As the jostle for ministerial list reaches the home stretch, there are strong indications that no fewer than five former governors will feature in the president’s list of nominees that is heading to the Senate for approval between now and next week.
The unusual list, already dubbed the ‘cabinet of (political) unity’, will have nominees drawn from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and many technocrats.
President Bola Tinubu’s handshake across party lines has already elicited contests and intrigues in political camps over choice of suitable representatives in some of the key states.
But there may be enough slots to go round sought-after persons. The Guardian learnt that barring last minute change, the cabinet will be as bloated as what former President Muhammadu Buhari had, but with major realignments in portfolios.
The President has less than 20 days left out of the 60 allowed by the Constitution for him to send his list of Ministers to the Senate for screening.
Yesterday, it was learnt that a 42-member cabinet is being expected because “each state is constitutionally mandated to have a representative at the cabinet and as it was done by the last administration, each of the six geological zones will also have members in the unity government.”
The new cabinet, as gathered, will consist of 42 Ministers and 20 Special Advisers. Some of the remarkable difference from the last administration would be the likely abrogation of Ministers of State. Also, SAs will contribute to discussions at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.
Also being anticipated is the unbundling of some large ministries into two or three to create enough portfolios for cabinet members. Some of the ministries to be touched include Works and Housing, Agriculture and Rural Development, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and Youths and Sports.
Those who made the proposed list of 20 expected to serve as Senior Special Assistants (SSAs), Special Assistants (SAs) and Personal Assistants (PAs) are: Dr Adekunle Tinubu – Personal Physician; Tunde Rahman – SSAP (Media); Damilotun Aderemi – SSAP (Private Secretary); Ibrahim Masari – SSAP (Political Matters); Toyin Subair – SSAP (Domestic); Abdulaziz Abdulaziz – SSAP (Print Media); Otega Ogara – SSAP (Digital/New); Demola Oshodi – SSAP (Protocol); Tope Ajayi – SSAP (Media & Public) and Yetunde Sekoni – SSAP.
Others are Motunrayo Jinadu – SSAP; Segun Dada – SAP (Social Media); Paul Adekanye – SAP (Logistics); Friday Soton – SAP (Housekeeping); Mrs Shitta-Bey Akande – SAP (Catering); Nosa Asemota – SAP (Visual Communication) Personal Photographer; Kamal Yusuf – PA (Special Duties); Wale Fadairo – PA (General Duties); Sunday Moses – PA (Videography); and Taiwo Okonlawon – PA (State Photographer).
The proposed nominees, according to a document seen at the weekend, await President Tinubu’s formal approval before it is officially announced. Some of the nominees have actually started working in the assigned roles.
However, state chapters and national secretariat of the APC have been sidelined in the process of recommending the ministerial nominees as “the governors are in charge and states where opposition parties occupy the seat of government, party leaders make recommendations, that is why some states have multiple nominees.”
Some of the governors that might have been penciled down to be part of the final list to be submitted to the senate included former governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, especially for his role in the emergence of Hon. Tajudeen Abbas as the Speaker House of Representative. Besides, the report of the committee set up by the APC in 2018 on true federalism, which he headed, is said to be one of the major reasons he is being rooted for by Tinubu’s camp.
Others are former governors Abdulahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Muhammad Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers).
It was also gathered that former Ogun State governor, Senator Gbenga Daniel is being favoured ahead of Senator Ibikunle Amosun for the ministerial list.
Former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, is also being considered for a Foreign Affairs Minister role. He had served in the last administration as Minister of Mines and Steel.
In Lagos, which is the President’s forte, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, a banker, is being primed to emerge as the new Finance Minister. His switch over from the Senate, where he currently represents Lagos East senatorial district, is to pave way for the return of former Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, into the President’s political family. After his recent reconciliation with his godfather, Ambode is being positioned to replace Abiru in the Senate.
In Delta State, the APC is uncertain who will be appointed minister following scheming by the different interest groups and camps within the party.
The Guardian gathered that even the leadership of the party was not pushing anyone for the ministerial position, as the floor remained open for anyone interested.
A party source said the party has been polarised into two camps – one led by former deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege, and another spearheaded by Lauretta Onochie and Dr Cairo Ojougboh, who was reportedly expelled from the party.
According to a reliable source: “From the top, the party may decide to pick Festus Keyamo, because he was presidential campaign spokesman and has been assisting the President to defend his case at the tribunal.”
But it was also gathered that another bloc is rooting for Otega Emerhor, with the support of Omo-Agege, since he (Omo-Agege) is still fighting to ‘reclaim’ his governorship mandate at the election tribunal.
In Cross Rivers State, there were speculations that some party bigwigs have been lobbying Aso Rock for ministerial positions.
Sources in Calabar hinted that interested persons, including the immediate past governor, Prof. Ben Ayade; former senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba; APC National Women Leader, who was a former commissioner for Health in the state, Dr Betta Edu; a governorship aspirant in this year’s elections, Senator John Owan Enoh; former party chairman and ambassador, Soni Abang; immediate past Board chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and one-time commissioner for Information, Akin Rocket, and renowned businessman and also a governorship aspirant, Ben Akak, might be angling to be made minister.
While Edu is relying on some party heavyweights, female-folks and ‘office of the First Lady’ to push her cause, Ayade is banking on his influence and connection with some former governors. Ndoma-Egba is counting on his experience and exploring his contacts with his colleagues in the National Assembly to pull through.
However, a group called the All Progressives Congress (APC) Legacy Group, Cross River State, has sounded a note of caution to Tinubu in appointing ministerial nominees from the state.
In a statement issued in Calabar, their leader, Sampson Egom, said: “It is important for the APC and Tinubu to be properly guided before he makes the choice of his minister from Cross River.
“Let the party reward and promote this silent majority, who do not have political godfathers and godmothers,” the statement reads in part.
According to a new amendment to the 1999 Constitution, the President and governors must submit the names of persons nominated as ministers or commissioners within 60 days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or state House of Assembly.
President Tinubu was sworn-in on May 29, and already 42 days since coming onboard. The presidential spokesman, Dele Alake, earlier told Nigerians to expect Tinubu’s ministerial roll call within the first 30 days in office, as a departure for his predecessor that took six months to inaugurate one.
In May, Alake said: “A month maximum is enough for any serious government to form its cabinet and put a structure of government in place after the swearing-in”.
But last Thursday, Alake reclined on that timeline, saying it was the President’s sole prerogative to appoint persons into the new cabinet “when he is good and ready”.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents in Abuja, Alake noted that Nigeria runs a presidential system, which only confers on the President the prerogative power to appoint ministers.
He said, “you know, this is an executive presidency, we’re not running a parliamentary system. So, the bucks stop on his table, and he decides who is fit and proper to make his cabinet list.”
Alake, a Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy noted the avalanche of what he described as ‘speculations’ in the public domain, adding that such reports were mere fabrications.
“I can tell you all those things you’ve been reading in the media are mere fabrications. There is no iota of truth in all those things. When the President is good and ready, you will be the first to know about his intentions,” he said.
Expectations are high that when the list of ministerial nominees is unveiled, notable persons that may not have been prominent in the South-east region or in the APC may form part of it.
The Guardian investigation revealed that Tinubu, to assuage discontents arising from his election, is ready to accommodate politicians and eggheads that could enable his administration achieve a national cohesion. It was gathered that in doing so, he may not rely solely on members of the party that worked for his success in the region.
Towards the end, it was revealed that the list might contain a mix of members, especially of the PDP and APC, adding that the effort was also to strengthen the party in the region.
So far, Tinubu has received ex-governors of Enugu and Abia states, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu, in that order. They were among the G-5 governors of the PDP. While it is not clear whether Ikpeazu could make the list, that of Ugwuanyi is said to be a done deal based on his closeness with Tinubu and his efforts to unite segments of the country as governor.
In Abia, however, there is a rift between former Minister, Uche Ogar, and the governorship candidate of the party in the 2023 elections, Ikechi Emenike, over control of the party.
The rift has divided members of the party. A source stated that the party might have submitted two lists of potential ministers to the president.
It was learnt that though Ugwuanyi is not of the APC, his mien that has endeared him to all manner of people has become a factor that may earn him a place in the administration of Tinubu.
The other factor is the crisis in the state APC, which has divided the party and limited its chances at the last elections. It was speculated that allowing any of the factions led by Ugochukwu Agballah or Adolphus Ude, among others, to nominate candidates would fester the crisis.
In Ebonyi, there are rumours that former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, may also make the list. Anyim’s closeness with the immediate past governor of the state, Dave Umahi, who will eventually have a say in who should be appointed from the state is said to be a factor.
Anyim had before the election openly endorsed the governorship candidate of the APC; a position that many felt impacted on the performance of Tinubu in the state. Anyim has been received by President Tinubu at the State House.
For Imo state, it will be unlikely for Governor Uzodimma not to have a say in the choice of minister to represent the state.
The crisis in Anambra APC might also make the president look elsewhere for his minister. Only last week, he held talks with the former National Publicity of the PDP, Olisa Metuh.
In a related development, the APC in Rivers State has denied ceding any ministerial nomination slot to Wike.
The state party spokesperson, Darlington Nwauju, made the denial at a press briefing on Wednesday, describing the claim as “the most fantastically audacious of lies”.
Nwauju, while reacting to a publication authored by the former Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government, and state leader of the Amalgamated Bola Tinubu Campaign Council, Chief Tony Okocha, said, “the state chapter of the party has never interacted with the Amalgamated Bola Tinubu Campaign Council emphasising that there are more than a hundred NGOs and support groups, who worked for the APC in Rivers State.”