CHIKA NWABUUEZE and YUSUF MOHAMMED
As the countdown to the May 29 hand over date draws near, lobbyists have intensified efforts to get ministerial appointment in the incoming administration led by Muhammadu Buhari, the President-elect. Investigations revealed that Buhari has been under pressure from lobbyists and godfathers who want a place in the new cabinet.
At the last count, over 50 groups have paid solidarity visits to the Defence House abode of Buhari to lobby for positions in the incoming administration. Others are also those seeking for recognition of the President-elect for future dealings. Sources disclosed that apart from direct lobbying, the lobbyists also go through close party leaders like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, Atiku Abubakar and famous Islamic clerics in the North.
Sources disclosed that former Generals like Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar are also being reached by lobbyists to help influence appointment in their favour. The Northern Generals though did not openly campaign for Buhari, however they did not work to undermine his interest as they played a role in making Jonathan to concede defeat.
The Hill top residence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is reportedly playing host to different calibers of politicians who want the former President’s ears. The thinking in many quarters is that Obasanjo would wield considerable influence in the new administration due to the role he played in the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In Enugu state for instance, the struggle for ministerial appointment among the party leaders have led to division in the party. In the South East where the party has no governor or Senator, the governorship candidates of the party and the party chairman in the state are left to decide who should get ministerial appointment. However, the Imo state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha who is the only APC elected governor in the South East is said to be avoiding lobbyists who chase him around to help them get appointment in the new government.
Also heads of agencies and parastatals are not left out as they have intensified lobby to retain their seats. In fact there were reports of Buhari shunning such people who came to lobby to retain the positions they held in Jonathan’s government. Some of them are also said to be offering huge sums of monies to Buhari’s men to push their cases.
Hallmark reports that Buhari’s houses in Kaduna and Daura are very busy now as different groups visit to show support for the incoming administration. The APC governors are also lobbying to have their candidates appointed into strategic positions.
Although Buhari has inaugurated a 19 member transition committee, it is expected that some of the members would make the new Cabinet to be formed by APC. It is still left to be seen how Buhari is going to accommodate the various interests in view of the fact that he wants to run a lean government.
Last week Thursday, Lagos played host to different shades of people who stormed the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, for the launch of a book, which chronicles the stewardship of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi titled: “Dynamics of Change: The Amaechi Years”.
Edited by Dr. Chidi Amuta and Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, the book focuses essentially on the achievements of the governor, particularly in the areas of education and health; infrastructural development; urban renewal and security; as well as the challenges that confronted the governor within the eight years of his reign.
Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte presided over the ceremony, while Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, who wrote the foreword of the book, presented the keynote address.
For the general public it looked like the usual gathering of elites, however, Hallmark gathered that most of the people present saw the occasion as an avenue to lobby for positions in the new APC government at the Centre.
Towards the end of the event, cards with envelopes were shared among everyone present. It was gathered that guests donated huge sums of money in a bid to gain recognition.
Prominent politicians and captains of industries were in attendance in their numbers. Names like Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, MD of Shell, Osagie Okunbor, Senator Mamora, Akinwunmi Ambode, Daisy Danjuma, Tonye Cole, Doyin Abiola were in attendance.
It would be recalled that most prominent Nigerians who did not want to be seen associating themselves with key figures of the APC prior to the presidential elections because of the political implications it might portend, have switched over to the APC after the polls.
A member of the APC who pleaded for anonymity said, “This is an opportunity for some people to get what they are looking for. Most people came here for political reasons. They know that Amaechi would play a key role in Buhari’s administration, so they are trying to get into his good book.”
“Jonathan has lost and those who used to sing his praises have moved quickly to sing the praises of his arch enemy” said Adebosun Taiwo, who was a guest at the event.
He further said, “What do you expect? Power has changed hands, so it is only natural for people to switch allegiance. Everyone that matters in the business world is present here. Even Dangote couldn’t miss this event for any other thing. Opportunities like this before the May 29 handover are rare.”
Wole Soiynka described Amaechi as a dogged fighter who made the change possible. He said, “The political atmosphere today, whatever you call it, change or hope or cautious hope and naked hope or careless hope, I recognize two personalities, in particular, who led the chant of change,” Soyinka said.
“One of them, I call him the architect of the process, the architect, in fact, that houses the essence of hope. That is Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The other person was unconsciously, perhaps, the arrow head of that charge that led to the change and that is the man that we gather here to celebrate,” he added.
“I remember someone very close to me that said I hear you are close to Rotimi Amaechi, tell that young man that he is going to destroy himself, and I said, you know something, you have been in a position where I have had the opportunity of being your teacher and your mentor and you mean to say you never learnt from me that it is better to be destroyed on the basis of what you really live for,” the Nobel Laureate said.
According to the Rivers state governor, Buhari’s victory was the only way for him to escape Jonathan’s axe. He said, “I knew I was going to be in trouble. Anything that would cause that change not to take place, I was ready to make that sacrifice. The federal government sent out a signal that if they won nobody should let me out of Nigeria from any airport. One day Asiwaju got angry with me. He was very angry. I went to his house with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and knelt down, saying ‘please let’s not disagree, let’s win first and then we can disagree’. You all can ask Tinubu if I said so or not.
He also praised Tinubu for shelving his personal interest for the interest of the party and Nigerians. “Historians will tell your story. Remember that some Yorubas tried to achieve what you have just achieved, but they couldn’t succeed. Your story will be told for generations to come.”
The change is not for a few individuals but for all Nigerians,” he said.
Asiwaju in his remarks hailed Amaechi for his courage. He said the APC’s victory was as a result of the ‘common sense revolution’. “It was a revolution. It wasn’t a violent revolution but a peaceful one.
Already there is a list being bandied about as the likely ministers even though the APC has denied it. Some of the personalities expected in the new cabinet include Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Rotimi Akeredolu, Bolaji Abdullahi, Babatunde Fashola, Oby Ezekwesili and Festus Odimegwu among others.