Screening of ministerial nominees: Issues arising (1) By Mike Ozekhome

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/


Left to the President, it is clear that he would have preferred not to have anything thing to do with a group of persons to be addressed as Ministers, to join hands with him in salvaging the ship of state called Nigeria. His body language on this issue is clear to all Nigerians, but for the Constitution, he probably would have gone solo.


After keeping Nigerians waiting for well over four (4) months since his assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), finally came out with his list of ministerial nominees, whom he had at one point (during an interview granted a foreign media) described as “noise makers,” which he sent to the Senate (in batches) for confirmation as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

That list, when it was finally released, contained what some have described as the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigerian politics.

To many, the list did not meet the expectations of Nigerians considering the long wait. In one of my recent writes up, I have had cause to commend the President on the list of ministerial nominees especially as it related to the first list of nominees.


With the final list of ministers (whether good or bad), submitted to Senate by the President, the battle shifted to the Senate. That the list contained the names of Nigerians with well known antecedents both in private and public sector or service, is not in doubt.


The Senate had on its part, through it spokes person, Senator Dino Melaye, assured Nigerians that the screening process was not going to be business as usual, following the change mantra of the APC.

With this assurance, Nigerian had from the previous experience, expected a departure from the “take – a – bow and go” Era, to one of rigorous and earth shaking screening that would have put all the ministerial nominees on their toes.

But lo and behold, what we have seen and experience so far, can best be described as an anticlimax, a return to the old school era of take – a – bow and go.

There has been no significant change in the screening of the ministerial nominees. Suffice to say that on the first day of the screening exercise, the Senate gave Nigerians the impression that it was not going to be business as usual when all ten ministerial nominees that were screened were grilled by the Senators with none allowed to take a bow and go. Except for Lai Mohammed, every other nominee was grilled by the senators.


A return to the status quo of ‘take a bow’ and go, returned with the screening of some of the subsequent ministerial nominees.

This complete departure from the initial hard stance of the Senate to go for the jugular of the ministerial nominees, has left many Nigerians, including my bumble self, wondering as to what went wrong.

What can justifiably account for such a dramatic somersault by the upper legislative body? We have not seen the fireworks promised by the Senate. Could this dramatic somersault have been due to the fact that the Senate was intimidated by the ongoing war against Saraki, principally, and other members of the house of Senate?

Could it have been as a result of some hidden skeletons uncovered in the cupboard of some Senate members? Could it possibly be that the Senate has been overawed by the personality of PMB, that they choose to drop the initial hard stance and posture they had given to Nigerians concerning the screening of the ministerial nominees? The ‘take a bow and go’ stance of the Senate is not new to us.

The rationale behind this can be gleaned from the explanation given by the former Senate President, Senator David Mark. It will be recalled that Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a ministerial nominee by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, appeared before the seventh (7th) Senate led by David Mark, on Wednesday, 12th February, 2014, amongst other ministerial nominees for screening.

When he mounted the podium to commence his screening by way of questions and answers, the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, simply asked him to ‘take a bow and go’. When asked later why he took that decision, his explanation was that “it was a privilege reserved for former Federal Law makers.”

Understandably, that was then, in the Senate led by the PDP. Under this dispensation of change, Nigerians had expected a different attitude to screening of ministerial nominees, a departure from the old order of ‘as it was in the beginning …’, going by the change mantra of the APC, which incidentally is the party in majority of the Senate. What we have witnessed so far does not show to us a departure from the old order.



I cannot conclude this piece without paying my respect to the man- DSP Alameiyesigha… A man who meant different things to different people and at the mention of whose name, wagons naturally circled. I am not writing this to either offend or defend.

I am writing this to mourn the loss of a dear friend, a faithful client, an intelligent Nigerian, a patriot, a man who fought tirelessly for his people, whose only instrument in the prosecution of such fight was “peace” and who encouraged the paths of peace in the resolution of all animosities-whether political, economic or otherwise. He fought against militancy, insecurity, environmental degradation and seismic despoliation.

He preached the gospel of resource control, fauna resuscitation and flora regeneration. Alameiyesigha …words fail me! From whatever prism you were viewed, you may not have appeared woven in sparkling angelic mould, neither were you more imperfect in your humanity than those who are now portrayed as flawless saints; whose ruthless and relentlessly negative Campaign helped to speed up your inevitable transmigration into the celestial realms.

As Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages….” You have indeed, played your parts. It is only left for the audience to judge how well you did play those parts before your sudden forced exit. Now, you are at peace, not bordering anymore about the catcalls, the approvals or disapprovals from the gallery.



On Monday, the 6th of October, 2015, I was in Vienna, Austria, to attend the International Bar Association meeting, when the Governor- General of the Ijaw Nation called me to complain about his being hunted, harassed and intimidated by the present govt. he sought my legal opinion as to whether he could be extradited to London to face charges on the same allegations he had been charged before a Nigerian courts, convicted, served his sentence and pardoned with a presidential amnesty.

Would it not amount to double jeopardy?, he wondered. I proffered my legal advice. He promised to get back to me after finding out the truth or otherwise of what he said was then still a rumour he had not confirmed, having just rushed down to Nigeria to avoid the “Ibori treatment”, in case it was true. He sounded worried, harassed and despondent. I allayed his fears, telling him that we lived under a constitutional democracy where rule of law, not rule of the thumb would take its prime place.

I assured him we were not about to regress into the Hobbesian state of nature where life was short, nasty and brutish. He was calmed, or so it seemed to me.

Alams had reminded me of his harrowing experience on 9th December, 2005, when he was literally abducted from govt house in Yenegoa, flown to Abuja in an helicopter and detained in communicado. Before his “trial”. I was with him physically when he was captured, having left his Amassoma home for govt house in Yenegoa. His so called impeachment was done under macabre circumstances when his impeachment panel was still seeking a sitting venue and I was there to defend him. It was done under guns, armored tanks and brute force.

Adieu Alams!

May your bones rest from the worries of this world and may you find permanent peace in the next. LAST LINE Are PMB, the Executive, the Senate, Senate President, Ministerial Nominees, APC, PDP, Nigerians, etal, reading and digesting this Sunday sermon on the mount of the Nigerian Project.