…North, S/West share top positions, S/East and S/South lose out
President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated his much awaited cabinet members leaving Nigerians with surprises. While he tactfully ceded the running of the economy to the South, he made sure he consolidated on political power. CHIKA NWABUEZE reports
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, November 11th inaugurated 13 ministers of state and 23 ministers thereby ending months of suspense and intense speculation over ministerial appointments. However, with the portfolios as allocated, Buhari has also moved to consolidate his hold on political power, taking the relevant ministries that will help sustain his government, while ceding the economic matters to the South to handle.
While he handed Babatunde Fashola the biggest task in his cabinet to oversee the ministry of Power, Works and Housing; the Transport ministry also went to another trusted ally of the President, Rotimi Amaechi, who was the Director-General of Buhari presidential campaign.
Like vice president Yemi Osinbajo said that the government is going to spend itself out of recession, it is expected that Fashola will drive the project implementation and execution which is central to the overall development of the economy. Buhari’s antagonists also alleged that both Fashola and Amaechi got the juiciest ministries because they are the ones going to generate funds for the All Progressives Congress, APC, activities ahead of 2019.
The ministries of Interior, Justice and Defence also went to Buhari’s associates, Abulraham Danbazau for Interior, Dan Ali (Defence) and Abubakar Malami, former Congress for Progressives Change legal adviser for Justice. The case against Malami is that he is too young to deal with the technicalities involved in the legal issues of the government. These ministries are of strategic importance to the continued stay of Buhari in power.
Earlier, President Buhari had appointed majorly Northerners to sensitive positions like Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF; Chief of Staff; National Security Adviser; Director of DSS; Chief of Army Staff; Director of Protocol; INEC Chairman and EFCC Chairman among others.
In the national assembly, the north holds the position of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
One thing that is certain from the portfolios assigned to the ministers is that nobody was able to predict correctly who gets what ministry.
It is quite clear that the ministries allotted to former Lagos state governor, Fashola, is the talk of the day. He was handed the mandate of overseeing the affairs of three key ministries, Power, Works and Housing; areas which the Nigerian masses see as very critical to the success of the administration.
While many Nigerians have reacted positively to the portfolio of Fashola, some hailing him as the proverbial “three-in-one man”, others think otherwise. This group believes that the three key ministries are too big to entrust in the hand of one man.
On his part Buhari said that he made sure the ministers got the portfolios they got because he was keen on placing round pegs in round holes.
He said since his inauguration in May 29, he had been optimistic about bringing high-quality persons into his cabinet.
“We are optimistic that bringing these set of ministers into the service of our country today, is a step in the right direction and timely move towards realising our positive goals for our country.
“Since we assumed office in May, I had been mindful of the need to ensure that the appointment of new ministers translate into round pegs in round holes, while showing sensitivity to our diversity as a people and our various positions as groups of stakeholders of our country.
“I have also been conscious of the need not to repeat such mistakes of the past where the right people were allocated the wrong portfolios which translated into their performing poorly to our collective detriment despite their obvious capability,” the president said.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reacted to the much-expected assignment of portfolios to Buhari’s ministers.
The party tasked the Buhari’s ministers to quickly settle down, move fast and concentrate on the economy.
The PDP, in a statement issued by its publicity secretary Olisa Metuh, said that the incumbent APC-led government has so far played heavily on “dramatizing” routine procedures and processes, which was even glaring in the postponed swearing-in ceremony of the ministers.
The party added that with the swearing-in, the APC government should fully resolve the matters on the actual position of Nigeria’s economy and the direction in this.
“Whereas President Muhammadu Buhari had announced that the nation is bankrupt to the extent he cannot pay his ministers, his new Minister of Information had contradicted him directly by stating how the government is buoyant and ready to deploy $2.5 billion infrastructure fund, saved N1.4 trillion with another N2.5 trillion ready as special intervention fund, which goes to say that the country is not actually broke.
“These new ministers should note the challenge before them regarding the image of the country which the APC government has changed from being the ‘Heart of Africa’ and a country of ‘Good people, Great nation’ to that of ‘Corrupt people, Broke nation’.
“Furthermore, we counsel the ministers, especially those who will be the face of the government, to note that the campaigns are over. Nigerians therefore will no longer condone propaganda, lies and deceit but expect a responsible dissemination based on truth, honesty and openness.”
Buhari’s cabinet is smaller than that of former president Goodluck Jonathan, who had 42 ministers. However Jonathan named his ministers weeks after he took office.
However, the PDP presidential campaign spokesperson has again accused Buhari of appointing yet another Northerner to head the EFCC. “Yet another northerner has been appointed to head the EFCC. Is it that southerners are incapable? Buhari is so insensitive to the south.
The PDP chieftain also lambasted Chief Raymond Dokpesi over his statement on the party regretting to have fielded the immediate past President Jonathan in last election.
This is not the first time Fani-Kayode is taking a swipe at President Buhari over his appointments. Few months ago, he asked Mr. President to reverse his northern appointments or face the consequences that comes with such action.
In the ministerial allocation of portfolios, South East got one junior minister (Education), South-South has three, Agric, Petroleum and Health; North Central got three, Solid Minerals, Environment and Labour. The North West has three junior ministers of Aviation; Trade, Investment and Industry and Budget and National Planning. North East got two- Foreign and Power, while South West has one, minister of state for Niger Delta.