Monday, 4th December 2023

The making of FEC and conspiracy theories

By Alabi Williams
21 August 2023   |   4:21 am
Despite surprises and dashed expectations, new ministers of the Federal Republic have been assigned their respective portfolios and the task of governance has to commence earnestly.

Nasir El-Rufai.<br />Photo/facebook/govkaduna

Despite surprises and dashed expectations, new ministers of the Federal Republic have been assigned their respective portfolios and the task of governance has to commence earnestly.

President Bola Tinubu has tried to single-handedly move the nation forward from where former President Muhammadu Buhari signed off; it’s been herculean, like carrying a baggage of rocks on top Sisyphus. We have tasted nearly three months of it and it’s been a peculiar experience. Hopefully, things will spice up as ministers come on board to take on responsibilities and face consequences.

After the Buhari years, some Nigerians had course to do some reflection and were happy that indeed Buhari came. Why? They said if Buhari had not made it to the Presidency after repeated electoral trials, his minders would have sworn and chronicle in history books that he was the best president Nigeria never had. Buhari got eight years to prove himself and the myths concocted around him. It was a poor outing.

It’s the turn of Tinubu and citizens are hopeful of a bountiful harvest. After all, it’s been a life-time preparation on his part. But he can’t do it alone, so the cabinet is now in place to help him.

The choice of having former governors in the new cabinet has not gone down well with some citizens. In fact, some think the list is too heavy on the politics side, making the appointments look like compensation for work done. For me, this has been the case largely, since we began this democratic journey, but some argue that politicking should not overthrow the core business of governance. The overriding calculation for selecting a cabinet should not be based on contributions in 2023 and the prospects for 2027.But that is what it is.

The absence of the former Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, among ministers cleared to commence work today, has generated some discourse. Some think the man could have livened the uninspiring team of ex-governors in the cabinet. Some think the team is not complete without him and they are still pleading that he be brought back. But the man has boasted he’s no longer interested.

Yes, that eleventh hour rejection of the Mallam is damning, not after he had put up an appearance before the National Assembly. For him it was a done deal, the screening being a mere formality, as he articulated his blueprint to revive the nation’s stymied power sector. Whatever that cropped up to deny him placement must be serious, and in the absence of official explanation, conspiracy theorists have gone to town to adduce all sorts.

Some say an emerging cabal in the Presidency had gazed the crystal ball to search what 2027 portend. They had feared that a strong Nasir el Rufai in that build up could scatter certain plans. Others look into his past deeds, the security challenges he mismanaged as governor as well as his capacity for meanness and to inflict pain. My response is that if a major criterion to qualify persons for national service is their past deeds or misdeeds, maybe just a few will qualify. If that qualification were to spread to the National Assembly, I wager that the two chambers would be empty and nobody would be there to do the screening.

If Mr. President was truly looking for capable hands among former governors, which doesn’t look so now, he could have insisted on el Rufai. The man could have been tamed of his excesses going forward.

This has nothing to do with what he and other former Northern governors purportedly did to rescue Tinubu’s presidential aspiration when the party leadership nursed iniquitous plans. Much was said of how el Rufai and others insisted that the presidency should go to the South; that he even went to court, together with Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and former Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, to challenge what they alleged to be a conspiratorial currency swap/redesign policy of the Central Bank and the Presidency of Buhari.

They alleged it was done to frustrate Tinubu’s bid. I do not reckon with all that professed feat because it was self-serving. All those who assisted Tinubu to win the party’s primary election and those who went to court did all that because of what they expected to benefit. There’s no free lunch in politics, especially our type. I would rather dwell on capacity and what could be missedby not having some players in this cabinet.

I also have fears that keeping el Rufai outside the government might not be a very wise thing to do with regard to safety of their party and government. When el Rufai could not find accommodation in the Umaru Yar’Adua government after 2007, he turned against that government. After Yar’Adua, he railed vehemently against Goodluck Jonathan’s until he single-handedly brought it down. The man is skillful at waging wars against the other side. So, let Tinubu find something for him to do please.

It is in similar manner I view the absence of other former governors such as Babatunde Fashola, Kayode Fayemi and Ibikunle Amosun in this cabinet. The three are high-capacity players in their respective areas.

As for Fashola, it’s likely he would rather opt for a break, having served in Buhari’s cabinet for eight stressful years. In the build-up to 2023 elections, he was careful not to ruffle feathers by dreaming to be president. If he did, the game could have changed substantially because he is well regarded across the country, on all counts.

Never mind his depreciated outing under Buhari. Fashola participated well in the elections and has remained a right-hand man of the Jagaban. If he wanted, it’s not likely he would be denied a ministerial position.

After the first list of nominees was shared, the explanation at media roundtables was that Fayemi would make the second list. At different fora, even before May 29, he had been presumed to be the next Foreign Affairs Minister. He had been Minister of Solid Minerals Development, before he returned to complete his second term as governor in Ekiti; and is rated as one who could spice things up for the new administration in diplomatic circles.

He used to be in the trenches together with Tinubu in their NADECO days, so, you couldn’t really define him in the sense we define career politicians. He is suave and has good knowledge of how to translate democracy into development. If all things were to be equal, Fayemi is among those needed on board by this government to consolidate.

That has not happened. Did he throw caution to the wind in the race to 2023 presidency, in the manner he challenged Jagaban’s proprietorial ambition to keep a date with history? But he abandoned that ambition on the night of the primary; shouldn’t that suffice as atonement?

There are implications for certain actions. If Fayemi were to be out of government for say, the next four years, a new sheriff will take over the field he had groomed for nearly 12 years in Ekiti. And some fear that could be the real scheme.

Amosun, until he was elected governor was not particularly a disciple of Tinubu’s school of politics. The man had a direct access to Buhari and when the APC coalition became successful, he didn’t need any regional endorsement. He made recommendation for others. Tinubu couldn’t have been comfortable with that. Many Southwest ministers and appointees who served under Buhari, apart from Fashola forgot to reckon that all politics is local, at the end of the day. Southwest had always attempted a collegial type of political network, despite distortions.

That was disrupted. Tinubu’s political clout diminished remarkably after 2015, but he survived 2019 and 2023. If there is going to be 2027, then Jagaban cannot allow some things to happen again. That’s my thinking.

Is it a surprise that nominees, now ministers from Southwest are not political heavyweights but a second-eleven team, not the kind that could challenge him at another round of presidential election.

As things stand, the most visible of them, Dele Alake, is not even a politician. The rest are just Tinubu’s boys who pose no threat to anybody’s life-time dream. Former Osun Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola is the President’s cousin or nephew. They wouldn’t hurt themselves.

The reason ministers are selected the way we have seen is for them to also be political representatives of Mr. President in their states. In states where ruling parties do not have a governor, ministers become the most senior party leaders. Their usefulness is tested during elections and in their ‘good old days’ when there was no Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) they deliver big at elections. Even with BVAS, they will still be useful during party primaries for deployment of human and material resources.

It sounds unkind to imagine that former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi is not a part of this cabinet. Not that he should have been the one returning as minister after serving for eight years under Buhari, but to exercise the capacity to at least nominate a loyalist from his state.

In the days the All Progressives Congress (APC) was desperately in search of strong men to help dethrone the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Amaechi did not hold back but surrendered the full weight of Rivers State Government for the rickety APC to lean on.

But it is Nyesome Wike who has reaped where Amaechi had sown generously. Not Tonye Cole and certainly not Magnus Abbe. That’s politics. Apart from the day-to-day task the President will hand to his ministers, there are other considerations for the job. As far as Wike is concerned, 2023 has been acknowledged. 2027 is likely to be more interesting. But let the cabinet not be too distracted. Let the government think more about the economy and less of politics. Let the poor breathe!