18 down, 18 more to go

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

The screen­ing and, in one case, lack of screen­ing of min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees dom­i­nated pub­lic and pri­vate dis­cus­sion in Nige­ria last week and is ex­pected to do so again this week. The pres­i­dent nom­i­nated the min­is­ters in two batches. The first batch, sent in hours be­fore the pres­i­dent’s self-im­posed Septem­ber dead­line ended, con­tained 21 names. One of them, Ahmed Musa Ibeto of Niger, was later dropped. A sec­ond list of nom­i­nees was sent to the Sen­ate last Mon­day. It con­tained 15 names from the states that had no rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the first list as well as one re­place­ment nom­i­nee from Niger State.

Af­ter two days of day-long, tele­vised screen­ing ses­sions the Sen­ate con­firmed 18 min­is­ters, all of them from the first list. The re­main­ing two from the first list as well as the 16 from the sec­ond list are ex­pected to be screened be­tween to­mor­row and Thurs­day. In as much as all the 18 nom­i­nees screened last week were con­firmed, ex­pec­ta­tions are that the 18 to be screened this week will be con­firmed as well, though not with­out some prob­lems. Al­haji Lai Mo­hamed was nearly re­jected last week. On the two oc­ca­sions when his name was put to the vote, many of those who watched the drama on tele­vi­sion thought the nays were louder than the ayes.

PDP sen­a­tors were the loud naysay­ers. The sur­prise was that when Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki smiled mis­chie­vously and ruled that the ayes had it, the PDP cau­cus did not chal­lenge his rul­ing and call for a divi­sion. It is well known that Saraki did not like Lai’s nom­i­na­tion from his home state of Kwara, Lai be­ing an ar­dent fol­lower of Saraki’s deadly party ri­val Asi­waju Bola Tin­ubu. Al­haji Lai was the first APC chieftain to re­ject Saraki’s elec­tion as Sen­ate Pres­i­dent and he used harsh lan­guage to do so. It could well be that Saraki, who is a closet ally of the Sen­ate sen­a­tors, ar­ranged with them to say nay to Lai’s con­fir­ma­tion so that he will over­rule them and make the point that he saved Lai by a sleigh of the gavel.

Of the two un­screened nom­i­nees from the first list, most at­ten­tion will fo­cus this week on former Rivers State gover­nor Chibuike Ro­timi Amaechi. The Rivers State Gov­ern­ment is des­per­ate to tor­pedo Amaechi’s con­fir­ma­tion lest he lands a key port­fo­lio and uses it to in­tim­i­date the PDP-led state gov­ern­ment, just as cur­rent Gover­nor Nye­som Wike did when the roles were re­versed un­der the PDP regime. PDP sen­a­tors can­not pos­si­bly like Amaechi, whose de­fec­tion last year was a straw that broke the PDP camel’s back. The sur­prise is that APC sen­a­tors did not raise a fin­ger to save Amaechi, who is not a trou­ble­maker within APC, un­like other party god­fa­thers.

In­di­ca­tions at the week­end are that the sec­ond list of min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees will sail into a stormy screen­ing weather. For the first time since he emerged as party leader and later pres­i­dent, some APC state chap­ters sum­moned the courage to stand up to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari. Even though the pres­i­dent aban­doned his ear­lier in­ten­tion [as we gleaned it from his body lan­guage] to have a cabi­net made up of apo­lit­i­cal tech­nocrats and nom­i­nated some of APC’s most prom­i­nent lead­ers to be min­is­ters, his choices still out­raged APC lead­ers in sev­eral states. Some Yobe State APC men rose against Mrs. Khadija Bukar Abba’s nom­i­na­tion, say­ing Ka­nuri dom­i­na­tion of Yobe State makes non­sense of the state’s carv­ing out from Borno State in or­der to give mi­nor­ity groups some breath­ing space.

In Sokoto State too, APC’s state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment lead­ers signed a pe­ti­tion re­ject­ing Ha­jiya Aisha Abubakar’s nom­i­na­tion, say­ing she is un­known and that her fam­ily is a bas­tion of PDP sup­port. In Kaduna, Gover­nor Nasiru el-Rufa’i dis­pelled charges that he had a hand in the nom­i­na­tion of Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, his fos­ter sis­ter. In Ji­gawa State too, there were protests that Su­laiman Hus­saini Adamu’s fam­ily mem­bers have bagged four juicy posts in the Buhari regime. There were protests in the South too, but more were re­ported from the North.

It will re­quire the po­lit­i­cal equiv­a­lent of a foren­sic au­dit to de­ter­mine the source of this trou­ble. It is a bit of an omi­nous sign for the Buhari pres­i­dency be­cause I can­not re­mem­ber a case in the Sec­ond Re­pub­lic when NPN state chap­ters pub­licly ob­jected to any­thing that Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari did. Sev­eral things came to­gether to bring about th­ese protests, as far as I can see. Since May when the then pres­i­den­t­elect stated in an in­ter­view with Daily Trust that he will not sur­ren­der the choice of min­is­ters to APC chap­ters or god­fa­thers, APC gov­er­nors and god­fa­thers didn’t like it but they were pre­pared to live with it.

They didn’t like it be­cause ev­ery APC state chap­ter had al­ready pen­cilled down some peo­ple for min­is­te­rial jobs as part of the bar­gain­ing for gov­er­nor­ship seats. They were pre­pared to live with it be­cause Buhari had too much pop­u­lar sup­port to be pub­licly chal­lenged. How­ever, the APC chap­ters saw a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity be­cause Buhari par­tially aban­doned his four months’ long se­cret search for apo­lit­i­cal tech­nocrats and in­stead nom­i­nated many party lead­ers as min­is­ters. He how­ever did so with geo­graphic dis­pro­por­tion. Whereas from the South­ern states Buhari nom­i­nated the most vis­i­ble APC lead­ers such as Raji Fashola, Ro­timi Amaechi, Og­bon­naya Onu, Kay­ode Fayemi and Chris Ngige, he used a dif­fer­ent se­lec­tion scheme in the North.

It was this whiff of an open­ing, the feel­ing that what is good for the South­ern APC goose is also good for the North­ern APC gan­der, that in­fu­ri­ated some North­ern APC chap­ters and gave them the courage to go pub­lic. They were fur­ther en­cour­aged when Gover­nor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State con­vinced the pres­i­dent to change Niger State’s nom­i­nee, ap­par­ently to ad­dress geopo­lit­i­cal bal­anc­ing in the state.

It could be in­ferred from the loud si­lence of Asi­waju Bola Tin­ubu since the nom­i­na­tions were un­veiled and re­ports of his self-ex­ile to Equa­to­rial Guinea that he is also up­set with the nom­i­na­tions. It could also be de­duced from the pe­ti­tions by some APC chap­ters as well as the happy re­marks of some min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees that nei­ther APC gov­er­nors nor even the nom­i­nees them­selves were con­sulted be­fore their names were sent to the Sen­ate. At least three nom­i­nees said they first heard of their nom­i­na­tions on the ra­dio. This pro­ce­dure, a throw­back to the days of mil­i­tary rule, is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to­day.

Now, the state chap­ters that are protest­ing have all sorts of the­o­ries about how the nom­i­nees from their states made the pres­i­dent’s list even though they were not seen in the trenches dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal bat­tles to un­seat PDP. To a Nige­rian politi­cian, be­ing seen in the trenches is the most im­por­tant qual­i­fi­ca­tion for ap­point­ment as a min­is­ter or com­mis­sioner. Pres­i­dent Buhari does not share this no­tion; he be­lieves that once elected, he is free to find the men and women he trusts to help him carry out his man­date, no mat­ter how he ar­rives at those choices.

The prac­ti­cal prob­lem here is that he ap­plied dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria in dif­fer­ent states. In the South he chose vis­i­ble party lead­ers; in the North he mostly shunned them. I think this could be be­cause Buhari feels the im­pact of his huge pop­u­lar­ity in the North and does not re­ally at­tribute his win in the re­gion to the work of lo­cal APC chief­tains. In the South how­ever where he is much less per­son­ally pop­u­lar, he tends to ac­knowl­edge the ef­forts of lo­cal APC lead­ers. Ex­cept Tin­ubu, who thinks he is not get­ting enough recog­ni­tion for his de­ci­sive role in the elec­tion.

All told, the protest­ing APC chap­ters will be un­able, I think, to stop any nom­i­nees from be­ing con­firmed. The happy thing, from the point of view of non-politi­cians like me, is that all the 18 nom­i­nees that were screened last week proved their met­tle and showed they have what it takes to han­dle this task. The 18 nom­i­nees up for screen­ing this week are likely to be just as im­pres­sive. Pres­i­dent Buhari is likely to have a good cabi­net. He will pay the po­lit­i­cal price for some of his choices later. World num­ber one No­vak Djokovic con­tin­ued his stun­ning sea­son with a straight sets win over Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga at the Shang­hai Masters yes­ter­day.

It proved all too easy once again for Djokovic as he con­tin­ued his frightening dom­i­nance of men’s ten­nis by bl­itz­ing the French­man.

The Ser­bian, 10-times a grand slam cham­pion, brushed aside the chal­lenge of a be­fud­dled Tsonga 6-1, 6-4 to claim his third Shang­hai Masters and ninth ti­tle of a stand­out year that has left him be­ing spo­ken of among the sport’s all-time greats.

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