President Bola Tinubu upped his rating with the release to the National Assembly for screening and approval, his long awaited list of ministerial nominees on Thursday last week. Receiving the list from Femi Gbajabiamila the Chief of Staff to the President, Godswill Akpabio President of the Senate was all smiles – a gesture that could as well have represented the upbeat mood of the country with respect to the dispensation, given that anxiety had gripped not a few Nigerians in the days preceding it. Anxiety over the ministerial list anchored on two premises. Firstly was over the rash of speculations on who and who should make the list, given the sundry tendencies that preceded and even trailed the general polls which ushered in the Ahmed Bola Tinubu Presidency. Speculations on the dispensation were accentuated by the hint from some figures in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that a unity government was in the pipeline, which meant that Tinubu’s cabinet may include non-members of his party. Secondly was the statutory provision of the Constitution in its Fifth Amendment that Tinubu had a maximum of 60 days from the date of his assumption of office being May 29, 2023, to send his ministerial team list to the National Assembly. Last Thursday marked the 59th day of the deadline.
With the new development, the ball is now in the court of the federal legislature – specifically the Senate who should do the needful to enable President Tinubu commence the full implementation of his campaign promises. Having launched his Presidency on a relatively fast pace – even with a few slips, Nigerians have conceded any let-up in the pace of reforms by him, to the fact that he was yet to appoint ministers to oversight the various ministries, department and agencies of government. Hence with the turn of events, the countdown for Tinubu may have started in earnest.
Meanwhile the point needs to be noted that the present schedule of nominees is not exhaustive as it comprises 28 nominees instead of the notional 42, as the Constitution provides for one nominee for each of the 36 states and one each for the six geopolitical zones. In the same context lies the fact that while 14 more nominations are allowed him, 11 states namely Adamawa, Bayelsa, Gombe, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Osun, Yobe and Zamfara are yet to have nominees. In the same vein, Senate President Godswill Akpabio had earlier clarified that more names are on the way.
Just as well, public interest has been aroused by the inclusion of some notable politicians with different echoes trailing them. For instance, the inclusion of seven women or 25% in his cabinet is seen widely as a positive sign of his gender sensitivity, even it remains short of the 35% recommended for affirmative action. Who knows then if more women will make up the remaining nominations? Also of interest is the nomination of long time Tinubu associates like Dele Alake and Olawale Edun. Their long standing association with Tinubu shows that fidelity with his traditional style of governance is a likelihood. Alake and Edun had featured among 20 who had been appointed earlier as Special Advisers to Tinubu and their emergence as ministers was rather predictable.
Also featuring on the list are some others whose inclusion admissibly raises eyebrows in the public domain for different reasons. Among these are the likes of Nasir El Rufai the immediate past governor of Kaduna State, Senator Dave Umahi, who is also the immediate past governor of Ebonyi State and a former contestant for the office of the President of the Senate, even as a first timer in the Red Chamber. However among the most controversial must be the nomination of Nyesom Wike, the immediate past Governor of Rivers State who by the time of his nomination is still an official member of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Wike’s nomination is widely believed to constitute a payback gesture by Tinubu for the former’s role in helping the President win the recent presidential polls in Rivers State. However, that gesture may remain the source of friction in the APC at both the national and Rivers State levels, except Tinubu may compensate his own party in the state, with an additional nomination – ostensibly that of the South South zone.
One striking feature of the ministerial list which has been observed by not a few commentators, is its slant towards more political figures than technocrats. This situation goes to steam the raging debate over how President Tinubu hopes to achieve a turn-round for the grossly compromised Nigerian economy and polity, given the imperative for strenuous, hands-on-deck efforts required of all of the government’s assets, to deliver on his rather ambitious electoral promises. For the task ahead will require much more than political grandstanding and rhetoric, to score tangible dividends.
For clarification, Tinubu had offered Nigerians a complement of mouth-watering promises which he had repeatedly assured the country of remaining committed to their fulfilment. While these promises remain ordinarily attainable, reservations by some members of the Nigerian public are built on the fact that governance is not run by an individual including Tinubu, with all his vaunted competences and experience. That is why even as the buck will eventually stop at his table, whatever team he picks remains a matter of concern for Nigerians at large.
On a final note however, while the elation over the specifics of availing himself and the country a ministerial cabinet lasts, it will be worth the president’s concern if he also heeds some knocks to his choice of lieutenants. For instance, social activist and former lawmaker Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna State had twitted a word of caution to Tinubu that conceding accommodation for a serpent in the palace, does not guarantee the safety of the king. Without any equivocation, there is clearly enough wisdom in those words for Tinubu, to last him all through his Presidency.