first term.
It may be safe to assume that Buhari wants to retain him as a minister in order to keep empowering him against governor Nyesom Wike, who is perceived as the strongest opposition force in the entire Southeast and South-south.
Amaechi’s retention is, therefore, seen as a strategic and convenient move. However, he has been praised for his work rate on several projects in the Transportation ministry, such as the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail line project undertaken by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).
6. Uchechukwu Ogah
Though a relatively newcomer in Abia politics, Ogah, the President of Masters Energy Group, has, through his wealth, helped to strength the APC structures in the State. He has followed up same by positioning and contesting for the governorship seat of Abia State.
There are also high speculations that he may have thrown his enormous wealth behind Buhari in the 2019 presidential poll. Defeated by PDP’s Okezie Ikpeazu, Ogah may have been compensated for his many sacrifices to enthrone APC as a political force in a largely hostile environment.
7. Babatunde Fashola
The two-term governor of Lagos State, Fashola, served as the Minister of Works, Power and Housing during President Buhari’s first term. Critics see him as a Super Minister, having been assigned a triple portfolio at inception of the Buhari administration. Generally acknowledged as very brilliant, the hype around Fashola has yet to translate to super performance in the ministries that he has managed.
Buhari is reputed to cherish loyalty above anything. It is, therefore, believed that Fashola’s comeback may not be directly related to performance but the huge influence wielded by Bola Ahmed Tinubu who remains Buhari’s strongest backbone or political ally in the entire country.
8. Osagie Enahire
Enahire is a medical doctor who served as the Minister of State for Health. Having Enahire on the list, again, suggests that the phenomenon of god-fatherism may have been at play.
Coming from the same home State as the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, it is safe to argue that Enahire might have made the President’s list, not just to strengthen the hands of Oshiomhole but also act as a wedge in Edo State where the opposition PDP, in the face of the internal rumblings in APC, appears to be gathering momentum.
9. Ogbonnaya Onu
Onu is largely regarded as one of Buhari’s closest allies. He has been with him since his days at the All Nigeria Peoples Party. He served as the Minister of Science and Technology during President Buhari’s first term.
Given President Buhari’s penchant to stick to friends and loyalists, Onu’s retention is seen as one of those classic cases of standing by a friend who has very little to show with respect to his performance in public service.