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Anxiety In APC Over Ministerial List, Buhari Keeps Party Leaders Guessing

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by Daily Trust

President Muhammadu Buhari officially announced the appointments of only two aides so far since his inauguration in May 29 and also hinted that he was going to personally appoint people that will form his cabinet unlike the PDP style where state governors did the nominations.

The aides so far announced are his special adviser on media and publicity Mr Femi Adesina and senior special assistant on media and publicity Malam Garba Shehu. Mallam Shehu was the director of media and publicity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign organisation.

After the appointment of his spokespersons, many believed that other appointments would soon follow, but the president kept everyone guessing. Even when he sent a request to the National Assembly for the approval of 15 special advisers, many Nigerians thought other appointments were underway. But a source close to the president said Buhari was taking his time.

“The president is just less than two weeks old in office. And those who know him will tell you that he is very meticulous. He is picking his aides and even the ministers that will work with him. There is no cause for alarm,” he said.

He said there was no basis for the hue and cry over aides. “The president is already working. He got approval for the advisers from the National Assembly and the National Assembly has not been inaugurated yet. So, very soon the appointments will be made.”

The president and his family have not yet relocated to the Presidential Villa. He still resides in his rented apartment in Asokoro and conducts business at the Defence House as he had been doing as president-elect.

Only last week he met with the security chiefs for official interface. Those at the meeting included the Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Air Staff Adesola Amosu, Chief of Naval Staff Usman Jibrin, National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and the Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase. They held a marathon meeting that lasted from 12pm to 4pm.

Our reporter observed that the president is still using his long time aides. Apart from the spokespersons and the new State House Chief of Protocol (SCOP), all other positions are being managed by his long time aides. For instance, a former Kaduna State Governor, the retired Colonel Hameed Ali, is still serving as Buhari’s Chief of Staff, the position he had been occupying years ago.

Despite the presence of presidential guards, mobile police and secret service personnel, the president’s security superstructure is being managed by a former spy chief Abdullahi A. Maikano who has been Buhari’s chief security officer since Buhari joined partisan politics in 2002.

Maikano had been providing the Buhari campaign train with protective details throughout 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Even now, the former spy chief is the one “handling the security arrangement in the Presidential Villa ahead of the president’s relocation”, one of the sources said.

Though former army chief, General Abdulrahman Dambazau joined the Buhari campaign only in 2015, he is still the most visible military figure around the president. It is being speculated that he could emerge as the president’s National Security Adviser (NSA). There are still no official appointments for the positions of Principal Private Secretary (PPS), Chief of Staff (COS), and Deputy Chief of Staff, NSA, among others. Apart from the kitchen cabinet, other changes Nigerians are expecting are the replacements for the current service chiefs, as the tradition provides.

During his inaugural address, Buhari announced that the command and control centre would be relocated to Maiduguri and will remain there until Boko Haram is completely subdued. As part of the security overhaul, DSP Mu’azu Isa Abba was also last week appointed as Squadron Commander of the presidential escort in Abuja. Abba, who would be in charge of Mobile Police officers in the Presidential Villa, was decorated by the Inspector General of Police and his management team at the Force Headquarters on Tuesday.

On why Buhari didn’t move into the Presidential Villa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president couldn’t move in because “some renovation was going on; the place is being cleaned up for his occupation.”

Garba said: “Contractors are working probably at their own pace. If I need to know or if you need to know this, probably we have to talk to someone. I am not saying he’s comfortable where he is at his rented house but he is operating from there at the moment, when the villa is ready he will move.”

A source told Daily Trust on Sunday that the President may make announcement of his aides as soon as he returns from the G7 summit in Germany. “The approval has been given and the president will announce his key aides after he returns from Germany mid next week,” he said.

WHY BUHARI IS NOT MAKING HASTE

Mr. Osita Okechukwu, a chieftain of the APC and governorship aspirant of the party in Enugu State, said the impatience of Nigerians over the president’s delay in announcing his team is not misplaced, but that they should give Buhari the benefit of the doubt as he has resolved to pick the best hands to run the affairs of the country.

Okechukwu said: “For some of us who work with President Buhari, our own concern basically is the quality of aides. I think it is the quality that is giving him the greatest headache. He is bothered about the quality because he is not the type who will appoint somebody today and then drop him the next day. He wouldn’t like that to happen.”

According to him, in trying to get the quality, Buhari was also looking at balancing geo-political zones, the ethnic and religious creeds, saying: “This is somebody who will want to balance such things. I think in few days’ time, some people will be in place. He has appointed the Chief Security Officer (CSO), who is a very principled officer of the Villa.”

Mr. Okechukwu illustrated further: “There are those who call themselves ex-ministers, if you ask them their record while they were ministers, they might not show anything tangible. But what they brandished around was that they were an ex-minister, ex-governor, ex-this and ex-that. But when you look backward and ask yourself, if these ministers and governors have done so well, why is Nigeria sliding into a failed state?

He said the contention today is that while some people say Nigeria is a failed state, some say no but that nobody can say Nigeria is healthy. “So, if those ex-governors and ex-ministers have done so well, why are we where we are? These are some of the issues President Buhari is looking into. Yes, you are this. You are that. You are a money man. You did this. Did they discover electricity? Are they the same people who looted us dry? So, these are issues that are confronting him on a daily basis”, he said.

Speaking on the situation in the South-East, Mr. Okechukwu said some of those who want to nominate people for Buhari in the zone were afraid to nominate quality people while others have said if they nominate independent-minded people then such people can’t be controlled.

“Why should we nominate him to President Buhari? That is the summary of the issue. We have come out with experience. If you do a critical analysis since 1999, their greatest fear is self-preservation. If you throw in a good man and he goes there to shine, then he might be preferred to you for other higher offices. Why don’t you throw in a mediocre? Do you know the canopy they hide under? The canopy they hide under is that some persons are not loyal. They are independent-minded. If you put them there, you won’t find them again.

“So, these are what President Buhari is also confronted with. Unlike others, he has been on the tough for a long time. He virtually knows everybody from every nook and cranny. Don’t forget that in our years in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), there were those who sabotaged him. He went ahead to nominate them as if there were no yesterday. This is an old market. It’s not a new market. A lot of people want to say President Buhari we have given you the names, go ahead and announce it. The man is saying I have a social contract with the Nigerian people. I have a threshold. To fight corruption, as he said, you must start from in-house”, Okechukwu said.

ANXIETY IN APC OVER MINISTERIAL LIST

Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday have shown that anxiety has spread in the states across the six geopolitical zones of the country over the list of ministerial nominees, though the leadership of the APC at the national level has not formally asked the state chapters to make submissions.

In Taraba State, for instance, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said it was yet to receive any official communication from the party’s national headquarters mandating it to nominate somebody for a possible list of ministers. This has left the matter within the realm of speculations in the state. The hierarchy of the party in the state is believed to be disposed to the choice of Senator Aisha Alhassan, who lost the governorship seat to Architect Darius Ishaku of the PDP. Senator Aisha’s possible nomination is seen among APC faithful in the state as a compensation for the defeat she suffered after putting up a fierce battle for the APC to capture Taraba State in the last elections.

Alhaji Hasasan Jika Ardo, the state chairman of the APC said he was waiting for the nod of the national headquarters of the party to send its own nominee. “I am a bureaucrat who follows due process in doing things. When the state chapter of the APC was asked to nominate a credible person to serve on the Board of Trustees of the party, we were formally communicated and submitted the name of Prof. Dalhatu Sangari.

“Ministerial appointment, I believe, should also follow the process since it is also the prerequisite of the party to do such nominations. Having said that, I want to state that we have so far not received any communication to that effect from the national headquarters of the APC mandating us to do any nomination for a possible list of ministers. In view of that I do not work on speculation”, he said.

Ardo, however, cautioned: “The state chapter of the APC will not sit down and watch people who are not even members of the APC or those who have not laboured and worked for the party scribble down names of their favourites for ministerial appointment.”

In Benue State, the choice of nominating a name for ministerial appointment is said to be the prerogative of the Senator George Akume who has assumed the status of the APC’s leader in the State. Although the leadership of the party in the state was said to have been yet to receive any communication from the national secretariat concerning the issue, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that Senator Akume in agreement with Governor Samuel Ortom, has pencilled down his preferred choice, Professor Stephen Ugba, as the possible nominee. This is in spite of the fact that Chief Audu Ogbeh, a chieftain of the APC from the Idoma-speaking part of the state, was also being canvassed by other interest groups for nomination.

In Kano State, the body language of the former governor of the state, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to abandon his senatorial seat for Buhari’s cabinet is said to have deepened the impasse in the selection of who represents the North-West state in the new federal cabinet.
It was gathered that weeks after the presidential election, a group of Abuja residents launched a campaign for Kwankwaso to be given the FCT minister. Kwankwaso has denied sponsoring the group.

Before then, it was gathered that the stakeholders of the APC in the state had settled for a former military administrator of Kaduna State, General Lawal Jafaru Isa, who contested for the party’s governorship primary in the state and was defeated by Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. General Isa, is a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari. He was the chairman of security committee of the presidential transition committee. Although former Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, is being touted as the likely National Security Adviser, he is not in the calculation of the APC in Kano.

Efforts to get the state chairman of the APC, Alhaji Haruna Doguwa to comment on the development yielded no result as he did not pick the calls put to his phone. But a stalwart of the party said neither President Buhari nor the national leadership of the party had demanded for ministerial nominees.

In Oyo State, a reliable source said the party leaders had not sent any list to the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) because they believed that President Buhari might have made up his mind on who would make his ministerial list. The source said the body language of Mr. President had been interpreted as somebody who had his preferred candidates from the state.

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the two possible ministerial nominees from Oyo State are Barrister Adebayo Shittu, a former governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), who also contested the APC gubernatorial ticket with the incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi as well as a former deputy governor to the late Lam Adesina, Barrister Iyiola Oladokun, a chieftain of the defunct Alliance for Democracy and Action Congress (AC).

Suspense in the South-East over SGF

There is suspense in the South-East zone where the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is said to have been zoned. Although earlier speculations had indicated that Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, an erstwhile chairman of the defunct ANPP was given the slot, they were soon discountenanced. Other names being mentioned from the zone as possible appointees for the SGF are former Anambra State governor and ex-senator, Chris Ngige, as well as a former ANPP chieftain, George Moghalu.

The Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the President, Malam Garba Shehu said last week that Buhari should be left alone and given sufficient time to select members of his cabinet.

While fielding questions from newsmen over the issue, Malam Shehu, who called for the understanding of the public as the president was taking time to form his cabinet, was quoted as saying; “We are calling for the understanding of Nigerians in this regard as any attempt to rush the process could result in disservice to the administration and the country. I have no idea, absolutely no idea, but it is not something anybody will rush because you know that the National Assembly will have to approve the president’s nominees. The incoming 8th National Assembly must be given the opportunity to fully participate in the process”, Shehu had said.

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