Twenty days to the presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), campaign and governance are competing for attention as key government officials aspiring for the presidency rarely stay in their offices to discharge their responsibilities.
Daily Trust reports that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some ministers like Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation), Chris Ngige (Labour and Employment), among others are moving round the country to woo delegates.
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Other ministers who are contesting for the presidency include the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of State Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.
Also in the race is the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, who has instituted legal actions to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, from preventing him from pursuing his presidential ambition while retaining his office.
Daily Trust reports that Malami is also involved in campaigns; but unlike his colleagues, he is aspiring to be the governor of Kebbi State.
The APC has fixed May 30/31, this year for its presidential primary.
So far, about 30 aspirants have picked the forms of the ruling party, which cost N100m each.
A total of 7,800 delegates from across the country are expected to elect the APC flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
However, ahead of the primary, aspirants who are holding various elective or appointive positions have been moving from one state to the other to get the buy-in of the delegates.
Analysts said in the last few weeks, the attention being given to campaigns by those seeking to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari on the expiration of his tenure on May 29, 2023, has relegated governance to the background.
Activities suffer setback in labour ministry
Critical activities in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment are currently suffering following the frequent travels of the minister, Chris Ngige to campaign for his ambition ahead of 2023, findings by the Daily Trust revealed.
Apart from Ngige’s frequent absence from official duties following his ongoing consultations and campaigns, which has prevented him from attending to many files, it was gathered that he was attracting favours indirectly because of his status.
An official of the ministry, who spoke anonymously told one of our correspondents on Monday that there were a lot of files on the minister’s table on critical issues he was yet to attend to due to his busy schedule.
“You know the minister has been moving around the country in order to realise his ambition. So, his table is full but I am sure he will attend to them as soon as possible,” the official said.
Our correspondent also reports that the minister, who is the Chief Conciliator between the federal government and the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), only met the union twice – a development stakeholders said made the issue of the strike to fester.
Findings by one of our correspondents revealed that since the minister declared his presidential ambition publicly, he had embarked on several trips across the six geopolitical zones of the country with at least 5 of his aides.
A source in the ministry confided in Daily Trust that most of those in the entourage are still drawing Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) from public funds.
“There is a lot of goodwill for the minister from the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF),” one of the sources said.
But the spokesperson for the NSITF, Mrs Ijeoma Okoronkwo, in a telephone interview described the allegation as “untrue”.
Amaechi: Killing two birds with a stone
When he first declared for the presidency, Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi started his campaign tour with sources around him saying he was “killing two birds with one stone” as he moves from one state to another.
With a full complement of the staff of the ministry, Amaechi has been using the opportunity of his project inspection nationwide to also consult key stakeholders in states to intimate them of his presidential ambition, findings by Daily Trust revealed.
Our correspondents report that immediately after he publicly showcased his interest to takeover over from President Buhari on April 9, the following day, the minister inspected the ongoing reconstruction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line where he disclosed that the contractors are working in different groups across the line simultaneously.
From the South-East, he proceeded straight to Kano where he held consultations with stakeholders in the region. He had meetings with the Emirs of Kano and Bichi on Monday.
Like he did in his zone, he proceeded to also inspect the construction of the Kano-Kaduna rail line which is ongoing. He also visited the Emir of Dutse in Jigawa.
From Kano/Jigawa, his train moved to Katsina where he visited the Daura Emirate. It would be recalled that Amaechi was recently conferred the traditional title of Dan Amanar Daura (Trusted son of Daura) by Emir Faruk Umar Faruk.
Shortly after visiting the Daura Emirate to inform them about his ambition, he also proceeded to inspect the ongoing construction of the Daura University of Transportation. He was in the company of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Magdalene Ajani and some senior officials and a retinue of journalists.
Amaechi had also visited states in the South West and South South where he met with the delegates of the APC.
Findings in the ministry revealed that only the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki comes to the office regularly as Amaechi is now occupied with his presidential campaign.
When contacted on the allegation that the minister is using the machinery of government for his personal campaign, the Director of Press in the Ministry, Mr Eric Ojikwe said he was not aware of such and directed our correspondent to put our enquiries in writing to the minister.
Like Onu, like Nwajuiba
Despite declaring to vie for the country’s number one position, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu reported to work in his office in Abuja on Monday.
Onu had on Friday entered the race for the presidential ticket of the APC, declaring that Nigeria can no longer look to foreign countries for its salvation.
But a close aide of the minister who confided in our reporter said Onu’s declaration had not in a bit affected his duties as a minister.
Other sources said considering that it wasn’t long since he declared for the presidency, he would definitely go round and consult because the ticket would not be given to him on a platter.
“Let me be frank with you, he will soon start going from one state to the other to woo delegates also because this is exactly what other contenders are doing,” one of the sources said.
Our correspondent could not establish whether or not, Nwajuiba has relegated his official duties to the background. But, the Director of Press at the ministry, Ben Goong said the minister has been doing his work.
Some staff at the Central Bank of Nigeria who were asked to speak on whether Emefiele’s ambition was affecting activities at the apex bank declined to comment, noting that they don’t have the mandate to do so.
However, a senior management staff of the bank that preferred anonymity said; “I can assure you that the apex bank is neither concerned nor worried about what is happening in the political space.
“Nigerians must appreciate that the CBN is well structured to carry on its statutory functions of maintaining monetary and price stability.”
Daily Trust reports that this claim is at variance with the outrage in the political space especially in the last few days when it became glaring that the CBN governor is in the race.
For instance, a former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili has called on Emefiele to resign and “stop embarrassing Nigeria.”
Though Emefiele had rejected the N100m form allegedly procured for him by rice farmers and processors to vie for the presidency on the grounds that he was consulting with God, Ezekwesili said, “I just read your waffling neither-here-nor-there tweet reacting to news of your payment of N100m for the APC nomination form for 2023 Presidential election.
“Seems you did not read what the APC Spokesperson said to @Bloomberg. Resign. Stop embarrassing the country. Stop.”
Other pundits said INEC should also sever its relationship and look for another place to keep its sensitive materials ahead of 2023 because “CBN is now an interested party.”
‘We need strong, enduring laws’
A legal practitioner, Ibrahim Yusuf Habibu said the deliberate attack by some interested parties on the 2022 Electoral Act signed by President Buhari has provided a temporary cover for political appointees.
Section 84(12) provides that anyone holding a political office – ministers, commissioners, special advisers and others – must relinquish the position before they could be eligible to participate in the electoral process either as a candidate or as a delegate.
But a Federal High Court in Umuahia, Abia State, had on March 18, nullified the section for being in conflict with the 1999 Constitutional.
The Senate has appealed the judgement.
Gov’t has literally fallen apart – Kari
An associate Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said the decision of those political appointees to remain in office while they aspire for elective positions is unfortunate.
“A Hausa proverb says ‘No one can chew two nuts at the same time.’ They simply cannot combine their functions as public officers with enormous responsibilities and at the same time engage in full partisan political shenanigans.
“Even if they believe that the law does not compel them to quit their positions in government and concentrate fully on politicking, common sense should have prevailed upon them to do that.
“Even more worrisome and shocking is the decision of President Buhari to allow them to remain in office. It doesn’t show seriousness, sense of purpose and responsibility on his part. His government has literally fallen apart or, at least, is in disarray, as its key officials have abandoned their duty posts and taken to full-time politicking.
“Governance has taken flight, while partisan politics now takes precedence over and above anything and everything. This does not and cannot augur well for the country,” he said.
By Ismail Mudashir, Sunday M. Ogwu, Zakariyya Adaramola, Idowu Isamotu, Chidimma C. Okeke (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)