The long awaited ministerial list has finally arrived with the senate through with the screening of the first set of nominees. From the look of things non-of the nominees has failed the screening exercise. But what matters to stakeholders now is their competence to drive the change mantra. CHIKA NWABUEZE and OLUSESAN LAOYE report
After over five months of suspense and anxiety, the names of ministerial nominees were forwarded to the senate for screening and confirmation. The list which came in two batches has 37 nominees in all, and out of these numbers 25 have been screened while the remaining will take their turns this Tuesday. One prominent feature of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees is that he introduced new faces, but analysts are wondering whether that is enough evidence for change.
The most controversial ministerial nominee, Chief Rotimi Amaechi has been cleared last Thursday amidst reactions from the public. Those who are vast in the politics of Nigeria reasoned that it would have been extremely difficult for the senate not to clear Amaechi, the former Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign and Buhari’s lieutenant.
According to this group, the only reason that Amaechi would not pass the screening is if the presidency is not interested in his nomination. Besides, Amaechi has an ally in the senate president, Bukola Saraki, who ensured that he succeeded him as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Again, Amaechi have former governors who belong to his class of 2007 in the senate, including his rival in the NGF leadership, Jonah Jang of Plateau state. He also has the advantage as a former speaker of Rivers state House of Assembly.
During his screening in the senate, the Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio declared that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Caucus in the senate will not ask him question since the report of the senate committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has not been debated on by the senate. There were several petitions against Amaechi’s nomination both from the Rivers senators and other concerned individuals. The petitions borders on corruption and the probe of the Rivers state finances during his tenure by Governor Nyesom Wike.
Amaechi told the senate that the Rivers Panel of Inquiry did not indict him, and that he has never taken bribe before. His answers left Nigerians stunned. He was asked questions by the All Progressives Congress, APC, senators and there is a feeling that he may head the Niger Delta ministry.
The senate itself is concerned that the screening lacks depth due to the fact that nominees were not assigned portfolios, which made the work a bit unserious. However, the main issue of concern is in the ability of the nominees to perform, regardless of their status, gender and age.
While some segments of the society believe that President Buhari assembled the best hands for the country, others were of the opinion that his best was not good enough, while some expressed mixed reactions over the names of those who will work with him.
At the moment, Nigerians are still at a loss as to who occupies what portfolio and whether Buhari would ensure round pegs are put in rounds holes or vice versa.
There is also uncertainty over who will handle the fiscal aspect of the economy as none of the nominees appears to be a well rounded financial expert. Two names who are close to it are Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Ogun state nominee and Okechukwu Enelamah, the Abia nominee. Either of the two is expected to handle the finance ministry.
Mrs. Adeosun, who was before now the commissioner of finance in Ogun state fits well into the position but the argument has been her experience and maturity. Although she claimed to have about 25 years cognate experience in the financial sector most of which was abroad, the fear now is that like her predecessor, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who never had any working experience in the country and was using his European experience to manage the multifaceted economic problems of the country, will she not fall into the same situation.
For Enelamah, he qualified as a medical doctor from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Those who schooled with him testified to his academic excellence. However, he delved into finance and became a successful finance expert who is on the board of many blue chip companies.
Observers argued that the expectations of Nigerians are now very high on the government and any mistake could cost Buhari the goodwill which he is presently enjoying.
According to stakeholders, some of the critical areas which need special attention and competent people to function are power, energy, infrastructure, transportation, aviation, internal and foreign affairs, finance and agriculture, education, defense and technology.
Since there is need to diversify the economy, agriculture is important and needs a capable hand. Chief Audu Ogbeh, former minister in the second republic is seen as the man for the job given his experience and pedigree in the field of agriculture.
Beside agriculture, the present government is also expected to develop technology which is where the world is going today. The new administration is expected to draw up a policy frame work to develop our technological knowhow.
Attention is also directed to the side of former governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola, whose nomination also stirred up controversy. The ministry he will head is not clear, but there is evidence that he might be drafted to the works or Federal Capital Territory. Also it is envisaged that the former governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who has always been in Buhari’s entourage to his foreign trips may get the foreign affairs ministry. If this is so, he is then expected to formulate a strong relationship with the international community so as to encourage direct foreign investments in the country.
Though Dr. Chris Ngige is a medical doctor, it is not certain whether he will be given the health portfolio. The argument is that Ngige stopped medical practice almost two decades ago, and the other medical doctor in the list, Enelamah had since left medical practice for finance. It could go either way.
The aspect of defense and security are other areas which Nigerians would want drastic improvements and this is why many people are comfortable with the nomination of Lt. Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), who was the former chief of army staff and known as a no-nonsense soldier. He has returned to a familiar turf.
Another ministry that is of interest to many Nigerians is the Attorney-General and minister of Justice. Although in the history of ministerial appointments in the country, President Buhari is parading the highest number of lawyers in his list this makes it a bit confusing. There is Abubakar Malami, SAN, the legal adviser of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change; James Ocholi, SAN, from Kogi state, Barr Adebayo Shittu from Oyo state and Fashola, SAN.
From the look of things Nigerians would want a person that can radically change the judicial system and make it more efficient.
Prof Akin Oyebode of the department of Law in the University of Lagos while commenting on the nominees, said that for the past 30 years Nigerians have been seeking for effective governance, and believed that Buhari now has the opportunity to change the system of governance with his choice of ministers.
He pointed out that the president must use competence and experience to assign portfolios to the ministers and put them where they would be able to serve the country better.
According to Mr. Olabode Oseni a political analyst, the names of those paraded by president Buhari met the expectations of Nigerians, as he too is concerned about the placement of the ministers to fit where they would function optimally. He said this era could be the foundation for progress in the country.
Rear Admiral Francis Akpan (retd) said that the names presented were encouraging, and argued that he was sure that if Dambazau is placed in the defence ministry, he would perform very well. Although he suggested that the nominees could be regarded as known faces and old wine in new bottle, there competences he said are not in doubt.
Mr. Henry Olujimi Boyo who is an economist, said that president Buhari now has the opportunity to make a difference in the nation’s economic policy, which should now drive investment and industrialization process. This he pointed out requires the president to appoint a matured and experience person who could turn things around.