Surprisingly, however, when the second term ministerial list finally came, it was not a clean slate after all.
President Muhammadu Buhari
The list of the ministerial nominees sent to the Senate on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari has generated mixed reactions but OLALEKAN ADETAYO examines if the list is worth the wait
About two months after taking the oath of office for his second term, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday released the much-awaited list of ministers who will assist him to deliver his electoral promises compressed into a campaign theme and matra known as ‘Next Level.’
While the waiting game lasted, not a few people believed that two months was too long for a second term President to constitute his cabinet as contained in Section 147 of the nation’s 1999 Constitution as amended. The belief was that having been in the saddle for the first four years from May 29, 2015, the Nigerian leader should have hit the ground running by naming the ministers that will work with him earlier, even on the day of his inauguration.
But the Tuesday’s ministerial nominees’ list can still be considered to be fast in coming when compared with what happened during Buhari’s first term when it took him about five months to name his ministers, many of whom analysts rated below average at the end of their tenure.
Surprisingly, however, when the second term ministerial list finally came, it was not a clean slate after all. The list sent to the Ahmad Lawan-led Senate by the retired army general was still dominated by those who have held one public office or the other in the not too distant time.
In the list are former ministers, former state governors and former federal lawmakers. Some nominees even have the ‘privilege’ of combining two or three of such persons.
In his wisdom, the septuagenarian leader re-appointed 14 among the ministers who worked with him in his first term.
The returnee ministers are Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Hadi Sirika (Katsina), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Lai Mohammed (Kwara), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Godfrey Onyeama (Enugu), Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Osagie Enahire (Edo), Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Mohammed Bello (Adamawa) and Mustapha Shehuri (Borno).
Apart from being ministers in Buhari’s first term, Fashola, Amaechi, Ngige and Onu are also former state governors.
While Fashola, Amaechi and Ngige had at different times been governors of Lagos, Rivers and Anambra states, Onu was also governor in the old Abia State. In addition to being a former minister and former governor, Ngige also has the honour of being a former senator while Amaechi had also served as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years. Shehuri is also a former member of the House of Representatives.
Another very conspicuous category of people in Buhari’s ‘Class of 2019’ is the former governors who are new entrants into the Federal Executive Council.
In this category are Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), George Akume (Benue), Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun). Besides being former governors, Akpabio and Akume are also former senators just as Aregbesola was a commissioner in Lagos and Adebayo is currently a member of the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Prominent among the new entrants is also Paulen Tallen, a former Minister of State for Science and Technology and former deputy governor of Plateau State. She is also a board member of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS.
Adeleke Mamora, one of the two nominees from Lagos State, is not an exception. He was at a time the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly after which he also served as a senator. A nominee from Ondo State, Tayo Alasoadura, is also a former senator.
Another new entrant, Sharon Ikeazor from Anambra State, is currently the Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate. Also, Ali Pantami, the nominee from Gombe State, is currently the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the National Information Technology Development Agency.
Buhari’s ministerial nominee from Imo State, Emeka Nwajiuba, is currently a member representing Ehimembano/Ihiteuboma/Obowo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Ambassador Maryam Katagun is the nominee from Bauchi State and she is Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Another new entrant is Gbemisola Saraki from Kwara State. She is a former member of the House of Representatives and a former senator.
The nominee from Oyo State, Sunday Dare, is currently the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Management) of the Nigerian Communications Commission. Sadiya Umar Faruk from Zamfara State is currently the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons while Ramatu Tijjani from Kogi is a former foreign national women leader of the ruling APC. Olamilekan Adegbite from Ogun State was Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in the state.
With the large chunk of the nominees on the list are people well known to have held or still holding different public offices, the question on the lips of many observers is if the long wait for the list was worth it.
A professor of Political Science at the Lagos State University, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, in an interview with our correspondent, said a country that had many issues to resolve could not be recycling those he described as failed politicians as Nigeria is currently doing.
He said Buhari’s ministerial list, which include the names of former governors who he claimed could not solve the various problems facing their states, portrayed the government as having no agenda and direction.
Odion-Akhaine said, “Buhari has not disappointed many of us again in terms of not expecting anything significant from his government. We have gone through four years of inertia and again, it is the same path that we are going to go through in the next four years.
“I do not see how a country that is badly in need and has many contradictions to resolve, can be recycling failed politicians. These are politicians who could not resolve developmental problems in their states and have served out two terms in some cases and you are bringing them back as ministers. Basically, this portrays a government that has no agenda and has no direction.”
Also, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and Head of Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Rafsanjani, expressed the view that Buhari’s ministerial list appeared more like a campaign team. Rafsanjani, who is also the chairman of the Board of Amnesty International (Nigeria), expressed regret that the President could include people who were being investigated by anti-graft agencies in his ministerial list.
He said, “Nigerians will just have to endure whatever comes their ways until this administration is over. This is because this administration does not believe in consultation or dialogue and it does not believe in the interest of Nigerians.
“The ministerial list contains names of people having corruption cases before the EFCC and ICPC. This government that claims to be fighting corruption does not see anything wrong in picking people who are being investigated by anti-corruption agencies for their actions and inaction in the offices they held in the past. This government is clearly not sensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians. The list only shows that the government does not care about anything Nigerians are saying.
“If the President believes in inclusiveness, he would not have limited himself to his campaign team. As far as I am concerned, the ministerial list is just like a campaign team. If the President is interested in bringing in people that can bring in some levels of sanity and provide quality leadership, he would have gone beyond his party. There are many talented Nigerians that he can invite to contribute to nation building .”
He added, “We have been talking about him bringing in experts and yet, he went to bring people who have held positions in the past and have nothing to show for such positions they held. It is really unfortunate. The President said he would appoint only those he knows and it is unfortunate that many of those he picked are people with credibility problems except for a few ones among them. We actually have a few of them that we believe can perform, but when the majority of them are bad, it will be difficult for the few good ones to make any meaningful difference.”
On his part, the spokesperson for the Yoruba group, Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with our correspondent, said the country was in what he described as a serious crisis if the ministerial list was the best the President could produce after months of searching.
Odumakin said the list appeared more like a list of members of the ruling party’s campaign committee than that of members of FEC.
He said, “It is very funny that five months after the presidential election and two months after his inauguration for second term, the President’s search could only produce Sylva, Aregbesola, Akpabio and even Fashola among others. You know the President said earlier that he was going to appoint those who he knew.
“If those on the list are the best the President could come up with after months, then we are in a serious crisis. This list is not in any way worth it. We were expecting that he will search for good hands in the Diaspora and look for the best brains around the world, but that did not happen. The list looks more like names of the campaign committee for the APC and not that of ministers.”
Also, the National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, shared the views expressed by Odumakin.
Shettima told our correspondent that he was surprised that politicians whom he claimed had failed the nation in their previous assignments dominated the ministerial list. He said he expected that the President would consider more young and vibrant technocrats to rescue the ship of the nation.
He said, “The long waiting for the list does not worth it. One would have expected that most of the nominees will be technocrats and experts in various fields who will have the capacity to declare emergency in the areas where this government has failed in the last four years. If you look at the list, it contains mostly of former governors , former ministers and former lawmakers, among others. We know the antecedents of these people. Almost all of them have failed in their previous appointments at all levels.
“Apart from a few of them who have not served the government like Festus Keyamo, who I knew when we were in the trenches and people like Ikechukwu Ogar and Emeka Nwajuba, those are a few young men who I believe can do better than all these former this and former that who have failed and no longer have anything to offer.
“The President should have gone the way of encouraging more younger elements who are professionals with sound minds so that the government can move faster. However, let us remain hopeful that with these new entrants, we are going to see something different compared to these former public office holders who are returning afresh.”
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, is not left out in the criticism trailing the unveiling of Buhari’s next ministers.
The party’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, is of the opinion that the President disappointed Nigerians.
Secondus told SUNDAY PUNCH that Nigerians had thought the list would contain names of new and competent people.
The PDP leader said, “The President disappointed Nigerians with the list he sent to the Senate. Going by the delay before the list was sent, we had thought we would see fresh and competent names on it. We thought we would see professionals in the field of economics, petroleum, statistics, education, power, industry and even transportation.
“We have a new Prime Minister in the United kingdom now. Within a day, he had picked members of his cabinet and even added their portfolios. That is a leader that is ready to work. But here we are, with a President who is a former Head of State and had tried three times to win election , but failed. Four years ago, his refusal to get us ministers led us to a recession. We have not come out of it. He said ministers are noisemakers. Left to him, he would be a sole administrator. He believes he knows everything.
“Nigerians should put the ministers on their toes and keep asking them questions when they assume office. They should not be cowed. Democracy is about the multiplicity of opinions.”
But the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling APC, Lanre Issa-Onilu, disagreed sharply with the views that the ministerial list fell below expectation. For Issa-Onilu, the ministerial list contains names of competent people that will assist the President to achieve his administration’s plans.
He said, “Were those condemning the list expecting it to contain names from Jupiter? Or in the case of the PDP, were they expecting names of nominees to be fetched from the server?
“Whichever way, people will still say whatever they want to say. But the important thing is that we have a solid squad. We have a squad of experienced technocrats that cut across several beats and discipline. With this team, together with the President, the next four years will be exciting.”
In all, it appears the President did not spring a surprise with many of the names on his list. But will the team spring a surprise in terms of performance? Only time will tell.