After the inauguration of the National Assembly last Tuesday, Nigerians are eagerly awaiting the composition of the cabinet of President Bola Tinubu to accelerate the process of governance.
But the intriguing aspect of the episode is that some of those rumoured to be on Tinubu’s ministerial list were last week appointed by the President as his Special Advisers.
On Thursday, the President released a list of eight Special Advisers.
He had previously secured the approval of 12 Special Advisers from the Senate.
The appointment of the Special Advisers, who are also part of the federal cabinet, is the tip of the iceberg as ministers are senior members of the cabinet and are ranked higher in the hierarchy by virtue of the control they have over Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
By law, Tinubu must name his cabinet within 60 days after taking the oath of office on May 29 and transmit it to the Senate for confirmation.
Immediate past President Muhammed Buhari had, in March 2023, signed 16 constitutional bills into law including the one requiring the President to form his cabinet not later than two months of assuming office.
It took Buhari himself six months after taking office for his first term in 2015 to name his ministers and many analysts believed this had a negative effect on governance at that early stage of the administration.
With the Senate inaugurated on Tuesday, analysts said the stage had been set for Tinubu to send his ministerial list to the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly for confirmation, saying that should be done without delay to signal that the President is ready for the huge task of making the difference in the lives of Nigerians who had been impoverished under the last administration.
Multiple sources close to the seat of power at Aso Rock Presidential Villa told Sunday Vanguard at the weekend that it was not impossible that the ministerial list was ready to be sent to the Senate for confirmation but added that July may have been fixed as the deadline to compose the cabinet.
Lobbyists for ministerial appointments, according to one of the sources, had set to work immediately after Tinubu emerged in the February 25, 2023 election while many names including those of politicians and technocrats have surfaced in the media as potential nominees.
Among those who have been touted as potential nominees are former Governors Muhammad Badaru (Jigawa), Atiku Badaru (Kebbi), Raji Fashola (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna).
Others include former ministers like Festus Keyamo, Isa Pantami and Femi Fani-Kayode.
Kachifu Inuwa, Tanimu Yakubu, Hadiza Bala Usman, Hanatu Musawa, Betty Edu and Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole also find space in the rumoured ministerial list.
Significantly, the Constitution provides for one minister per state, meaning there is room for 36 ministers (minister and minister of state).
There have been a suggestion in some quarters that the cabinet should reflect a government of national unity, that is, the opposition parties should have inputs.
But the suggestion was swiftly rejected by the Tinubu Campaign at that time.
What is certain is that All Progressives Congress (APC) governors will have inputs on those who emerge as nominees in their states while in non-APC states, failed governorship candidates in the 2023 polls and party leaders may decide who gets their ministerial slots.
In fact, our reporters learnt, at the weekend, that APC governors may have been asked to submit three names from each state from which the President would have the prerogative to pick one as minister.
Meanwhile, one intriguing aspect of the reported ministerial nominations is that Tinubu named some of the alleged potential nominees as Special Advisers last Thursday.
They include Mr Dele Alake who was appointed as Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, and Mr Wale Edun, Special Adviser, Monetary Policies.
Previously both of them had been touted as potential ministerial nominees with Alake allegedly heading to the Information Ministry and Edun to Finance Ministry.
A source said one of the Special Advisers may have actually not wanted the position because he was eyeing a ministerial portfolio and had to be vigorously persuaded to accept the appointment.
According to the source, the ministerial list is a closely guarded secret by the President and only a few people in the inner circle of Tinubu have access to it.
“So if anyone is telling you that he is privy to the list at this point in time he is lying,” the source said.
Findings across the states, at the weekend, revealed that there is anxiety over the likely choice of ministers as APC members want only those they described as genuine party members appointed. The mood is that anything short of people in that category may not augur well for APC.
ONDO: ‘ We have been unlucky’
In Ondo State, the absence of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is presently on medical vacation abroad, has made the entire processes seem shrouded in secrecy by the governor’s inner circle members, especially his kinsmen from Owo.
It was learnt that Tinubu requested three names to be recommended by each governor from their respective states for ministerial position.
Individuals who seem to be close to the President or who know people who are very close to the corridors of power like Ambassador Olusola Iji, APC National Vice Chairman, South West; Hon Isaac Kekemeke, the Director, Humanitarian and Social Directorate of APC, South West in the February election; Chief Alex Ajipe; a former Minister of State for Transportation, Demola Adegoroye; and a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Victor Olabimtan, are said to be lobbying to get the Ondo ministerial slot.
Speaking on the matter, the Director, Media & Publicity of the party in the state, Steve Otaloro, said:”Ab initio Ondo State has not been so lucky with the junior ministerial positions allotted to it.
“ The people who benefited also do not work assiduously in the overall interest of the state except the immediate past Minister of Transport.
“Previous ministers from the state were disconnected from the party. They do not have the interest of our members and that of the state at heart.
“ We want to change that narrative with the appointment of a member that is well-connected to the aspiration of our party members and has the interest of the state at heart.”
OSUN: Associates push for Oyetola
Feelers from the party in Osun State is that the slot is for the immediate past Governor Gboyega Oyetola who, it was gathered, is not lobbying for it.
His loyalists were said to have insisted he gets it to keep the party alive. The group considered Oyetola’s closeness to the President an advantage.
But a chieftain of the party, who pleaded anonymity, said the choice of the state ministerial slot would be determined by the leadership in conjunction with the Elders Caucus led by Chief Bisi Akande.
It was gathered that some of the party chiefs in contention apart from Oyetola are a former Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole; immediate past Senate spokesperson, Dr Ajibola Basiru; Fani-Kayode and a former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Bola Oyebamiji.
However, APC Director of Media and Publicity, Kola Olabisi, said the party is united on the choice of who will be minister, saying it is not an issue that would divide APC in Osun.
EKITI: New kid on the bloc
Those believed to be engaged in a subtle race for a ministerial slot in Ekiti State include Fayemi; a former Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo; National Coordinator of South-West Agenda for Tinubu 2023, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, and the Coordinator of the Tinubu/ Shettima Independent Campaign Council in Ekiti, Prince Akintade Olayisade.
It was however gathered that the top contenders for the Ekiti ministerial slot are Fayemi, Adeyeye and the new kid on the block with extensive connections in Aso Rock, Makinde Araoye.
Commenting on the issue, the Deputy Chairman of APC in Ekiti State, Mr Sola Eleshin, said:” The party has an interest in anything beneficial, just like we specified what we wanted during the National Assembly elections. On the ministerial slot, it goes the same way. We are interested in getting the best for Ekiti. Nobody has been coming here to pressure us. If they want to do so, they should go to Abuja.”
OYO: Makinde’s men want reward
In Oyo State, sources told our reporter that Tinubu may have granted Governor Seyi Makinde the opportunity to present his preferred candidates following the role the G-5 Governors to which he belonged played in his emergence.
The ruling party in the state , Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and APC, it was learnt, are presenting candidates for final submission to Mr. President.
However, the opposition APC was said to have met stiff opposition from the governor’s camp.
Party faithful felt that having worked hard for Makinde’s re-election, they should be the major beneficiaries.
“Party officials are strong in their position that they couldn’t have worked for others to reap the fruit of their labour,” a source said.
Reacting, the APC’s spokesperson in the state, Mr. Olawale Sadare, said: “President Bola Tinubu is a leader in the true sense of the word.
“We are very optimistic he would go for core party faithful as his choice for key appointments including the ministerial.”
OGUN: Bankole, Amosun, Gbenga Daniel struggle
It’s still not clear who Governor Dapo Abiodun would eventually nominate from Ogun State.
Party chieftains like former Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who stepped down for Tinubu at the party primary, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, are among those said to be interested in ministerial positions.
Also, the camp of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who fell out with Abiodun during the governorship election, is not left out in the power play for the slot.
Sources said that the state ministerial slot may go to Amosun or anyone in the camp of Gbenga Daniel given his election as senator representing Ogun East.
Speaking, Publicity Secretary of APC in Ogun State, Tunde Oladunjoye, said the matter is a party affair.
Oladunjoye noted that all laid down rules and regulations, in accordance with the Constitution of the country, would be followed when constituting the cabinet.
“It’s a party affair. We are law-abiding. Let’s leave it like that for now. There is a saying that ‘don’t go to town announcing that your wife is pregnant, wait until the delivery time,’” he added.
ANAMBRA: Only genuine party members in contention
Anambra State Chapter of APC is lobbying for only genuine members of the party to be considered for ministerial and other appointments from the state.
The state Publicity Secretary of APC, Dr. Valentine Oliobi, said Anambra would not like to experience what happened during the administration of Buhari when people from the state who occupied ministerial positions did not identify with the party.
He argued that picking ministers among those who support the party would serve as an encouragement to members who use their resources to ensure that the party remains afloat.
“APC in the state knows those who are true members in Anambra and would wish that such people should be appointed ministers,” Oliobi said.
Among those being mentioned as likely candidates for appointment include Elijah Onyeagba who is the Nigerian Ambassador to Burundi, Jerry Ugokwe, a former member of House of Representatives, Chief Johnbosco Onunkwo, who was a governorship aspirant, and Uzuegbunam Okagbue, a former chief protocol officer to ex-Governor Willie Obiano.
ENUGU: The odds favour Onoh
Those being touted in Enugu State include former Tinubu’s spokesman in the South-East, Dr Josef Onoh, ex-Chairman of APC in the state, Dr Ben Nwoye, 2023 governorship candidate in the state, Chief Uche Nnaji, and a former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime.
Some other APC stakeholders in the state who would have made the list of possible nominees include Senator Ken Nnamani; and a former Speaker of the state Assembly, Eugene Odoh but their revolt against the leadership of the party in Enugu made them to even stay away from campaigning for Tinubu in the state.
For now, the odds seem to favour Onoh who has been vociferous in the defense of Tinubu in the South-East.
In a related development, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and activists have told Tinubu to adopt fair-mindedness when constituting his cabinet.
They also demanded that the President must be conscious of the caliber of persons who would make up his cabinet, saying the Federal Executive Council, FEC, cannot serve as a dumping ground for individuals who have failed to clinch their favourite political offices.
In separate chats with Sunday Vanguard, the groups and activists said Nigeria was in a critical condition due to the poor quality of those who had administered it, adding that the guiding principles in formulating his cabinet should include good character, competence and experience.
Ozekhome: No to ‘Baba Go-slow’
Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, believed Tinubu should hit the ground running by forming his cabinet immediately if he hoped to make any positive impact in the lives of Nigerians.
He said: “Tinubu was elected in February and declared the winner on March 1. He should have hit the ground running, forming his cabinet ahead of his inauguration. This is how it is done in America from which we borrowed our presidentialism. If he hopes to make any impact at all, he should do it as fast as yesterday; not like Buhari, who even laughed at his ‘baba go-slow’ approach to the non-constitution of a cabinet for about 6 months after his inauguration.
“The President is taking too long to constitute his cabinet. Nigeria is in shambles, more divided now than ever before, with citizens dying of hunger, disease, and squalor, and some committing suicide, homicide, and infanticide out of frustration and deep-seated anger.
“Therefore, the President should appoint technocrats who very well know the job and the weighty issues at stake in Nigeria today. Surely not spent, recycled, and old tired horses of politicians and political harlots. These were the type Buhari latched on to and failed disastrously and abysmally.”
Agbakoba: So many variables
A former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, President, Olisa Agbakoba, in his contribution, said though Tinubu needs to constitute his cabinet as quickly as possible, he is still within time.
”Yes, the President needs to put up his team as quickly as possible, but I don’t think that it has taken him too long to do so because, in politics, there are so many variables. He will be looking at those who will bring competence to the cabinet, as well as satisfying political considerations. So I would expect that all those have been resolved and at some point this week, his cabinet will be ready. It will be in his interest to put in place a competent team as soon as possible”, Agbakoba stated.
“The most important quality the President should consider while appointing his ministers is competence. He should appoint top professionals from various fields. I think the time has come when we begin to use competency to drive our government policies. The appointees should be competent to do what they have been appointed to do.”
Uwaifo: Don’t tread Buhari’s line
In his submission, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Hannibal Uwaifo, warned Tinubu not to tread,the line of his predecessor, Buhari, in delaying to constitute his cabinet. According to him, the earlier the president put together his team the better for the country.
“I think the sooner the better. The country is in very bad shape and everybody knows that though the last government was from his party, it’s obvious to everyone including the president himself that the last government was a monumental failure. So anything to steer this government in the opposite direction from what the past government did is welcome almost immediately. I expect the president to constitute his cabinet as early as tomorrow morning”, Uwaifo stated.
“First and foremost, we need to look at the Nigerian factor and the position the new administration found themselves in, problems that are very endemic in the country and the need to get a square peg in a square hole and round peg and round hole. I think these factors are contributing to the delay in forming his cabinet. However, I think the president should constitute his team this June. He should be able to do it between now and June 29”.
He urged the President to “appoint more technocrats and less politicians who can deliver on a myriad of problems and numerous challenges facing the country. The president should also avoid appointing religious and ethnic bigots otherwise, the country is going to be further polarized.”
Similarly, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani, explained that the Tinubu is still acting within the provisions of the law. According to him, the law allows the President two months to form his cabinet.
”There’s a law now that says the President has two months to form his team. So it can’t exceed two months within which to appoint his cabinet. He has been busy since he was sworn-in and has appointed almost all his advisers. The law gives him two months. We once had a President that stayed six months before constituting his cabinet. So he’s not taking too long, he will appoint. The cabinet has to make sure that they meet the needs of Nigerians.”
The Convener of Ikoro Ndigbo, Ugochimereze Chinedu Asuzu, Tinubu should be commended for the efforts taken so far in selecting members of his team. “For setting up his cabinet, without being unnecessarily hard on him, I think he’s done pretty well in appointing individuals into key positions in the first week of his inauguration including Special A dvisers.”
‘No to padi padi’
National Coordinator, Activist for Good Governance, Mr. Declan Ihekaire, said: “What I expect is good governance, making sure that the masses are well-treated, making sure that the ‘Renewed Hope’ is not renewed punishment, pain and agony to the masses of this country.
“We are monitoring whosoever he brings on board. If he brings people of negative character on board, we will question them, telling Nigerians to say no because this padi padi system of government has taken us back, so whomever he is bringing on board, we expect them to be of good character and have good intentions for the people of this country.
“The people we need in the cabinet aren’t those whose intention is to go and amass wealth, the people we need are those who are ready to declare their assets before being appointed; declare their assets when they are leaving office through the Code of Conduct, people who are not to be compensated because they sponsored one thing or the other during the campaign.
“We also do not want to see that people who contested for governorship elections in their states and failed are compensated with a ministerial appointment.
“The reason is that if they were good as a governorship candidate, their people would have voted for them. I call them ministers out of frustration, and that is why they don’t do well.
“People have been saying that the President knows how to identify technocrats. But I want to tell you that the Tinubu of ten years ago isn’t the Tinubu of today, and Lagos State isn’t Nigeria.
“Nigeria is quite a big place. Then in Lagos, it was easy for him to handpick good people, but Nigeria is bigger than Lagos, and it might be difficult for him to identify technocrats outside party politics because there are so many factors that would be considered.”
National President, of Campaign for Democracy, Mr Olufemi Lawson, also speaking, told Sunday Vanguard: “Unlike before, we must understand that the President is now time-bound to name his cabinet. “Judging by his antecedents as a former governor and someone who has a track record of performance, it is expected that President Tinubu will bring credible hands that can assist him in driving the nation forward.
“If we look at where the country is currently, we will realise that this is not the time for political compensation and patronage.
“The kind of men and women that the country requires now are people who can assist the President in redirecting the nation from the current state, especially when you look at the burden inherited such as insecurity and economic challenges.
“I strongly believe that President Tinubu will consider these things when naming his cabinet. It is important that people who are competent not only in their capacity to work but also competent in character make up the FEC.
“There are a lot of political positions that can be used to compensate political party members, it should not be business as usual that every person nominated irrespective of competency or not is pushed into the FEC.
“It must be a moment where the President must select the best in the interest of the country because the country is bigger than the party.
“I think he has the capacity to make his party understand that what is required are men and women who have the capacity to drive the ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda and move the country forward.
“Federal character is a must in the appointment of the FEC, the minister and other positions. It is a constitutional dictate and he must operate by it.
“He also must be sensitive to our prevailing challenges looking at how the past administration has polarised the country.”
Experience and vigour
President, of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, on her part, said: “One would expect a blend of experience and vigour. However, the Constitution is more emphatic on spread than competence. Ministers will come from the 36 states. The task is to chase the spread with a dose of capacity.”
Democratic reforms advocate, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, also spoke.
His words: “The expectation is that the President will fast-track the appointment of ministers considering the plethora of issues that currently needs attention. For instance, the trade unions refused to negotiate with people who they said have no mandate.
“Our Constitution doesn’t contemplate the hoisting of a personality cult. One month is sufficient to run security checks, and so far, the President has been brilliant. He should reward loyalty to the party while not overlooking competence and proven record of capacity.”