For two days this week, Nigerians and the entire world were regaled with the screening of would-be-members of the nation’s Federal Executive Council who appeared before the Senate for confirmation. EZREL TABIOWO writes on the behind the scene politicking
The confirmation of 18 out of the 36 ministerial nominees forwarded to the Senate by President Buhari was no doubt filled with its fair share of intrigues and political undertones.
The Senate, in its bid to assert the National Assembly as an independent institution free from the manipulation of the executive arm of government rolled out specific criteria for the screening of ministerial nominees who would constitute President Muhammadu Buhari Federal Executive cabinet.
Two weeks before Mr President forwarded the names of nominees for screening to the Senate, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal following allegations of corruption leveled against him over false declaration of assets.
The embattled Senate President, who since his emergence on June 9, 2015, as a principal officer of the upper chamber against his party wishes, had been a target of several conspiracies aimed at kicking him out as leader of the upper chamber.
Determined to frustrate Senator Saraki from office, some opposing political forces within the All Progressive Congress who stood opposed to his emergence tried to infiltrate the ranks of members of the Senate by stirring an opposition.
But despite several futile attempts to rope the Senate President and his wife, Mrs Toyin Saraki into corruption related scandals, Senator Saraki had nonetheless enjoyed a vote of confidence on two occasions from over 80 Senators of the upper chamber.
Saraki, who by now had Clearly asserted himself as a potent force to reckon with in the All Progressive Congress, left the Presidency with no choice but to chat the path of reconciliation which it had previously being reluctant to court.
Recall that the Senate President, following his emergence as leader of the upper chamber, was reportedly said to have been prevented severally from meeting President Buhari despite several entreaties.
Consequently, with the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s inability to whip the up opposition sentiments against Saraki among Senators ahead of the September deadline given by Buhari for the submission of ministerial list to the upper chamber, the All Progressive Congress was left with the last option of confronting its own demons by acknowledging Saraki as leader of the upper chamber.
It was gathered that a serving governor of a state in the North West had brokered a truce by intervening and accompanying one of the ministerial nominees who is a top chieftain of the APC to Senator Saraki in a bid to end the feud between the Senate President and the leadership of the party.
Also, President Buhari during the Independence Day celebration, a day after he forwarded the first list containing the names of 21 ministerial nominees to the upper chamber, met and had a close interaction with Saraki for the first time since the June 9 inauguration of the Senate.
The Presidency, knowing where the buck stops over the fate of its nominees, made frantic moves to build a relationship with the Senate.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang, was reported to have lobbied Senators belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party to solicit their support in clearing Buhari’s ministers.
Enang, in a bid to enhance executive-legislature relations and get the support of all 49 PDP lawmakers, was said to have mended fences with former Governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio, the Minority Leader of the Senate, whom he fell out with when he lost out during last year’s National Assembly primaries in the state.
With the stage set for screening the ministerial nominees, the Senate declared the upper chamber’s commitment towards ensuring due diligence during the course of the exercise.
The Senate also rolled out a list of criteria and insisted that all nominees must meet with the stipulated standard as provided by the 1999 Constitution.
Also, the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions committee swung into action following a couple of petitions received by the Senate concerning two nominees, Amina Mohammed and former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
The committee while handling the petitions written against Rotimi Ameachi and Amina Ibrahim by concerned petitioners from Rivers and Kaduna States, gave them subtle clearance for screening by the senate along with 19 other nominees earlier forwarded to the Senate by President Buhari.
But upon commencement of the screening of nominees on Tuesday, some of the ten nominees screened, including the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Lai Mohammed were given the ‘take a bow and go’ treatment despite the Senate’s earlier position which declared that it will be thorough in screening the nominees.
During the second day of screening, precisely on Wednesday, the lawmakers however ratified and confirmed the choices of all the 18 nominees so far screened as minister designates.
Those who scaled the hurdle include; former governors of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Anambra; Chris Nigige, Ekiti; Dr. Kayode Fayemi and that of Abia; but representing Ebonyi, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu.
Others are, Chief Audu Ogbeh (Benue), Udo Udoma ( Akwa Ibom), Dr Osagie Ehanire (Edo), Lt- Gen Abdulrahman Dambazzau (Kano), Hajia Amina Ibrahim Mohammed (Gombe), Engineer Sulaiman Adamu( Jigawa), and Ibrahim Usman Jibrin (Nasarawa).
The rest include; the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr Ibe Kachikwu (Delta State), Abubakar Malami (Zamfara), Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan (Taraba), Kemi Adeosun (Ogun), Barrister Solomon Dalong (Plateau), Senator Abubakar Hadi Sirika (Katsina) and Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Kwara) whose confirmation stirred slight controversy with overwhelming shout of nay by PDP senators against his confirmation.
For Amaechi and Wahab Shittu from Oyo state, they were not that lucky as the Senate stood down their screening till another legislative day for want of time.
Senate Spokesperson, Senator Dino Melaye, while speaking with our correspondent yesterday, however disclosed that Rotimi Amaechi, alongside the other nominees yet to be screened, will next Tuesday be grilled by the upper chamber.