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.
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.”