As the May 29 swearing-in day for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term draws near, moves are being made by power brokers on who gets what in the new cabinet to be formed. Onyema Godwin, INIOBONG EKPONTA, JUDE OSSAI, Ebenezer Adurokiya, Olayinka Olukoya, Bola Badmus, Kola Oyelere, Muhammad Sabiu, Olakunle Maruf and Oluwole Ige write on the moves being made in some states across the nation.
With the 2019 general election over, the various power blocs within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are back in their trenches. Another phase in the epic battle is over who makes the next federal cabinet, as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, begins to wind down on his first four-year tenure.
In some state chapters of the parties, god fathers appears to have drawn a battle line with their godsons, in others the fight appears to be a straight fight between incumbent ministers and outgoing governors seeking refuge after leaving office on May 29, 2019. There is semblance of a dog fight between some APC powerbrokers and failed aspirants and candidates of the party during the last APC primaries and general election.
The list of the failed latter includes outgoing members of the National Assembly, who had fought gallantly at the polls but whose efforts came to naught. In all the instances, however, the dramatis personae have recruited proxies with no less pedigree to do lead the battle.
Majority of the members of the current federal cabinet have had the privileged of surviving minor shakeup by President Buhari at different times. This in spite sustained public anger over perceived their individual’s unimpressive record of their ministries in the discharge of their statutory functions. The President had consistently refused to succumb to pressure from different quarters, include his wife who made some unsavoury comments on the performance rating of the ministers and other top functionaries of the administration.
As lobbying intensifies at various quarters, the President is keeping Nigerians guessing on the likely character of his next cabinet; neither has he given an inkling on the timeframe for it to come upstream. There are calls that he rises above party patronage in the compilation of his ministerial nominees to be submitted to the ninth National Assembly, even as perceptive stakeholders demand a new touch of blood based on experience, ideas and vision capable of righting the wrongs of the past four years that has left the economy in doldrums.
A douse of the gender-related issues has also been injected in the public discourse of the names that should constitute the federal cabinet. Whereas organisations with bias for the female gender want the President to inch towards the Beijing advocacy of 30 per cent, wife of the President has also upped the ante. At a recent Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, held in Lagos she had frowned at what appeared dominance by men in politics. Her words: “It is worthy to note that there has been a progressive increase in female participation in the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme over the years, with a 41.6 per cent female representation in 2019. I wish the cabinet will have the same percentage. Women have continued to prove their strength and competence in our society in all spheres, even in male-dominated — not in politics.”
About two years ago, the o complained about the composition of the existing cabinet. In an interview she granted an international radio station, BBC Hausa service, she claimed most of the faces were hitherto unknown to her husband. “The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years. Some people are sitting down in their homes, folding their arms, only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position,” she said.
The President derives his powers to make such appointments on the provisions of Chapter 6 Part 1 Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution. It reads: (1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President; (2) Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President. (3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution:-provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.”
In Rivers, it’s battle between Amaechi, Abe
Though nothing seems to be heard or happening in Rivers State in relation with lobbying for ministerial appointments, a silent war is ragging on who gets the nod of the Presidency to be a cabinet member in the next tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The war is further boosted by the inability of the APC in the state to participate in the elections in Rivers State. Internal wrangling and legal controversies ensured that the party, torn between factions led by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and Senator Magnus Abe, could not present candidates for elections in the state.
Incidentally, the current war for the ministerial slot of the state seems to be between the two, though nothing has been heard officially from either camp on their plans and expectations.
While many believe that Amaechi won’t encounter any problems returning as minister, because of his closeness to the president, others argue that if care is not taken, the “seen and unseen forces that worked against the party in the elections” may still rear their heads to completely route the minister.
For instance, Blessing Okoye, a political analyst in the state, believes that some of the forces that teamed up to frustrate Amaechi and APC’s plan on the 2019 elections are still fighting hard to ensure that he (Amaechi) does not return as minister.
She pointed out that even within the APC hierarchy at the national level, anti-Amaechi forces combined to frustrate the state APC, “all in an effort to whittle down the influence of the minister.”
She mentioned the discordant tunes sang by the party’s hierarchy in the heat of the controversies over its primaries upon which the courts based all their decisions that eventually ensured the disqualification of the party in the elections.
She concluded that it was only the continued goodwill of President Buhari that could ensure Amaechi’s return as minister, expressing the fear that beside the president, other members of the party hierarchy might not readily support his return, “since they party had nothing to show for his leadership, not only in Rivers State, but also in the entire South-South region.”
Her view that some unseen forces within and outside the APC were fighting against Amaechi seems to have been partially confirmed by a chieftain of the party in Rivers State, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, who, on Thursday, accused the state governor, Nyesom Wike, of budgeting a whopping N100 billion for a media campaign against Amaechi’s return as minister.
Eze, in a press statement made available to Sunday Tribune, claimed that sources informed of the plot, adding that the governor “has already assembled a team of sworn anti-Amaechi Peoples Democratic Party (PDP and other opposition elements, including Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, the National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP); Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation Minister; Mr Reno Omokri, a former presidential spokesman to former President Goodluck Jonathan; and Mr Imo Ikenga, the Congress of United Political Parties (CUPP) spokesperson; who are to be supported by Mr Emma Okah, Rivers State Commissioner for Information, with Senator Abe as coordinator of the project.”
He added that the primary target of the sponsors of the project, represented by the state governor, was to smear the image of the minister.
Eze lamented that since the ousting of President Jonathan from power in 2015, as spearheaded by Amaechi, “the beneficiaries of that deposed corrupt government have not forgiven him.”
Today, it has been argued that even without waiting to be formally commissioned, across media platforms, subtle campaigns have already been ongoing to sway public perception against the former Rivers State governor. Recently, a chieftain of the PDP, Amadi Dike; Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo and Sunny Oburu, also PDP apologists, in different reports, castigated Amaechi with what watchers of events called “unkind words,” pleading with President Buhari not to reappoint Amaechi into his cabinet.
Amaechi has, however, expressed confidence that the plot and its execution would fail, noting that “they have already begun to fail right from the moment it was conceived,” because, according to him most Nigerians have come to understand that Amaechi, being one of the most critical factors to the ouster of the PDP from milking of the nation’s resources, will continue to be a target of attack from the reactionary elements that represent the former ruling party.
‘It may be the soft-landing for Akpabio in Akwa Ibom’
Even as he continues to challenge the outcome of the senatorial election in which he contested at the election petitions tribunal, the incumbent senator for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District (Akwa Ibom North-West), Chief Godswill Akpabio, is said to be engaging in a two-pronged war in the battle for political relevance in the post-2019 era.
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The former governor, who led the state between 2007 and 2015, lost his bid to return to the Red Chamber following his defeat by a former deputy governor, Mr. Chris Ekpenyong who was also in government between 1999 and 2005 in a contest he argued the outcome was heavily manipulated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
One of his aides who would not want his name in print disclosed that the former Senate Minority Leader had been making some frantic overtures to President Buhari to facilitate his soft-landing using ministerial appointment.
According to him, some powerful emirs and influential Hausa-Fulani politicians are the arrow-head of Akpabio’s political horse-trading with the Presidency to ensure he gets fair bargain at the end of the day.
It was gathered that Akpabio is surreptitiously lobbying for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs which Mr. Uguru Usani Uguru from Cross River State currently supervises as minister.
President Buhari, according to some political bookmakers in Akwa Ibom, may drop the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr. Udoma Udo Udoma, following what they described as his (Udoma’s) non-inclination to politics.
For instance, they recalled that “at the just concluded elections, he failed to deliver Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of the state to President Buhari and the APC, because he’s not connected to his people politically.”
“Even Udoma himself had told Nigerians that he was not a member of the APC, and that he was only called to serve in the APC-led government,” a community leader in Uyo, Chief Stephen Ita, recalled.
“Therefore, the reshuffling of Buhari’s cabinet may affect him, because he is already being seen as an outsider in the cabinet of Buhari,” he added.
“Governor Udom Emmanuel may not be a factor in the choice of who becomes the next minister to represent Akwa Ibom at the centre,” noted Dr. Edet Akpanobong, a retired teacher and research consultant.
He reasoned that “President Buhari, since he succeeded former President Jonathan in 2015, has not made any recourse to Governor Emmanuel’s input on who to pick as minister, chairmen and members of boards and commissions or for other appointments from Akwa Ibom State.
“It is on record that President Buhari, perhaps, due to the difference in political parties running Akwa Ibom and the centre, had never sought our governor’s position concerning the over 50 federal appointments meant for Akwa Ibom people as it used to be the case since the return of democracy in 1999.
“So, I believe the next set of Federal Government appointees from Akwa Ibom in the next dispensation after the May 29 second term inauguration would follow the same pattern without the influence of the governor,” he explained.
Against this back drop, analysts have tipped Akpabio to pick the job, if he eventually looses out at the tribunal.
APC needs a united house in Enugu
In Enugu State, the APC seems to be in a dilemma, since the abysmal performance of the party’s candidates in the just-concluded elections. Prior to the general polls, the state chapter of the APC had been polarised along two major divides over alleged untidy processes of the party’s primaries that produced the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Judicial Matters, Juliet Ibekaku, as Enugu West
Senatorial candidate and the gubernatorial candidate, Senator Ayogu Eze.
The fallout of the APC primaries escalated to the extent that two persons, George Ogara and Senator Eze, laid claim to the party’s governorship candidacy up to 48 hours to the gubernatorial election, a development that further brightened the chances of the PDP candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in the poll.
Informed sources revealed that the chieftains of the APC in the Coal City State are yet to put their acts together to collectively project any person for ministerial position as peace appears not to have fully returned to the party.
The differences among the front-line supporters of President Buhari in the state, including the director-general of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama; and Lady Ibekaku are on public domain, as they accuse one another of sabotaging the efforts of the party in last general elections.
Ironically, Okechukwu, Ibekaku and Onyeama are some of the top names in the APC fold from the state tipped by some observers as possible ministers in the forthcoming political dispensation.
Perhaps, to have a common front, the National Vice-Chairman of APC, South-East Zone, Emma Eneukwu, has scheduled a meeting of stakeholders from the zone in Enugu on Saturday, April 27.
None of the APC chieftains in Enugu was ready to speak on the intrigues going in the party.
Intense lobbying ongoing in Nasarawa
As President Buhari gets ready to reshuffle his cabinet, personalities in Nasarawa State have been left out of the lobbying to form part of the cabinet.
However, in the reckoning of some political watchers in the state, Honourable Ahmed Aliyu Wadada has been described as the most likely person to represent the state as minister. They cited his contribution to the emergence of Mr. Audu Abdulahi Sule as the new elected governor of the state.
Wadada, was amongst the 11 men that contested in the governorship primary of the APC and he came second behind the governor-elect. He was immediately appointed as chairman of the campaign council, where he played key roles in uniting the party as well as securing victory for the party in the election.
Most analysts are of the view that Wadada›s loyalty may be compensated with the nomination to represent the state in Abuja.
Honourable Silas Agara is another person said to be suitable for a federal appointment, with his principal, Umaru Al-Makura, having picked the slot to represent the people of Nasarawa South at the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Agara, who is the current deputy governor of the state, is also seen by pundits as another serious personality that could get ministerial appointment, as he also contested the governorship primary of the party but lost out. Being a faithful and loyal deputy to Governor Al-Makura, Agara may also be considered for ministerial slot with the influence of his principal and other members of the party.
Delta APC divided over ministerial slot
Intense scheming has begun in terribly-divide APC in Delta State. The party in the state, it will be recalled, gave some 221, 292 votes to President Buhari in the last presidential, a feat that was not achieved in 2015 presidential poll. The state currently enjoys the slot of the Minister of State for Petroleum in Dr Ibe Kachikwu. But with the swollen number of defectors from other parties and original APC members in the state, whether or not Kachikwu will retain his much-coveted position is not known.
DeltaImmediately after the presidential poll, one major way to identify the scheming for ministerial position by members of the factionalised APC in the state is the barrage of congratulatory messages in stories and adverts on the pages of newspapers. Such messages splashed in the media are believed to be primarily aimed at getting recognition ahead of the decision on who to grab the ministerial slot awaiting the APC members in the state.
As things stand, Kachikwu could be facing some tough times in retaining his position, given the myriad of allegations of anti-party activities hanging on his neck from some APC members from his zone, Delta North. He is believed to have secretly worked for the success of his kinsman and incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa during the March 9 governorship election which the latter won convincingly. The accusations got to its peak shortly after the presidential election when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited APC stakeholders at Effurun to shore up electoral support for the APC governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru. Mr Kachikwu was booed publicly at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Conference Centre and called unprintable names before Osinbajo. He was accused of hobnobbing with the PDP elements in the state.
Except Buhari remains undaunted as he is always wont to be, staying faithful to his conviction about a person, Kachikwu might not return, it is believed.
In the meantime, political watchers have identified defeated Chief Ogboru, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and, of course, Dr Kachikwu as possible representative of the state in the next cabinet.
Others, however of lesser weight as it were, include Dr Cairo Ojougho, Chief Victor Ochei, Professor Pat Utomi and a few others. While Kachikwu might still enjoy the goodwill of Buhari, having been a “good boy” so far, Ogboru could be banking on pulling strings through APC national chairman and national leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Senator Bola Tinubu. The ‘Peoples General’ would want to grab a ministerial slot to enable him position himself ahead of 2023 governorship election.
Uduaghan, on the other hand, has his political career dangling precariously, if he’s edged out of the ministerial equation, having lost the Delta South Senatorial position to PDP’s James Manager. His current showmanship across the state and beyond, after his defeat at the polls, unlike his disappearance from the political scene shortly after the 2015 elections, betray him as fighting the battle of his political life. He is, however, believed to be banking on his seeming good relationship with Oshiomhole and Vice President Osinbajo to whom he has endeared himself.
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