Buhari under “huge” pressure over ministerial list

Almost three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari was inauguration for second term in office and almost one week after the 9th National Assembly (NASS) came into being; Buhari is yet to make his ministerial list public, even as the pressure for him to do so is mounting. However, the waiting game continues, as the Senate is on recess and will reconvene only on Tuesday, July 2 for plenary.

Those who should know said since he won election in February, the President has not discussed with anyone the shape or what the cabinet would look like. “He is keeping the list close to his chest.

He has not discussed it with anyone,” volunteered a two-term law national maker from the South-west. Our source said: “Only Buhari knows those he will appoint. He has refused to discuss it with anybody. He has remained inaccessible. He is shopping for radicals from the South-west, who have influence and people listen to.

Their job would be to check mate critics who may not like his policies.” But this notwithstanding politicians, ex-governors, especially those who lost elections in to the NASS, Sunday Telegraph learnt are leaving no stone unturned in trying to get the ears of the President.

“They have intensified their lobbying in order to make the list,” said another source who also did not want his name in print because he was not permitted to speak to the media. In some states, the party hierarchy has been up in arms against one another.

For instance in Kwara State, some members want Gbemisola Saraki to replace Lai Mohammed, the immediate past Minister of Information and Culture. However, a senior presidency official, who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, told Sunday Telegraph that now that the ninth National Assembly has been inaugurated, the President has come under more pressure to forward names of his cabinet to the assembly for confirmation. Both chambers of the National Assembly have expressed readiness to receive communication from President Buhari.

According to the presidency source, although party stakeholders and close associates of the President want prompt action from Buhari the list of his cabinet, he is taking time to select competent individuals as members of the Federal Executive Council. Buhari in his Democracy Day address last Wednesday promised to assemble a team of competent Nigerians in his second term to help implement reform programs that will improve the lives of citizens.

He said: “Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians, and allies, to implement our transformative plans and proposals.” Shortly after returning from the United Kingdom early May this year, Buhari told reporters at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja that contrary to speculations that he had gone to compile the list of his ministers in London, he was yet to discuss the issue with anyone. He said: “I didn’t discuss with anybody. So, I don’t know how they knew about it. I didn’t discuss it with anybody.’’

However, the presidency aide told our correspondent that despite pressure from stakeholders: “The President is not in a hurry. He wants to bring in board a credible team that understands his aspirations and policy direction.”

The source admitted that some aspects of the pressure is coming from past members of the executive who want to stage a comeback. A few members of the former cabinet, including the then Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, Minister of State for Transportation (Aviation), Hadi Sirika and Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah have attended a number of functions at the Presidential Villa after the dissolution of the cabinet in May.

What then should be the criteria Buhari should look out for in appointing ministers for his second term which will be three weeks old on Wednesday, June 19?

“Let him appoint smart ones who will do a better job than the ones he appointed in his first term,” former head, Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Maj-General Isola Williams (rtd), said in an earlier interview. Former presidential candidate, National Action Council (NAC) Olapade Agoro shares the same view. Agoro, who commended Buhari’s June 12 Democracy Day address at the Eagle Square, gives the criteria he should look in appointing     ministers from the Southwest.

“He has already said that he wants to make it all inclusive. It is a different thing to win an election and it is another thing to win the nation. He has won the election; he should win the nation with him. What he did on the June 12 was to win the Yoruba nation’s interest to his side with the recognition of June 12 as Democracy day and the renaming of the Abuja National Stadium after Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola. “He should follow it up with appointing people with track records in human development, technocrats who have worked and have done well with what they did, people with unblemished records, idealists, those who can think, creative people. “Appointing somebody a minister is one thing and appointing someone with ideas and thinking outside the box is another.

We had one in Akinwunmi Adesina. He turned around the agricultural sector all in three years. These are the people we need. He should not appoint politicians. He should not appoint critics in order to shut their mouths. His appointment should not be on political patronage.”

Although the President is keeping mum, feelers we got are indicating that the former Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode is being considered for a “juicy” ministerial position. According to highly placed sources, Buhari was not pleased with what his ‘man Friday’; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu did to Ambode in the run up to the primaries for the governorship candidate of the state. He is unhappy because despite his intervention, Ambode was denied the second term ticket. It is because of this that he is considering compensating him.

“Ambode may become the Minister of Finance. This is in view of what he did to manage the finances of Lagos State, when former president Olusegun Obasanjo stopped the monthly federal allocation of Lagos. After the fiasco which attended his second term ambition, he did not go to court.

He showed that he is a loyal party man, and Buhari is pleased with him,” the weekly was told. However, in order to do this and still retain Babatunde Fashola, who headed Power, Works and Housing in Buhari’s first term, the President, who is said to be satisfied with the performance of the former Lagos State helmsman, is considering increasing the number of ministers beyond the constitutionally mandated 36 to 42 by picking six extra persons from the six geopolitical zones. Should he do this, this would allow him pick both former Lagos State governors.

It is also on record that despite his failure to secure his second term bid, Ambode was a frequent face at the Villa in Abuja and all Buhari’s second term campaigns. Sunday Telegraph also reliably learnt that the President is also toying with the idea of splitting the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing thereby not only reducing the work load on whomever heads the ministry; but more importantly spreading the ministries. But the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) is not optimistic off any radical departure from what the nation saw in Buhari’s first term. Spokesman of the group Yinka Odumakin said in an interview: “There is nothing new that will come out of it.

The South-west is under siege and our people are being killed. No one has been prosecuted or brought to book over it. Which Yoruba son or daughter will bring about solutions to all these killings? What we have now is beyond who will represent us.

The Miyetti Allah is on a killing spree. Even if you go and bring those who have died, there will be no difference from the first term. It may even be worse if care is not taken. “Fashola who had three ministries what came out it? In the next four years, nothing good will come out of this government. We should not deceive ourselves,” he argued.

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