Buhari In Dilemma Over Choice Of Ministers

Except a bit of consensus is reached among interest groups in the Presidency, particularly among members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s family, the public may have to wait a while longer to see the choice of ministers that would form the new Federal Executive Council.

While the suspense lasts however, criticisms between leading opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) continue to escalate.

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While the PDP sees the delay in ministerial appointments as no surprise on the claim that President Buhari is unqualified for governance, the ruling party, however, insists that its government is really on course as far as governance and policy implementation are concerned.

Sunday INDEPENDENT gathered that announcement of the choice of ministers is being allegedly held up by the wife of the president, Aisha, on one hand, Isa Funtua, a close family friend and businessman, and Buhari’s Uncle, Mamman Daura, on the other hand.

As gathered from competent sources, the wife of the president had openly showed deep resentment at the return of Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff to the president.

A close first family source told this the newspaper that “Aisha was assured by Funtua that there will be sweeping changes in the president’s ministerial and kitchen cabinets before the elections earlier in the year, a reason why she participated in the re-election of her husband.

“But with the return of Kyari against several criticisms trailing his performance during Buhari’s first tenure, the wife of the president hasn’t been happy.”

The source added that the decision to return Kyari again was pushed by Daura, the president’s uncle who now operates offsite from the Presidential Villa.

“Kyari is Daura’s eye and ear in the villa”, the source further explained, adding that, “the president believes that his uncle still has his interest and wellbeing at heart. But the wife of the president, before the election, had been critical about the choice of people surrounding her husband during the first tenure.”

As alleged before by the First Lady, Buhari’s government was being controlled by two people, who, according to her, had brought hatred to the party and her husband’s administration.

As a result of her disenchantment, there had been pressure on the president to drop ministers and aides who were deemed not have performed well in the first tenure.

A combined team of security agents, party stalwarts and some governors was said to have done an assessment report on both ministers and inner cabinet members meant to guide the president on his decision in constituting a new government.

Speculations had been widespread that Buhari might drop Kyari, and replace him with Babatunde Fashola, his former Works, Housing and Power Minister. There were talks, too, that there will be sweeping changes in the ministerial list when it finally makes it to the public.

The retention of the duo of Kyari as the Chief of staff, and Boss Mustapha, as Secretary to the Federal Government, is believed to indicate that the public shouldn’t expect any changes in the constitution of the new cabinet.

By law, the president is expected to appoint ministers who form the FEC. While the ministers serve at the behest of the president and as political heads of ministries, must approve critical policies and investment to be enforced by the president.

With Buhari sworn-in almost two months ago, worries have started mounting as to why the president has delayed forming his cabinet.

His critics, particularly in the opposition party, say that delay, firmly establishes the presidents unpreparedness to rule. They point to similar occurrence during his first tenure where it took the president six months to form his cabinet.

According to Kola Ologbodiyan, Publicity Secretary of PDP, the delay in appointment of Ministers is a further proof that Buhari didn’t win the presidential election in February.

“If election happened in February and in July we don’t have a ministerial list, it tells you that the president and his party were never prepared. It further shows that they weren’t expecting to win that election,” Ologbodiyan told Sunday INDEPENDENT.

PDP is at the election tribunal contesting the result of the presidential election.

While reacting to the PDP allegation, the APC spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, advised PDP to wait till 2023. “I do understand that PDP has to keep itself in the newspaper headlines because political parties after defeat at the polls often disintegrate. But I will strongly advise that they should wait till 2023 to try their luck again.”

Speaking further, the APC spokesman said that there is no gap in governance at all. “Appointment of political heads in the ministry is important. But in case PDP hasn’t noticed, the business of governance and policy implementation is in the hands of career bureaucrats in the ministry. They have all been up and doing and there are no gaps in governance at all.”

But still countering, Ologbodiyan wondered if Issa-Onilu was competent enough to make such claims about governance. “Is that the expectation of Nigerians, that months after election the president will still keep his cabinet list hidden from the public? On what basis is he making the claim that governance is moving on when he works at the party secretariat? What does the constitution say about ministerial appointment?”

President Buhari admitted penultimate Thursday that he had been under unprecedented pressure to release the names of his ministerial-nominees.

The President, who made a brief remark during a dinner he had with the leadership of the National Assembly, however, maintained that he would not be stampeded into releasing the list.

He stated that when he first came into office in 2015, the majority of ministerial appointees were not known to him personally.

This time round, the President stated that things would be different as he would appoint persons that he knew personally, a reason the search had continued till now.

He said, “Many at this dinner meeting are saying they want to see the list of the proposed cabinet so that they can go on leave peacefully.

“I’m very much aware about it; I’m under tremendous pressure on it. But the last cabinet which I headed, most of them, the majority of them I didn’t know them. I had to accept the names and recommendations from the party and other individuals.

“I worked with them for three and half years at least – meeting twice or two weeks in a month. So, I know them.

“But, this time round, I’m going to be quiet me – me in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.”

Although the President had promised to run a government with marked improvement on his first term, the president has carried on with his usual taciturn approach to official activities.

The President’s unprecedented six-month delay in naming a cabinet was partly blamed for Nigeria’s economic recession that began in August 2016.

He promised to do better in his second term, but the first 51 days have revealed that he may not stay true to that promise.  (Daily Independent)

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