Nigerians who had expected President Muhammadu Buhari would avoid a repeat performance when he delayed the ministerial list during his first term for six months; are now resigned to the fact that despite repeated promises to the contrary, the President has lived up to the expectations by failing to submit his list of cabinet nominees, over a month after he was inaugurated for a second term on May 29, 2019. After the Senate kept faith with its schedule, resuming plenary on July 2, the fact that the ministerial list is yet to grace the office of Senate President Ahmad Lawan, suggests something is holding the list. This begs the question: what is causing Mr. President to continue procrastinating and prevaricating over his cabinet nominees?
Against precipitated national apprehension, especially against the background of recent protest by Buhari loyalists on the overbearing influence of an unelected cabal in Aso Rock that has taken the president hostage, Huhuonline.com has learnt that the cabinet list is now the victim of entrenched economic and political interests. If you want to understand the delay over the cabinet list; here is why:
To begin with, the President is said to be at the receiving end of pressure from the contending forces from the bases of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on one hand and within the Southwest caucus of the same defunct ACN. Next to those groups, some powerful stakeholders in APC are also said to be sending clear signals to Buhari that his second term would not be business as usual, especially given the way the Feb. 23 Presidential Election was “won and lost.”
In the midst of the shifting strategies is also President Buhari’s desire to empanel a team of astute technocrats to put vibe in his second term agenda and correct the established notion of nepotism and sloppiness against him. For instance, insider sources with a reading of the President’s mind say he wants to earn public confidence in his next cabinet is to get a petroleum minister from Southeast, while the power counterpart moves from Southwest to the northeast.
In the amalgam of former fringe opposition political parties that formed APC, stalwarts of the defunct CPC were consoled by the fact that one of them in the person of Buhari emerged President. But this euphoria turned into bitter disappointment as came to the realization that a greater part of the pie was being taken by members of former ACN, especially in the areas of appointment and strategic offices. It was against that background that at the onset of Buhari’s second term, his loyalists in the former CPC began to remind him they want to feature prominently in his Next Level cabinet.
CPC apologists have reportedly reminded the President that apart from Abubakar Malami and Babachir David Lawal, who later lost his exalted position of Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), in disgrace; and is now standing trial for graft; Buhari’s CPC loyalists have been given the short end of the stick by their counterparts from former ACN.
The former CPC faithful were also said to have discovered to their chagrin that they were not as cohesive as ACN members, who aggregated around former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, to occupy many juicy positions and the ACN flank in APC has no intention to relinquish its prior advantages, which they would rather consolidate in the new cabinet. Bolstered by the fact that it produced the national chairman, the ACN playmakers insist that in the spirit of party supremacy, the party should have a say in how officials of the government that would deliver on the manifesto of APC are recruited.
Caught in the middle of these contending forces, the President has been boxed into the same corner that cost him six months before he could form a cabinet when he took office in 2015. While he remained flummoxed by the tug of war among disparate economic and political interests, loyalists from the various camps floated fictitious lists that were short of setting a pattern for the President that is, otherwise, forcing his hand. To compound matters, within the same ACN that defunct CPC members accuse of appropriating a Lion’s share of appointments, the Southwest caucus has their own axe to grind with the president.
In the aftermath of the 2019 gubernatorial election in Lagos State, some governors and former governors from the Southwest suggested that each state should make its recommendations without recourse to any Godfather of the zone. The Godfather, (Bola Tinubu) was also accused of wanting to be the only cock crowing in the geopolitical zone. Aso Rock sources said how to wade through all the Southwest intrigues has become a big source of headache for the President. Why; because the President’s is afraid of courting internal opposition from Tinubu, whom he considers a big ally.
In the long run, not being accustomed to quick decision taking or independent judgment, Buhari’s ministerial list is also being afflicted by a variety of influences not the least is the siege by APC governors
Barely two weeks to the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, APC governors under the auspices of Progressive Governors Forum, visited Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
Although the visit came unannounced, it became the center of speculations on the delayed cabinet list, as most commentators associated the meeting with the series of intensive lobby by various blocs in the ruling party for ascendance in the emerging scheme of things. But, Presidency insiders disclosed that the governors came with a shopping list of issues affecting their political bases, including their inferences on the last general election vis-à-vis the demeanor of the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Exasperated by the loss of a number states, principally Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Oyo and Zamfara, the governors were said to have complained about the treatment meted to immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, which culminated in his failure to seek a second term in office.
On the way forward, the governors tabled a set of demands before the President, including being allowed to run their states without undue interference from APC NWC and indemnifying their colleagues that could not make it back to office with a ministerial inclusion. However, despite accounts from multiple sources the Progressives Governors denied that their visit was ostensibly to make inputs or play any role in the selection of ministers.
Furthermore, the cabinet list is also said to have been taken hostage by the cabal inside the Presidency. Those who inspired the protests against the alleged influence of Mamman Daura, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and Businessman Isa Funtua, obviously want to put their fingers on the scale and tilt appointments to their side. Both the President and his inner circle understand that most of those that worked for his re-election did so not essentially for patriotic reasons, but for the 2023 election cycle.
Based on that realization, President Buhari and his close allies decided to handle issues regarding the ministerial nominees with utmost secrecy. But while the President was said to have taken his men into confidence about the need to have a crack team of performers, it did not take long before words started making the rounds of desperate individuals inducing some presidency staff to smuggle their names for the president’s consideration.
Those familiar with the workings of the Presidency and Buhari’s personal capabilities said it was impossible for the President to work alone in nominating his ministers. As such at the height of the rumors about gratifications and inducements, acolytes of a serving state governor from Northwest and lieutenants of an APC big wig decided to move against the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and his kinsmen, Mamman Daura and Isa Funtua in a street protest.
The protest was said to have alerted the President to the acute level of desperation among party chieftains, specifically in light of the fact that the cabinet appointments hold the key to the future cohesion of the APC and his administration. Sources also disclosed that the mid-June protest disrupted plans to have a list of cabinet nominees for members of the 9th Senate, who had resolved to proceed on a long vacation after inauguration.
Finally, there are the silent forces within the executive bureaucracy who stand to benefit from the prolonged delay. At the height of similar delay in 2015, President Buhari had quipped that ministers are more of noisemakers than haymakers, even as he hinted on his preference for civil servants to get things done quickly. Huhuonline.com understands that top civil servants, notably Permanent Secretaries and Director Generals of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are encouraging the delay so as to continue to execute running contracts and projects according to the stipulations of the 2019 budget. “Why are Nigerians so much interested in ministers? Is there any project that is not running? What would ministers do that we are not doing?” one such stakeholder quipped. It is obvious Mr. President’s headache over his Next Level cabinet would not be resolved anytime soon.