Not surprisingly, one of the most awaited developments in Nigeria’s political space today is the list of persons to be appointed Ministers by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Up to the end of last week public expectations hit fever pitch as speculations and several lists were circulating across a multitude of social media platforms as well as hard copy publications, with most drawing blank at the time of working this piece. Going by the provisions of the Constitution, Tinubu has the liberty to appoint as many as 42 Ministers comprising one from each of the 36 states of the federation, as well as one from each of the six geopolitical zones. Meanwhile, he had earlier appointed a complement of 20 Special Advisers, who were assigned oversight/advisory roles over some governmental agencies and functions that ordinarily constitute the statutory functions of designated Ministries, and which will eventually fall under their day-to-day administrative purview. All in all therefore, the forthcoming operational cabinet for President Bola Tinubu shall notionally comprise a complement of at least 62 members, to function in at least two tiers – one for the Ministers and the other at the level of the Special Advisers.
Expectedly, public interest has been trending over the likely size and character of the Tinubu cabinet whenever it comes on stream. However, a guide to what can be expected was provided in a recent interview on Channels Television – ‘Politics Today’ programme, by Senator Iyiola Omishore who is the National Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). According to his tacit disclosure, the forthcoming ministerial cabinet may not deviate significantly from the constitutional provisions of featuring representation of states and geopolitical zones. This development lends credence to the notional team of a maximum of 42 Ministers.
In the light of the foregoing, of equal interest are the trio factors of size, character and modus operandi of both the cabinet of Ministers as well as the forum of Special Advisers – each of whom is expected to be active on his or her beat. The issue here borders on the prospects of building synergy among a seeming multi-tiered complement of Presidential lieutenants, some of who may be saddled with similar responsibilities.
Among the points of interest is firstly the question of how the Special Advisers who are already assigned to designated MDAs shall relate with the substantive Ministers when the latter come on board. Given that the Constitution assigns a dejure legitimacy to Ministers as the heads of the ministries, the situation raises the question of what the Special Advisers with shared responsibilities over same MDAs with designated Ministers, will be doing except to serve as monitoring spirits over the affairs of such establishments.
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In respect of the foregoing situation, certain considerations have been trending as pertains to appraising the President’s predilection in respect of contemplating and spawning a multi-tiered cabinet with likely overlap of responsibilities and portends of power tussle among his lieutenants. One of such brainwaves conjures a self-imposed dilemma for Tinubu, which manifests as his inclination to provide ‘jobs for the boys’. This is the disposition of potentates to arbitrarily settle their cronies by creating opportunities in the machinery of government to provide placements for same, at the expense of the nation. It is to be noted that this exercise may not always consider the need of the country nor the bearing capacity of the government to accommodate such flash impositions of extra mouths to feed, and often leads to the bloating of the machinery of governance. In the Nigerian political dispensation where every actor often has a price, the foregoing is believed to constitute a likely imperative for Tinubu in order to sustain his network of associates.
To accentuate just one angle to the issue of deluge of Tinubu’s Special Advisers, is the now trending protest in the country’s public space over allegations of nepotistic preponderance of people from his South West geopolitical zone, dominating the complement of Special Advisers. Out of the 20 of such officers, at least 15 or 75% of them are from Tinubu’s South West zone, against the backdrop of six geopolitical zones in the country who are also entitled to a fair share of slots among the Special Advisers. Not a few observers are of the view that given the condition that the ministers will be drawn mandatorily from all the 36 states and six zones of the country, the skewing of the complement of Special Advisers, was intended to ensure that by whatever process the cabinet is formed and operates, Tinubu’s kith and kin will have the upper hand, at least in the kitchen cabinet of Special Advisers.
However, against the backdrop of the fact that a prima facie case of tendentiousness has been associated with the complement of the ‘Presidents Men’ – either as Ministers or Special Advisers, it now rests on the Tenth National Assembly to safeguard the country from further deviations by the Tinubu administration from extant rules as well as regulations and conventions, to ensure a balanced spread that is promotional of national unity, with respect to manning of the offices in the Federal government, as provided for by law.
Given its constitutionally assigned responsibility for over-sighting the executive in its provision of good governance, not a few Nigerians are already belly-aching over what they see as the legislature conceding ground for Tinubu to escape with the proverbial ‘blue-murder’ as far as the issue of a lopsided complement of Special Advisers is concerned. Against the backdrop of the serial surrender by the Ninth National Assembly of its legislative autonomy to the Executive arm, widespread fears across the country heralded the coming of the Tenth National Assembly that another rubber-stamp legislature was coming. And while several spokespersons of the Tenth National Assembly have come out to assure the country that its case will be different, let the institution now work its talk, with matching enterprise.