Saturday Sun gathered that governors from APC-controlled states and some national leaders of the party had submitted no less than 73 names for the president to select his ministers from. This is despite the president’s initial warning before his swearing-in in May that he would not allow state governors to nominate ministers for him.
Of the 23 states controlled by the APC, only Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was said to have submitted only one name, a former governor of the state (names withheld) while the rest submitted either two or three names to the president to chose one from for appointment as ministers representing their states in the Federal Executive Council.
A reliable source in the presidency told Saturday Sun: “The ministerial list will soon be out as promised by the President but it is full of surprises because many ministerial hopefuls and those who nominated them will be shocked. This is because the President won’t be bound by the old tradition.”
The old tradition, it was gathered, means the practice in the past where state governors and party leaders would nominate three names from their states, out of which the President would pick one as minister representing the state in FEC.
From May 1999 to May 2015, it has been the tradition of the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government to appoint a minimum of one minister from each of the 36 states of the federation and six others from the geopolitical zones into the Federal Executive Council.
The APC governors had in a meeting with the then president-elect before their swearing-in on May 29 pleaded with Buhari to give them the privilege of nominating ministers from their respective states as it’s always been done. Though the president did not approve the proposal, Saturday Sun gathered that the governors went ahead to submit names and CVs of their nominees weeks later.
Giving an insight into what his party leaders, governors and indeed Nigerians should expect from him on the composition of his cabinet, Buhari had in May said: “I am an ardent listener of Hausa Service of Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) from 6am to 7am every morning. I am going to quote myself because I heard in one of the interviews that I said the type of people I am supposed to appoint, like in the cabinet and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and service chiefs, will be different. Definitely, my approach is going to be different from what we had under the PDP where governors nominated ministers”.
The then president-elect had said if state governors are at liberty to appoint their commissioners, he, too, should be at liberty to choose those who would serve with him in the FEC, thereby abolishing the existing tradition where state governors are the ones that submit names of their candidates for ministerial appointments.
“I have been around long enough to know people that I can approach for things like that… Deliberately, we will look for competent people, dedicated and experienced to head ministries and, of course, there will be schedules for ministers and we will expect them to fill them. Certainly, there is a lot to do but we are hoping that we’ll get good people to be in charge of ministries who can apply themselves to their responsibilities so that in no time Nigerians would begin to see the difference”.
The first strong indication that Buhari would not be dictated to in the composition of his cabinet emerged in July when he named Major Gen. Babagana Monguno as his National Security Adviser to the surprise of most APC leaders and Nigerians who had given it to Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau. Almost a month later, Buhari again shocked his party and indeed the nation when he announced Engr Babachair David Lawal and Abba Kyari as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chief of Staff, respectively. Before then, names of top APC leaders like Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and Rotimi Amaechi had been touted as likely SGF while former Lagos governor Babatunde Raji Fashola was well favoured as the likely COS to the president.
Reacting to the development, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum and Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha said they won’t begrudge the President.
Okorocha, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Sam Onwuemeodo, said the governors are more interested in federal projects in their states than ministerial appointments.
According to him: “Okorocha did not support Muhammadu Buhari to become president because of who would become minister from lmo State. He supported him because he has what it takes to offer Nigerians the needed and the expected change. And he has begun to enthrone that change and anybody he feels can help him achieve that goal he has the better option of bringing the person on board.
“Governor Okorocha has repeatedly said that what Imo State and, indeed, the South-East need most at the moment are projects that can usher in development and growth. Some of these appointments had in the past only succeeded in producing contented millionaires without the larger society benefiting from the appointments. Imo had had minister of Aviation yet Imo Airport could not be upgraded. The state had had also Minister of Education and the only achievement was taking women whose husbands were alive and branded them widows and took them to Abuja as tools of blackmail. So, President Buhari should be given a free hand to pick his team.”