President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to constitute his cabinet over 40 days after taking over power is unsettling top leaders of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), THISDAY can reveal.
Also, it was gathered that permutations ahead of 2019 presidential elections are deepening the crisis besetting the National Assembly caucus of the ruling party.
Some APC leaders, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, said the president’s delay in appointing a cabinet may negatively impact the administration.
There had been reports that Nigerians should not expect a cabinet earlier than September.
Some APC leaders, however, viewed Buhari’s decision to delay the appointment of cabinet as projecting him as a “man who intends to shut out all the people who helped him win the election.”
Said a chieftain, “We are beginning to believe that the suspense by Mr. President is deliberate. He is exploiting the delay to scare away people like us who helped him get to the top.
“Attempting to visit Mr. President when he was in the Defence House used to be a nightmare. With his movement into the State House, it has become almost impossible to see him. Tell me, how do you know what a man is thinking when you can’t see him?” quizzed the party leader.
Sources close to the APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, also said the delayed appointments have conspired with the leadership crisis in the National Assembly to drive a wedge between their leader and the president.
“These days, you hardly see national leader (Tinubu) talking excitedly about the party or the government, apparently because he has been shut out and doesn’t know what is happening.
“The story is the same with former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi. The situation is not helped by the pressure from their political foot soldiers seeking financial rehabilitation after being in the opposition for several years,” offered another source.
THISDAY also gathered that, though worried by the delayed appointments, none of the APC leaders may be willing to openly complain on the development for fear of “losing out completely.”
A party insider said the leaders were worried by Buhari’s resort to the Head of Service, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, and the permanent secretaries to drive his administration’s policies.
The source listed the recent disagreements between Buhari’s ADC and his Chief Security Officer, on the one hand, and the recent over-ruling of the permanent secretary, ministry of defence, by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Dasuki Sambo, on military checkpoints across the country as “grossly embarrassing.”
There are also fears among some party leaders that the delayed appointments may not particularly be an incentive to foreign investors as they don’t know the economic direction of the Buhari administration.
“As things are, Nigeria appears to be in transition. The appointment of ministers and advisers will give the world an idea of the policy and economic direction of the administration. Without the appointments, no investor worth his salt will invest a dime. This is the simple truth,” another leader of the party said.
Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged on why the crisis in the National Assembly over the selection of its leadership may not abate soon as forces within and outside the parliament that are making projection ahead of the 2019 elections are believed to be the brains behind the disagreements.
Sources close to top hierarchy of the party and the embattled National Assembly leadership disclosed that complex alliance across the country were being forged by many politicians in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
With the speculation that President Muhammadu Buhari may not be interested in running for second term, some leaders and governors elected on the platform of the party are already working to be in vantage point that would stand them in good stead to either replace the President or ensure they determine the emergence of the next President.
The National Assembly however became the first battle ground for the 2019 calculations because in the absence of a sitting President who is interested in seeking re-election and with a Vice President who is a technocrat, leaders of the National Assembly become the group that are in good position to use their offices to mobilize support and gain political visibility across the country.
The crisis in the party caucus in the National Assembly started as a result of the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker of the House Representatives in defiance of the party’s preferred candidates, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila respectively. The crisis was further inflamed after the party’s National Working Committee insisted it would nominate candidates to fill the principal offices in the National Assembly.
Some politicians, including some governors, are therefore wary of allowing Senators and Representatives with vast experience, huge resources, wide network and political visibility to emerge as Senate President, Speaker or occupy other principal offices.
Several attempts by the party at brokering peace among its members in the National Assembly have so far yielded negative results. THISDAY gathered that the latest efforts of the APC Governors’ Forum to resolve the party caucus crisis have also failed to record any success.
The apparent failure to resolve the crisis, THISDAY learnt, has become a source of worry to the party leaders who have been trying to prevail on the lawmakers to halt further public altercations so as to allow a peaceful resolution of the conflict. In the House of Representatives for instance, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state, who was mandated by the APC governors’ forum to mediate in the crisis, has not been able secure an acceptable compromise between the warring groups.
While appearing before the Tambuwal committee, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and his group said they would cede the position of the House leader to the Gbajabiamila group but with a caveat that the nominee for the post should be from any zone other than the North-east and South-west regions that have already produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.
However, the Gbajabiamila-led lawmakers have rejected the offer by Dogara, especially the condition on which zone should produce the House Leader.
The group, in a statement issued yesterday by Hon. Rufai Chachangi, rejecting the deal, said no agreement had been reached on the matter as Tambuwal was yet to get back to them.
With the seeming brick-wall which the Tambuwal peace committee has met, the party is probably left with only one option: to bring in its Board of Trustees (BoT) to come and save the situation.
Under the constitution of the APC as amended (2014) members of the BoT who are made up of highly regarded top leaders of the party, including past and serving Presidents and Vice Presidents who are members of the party, past and serving Senate Presidents and Deputy Senate Presidents who are members of the party, are expected to intervene and reconcile any dispute as a matter of last resort.
But there were indications that similar intrigues and power tussle may have crept in ahead of the inauguration of the BoT. For instance, the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who is said to be seeking to occupy the position of the BoT chair has been fingered as having played a role in the emergence of the Senate President Bukola Saraki. This alleged involvement has sparked off anger from loyalists of one of the APC national leaders, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who THISDAY gathered are now warming up for a fight in their bid to block Atiku’s emergence as the BoT chairman. Initial agreement, though not written or documented, was that the chairmanship of the board will be reserved for the North-east and ultimately for former Vice President Atiku as part of measures to carry the critical stakeholders along in the operations of the party.