Sunday, 10th December 2023

Posers over ministerial list as Tinubu unveils henchmen in batches  

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief), Odita Sunday and Terhemba Daka (Abuja)
16 June 2023   |   3:34 am
Eighteen days after President Bola Tinubu’s inauguration, the shape and colour of the new administration is beginning to form; but what is yet to crystallise are those who will call the shots as the President’s go-to men and form the nucleus of the cabinet’s inner caucus.

President Bola Tinubu (left) with General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), when the former Head of State visited the State House, Abuja…yesterday.

• Tinubu appoints Ribadu, Alake, Edun, five others as Special Advisers
• Intrigues that trailed Ribadu’s appointment as Security Adviser
• Notable personalities likely to form President Tinubu’s think tank

Eighteen days after President Bola Tinubu’s inauguration, the shape and colour of the new administration is beginning to form; but what is yet to crystallise are those who will call the shots as the President’s go-to men and form the nucleus of the cabinet’s inner caucus.

Already, two critical appointments were announced last week: former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as Chief of Staff and a former governor of Benue State, George Akume, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Yesterday, the President named eight individuals as special advisers. They include a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu; and a former Lagos Commissioner for Information, Dele Alake, who has been a close aide of Tinubu for years.

Ribadu was named Special Adviser on Security. It is unclear if that position will see him function as National Security Adviser (NSA). Alake, on the other hand, will serve as Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy.

Tinubu also appointed Wale Edun, a former Lagos Commissioner, as Special Adviser on Monetary Policies. The Director of Information at the State House, Abiodun Oladunjoye, announced the appointments.

Others include: Mrs. Olu Verheijen as Special Adviser, Energy; Mr. Zachaeus Adedeji, Special Adviser on Revenue; Mr. John Ugochukwu Uwajumogu, Special Adviser, Industry, Trade and Investment; and Dr (Mrs.) Salma Ibrahim Anas as Special Adviser on Health.

Following the successful inauguration and election of principal officers of the 10th National Assembly on Tuesday, Nigerians are eager to know the composition of President Tinubu’s ministerial nominees, whether it would reflect ethnic and national balance just like the ruling party had ensured in the legislature.

Although it took the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, more than six months to appoint his cabinet, Tinubu may not necessarily delay. The Guardian reliably gathered that in a few days or weeks, Mr. President will likely submit names of his ministerial nominees to the National Assembly.

The President and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had successfully ensured that their preferred candidates, Godswill Akpabio and Jibrin Barau emerged as the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, while Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu were elected as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Though many had described the emergence of the principal officers as a significant achievement for Tinubu and the ruling party, for ensuring that all the major zones are well represented, the next important thing is whether the names of the ministerial nominees will also represent ethnic balancing.

While expectations are high on who and who will make Tinubu’s ministerial nominees, an insider source said there may be three categories/levers of power brokers under the present administration.

First are those that will make the ministerial list, others are the ones that will be appointed to head critical government agencies, ambassadorial appointees and the third are those non-government but powerful and influential personalities, who might function 24/7 within the corridors of power as the President’s cabal.

Those influential personalities may be very effective and their counselling and/or suggestion to the president might be taken as law.

According to a source, “they won’t operate like a cabal, like we had under the immediate past administration, but will form a strong force that will determine a lot of government policies and decisions.”

This is not in departure with the governance style of the president when he held sway as Lagos State governor. In fact, his governance style of using a ring or circle around him in enforcing decisions had entrenched his hold on the nation’s commercial capital.

Former Minister of Internal Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola, Photo: TWITTER/RAUFAREGBESOLA

At a time, it was not without gainsaying that for some critical decisions to be made in Lagos or the party in the Southwest, Tinubu’s associates and political jobbers were often referred to meet Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was at the time the Osun State governor, to sanction any political decision.

After the hegemony was retrieved from Aregbesola due to political differences, another power bloc, the Governor Advisory Council (GAC) was enabled to take such critical decisions in the state, while the governor faced governance with minimal distractions.

For what will likely form the de facto President Advisory Council (PAC), some of the names mentioned in the category include the former governors of Osun and Ondo states, Chief Bisi Akande and Segun Osoba. Former Tinubu’s contemporary in Mobil Oil, Dr. Pius Akinyelure from Ondo State; a billionaire and businessman, Prince Dipo Eludoyin; an author, Prof. Adebayo Williams; and former Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd.)

Others are the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu; Awujale, Oba Sikiru Adetona; Alake of Egba Land, Oba Adedotun Gbedebo; Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe; Justice Adesola Oguntade, a former Nigerian envoy to United Kingdom; Justice Ishola Olorunimbe (rtd), and the Emir of Borgu, Mohammed Sani Haliru Dantoro. Recall that Tinubu has a long-standing relationship with the Borgu Empire where he was given the title, Jagaban Borgu and the Emir also visited the President at the Villa on Wednesday.

The Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Kolapo Sulu Gambari; Alhaji Rasak Okoya; Prince Tajudeen Olusi; former governor of Rivers State, Obong Attah and a host of others make up the list, particularly, a handful of the 1999 to 2007 class of governors.

This set of elder statesmen, whose professions cut across many sectors and institutions may be tasked with the responsibility to speak the truth to the government at any given point. They will likely influence a lot of appointments, government decisions and principally think along with the president on how to foster unity of the country.

But while the role of these non-political actors and elders statesmen may be crucial, close sources to the government also said Tinubu’s ministerial nominees will open the understanding of Nigerians to his seriousness and determination on how he aspires to change the fortune of Nigeria economically, socially and politically.

Several observers who didn’t want their names in print expressed worry over the possibility that the president may be tempted to give special preferences to some of his political protégé from his political base, Lagos.

In that effect, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos may also be a power broker in the corridor of power, just as it has been speculated that he may make a serious case for his immediate past predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to be considered for ministerial position or head of any federal agency.

The governor surprised many on Wednesday evening when he showed up at Ambode’s residence to felicitate with his predecessor on his private 60th birthday, despite their political differences.

Some elements in the North, who up till now are uncomfortable that the Senate President seat has eluded the Northwest, are waiting to see if the ministerial list will not ostracise the region. The Southeast region is also waiting to see whether it would be given the type of treatment it got during the last eight years under the past administration.

Meanwhile, some past governors of the ruling party are said to be mounting pressure on the president, especially those that couldn’t make it to the Senate.

A source disclosed that it was these same former governors, who were behind the agitation to make the former governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola the CoS, instead of Gbajabiamila, but the President’s wife and son, Oluremi and Seyi, were not favourably disposed to the appointment of Oyetola.

The reason was that Oyetola, being a blood relation of Tinubu and core technocrat, may not be easily amenable to untoward influences like Gbajabiamila.

Having missed the opportunity of being appointed as CoS, members of the APC in Osun and the former governors are said to be making a serious case for Oyetola to be considered for a ministerial position.

Bola Tinubu and Nyesom Wike

The immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is also said to be in top consideration for a juicy ministerial appointment. The reason behind the consideration for Wike is to compensate the former Rivers helmsman for the role he played in delivering his state for Tinubu during the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

The second reason is to enable and empower Wike to join forces with the incumbent Senate President, Akpabio, to penetrate the South South region ahead of 2027, when Tinubu may be going for a second term.

Also, on the expected list are Yemi Cardoso, a former chairman of Citi Bank; former Senator from Ekiti State, Dayo Adeyeye; APC Women Leader, Betta Edu; former governor of Cross Rivers State, Ben Ayade; governorship candidate of APC in Oyo State, Senator Teslim Folarin; immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; while the incumbent governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, may be given the privilege to nominate a minister of his choice from the state.

Immediate past governors of Kano and Kaduna, Umar Ganduje and Nasir el-Rufai, are also in top consideration for ministerial appointment just like other APC governors from the North, who insisted that power must rotate to the South and also went ahead to support Tinubu during the party’s presidential primary.

Others that may also be considered for ministerial position under the Tinubu’s administration are former governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who did not only stepped down for Tinubu during the APC presidential primary, but also brokered the relationship between Wike, the G-5 governors and Tinubu, using his influence as immediate past chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. He may be compensated for the role.

Other names that may possibly make the list include Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, and spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga.

But the likes of Senator Adams Oshiomhole may be given the privilege to nominate any person of his choice as minister from Edo, considering the role he played in dousing the strike threat by the labour unions when Tinubu removed fuel subsidy. Others are also insinuating that he may resign from the Senate to become a Minister.

This is to particularly be in a vantage position to counter Governor Godswill Obaseki ahead of next year’s governorship election in Edo.

With the announcement of Ribadu as Special Adviser on Security, some security experts have hailed Tinubu’s appointment, which many had earlier thought would be the new NSA. It was reliably gathered that Tinubu had penciled Ribadu down for appointment as NSA out of three names considered for the position.

But the new development, according to sources, indicates that Tinubu may have scrapped the office of the NSA and replaced it with that of Special Adviser on Security. The security adviser’s functions would, however, remain the same as the NSA’s.

The source revealed that Tinubu may have opted to name Ribadu as special security adviser, instead of NSA, to avoid hurting the nation’s military chiefs, who may not consider a retired police officer as a competent superior.

The rivalry among security agencies in the country is well documented, especially the lack of love lost between the military and the police over roles in national security. The police force has always complained about the military’s incursion into its constitutional mandate of being in charge of internal security.

The development had led to claims that security funding was channeled more to the military to the detriment of the police force.

By appointing Ribadu as a security adviser, the presidential source said security chiefs will now report directly to the president instead of the NSA. The decision to bypass the traditional appointment of an NSA, if unaltered, will confirm concerns about the silent rivalry between the police and the military.

Another source echoed that the decision to do away with an NSA was due to Ribadu’s background in the police force, which might lead to perceived bias in favour of the police among military personnel and that the sentiment likely influenced Tinubu’s choice to appoint him in a different capacity.

By having the security chiefs report directly to him, Tinubu may be aiming to maintain a tight grip on security decision-making and ensure a seamless flow of information without potential obstacles arising from the rivalry between Ribadu and the military chiefs.

Also, Daniel Bwala, an aide to Atiku Abubakar, 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has insisted that Nuhu Ribadu is the new NSA. Bwala said Ribadu’s appointment as President Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Security is the same thing as NSA.

Tweeting, Bwala explained that there has never been a record of two advisers on security in the Presidency.
According to Bwala: “Do not be confused, Special Adviser on Security is the same as National Security Adviser. All Special Advisers, including NSA, do not require Senate confirmation.

“Furthermore, there has never been two special advisers on security in the presidency, rest your mind, Nuhu Ribadu is the National Security Adviser.”

Former Director of DSS, Dennis Amachree, noted that, “appointing Nuhu Ribadu as Security adviser is a welcome departure from appointing ex-military generals to that position. However, Ribadu should be ready to coordinate the military, security and intelligence community.”

Security expert, Christopher Oji said: “Former EFCC boss is a retired senior Police officer, who had gone for serious security training all over the world, where he blended with other security agents. He is well read and does not need to be in the Military or the DSS to be grounded in security. The appointment is in order. The President might have put certain things into consideration, such as sincerity and the will power to do the job. We know Ribadu to be a sincere person and a dogged fighter. He will be able to tell it to the president without fear of favour.”

President of Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, said: “The appointment is not well thought out. It is a job for the boys sort of appointment and political patronage at best“It is inappropriate given the lack of any sort of the requisite experience in diplomacy, intelligence, defence and other key skills that are required for such a key appointment.

However, the job of a NSA to the President is not necessarily for retired military officers. After all, the last person to hold that position failed abysmally to unify the different sections of the national security institutions to be able to win the war on terror.

“Besides, in the U.S., from where we borrowed that practice of appointing NSA, and in a few other jurisdictions, tested and trusted diplomats, scholars in distinctive courses such as politics, diplomacy, international law and international relations are usually appointed.

“In USA, there are many instances of appointment of non-career military officers such as Condoleezza Rice as NSA among other important scholars that have served the different presidents of the United States.”

Security consultant and publisher of PR Nigeria, Yushau Shuaib said: “A Security Adviser is expected to provide advisory and coordinate security matters, diplomatic efforts, economic policy, and intelligence services for peace and stability of the nation.

“Therefore, anyone with cognitive experience and exposure in security and most importantly intelligence service at the highest level can make a positive impact.”