- Geopolitical zones lobby for ‘juicy’ portfolios
A cold war is brewing among top leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the ministerial list released last Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari, New Telegraph gathered at the weekend. Sources said some party leaders, especially Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo and former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, were upset that the list did not contain the names of their nominees. It was learnt that the ministerial list, comprising 21 names, did not feature any of the nominees compiled by Tinubu for the South-West, which is regarded as his major sphere of influence.
Even in Lagos State, which is Tinubu’s exclusive preserve, he did not have the final say on who will represent the state in the cabinet. Rather than pick any of his nominees for the cabinet, Buhari did it alone and even selected Tinubu’s estranged godsons such as former Governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti). Osinbajo, a protégé of Tinubu, also failed to get Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on the list. Falana, from Ekiti State, was being tipped to emerge as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Osinbajo was said to have made a case to the president four times to consider Falana, without securing any commitment from Buhari. Instead of Falana, the president opted for Fayemi, whom sources said was being positioned to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Osinbajo also rooted for Prof. Pat Utomi as a ministerial nominee for Delta State, but the president opted for the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. Kachikwu will serve as Minister of State for Petroleum since the president has said he would hold the portfolio of Minister of Petroleum Resources.
One of the sources said Tinubu, who had relocated to Abuja since Buhari came into power on May 29, hurriedly returned to Lagos last Thursday. “Asiwaju was disappointed with the ministerial list as none of his nominees made the Buhari’s cabinet. He felt used and dumped,” a senior party member told New Telegraph.
Tinubu invested his resources to prosecute the Buhari presidential election such that the president’s wife, Aisha, said the former governor drafted her to join the campaign train. But a source in the presidency said the president sent copies of the ministerial list he sent to Senate President Bukola Saraki to Tinubu and the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
It was learnt that Tinubu received the ministerial list in company of his aides and political associates, including former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande. A source said Tinubu ran through the ministerial list and was so surprised that he did not utter a word.
“Tinubu just took the list and called Chief Akande into an inner room in his Abuja residence,” the source said. The discussion, it was learnt, centred on the ministerial list after which Akande called the president requesting for an audience. The president was said to have fixed a meeting for last Wednesday at 11p.m. New Telegraph learnt that at the meeting, Akande sought to know why the president rejected Tinubu and South-West leaders’ recommendations for the ministerial list. Buhari was said to have told Akande that since Tinubu produced the vicepresident, he has to allow other ‘tendencies’ in the South-West to have a share of the appointments meant for the region.
Buhari explained that since Fayemi lost his reelection in Ekiti, he has served the party in many capacities unlike Falana. Fayemi was the chairman of the APC National Convention in Lagos where Buhari emerged as the party’s presidential candidate and was the Director, Directorate of Policy and Strategy of the APC Presidential Campaign Council. On Fashola, the president said Tinubu’s successor was chairman of the presidential fundraising committee and he worked more for his campaign unlike Mr. Yemi Cardoso, a former Lagos State Commissioner that Tinubu had proposed. New Telegraph learnt that Buhari had earlier told Fashola and Fayemi to reconcile with Tinubu to ease their appointments. It was learnt that Fayemi, through the intervention of Akande, met Tinubu in Lagos to rebuild their relationship.A source said the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, intervened on behalf of the former governors to appease Tinubu.
The president also justified the choice of Mr. Adebayo Shittu as Oyo State ministerial nominee. He added that Shittu had been with him since his days in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Shittu, a 2007 CPC governorship candidate in Oyo State, is not on good terms with Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Buhari said he had to defer to Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, on the state’s nominee, because of their relationship since the days of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP).
While Buhari was the ANPP’s presidential candidate in the 2007 general elections, Amosun was the gubernatorial candidate of the party in Ogun State. Former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode Mustapha, was the candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, Buhari agreed to cede the Osun ministerial slot to Obasanjo’s candidate, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of the state.
Besides the reasons adduced by the president for rejecting Tinubu’s ministerial nominees, a group of young elements close to the president worked against the APC leader. It was learnt that Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), former Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and Pastor Tunde Bakare played crucial roles in the choice of the ministers.
It was learnt that the idea was to whittle down the political influence of Tinubu as El-Rufai’s group was said to have impressed it on the president the need to cut Tinubu to size before he takes over the government. But an associate of Tinubu said his camp was not surprised about recent developments. “We knew it was a conspiracy.
I can tell you El-Rufai and Tambuwal’s marriage is that of convenience because the two of them have presidential ambition. So, let’s see how it plays out,” the source said. Also speaking on the ministerial list, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, stated that Tinubu had lost out in the Buhari’s government. Odumakin said: “When a man thinks he’s too smart, he will ultimately dribble himself. What has happened to Tinubu is that those he launched all kinds of war against have become the victors. He never knew that the attack he was launching against them was a way of actually helping those people.
“President Buhari who appointed Fashola, Fayemi and others doesn’t want people under Tinubu’s influence in his cabinet. Now, he can’t begin to claim them after they have been appointed despite his opposition.” Former Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council on National Conference, Senator Femi Okunroumu, also told New Telegraph that his prediction had come to pass that Tinubu would be humiliated by Buhari. “I am having a good laugh. This is what I expected. In any case, Tinubu is stretching his luck too far as he wants to dictate who will rule Nigeria. Tinubu’s wings need to be clipped.
With the ministerial list, Tinubu has been dumped. He should not just be dumped, he should be disgraced,” Okurounmu told New Telegraph. Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he was not surprised with Buhari’s approach to governance. “I’m not disappointed at all. I warned before the election that Buhari would not change, although he said he is a converted democrat.
“APC is not a party; it is a gang of people whose sole aim was to remove Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president. In a real party, you share the spoils of office before elections not after elections. This is what is happening in APC. We warned our people, but they failed to listen,” Adebanjo said.
New Telegraph also gathered at the weekend that ahead of tomorrow’s screening of the ministerial nominees, lobbying had begun among geopolitical zones to corner portfolios considered juicy for their kinsmen. Senate President Bukola Saraki is expected to read out the full list of 21 nominees who made the first batch of the federal cabinet tomorrow.
Besides Fayemi and Fashola, other ministerial nominees included Senator Chris Ngige, Amaechi, Lt-General Abdurrahman Dambazzau (rtd), Senator Aisha Al-Hassan, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Senator Sirika Hadi.
A top party source confided in New Telegraph that although Buhari could not be directly approached by the nominees, their lobbyists commenced moves to engage the services of those they considered close to the president to make a case for them. It was gathered that the most sought after ministries are those of Justice, Works, Finance, Defence and Interior. For the Finance Ministry, while some powerful APC elements are already said to have argued that the portfolio had eluded the region for too long, APC leaders from the South-West are also making a case for one of their own to be the next Finance Minister. Same argument is being pushed in respect of the Agriculture Ministry.
For the Justice Ministry, Fashola and Malami are strong contenders, even as close confidants of the president, like Alhaji Ahmed Joda, are favourably disposed to Malami who once served as national legal adviser of the defunct CPC. For the Works Ministry, some APC elders were said to be rooting for Onu.
However, some Northerner leaders were said to be rooting for a nominee from the zone, whose name is to be in the second batch of the ministerial nominees to be sent to the Senate. The source said: ”I think lobby is part of politics; it is allowed like the wouldbe ministers are said to be doing with the senators.
We like it because as a party, we have no intention to coerce the senators to give the nominees a blanket clearance. Let all prove their worth before the lawmakers. ”The only thing we find laughable is that aspect of going beyond that level to scheme for specifics in the planned cabinet.
”You know that people are naturally insatiable in their wants, especially when it comes to politics, nothing is seen to be enough until the last is given out. ”As a party, we all waited for this moment in anxiety and apprehension because no one knew before now, I think no one still knows what is contained there.
”But it is curious and unexpected that some persons are already lobbying to be made minister of this, minister for this, it is wrong because the thing is already generating interregional concerns among the party leadership. ”All we know is that President Buhari has picked his team.
They have to work as a team and not what any of them desire to hold as a portfolio. Only the president has the right to allocate offices and he should be given the chance to so do. ”For God’s sake, what do we want a juicy ministry for? Under the present arrangement, there is nothing like Grade A or B ministry. So, for those who have the chance of being nominated that are already lobbying for specific portfolios, they will be disappointed at the end of the day.”