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A President’s Search For Political Saints

Published 6 years ago
By Forbes Africa

Finally, Nigeria’s ministerial list is out. The four-month-long search for the country’s “impeccable characters” with outstanding records of achievements in business, politics and society came to a quiet end at the end of September.

Senate President Bukola Saraki read out the names of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 21 nominees, the first batch of nominations, for the Senate’s consideration, on October 6.

Constitutionally, the president could end up making more than 2,000 appointments over the next four years of his administration, all things being equal. Every decision, every appointment a Nigerian president makes is subjected to constitutional, political, religious and ethnic scrutiny.

After a year-long season of political campaigns and elections that left the economy largely unattended to by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Buhari’s decision not to appoint cabinet ministers in the early days of his administration was a hugely unpopular move.

Nigerians therefore realized very early on that this was going to be a new kind of president.

“Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place,” Buhari told Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper in July.

“Integrity and experience will be central to President Buhari’s actions and decisions,” Babatunde Kwame Ogala, a lawyer and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party told FORBES AFRICA. “Beyond the need for a few political compromises here and there, you can see that the president is not someone that can be tele-guided by anyone or any interest group. He’s got a totally independent mindset.”

By delaying and downplaying appointments, the Nigerian leader was not only consolidating his hold on power, he was clearly hoping to replace the profligate culture of the past with a new political ethos. Previous presidents had used these appointments to settle political IOUs, compensating cronies, party chieftains and political sponsors. Consequently, the onerous task of nation building wasn’t always left in the hands of the most capable citizens.

This time around, the Abuja rumor mill was abuzz right after Buhari’s inauguration in May with tales of ministerial nominees failing the president’s integrity test. A glimpse of the first batch of ministerial nominees for Team Buhari reveals what political scientists always said about politics – a game of constantly shifting interests and horse trading.

On the Nigerian leader’s ministerial list were five former state governors, namely, Rotimi Amaechi, Babatunde Fashola, Chris Ngige, Kayode Fayemi and Ogbonnaya Onu; a former national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); former state commissioners; seasoned technocrats and the current head of the national oil company. The president didn’t assign portfolios to his list.

Also on Buhari’s list is Chief Audu Ogbeh, 68, chairman of the PDP between 2001 and 2005. Appointed Minister of Communications in 1982, and later Minister of Steel Development, his term of office was truncated by Buhari’s military coup in 1983.

Another nominee, Emmanuel Kachikwu, was in August appointed group managing director of state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He is a former executive vice-chairman of ExxonMobil Africa. Within 24 hours of his appointment, Kachikwu received the president’s permission to sack all the divisional heads of the NNPC. His place in Buhari’s economic management team is assured.

Oil exports account for 70% of government revenue. With oil prices dropping below $50 and likely to drop even further when Iran resumes supplies, continuous adjustments in budget benchmarks look certain. The Central Bank has announced a temporary ban on local transactions in dollars. Devalued first in November 2014, and again in February 2015, the Nigerian currency, the naira, still remains under immense pressure as the World Bank continues to counsel for more devaluation. An import dependent economy, a weaker naira will certainly make life more expensive for Nigerians. Analysts say Nigeria is likely to record its poorest fiscal performance in decades this year.

Other folks on Buhari’s list are: Lai Mohammed, a lawyer, businessman and stalwart of the APC; Udoma Udo Udoma, a lawyer, two-term senator between 1999 and 2007 and chairman of several entities, including UAC of Nigeria, Union Bank of Nigeria, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); Amina J. Mohammed, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning; Kemi Adeosun, a former Commissioner for Finance in Ogun State, western Nigeria; Abubakar Malami; Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau; Aisha Jumai Al Hassan;  Adebayo Shittu;  Solomon Dalong; Dr. Osagie  Ehaneri; Suleiman Adamu; Ahmed Musa Bello; Ibrahim Usman Jubrin and Senator Hadi Serika.

Was the wait for this list worth it? Will this group of ministers, when and if eventually confirmed by the Nigerian Senate, bring a new kind of thinking to the Buhari administration?

Expectedly, the opposition party, the PDP has lampooned the list, saying the president’s proposed cabinet were “a bunch of failed politicians and loyalists who lacked integrity to move the country forward”.

Only time will tell.

The Faces Of Business

Babatunde Fashola: The former Govenor of Lagos State did a remarkable job in transforming Lagos over the past eight years. During his tenure, Fashola, a lawyer, boosted infrastructure and made Lagos safer. Based on his track record, Fashola could head the Ministry of Works or the Federal Capital Territory.

Rotimi Amaechi: The former Govenor of Rivers State was instrumental in getting Port Harcourt back on track during the Niger Delta crisis by securing the city, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and developing infrastructure. While in Rivers State, he made education a priority. The Ministry of Education could be a good fit.

Kayode Fayemi: The former Governor of Ekiti State is considered an expert in policy formulation and will be seen as a great asset regarding policy direction and implementation. Fayemi, who has a doctorate in war studies, has also been seen next to Buhari in recent diplomatic visits. He may be chosen for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Amina Mohammed: She led the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) office in Nigeria. The UN later appointed her in a development capacity role. The Ministry of Health may suit her.

Kemi Adeosun: The former Ogun State Commissioner of Finance made a significant contribution to the development of the region over the past four years. With her background as a banker, she could get a financial position in the next cabinet.

Emmanuel Kachikwu: He was just appointed the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. There is speculation that he will be named as a junior minister for petroleum resources, since Buhari made it clear he will manage the oil and gas sector himself.

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Related Topics: #All Progressives Congress, #Campaigns, #Constitution, #Elections, #Goodluck Jonathan, #Leaders, #Ministerial, #Muhammadu Buhari, #Nigeria, #November 2015.