By Ehichioya Ezomon
How’s it the business of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and critics to determine the kind and quality of persons nominated to be Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
From complaining about delay in naming the ministers, to the nominees being “uninspiring” and “not technocrats,” the PDP moved to the Senate to challenge some aspects of the mode of screening of nominees.
As assigned by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), picking nominees is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari, which he has carried out in accordance with section 147(1)-(3), as follows:
(1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.
(2) Any appointment to the office of the Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.
(3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of the Constitution:
Provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.”
And in compliance with the provisions of section 14(3) of the Constitution, President Buhari has named 43 nominees, indicating at least one person from each state, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
This is to “reflect the federal character of of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.”
On the nomination of Ministers, the PDP should be reminded that the President is not obligated to consult with individuals or groups, least of all the opposition political parties, and critics of the President and his government.
If at all he’s amenable to consulting, that would be with members of his immediate and extended families, the hierarchy of the APC, political and career associates, and friends across the country.
But won’t the PDP benefit politically if Buhari were to appoint “uninspiring” persons into his cabinet, which the opposition would use as campaign tools against him and the APC till 2023?
As a respondent noted, “When the PDP cries over anything done by Buhari, be rest assured that the President has got it right.” Certainly, he’s spot on with the nomination of the 43 persons as Ministers!
By the way, what does the opposition mean by none of the nominees is a technocrat? A technocrat is defined as “a scientist, engineer, or other expert who is one of a group of similar people who have political power as well as technical knowledge.”
Are critics saying the nominees, comprising persons of engineering, law, banking, medicine, journalism, aviation, military and other backgrounds, and with decades of practice, are not technocrats just because they were pitched by President Buhari?
Who should he nominate to pass the mustard of being categorized as technocrats? The ones chosen or endorsed by the opposition? Please, give Nigerians a break!
The President had said he would choose people he knew, and trusted could deliver his government’s policies and programmes in the next four years. And he’s got the corps he wanted.
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Did we forget so soon the complaints of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, that many of those that served in the first term of her husband’s government were neither known by the President or herself as “wife of 27 years”?
Simply put, total strangers, and those that didn’t work for the success of the APC to gain power, peopled the government cobbled together in almost five months, and yet, there were protests from dissatisfied party members!
And who are those that Buhari nominated this time? Without a doubt, virtually all are loyal and steadfast members of the APC, who helped the party and the President to return to power.
Others are former Ministers, who, devoid of biased assessment, performed creditably in their ministries; party members, who’re “technocrats” in their chosen fields; and maybe one or two trusted associates, friends or old school mates of the Buharis.
Surely, these picks are a piece of bad news for the PDP. So, not done yet, it moved to the Senate, and attempted to come by way of screening of the nominees, to scheme to tweak the process.
The party’s onslaught was through its Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who wanted the Senate to stick to its in-house procedure by applying the same standard of quizzing all nominees.
Seeing no headway, the senator inferred that the APC-dominated chamber had bent the rules, by asking some nominees to “bow and go,” without questioning them to ascertain their suitability.
Wasn’t it the practice of the Senate, to accord “privilege clearance” to former senators, members of the House of Representatives and State Assembly, former governors, and female nominees?
Perhaps, the PDP wanted a return to the undignified ways of the Eighth National Assembly, when unparliamentary practices held sway, aimed at holding the executive to ransom, and frustrate the clearance of Ministers, and nominees to government agencies.
For instance, several individuals and groups wrote unsubstantiated petitions, some “frivolous” in their intents, against former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, in order to halt his clearance.
Particularly, getting Mr. Amaechi the all-clear became a drawn-out battle that lasted for days, as if he wasn’t qualified for the position, in line with the provisions of section 147(6) of the Constitution.
The subsection provides that: “No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.”
Was Amaechi not a member and Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, and Governor of the state for two consecutive terms of eight years, between 1999 and 2015?
In the nature of opposition, and especially with respect to the 2019 general election that the PDP invested substantial capital and made heavy weather of its outcome, the party craved to make a mountain out of a molehill.
But Senate President Ahmad Lawan ruled that the chamber never skewed the process to favour particular nominees, though it wasn’t about to dispense with its traditional courtesy to former lawmakers, governors, ministers and female nominees.
Kudos to the Ninth Senate, for postponing its annual vacation, and suspending its rules to continue the screening on Friday, July 26 and Monday, July 29, which are not plenary days: a departure from the Eighth Senate that would have proceeded on recess.
It’s hoped that nothing would impede completion of the screening, and confirmation on Tuesday, July 30, to enable President Buhari swear in the Ministers, and for them to get down to business.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.