As the country awaits formation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, which is likely to be intriguing, politicians in the South-South are in a spirited fight for inclusion in the cabinet.
Due to the abysmal performance of ministers from the South-South zone in the past cabinet, some political observers have suggested that the new cabinet should be a blend of technocrats and youths to effectively deliver services to the people.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) politicians in the zone think otherwise. For them, President Buhari must reward party cronies’ efforts, since the party was unable to unseat any of the sitting Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta and Rivers States.
In Delta, APC Cronies Await Ministerial Reward
In Delta State, the dynamics of ministerial appointment seem to be dictated by the fallout of the last general elections in the state. With APC’s failure to clinch any strategic position in the state, the hawks have sent signals to APC leadership that any ministerial appointment in the state must come from APC alone, as compensation.
Just last Monday, a political group, the Delta APC Youth Leaders and Stakeholders’ Forum told President Buhari that ministerial appointments into the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), should be reserved for qualified APC members.
Presently, ministerial considerations are revolving around principal APC chieftains in the state. They include, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan; APC governorship candidate in the state, Great Ogboru; the self-appointed state APC leader, O’tega Emerhor; former Speaker, Victor Ochei and Frank Kokori, former secretary general of NUPENG and member of APC board of trustees.
Uduaghan enjoys considerable leverage by virtue of his personal relationship with APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Besides, Uduaghan played immense role in hosting Buhari in Warri prior to election. So, he may be rewarded for these efforts.
Although, Great Ogboru has his personal political challenges with regard to the role he played during the governorship elections, there is a belief that he has bonded well with some influential power players in the Presidency, who may influence his emergence as a minister.
Before the elections, there was a groundswell of opinion that Emerhor, who mortgaged his political interests to allow Ogboru emerge as APC governorship candidate, should naturally be rewarded with a ministerial appointment. However, his perceived closeness to PDP might work against him.
The chances of Ochei and Kokori being appointed ministers are slim. But if that happens, it would be a reward for loyalty to APC.
Delta State APC governorship contestant, Prof. Pat Utomi, who likened the present economic, political and security developments in the country to a war situation, wants President Buhari to appoint technocrats as ministers.
He said: “The economy, which has been described by a Briton at the World Bank as similar to an immediate post-war economy like Sudan or Sierra Leone is really facing a crisis that requires smart
“Presently, Nigeria needs to be saved again. We need the Awolowos, Tarkas, Shagaris, Aminu Kanos, Ukpabi Asikas and Asiodus of this generation. If we don’t find them now and turn to political jobbers, we can say farewell, not just to poverty as MKO Abiola canvassed, but to Nigeria also.”
Similarly, Mr. Paul Odili, an APC, Ndokwa/Ukwuani House of Representatives’ candidate said the state has many qualified and competent persons that can occupy ministerial positions.
In Cross River, Contenders Weigh Options
In Cross River, the schism in APC has left it divided between former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani-backed Etim John, state executive and the party’s governorship candidate, Senator John Owan-Enoh-backed executive of Sir John Ochalla. The Owan-Enoh group won at the Appeal Court and the matter is now in the Supreme Court.
So, for the ministerial slot, The Guardian gathered that a part of the cabal in the Presidency favours the former minister, who is said to be a man of integrity, as it was claimed that he returned about N500m to the party, being money left in his custody to drive the campaigns and elections of February 23 and March 9 in the state.
This factor and a few others is said to be working for him, but he is not favourably disposed to party hierarchy in Abuja and the Ochalla executive in the state, which may work against him.
On the other hand, it is alleged that the party in Abuja has advised the President to consider all APC governorship candidates that lost in their various states in the last elections. This argument has thrown up Senator Owan-Enoh. He is favourably disposed to the party in Abuja, and as a former senator with years of experience in law-making, he could be considered.
Other persons strongly tipped to get the plump job are an NDDC commissioner for Cross River State, Professor Eyo Etim Nyong, the Nigerian Ambassador to Uganda, Etubom Eyoma Nya Asuquo and the immediate former Chairman of NDDC, Senator Victor Ndom-Egba.
It is gathered that those pushing for Professor Nyong are very close to the Presidency. He is a strong party man and in good books of the party in the state and Abuja.
Ambassador Asuquo is considered a loyal party man and has been a long-standing friend of the President, even in the days of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2009 and later the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Senator Ndoma-Egba’s tall credentials and long-standing relationship with Buhari, when he was a military Head of State are some of the factors that might help him.
However, The Guardian gathered that the President has set out three major criteria for anyone to be appointed a minister. These are: The person must be a party man, a politician and a technocrat. He must have held government position before. But most of the candidates above, if not all, have these credentials.
An APC member in the state and social critic, Mr. Ifere Paul made a case for the President to pick his minister this time from the northern part of Cross Rivers, since nobody from that section was appointed by Buhari in 2015.
He said: “No doubt, a lot of appointment came to Cross River State, many of which were concentrated in Cross River Central. With the weight of these appointments, one would have expected that Cross River State should have been delivered to President Buhari. But the reverse was the case.
“The Federal appointees were not only unable to deliver the state to President Buhari, they were all shamefully defeated by PDP in Central Cross River. The President’s state appointees aggregated to themselves too much national power, and exerted same against the party’s collective coexistence in the state.
“Rather than unite the party with their portfolios and influence, they decided to work against the party’s unity in their various capacities as representatives of Mr. President…”
A party chieftain in the state, Utum Eteng urged President Buhari not to consider any of the 15 said to be currently jostling for ministerial appointment. But the state APC, through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bassey Ita, has dismissed Eteng’s suggestion.
He said: “In fact, Eteng’s emergence in the Presidential Campaign Council was not on grounds of merit, but by fiat. If there’s a contention to this, we urge Eteng to mention one contribution he made to the party during the electioneering exercise and even after, and produce the result of his polling unit, Ward and local government he won for APC to win the argument that only those who won at polls deserve to be appointed ministers.
Supporters Keep Their Fingers Crossed In Akwa Ibom
In Akwa Ibom, those in high contention for ministerial appointment in APC include, Senators Godswill Akpabio, Ita Solomon Enang and James Akpan Udoedehe. Others include Umana Okon Umana and immediate past Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.
Meanwhile, insinuation making the rounds in the state is that Senator Udoma has pleaded with the Presidency not to reconsider reappointing him into the Federal Executive Council, as he would love to return to his family, after many years in government.
There has been high level intrigues and horse-trading with the aim of outwitting one another to curry favour from the Presidency. This must have led to some faceless group that claimed to be APC stalwarts in the state placing advertorial in some national and local papers, calling on the Presidency not to consider Akpabio for ministerial position.
One of their allegations was that the immediate past governor was new to the party in the state. They also claimed that his actions or inactions led to the party not winning in the last elections in Akwa Ibom, among other allegations. This was, however, refuted by those loyal to the former governor.
The Guardian gathered from APC sources in the state that the President had asked the immediate Minister of National Planning to suggest somebody to take over his position, since he may not want to return as minister. It was gathered that he suggested John Akpan Udoedeghe because of his loyalty to the party since he left PDP in 2007 to Action Congress of Nigeria now APC.
This must be the reason most of his supporters are keeping their fingers crossed while awaiting official announcement of ministerial nominees.
“The nomination from Akwa Ibom would be surprising to everybody, irrespective of party leanings, because the person that will be named will be outside speculations making the rounds in the state” said a source.
Another source told The Guardian that the recent appointment of some presidential aides without former Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matter (Senate), Mr. Ita Solomon Enang, is indicative that he might emerge as the person to be nominated as minister from the state.
Most political observers that spoke with The Guardian on the subject think that Senator Akpabio may not be interested in the ministerial appointment because of the legal case at the election tribunal between him and the new senator representing his district, Mr. Christopher Ekpenyong.
They hinged their arguments on what they described as the Senator’s ‘wild imaginations’, that he has not lost the election.
“Akpabio has never accepted that he lost the election and so, he is having a strong belief in the outcome of the tribunal that he will reclaim his mandate. Therefore, he may not be interested in the ministerial appointment.”
Uneasy Calm In Bayelsa As Party Faithful Await Ministerial List
Similarly, in Bayelsa State, there is an uneasy calm in APC camp, as political actors jostle for ministerial nomination. Ever since President Buhari’s inauguration, the focus of some gladiators shifted from mere appointment to the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
Though indications are rife that former Governor Timi Sylva may clinch the ministerial slot for the state, Sylva’s body language and his recent remarks at his 55th birthday celebration indicate he would prefer the governorship position.
Though none of the APC officials in the state chapter was ready to talk about the issue, feelers from sources point to the fact that Sylva, may have shelved plans to re-contest the gubernatorial poll.
Already, the only minister from the state during President Buhari’s first tenure was Heneiken Lokpobiri. The Guardian gathered that he may have jettisoned any plan to be re-appointed minister, as he has indicated interest in the governorship race.
Lokpobiri, who was the Campaign Director to former Sylva during his failed come-back bid in 2016 gubernatorial election, may have chosen to go for the governorship slot, since his principal is indicating interest in being a minister.
Anonymous sources within the party said there has been a cold war between Sylva and Lokpobiri recently, over issues of who become minister and party governorship candidate in the forthcoming gubernatorial poll in November.
This was why he (Lokpobiri) decided to go for the governorship ticket to avoid double mishap of missing out on both opportunities, as Sylva has kept his plans to himself.
When contacted, the state party Chairman, Amos Jothan, declined to speak on the issue, saying it was the President’s prerogative to choose ministerial nominees from the state.
Edo Certain Of Ministerial Nominee
The Guardian gathered that in Edo State, the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is most likely to emerge as a ministerial nominee.
A top APC chieftain said Oshiomhole, who is engaged in a fierce political fight with his state governor, Godwin Obaseki, needs the ministerial appointment to ease him out of office as the party’s national chairman.
He said: “In Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will get it. The reason they want to give him ministerial appointment is because they want to remove him as chairman of the party. I am telling you what I know. They want to remove him because he caused a lot of problem in the party. They want to remove him and two others in the National working Committee in order to renew the party.”
Only A few Contenders In Rivers
Although President Buhari’s new cabinet is yet to be confirmed, in Rivers State, some of the politicians listed for possible ministerial posts are former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, his close friend, Tonye Cole and Senator Magnus Abe. Sources in the Amaechi faction disclosed that they would be pleasantly surprised if Abe was considered for a ministerial post.
Despite the calamity of not participating in the 2019 general elections, due to the clash between Abe and
Amaechi, the latter has since positioned himself as a power centre in the political arena, not only in the state, but also at the national level.
It was gathered Amaechi has nominated himself and Mr. Cole as ministerial nominees from Rivers State. Some APC stalwarts are of the opinion that Amaechi, who was the Director General of Buhari reelection campaign organisation, played a pivotal role in helping the President re-elected. As such, he is perceived as a key power broker, according to a former APC governorship aspirant.
Though the state government officials are not making effort this time around to stop Amaechi’s reappointment, as they did in 2015, his failure to revive moribund ports in the South-South, commence work on the Calabar-Port Harcourt-Lagos rail project, and generally attract Federal Government projects to Rivers State, makes his choice unattractive in some quarters.
An APC member close to the minister said: “The reason the Federal Government did not embark on any project in Rivers State despite Amaechi being a minister was because they wanted to punish Governor Wike.”