Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ministerial screening: After suspense, intrigues, a familiar list at last

•Senators speak on screening modalities

Nigerians waited for so long. The suspense was killing and the drama was unprecedented. For the political class whose survival depends on government patronage, they ‘died but rose’ again. No one could tell when the names of the ‘saints’ would be forwarded to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation.

Anxious and not-so-busy senators who wanted to kick off their committees’ oversight functions could not wait. Not even President Muhammadu Buhari’s kitchen cabinet gave a clue. For many, it was like waiting for eternity. Just when everyone had given up hope, including the anxious senators who could not wait to perform their first major task as lawmakers, President Buhari sneaked hurriedly into the Red Chamber to submit the names of the awaited ‘saints’ to Dr. Bukola Saraki, President of Senate.

List of controversy
Since the submission of the names, his supporters, as well as his critics have been throwing punches at one another. For instance, Yinka Odumakin of Afenifefe released the first missile at the weekend when he lampooned the president. “There is no excitement or surprise in the list. They are mostly the run of the mill people that do not warrant the four-month wait. Those names could have been submitted at the Eagles Square on May 29.”

President Buhari had on July 20 revealed in an article he authored and entitled, “Nigeria committed to good governance and fighting terror,” promised to release names of ministers in ‎September. In the article, he did not give a time-frame within which the names would be released in September. Buhari had revealed that it was pertinent for him to take his time to select the right persons to work him in order for him to put in rules of conduct and good governance. He had noted that it would not have been prudent nor served the interests of sound government to have appointed ministers immediately after he was sworn in.

He had said: “Already there are voices saying these changes are taking too long — even though only six weeks have passed since my inauguration. I hear such calls, but this task cannot and should not be rushed. When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office. In Nigeria’s case, it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government to have made these appointments immediately on my elevation to the presidency; instead, Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place.
“I cannot stress how important it is to ensure that this process is carried out correctly, just as it has been crucial to first install the correct leadership of the military and security services before we fully take the fight to Boko Haram.”

Wasted time waiting
Disappointedly, many Nigerians believe that the long wait was unnecessary since the president was only going to recycle the same old politicians who have dominated the political space since 1999. Some of the names on the list submitted to Saraki are former political office holders. Contrary to popular expectations, there are no saints on the list.

Some of the reported names on the ministerial list sent to the Senate are Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra) Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Abdurrahman Dambazau (rtd) (Kano), Aisha AlHassan (Taraba), Ogbonaya Onu (Ebonyi), Kemi Adeosun (Ogun), Abubakar Malami SAN (Kebbi), Senator Sirika Hadi (Katsina) and Barrister Adebayo Shittu (Oyo).
Others are Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa), Solomon Dalong (Plateau), Ibe Kachikwu (Delta), Osagie Ehanire (Edo), Udoma Udo-Udoma (Akwa Ibom), Ahmed Isa Ibeto (Niger), Ibrahim Jibril, Audu Ogbeh (Benue) and Amina Mohammed (Kaduna).

Another list awaited
There are 11 other names said to have to have been sent to the Senate. Among all the names said to be on the first list, those who have not held political offices since 1999 are in the extreme minority. Unlike the president’s earlier promise that his nominees will be people of unquestionable character, the reverse appears to be the case. According to law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.

However, some former governors believed to be on the list have been in the news of late for the wrong reasons. For instance, Amaechi is still locked in battle with his estranged political ally and successor, Nyesom Wike. Recent revelations made by a commission of enquiry in Rivers state have alleged that the former governor, Amaechi misappropriated the state funds.
The commission has also alleged that some projects embarked upon by Amaechi’s administration did not see the light of the day. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is said to be investigating the former governor. Many critics of Amaechi have therefore called to doubt, President Buhari’s promise to tackle corruption and appoint people of unquestionable character as ministers.

Stained saints
Fayemi of Ekiti state who is on the list is reportedly under investigation by ICPC. The anti-graft agency has neither denied, nor claimed that an investigation into the former governor’s tenure was not ongoing. Fayemi’s successor, Ayo Fayose, has equally alleged that the former governor misappropriated fund belonging to the state government. Again, the former governor’s critics are shocked that while the allegations are yet to be cleared, President Buhari submitted his name as a ministerial nominee in a government that has promised not to entertain any form of corruption.
Fashola is not exempted from the orgy of attacks since he exited office as governor of Lagos State. Although Fashola is touted to be one of the finest governors to have presided over any state in Nigeria, his records have been called to question. It is unclear if any of the anti-corruption agencies was investigating his tenure in office. The torrent of attacks may have abated, but questions raised about the alleged mismanagement of funds as Lagos State governor still abound and yet to be cleared.

Fury over vain saints
Following the backlash from the submission of the ministerial nominees to the Nigerian Senate, the presidency has come under attacks. It has been making frantic efforts to fence off criticisms and the president’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina has been leading the defensive campaigns. He has appeared at several fora and has explained the president’s position. Although his points have been valid, critics who are quick to find fault in every action of the president are not willing to give up.
In one of the recent interviews, Adesina defended the president’s action, saying, “We also need to mind the process and the procedure. Our federal lawmakers would be the first people to kick if the president just reeled out the names of the ministers and their portfolios. That would not be in order. What he does is to nominate and send to the Senate and after clearance, the ministers begin to work. At any given time, procedure must be followed.
“The President himself was clear about that, he said the first batch but nobody knows how many is in the batch. It has been addressed to the Senate President. Well, it depends on the president. There are certain prerogatives that the President has. Ministers are one of them. He has said that this is the first batch. I think that we should wait and see who are those in the first batch and after that we know how many remains, because the constitution already states that there must be a minister in each of the states. We have 36 states in the country, so when the list is unfolded, we know how many remains.”

Adesina’s defence
Defending the choice of President Buhari in picking career politicians who held public offices during the 16-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government, Adesina said: “I think the question, we will ask ourselves is: What would the president be bringing to the table, if he is going to supervise the petroleum ministry? He was Minister of Petroleum about 32 years ago. That is a lot of experience. Those were years that things were done fairly properly in this country.
“What is wrong with recycling if that person has something he is bringing to the table? Recycling would be wrong if that person is adding no value. But if he is adding value, what is wrong with recycling? I tell you that this is one appointment, if you can call it so, that will bring a lot of value to that ministry.
“Don’t forget that the buck stops at the President’s table. At the end of his administration, it is going to be called the Buhari administration and not the name of any minister. Therefore, it is very important that what the President feels would make a difference in the country is what he does. At the end of the day, that administration would be rated with his name and not any other name.”
Senators’ game plan

Meanwhile, Senators have been expressing their views on what lies ahead as the screening of the ministerial nominees kicks off. In their separate interviews with Abuja Metro, the senators agreed on one thing that the screening will not be business as usual.
Senator Clifford Ordia from Edo State in his reaction, revealed that the Senate was yet to take an official position on the method members will adopt when it reconvenes next Tuesday to consider the list of the ministerial nominees. Senator Ordia cautioned that it was too early to criticize or pick holes, adding that the lawmakers will however not leave anything to chance. He said only the best and qualified will sail through.

“We have not agreed on what we are going to do. But one thing I know is that it would not be business as usual. Before somebody can be appointed to head a ministry, we must know if he or she is qualified. I do not want to start criticising right now. But one thing is sure and that is the fact that we will ensure the best comes out at the end of the day,” Senator Ordia noted.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe from Abia State did not give any specifics on what to expect when the screening begins. He maintained that the Senate adhoc committee chairman on Media and Public 

Affairs had already given a glimpse as to what to expect.
He said: “We have the list already and by Tuesday we will begin the discussion on it. The chairman of the Senate adhoc committee has already spoken on how we will go about it. So I believe that will be the position of the Senate. He spoke on behalf of the Senate President and that is it for now.

Senator David Umaru from Niger State in his submission, said due process will be followed. He also promised that lawmakers would exercise high diligence and care during the consideration of the names of ministerial nominees.

“Officially, I am not aware of the list of ministerial nominees sent to the Senate. But if you recall, the Senate President, Dr. Saraki stated during his address when Senators reconvened that we are going to be very diligent this time. We will screen the nominees and ensure that we follow due process. We have been waiting for this list. But I can assure you that things will be different this time,” he explained

The drama will very likely start today as the screening might get underway.

Credit:  FRED ITUA

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