Ministerial List: Power Game Begins by Ekene Okoro –

Buhari's Ministerial List

For the All Progressives Congress (APC), managing victory at the top might prove more difficult than the achieving the peoples mandate to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Since its feat at the 2015 general elections, there seem to be uneasy calm within the fold, especially as regards sharing principal positions in the National Assembly.

The past weeks have seen intense lobbying, accusations and counter-accusations, denials and endorsements. Yet, it is not clear which way the party will go.

Though the party hierarchy had come out to say that it would not sacrifice competence on the altar of zoning, in deciding who gets what at the National Assembly, it could prove more than a herculean task, whichever path the party decides to toe.

As if the cold war brewing among its legislators is not enough, the looming clash of interests in the nomination of ministers who would work with the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, if not well managed could be the beginning of the party’s road to perdition.

Thus, as Buhari gets set to take the oath of office today, what Nigerians will be hoping to see in the first few weeks of his administration is the names of technocrats and politicians who would form the cabinet.

For several weeks, there had been speculations and permutations flying around a purported list, which Buhari’s party, the APC made spirited efforts to disown. But political observers believe that there is no smoke without fire; hence, there could just be an iota of truth in the said list that had gone viral on social media.

The list had persons picked from across the 36 states and the six geopolitical zones, in line with the outgoing Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government’s tradition of appointing a minimum of one minister from each state of the federation and six others from the geopolitical zones into the Federal Executive Council.

Some of the prominent names that featured on the list include: Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi; his Lagos State counterpart, Babatunde Fashola; former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili; Senator Chris Ngige; and Charles Soludo; among many others.

Much as the party has dismissed the list, some of the names mentioned might eventually make the team that would be responsible for driving the incoming government’s policies.

The question that bothers the minds of many is how the party intends to pick the best hands. Will it take the easy way out to give governors of the states where it controls the chance to nominate, or will the party hierarchy led by its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, take the option of handpicking for Mr. President-elect?

Incidentally, the party’s chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, and Tinubu are two strong characters – like Buhari himself – that cannot be pushed around. They would demand a fair contribution to the ministerial list; and that is something Buhari may never be able to wish away or ignore.

Much as the first option seems most convenient, the President-elect has given a hint that he might not travel that road. His reasons may not be far fetch. He intends to run a lean administration in line with his extreme conservative stance; besides the fact he would not want to give the governors an undue control and influence in the party’s affair; as the PDP did, which made the governors become superpowers.

Buhari, during an exclusive chat with a national daily in his country home in Daura, Katsina State, said he was keeping his decision concerning his cabinet members close to his chest. This is why, he said, he had neither discussed how the process of deciding who occupies what will emerge.

Asked about ministerial cabinet, Buhari replied: “I am not speaking about it; I have not put anything on paper, so nobody has seen it and I haven’t discussed it with anybody; I am just keeping it close to my chest.

“I am ardent listener of Hausa Service of Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) from 6am to 7am every morning. I am going to quote myself because I heard in one of the interviews that I said the type of people I am supposed to appoint, like in the cabinet and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and service chiefs, will be different. Definitely my approach is going to be different from what we had under the PDP where governors nominated ministers.”

For him, picking the best hands to drive the much anticipated change Nigerians have been yearning for, will require careful selection of persons devoid of individual interest.

Thus, his cabinet would be made up of people with requisite experience and committed technocrats who would stimulate government towards delivering good governance that would meet the aspirations of Nigerians.

Buhari’s argument is that if state governors are at liberty to appoint their commissioners, he should also reserve the liberty to choose those who would serve with him in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), thereby abolishing the existing tradition where state governors are the ones that submit names of their candidates for ministerial appointments.

The argument stand tall to his credit; after all, local government chairmen do not dictate to their governors the list of those to be appointed commissioners. So why should the Governors dictate to the President. However, much as the President-elect is showing signs of a leader who would not be easily swayed by party men surrounding him, his idea of jettisoning the contribution of governors in deciding members of FEC looks poised to place him at loggerheads with those who are opposed to his decision.

That is beside the fact that interests within the party will, no doubt, want to dictate or make input in who becomes what. Therein lies the power game. Buhari is speculated to have initially opted for the appointment of just 19 Ministers, but  was pressurised to increase it to 24; this though contradicts the spirit of the constitution on the need to reflect the federal character principle.

Some APC governors, who contributed largely to the victory of Buhari in their states during the presidential poll, may see the break from the norm as an attempt by the President-elect to sideline them and could prompt them to protest the move.

It would require the party to intervene and forestall what could be a major bickering between the President-elect and the governors of the APC going forward.