BY CHIKA NWABUEZE & OLUSESAN LAOYE |
Shortly before the nation celebrated its 55th year of independence last week, the long awaited ministerial list was handed over to Dr. Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, ending months of speculations and anxieties.
While it is now Saraki’s task to formally make the contents public at Tuesday’s plenary, Hallmark checks however reveal that the list contains 21 names, the first batch of at least 37 members that would expectedly comprise the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
Even as the Senate proceeds with the task of screening the ministers-designate, there is enormous concern across the length and breadth of the country as to whether the team would be able to deliver the critically needed growth and development that Nigerians so loudly requested during the immediate past electoral season. In discussions of the subject across the weekend, the tone was almost unanimously: ‘are they the ones or should we wait for some others?’
Overall however, the names contained within the list conform to what had been bandied about in the media and which many Nigerians had then reconciled themselves to wait for. As expected for example, the former governors of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola; Ekiti, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Anambra, Dr Chris Ngige; and Rivers, Chibuike Amaechi reportedly made it.
They were joined by the former National Chairman of the defunct ANPP, Dr Ogbonaya Onu and former Agriculture Minister, Dr Audu Ogbeh.
Relatively surprise picks are Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the current Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Senator Hadi Sirika, former MDGs Adviser to President Obasanjo, Mrs Amina Muhammed, Malami Abubakar, SAN, Aisha Alhassan and Alhaji Adebayo Shittu who was the governorship candidate of the CPC in Oyo State.
While some of these have long been in the public eye, there are others that have also been around but not in the most prominent dimensions. For these ones, loyalty and service within the Buhari organization has been a factor.
One such beneficiary is the nominee from Oyo State, Shittu, who is regarded as a core Buhari man and a non-conformist who had squared up against late Chief Bola Ige when he was a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly before he later dumped the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, for the National Party of Nigeria where he was made the Commissioner for Justice under the short-lived governorship of Dr Omololu Olunloyo.
One other significant surprise name in that list is that of Ms. Kemi Adeosun whose name was said to have been submitted to the Ogun State House of Assembly for commissionership by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, but ironically too, her name also appeared in Buhari’s list.
However, the names of some who had been named in the media as possible hopefuls were not included in the first batch. They include Dr. Pat Utomi, Chief Festus Odimegwu and Mr. Wale Edu. Others are the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.
Why their names are not in the first list could not be ascertained but it is strongly believed that they could still make the list since the President has said categorically in his Independence Anniversary Broadcast that what he sent to the Senate was the first set of people who would be in his cabinet.
However, there remain controversies over the speculated names in the list and what some say is the unnecessary delay in their nomination.
Also there are those that have argued that President Muhammadu Buhari did promise to appoint his ministers in September only for him to send only a partial list. This to some analysts, smacks of deceit.
Again, there is the issue of the composition of the cabinet and if the list that is in public domain is anything to rely on, then Buhari has not done anything special as he had reportedly promised Nigerians that he would do more than recycling old hands. In fact many watchers of the Buhari administration argue that the names on the list are not worth the long delay in compiling it as it fails to meet the expectations of the people.
At the time when the President was receiving an array of attacks over his delay in naming his cabinet, he suddenly acted in a manner which some political analysts say was through the back door. They argued that Buhari in his usual style did not follow the procedure through which the names should be made public and this again generated its own share of controversy.
What also gave political watchers serious concern about the 21 names now out was why the President chose to send the list to Senate President, Bukola Saraki after the sitting at the upper legislative chambers? Even the manner the names were made public was another subject of criticism as they were revealed through the Senate President’s Twitter handle which was described as absolutely out of place for the exposure of such an important national matter.
More auspiciously however, analysts appear to be at a loss as to the direction of Buhari’s economic policy given the absence of a finance expert in the list so far. They also want greater guarantees that the final exercise would not be skewed in favour of his ethnic constituency as his first set of appointments had suggested.
Commenting on the issue, a political analyst, Olabode Oseni pointed out that inasmuch as Nigerians are still waiting to see how the President would distribute the portfolios; the list was a welcome development. Mr. Achike Chude who also reacted said President Buhari’s broadcast and his stand on the ministerial list met the expectations of Nigerians.
Henry Olujimi Boyo, an economist, on his part argued that for the present government to tackle the precarious economic issues, the right people must be put in charge of the economy because the economy of a nation is very strategic to its development and growth.
Others who reacted include Mr. Billy Harry, National Vice President of Chamber of Commerce, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), who condemned the statement of Buhari that he would be in charge of the Petroleum Ministry. He is of the opinion that this would amount to distractions and overloading himself without being able to administer the various facets of the economy and policies. ”I don’t think I will advise him to saddle himself with that additional responsibility.”
Former secretary general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Joe Achuzia said he would not want any Igbo man to accept to serve as a minister in Buhari’s government. ”What worries me is that ministers have been regarded as mere servants to the President. Without an Igbo man being a minister, I do not think the president will survive. So Igbo should not take any ministerial position,” he insists.
Mr. Abia Onyike, a PDP chieftain said “The people he has submitted their names are the same old political class, he is merely recycling them. They are not in any way new. It is not the search for such people that made him waste all the time, he ought to have known those to appoint the day he was sworn in as it is done all over the world. He should explain to Nigerians the actual reason why he wasted all this time. The fact that he is even releasing it in batches still shows a high level of hesitation on his part to start working with ministers.
The President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said: “I don’t think the President has released the list. I think all those names are just speculations. We were told he sent a letter to the Senate President and the Senate President has not released any name to Nigerians. By Tuesday when the Senate President reads the names, then we will know.’
Gani Taofeek, PDP spokesman in Lagos said that it is obvious that the eventual list shows that the time he spent was just a waste of time. ‘The President had no reason to keep the people in suspense for that long,’ he said.
He stressed that nobody would have expected that the Rotimi Amaechis and the Fasholas of this world are the people that are presented as if we have to go to the moon to find them. That is even talking about the modalities he used. “As we speak, some people have a case against Fashola, that he defrauded the Lagos state government in so many ways. The case of Amaechi is still ongoing in Rivers. There is a report already which I believe the president is aware of, and which is an indictment on him as a governor. So many others who have also been named are people who are tainted with corruption,’ he argued.