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Ministerial Nominees: The Buhari, Saraki, Tinubu Tango

Francis Moses examine the web of intrigues being played out on the Ministerial list among the trio of president Buhari, Saraki and Tinubu

The ongoing report, counter report and denial involving the presidency, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and APC strongman, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu are part of the web of intrigues surrounding the nomination, presentation and screening of ministerial nominees.

The potpourri of political reports being served the public is all part of the manouvre by the principal characters who in one way or the other would eventually determine the fate of the nominees. dealing with power political personalities, namely President One angle of the story is that the leader of All P r o g r e s s i v e  bCongress (APC) Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu has alleged been put under security watch by the presidency, which was forced to deny the story. Tinubu was said to be angry that the President rejected his nominees for ministerial positions.

Tinubu was forced to deny the report that he was conspiring with Saraki to undermine President Buhari. He however did not fail to seize the moment to confirm that his relationship with Saraki still remains fractious since the latter defied party to contest and win election as Senate President. Tinubu however lambasted Saraki, describing him as an undisciplined and disloyal APC member on paper, but a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in soul. In their respective reactions, the presidency, Saraki and Tinubu had carefully couched words for the other.

In describing the reports as false and baseless, Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesperson, said the report was another instance of an attempt by “two or three newspapers to breach the excellent relationship between the pillars of our party and government”.

In his reaction, Tinubu denied the report and wondered how he could conspire with Saraki whom he described as an APC member on paper, but PDP member in soul. “The idea of an alleged conspiracy between Tinubu and Saraki against the President is a lie. Tinubu is committed to the APC vision and the Nigeria Project.

The way Senator Saraki captured his current seat travestied party discipline,” a statement signed by his media director, Sunday Dare, said. Tinubu recalled how Saraki disobeyed the APC to vie for the senate president position.

His word “It was a crass act of disloyalty showing that Saraki may have joined the APC on paper but has remained true to the malpractices and wrong aims of the reactionary PDP in his soul.

“If this nation is to have more than a fleeting chance of escaping the quagmire into which years of PDP misrule have taken us, we cannot allow these regressive elements to deploy their cunning tricks to divide and pit progressives against progressives.

“The alleged conspiracy is a figment. It takes at least two people to make a conspiracy. There has been no substantive communication between Asiwaju and Saraki since the latter decided to foul the integrity of the Senate and the party”. Saraki rather cautiously, said: “I saw the statement said to be issued by Tinubu over a story published by The Sun newspapers.

I have decided not to join issues with Tinubu. However, I know that most Nigerians are aware that there has been no meeting or communication between me and Tinubu since I was elected Senate President.

Therefore, I do not see any basis for a newspaper to report that we are both plotting to oppose the President. “I recognize Tinubu as one of the leaders of the APC who contributed so much to the victory of the party in the last election.

Some other people also contributed and I believe the collective efforts made it possible for the first time in the history of our party for an opposition party to win the general elections, Let me state clearly that I remain a committed member of the APC and will do all in my power to ensure the party fulfill its promises to bring positive changes into the country.

“Since my election as Senate President, my focus and efforts have been devoted to doing the job that I was elected to do by my constituents and my colleagues in the Senate. Twice, my colleagues have confirmed their support for me as the primus inter pares in the Senate. As I said in my speech when we resumed from our recess late September and in Ikenne, the screening of ministerial nominees will be handled by me and my colleagues with all sense of responsibility and in adherence to the provision of the constitution.

We will be fair to all and be guided by the interest of Nigeria. “The screening will be devoid of sentiment and it is not an opportunity for anybody to settle scores. We are equally eager for us to make a positive difference in our polity and Nigerians will be able to judge us whether we acted in their best interest or not. Investigations by The UNION however show that there is more than meet the eye in the game of denials. The stanza to the first tune that is playing out loudly was when Tinubu visited Buhari in the company of former party Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.

The kernel of the meeting was the ministerial list and the need to get things going so that the public support for the party does not wane beyond repair. But when the list came out, it was not particularly pleasing to Tinubu and Akande.

The President, said a source wanted to re-emphasis through the nominations that he is his own man even as he is trying to “balance personal and political interests with overall national interests.” The appearance of names such as ex- Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State and ex-Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State was a clear message to Tinubu, whose henchmen were said to had tried to smear Fashola with the public disclosure of some alleged fraud committed during his tenure, such as the N172million allegedly used by the latter for setting up a personal website and others.

Fayemi’s loss of Ekiti to the PDP’s Governor Ayodele Fayose over what aides to Tinubu described as “ his intellectual attitude”, particularly Fayemi’s ‘quick’ concession of victory by congratulating Fayose without what obvious consultation with the party still rankles in the Tinubu camp.

Besides, Fashola and Fayem, are the two most independent minded members of the larger Tinubu family whose actions and stand on issues often causes stir in the group. Their nomination has not gone down well with Tinubu, whose group often rakes up issues like party supremacy to cover matters surrounding personal power quest by Tinubu.

But a party source however thinks the President has been fair to him, considering that the VP, FIRS man Tunde Fowler, House of Reps Leader and now Alhaji Lai Mohammed, ministerial nominee are from his camp. Then shortly after Saraki, on whose behalf dignitaries like Speaker Yakubu Dogara, and Senator Magatakarda Wammako had worked to smoothen the friction induced by the NASS leadership crisis, met the President for the first time on the occasion of the 50th Independent Anniversary, peace appeared to return to Senate.

This further infuriated Tinubu, increasingly feeling being sidelined in the scheme of things, despite the obvious political benefit, as mentioned above, that has come his way.

Then Buhari met with the leadership of the NASS and its principal officers. Though the ministerial list was said not to have been major in the talks, held in Aso Villa, that first official meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the leaders of both houses of the National Assembly at the Aso Rock presidential villa sent some. The immediate support by the Presidency for the criteria rolled out by the Senate for the screening of ministerial nominees has opened the eyes of many members of the party The spokesperson to the president, Femi Adesina, confirmed the meeting and described it as a “familiarisation meeting” between the president and the lawmakers.

Our source said the meeting was slated to enable Buhari enlist the support of the leadership of the National Assembly for the 2015 supplemenatry budget. Also, the meeting will allow Buhari familiarise with the lawmakers, especially as he will count on the support of the Senate to confirm ministerial nominees he sent last week.

“You know since the leadership tussle that rocked the National Assembly, there has not been opportunity for the president and leaders of the National Assembly to formally familiarize himself with them. The meeting provides an indication that Messrs Buhari and Saraki may have resolved their differences, following the June 9 Senate leadership election which Saraki won against the wish of the APC.

Saraki continued to face opposition even from his party, and now stands trial before the Code Conduct Tribunal over a 13-count charge slammed against him by the Federal Government.

Meanwhile there is every possibility that the outcome of the meeting made the presidency to okay the criteria for the screening. The Presidency backed the conditions set by the Nigerian Senate for the screening of ministerial nominees before getting clearance. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, said in Abuja that the Senate has the primary constitutional responsibility to set conditions for the screening of prospective ministers.

“The Senate is the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it is free to set its criteria for the screening of the nominees appearing before it, our job is to make sure that we work with the respective senators and the nominees to make sure that the senators are satisfied and agree with the nomination,” he said. “The senators are free to ask questions just like the nominees are equally free to answer them.

The senators are within their rights to request for what they want,” The Senate had recent announced October 13, 14 and 15 for the screening of the 21 ministerial nominees submitted to it by President Buhari.

Similarly the chairman, Senate ad-hoc committee on Media and Publicity, Dino Melaye, over the weekend said the upper chamber had agreed on some basic criteria to be met by ministerial nominees before securing clearance. According to Melaye, nominees must secure the support of two of the three senators from their state, while those who had held public office before must show evidence of declaration of assets.

“The first criterion is using constitutional provisions as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as a fundamental procedure for the screening of ministerial nominees,” Melaye stated. “Section 120 of the Standing Rules of the Senate states that the Senate shall not consider the nomination of any person, who has held any public office as contained in Part 2 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution prior to his nomination unless there is a written evidence that he has declared his assets and liabilities as required by Section 11(1) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the Senate spokesman explained, adding that “in line with our convention, agreed that for you to be cleared as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, minimum of two senators from your state must, at least, show support for your nomination.”

As the fire works on the ministerial screening starts today, there is a high possibility that the previous meeting between the NASS leadership and the President had smoothen the grounds for the nominees. Barring any technical hitches on the part of the nominees, the Senate may turn out to be a clearing house and the reported face-off between the principal power game changers, namely the President, Saraki and Tinubu may just be a public power show, nothing more, nothing less.

Yesterday, the President submitted another batch of nominees to the Senate. An adroit move, no doubt. The submission of the new ministerial list would have taken care of the other interests, including those of the trio. And the public power game would temporarily cease.

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