Buhari finally names a new Nigerian government cabinet—but it’s not that new

Nigeria’s president Buhari has had to look far to find cabinet ministers he can work with
Nigeria’s president Buhari has had to look far to find cabinet ministers he can work with
Image: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
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Four months after getting elected in landmark polls, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has finally given his 21 nominations for a new government cabinet to the senate, but is yet to identify specific portfolios for each nominee.

The list of names, which was expected to break from a tradition of rewarding party cronies and supporters, includes former governors of Lagos, Rivers and Ekiti states, as well as a few operatives from Buhari’s APC party. There are also a few new names.

After being sworn in on May 29, there was eager anticipation of Buhari’s changed approach to governance as would be evidenced through his key appointments. After four months of waiting for names, it became a local social media meme with the hashtag #theList in recent weeks.

In Nigerian politics, ministerial appointments are closely watched particularly for crucial ministries like petroleum resources and finance. Outside of state governorships, much of the corruption and mismanagement in Nigeria’s history has occurred at the ministry level or at key government agencies. This week has seen the case of former oil minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was arrested, and later released on bail, for alleged money laundering.

Politically, the appointment of ministers allows the president and party leaders ‘reward’ members of their party and also set the agenda for the president’s entire policy and economic direction. There is also an ethnic slant as the Nigerian constitution requires the president to select one minister from each state.

Gender bias

The lack of female representation on the ministerial list- only three of 21 nominees- will certainly raise eyebrows and questions over the involvement of women in Buhari’s administration.

In general, the 21-person list has a balance of career politicians such as Lai Mohammed, the national spokesman of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress and career profesionals such as Osagie Ehanire, a surgeon with stellar qualifications from Germany.

The names included were governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti). Others named were Abubakar Malami; Abdurahman Bello Dambazzau; Aisha Jumai Al Hassan; Lai Mohammed; Adebayo Shittu;  Solomon Dalong; Chris Ngige; Audu Ogbeh; Amina Ibrahim; Osagie  Ehaneri; Emmanuel Kachukwu; Suleiman Adamu; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; Ogbonnaya Onu; Ahmed Musa Bello; Ibrahim Usman Jubrin; Hadi Serika and Udo Udoma.

Buhari is expected to announce at least 15 more in compliance with Nigeria’s constitution which demands the appointment of a minister from each of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The long wait for ministers was understood to be as a result of Buhari’s careful selection process to find people who fit in his administration and with the fight against corruption being an obvious goal of the president, several integrity checks were supposedly carried out. Despite these checks and the long selection process, some people on the list have had to deal major allegations of corrupt practices. Former Lagos governor Fashola has faced a raft of accusations since leaving office with one of the most conspicuous being building a website for $390,000. Others like Amaechi and Chris Ngige have also had allegations of corruption laid against them.

Even though the names are yet to be matched with portfolios, there is already speculation. One of the fairly obvious matches is for Ibe Kachikwu, newly appointed head of Nigeria’s oil company (NNPC), to head to  the ministry of petroleum. With Buhari confirming days ago that he will remain in charge of the ministry, Kachikwu could possibly be a junior minister in charge of day to day activities. Kachickwu’s selection presents another conundrum as he will likely vacate his current position leaving Buhari to select a new NNPC boss.