Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari sent a list of 43 ministerial appointees to the Senate on 23 July containing only 14 being reappointments from his first term. The new names are mostly ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) loyalists from across the country’s six geopolitical zones many having helped Buhari win his second term.
In his first term, Buhari was widely criticised by the party faithful for neglecting them after they had helped him come to power. It appears that he has now addressed this criticism with his new cabinet selection. The price of this patronage is that the cabinet is filled with more conservative options rather than reformers or technocrats. Few of the new ministers will be able to persuade Buhari to pursue the necessary key reforms such as: floating the exchange rate to reduce pressure on foreign currency reserves; reducing or ideally scrapping costly fuel subsidies; or implementing basic tax measures.
Among the appointees, there are some noteworthy reinstatements and new appointments.
- One of the biggest names to return is Babatunde Raji Fashola, the widely popular two-term governor of Lagos State.
- Abubakar Malami — the controversial former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and minister of justice — has been re-nominated.
- Transport minister and two-term Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, is likely to retain his current portfolio. He is a key figure for the APC but is unlikely to see higher political office in the next decade.
- Former finance minister Zainab Ahmed has been re-nominated and she will most likely be returned to the ministry.
- 46-year old Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami is the youngest on the list — which has an average age of 60 — and, as a technology expert, he will be a useful policy maker for the growing generation of young tech entrepreneurs and innovators who are mainly Lagos-based.
- Reform-minded Ibe Kachikwu — the former minister of state for petroleum resources and one-time Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) — has not been reinstated. He was sidestepped when Buhari appointed himself as the substantive petroleum minister.
Around 84% of the nominees are men and most will be anti-reformist with the notable exception of Pantami among several others. While only seven nominees are female they include some of the most impressive officials with the likes of: Zainab Ahmed; Pauline Tallen the former minister of science and technology during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency; and Sadiya Umar Farouq who was the federal commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The Senate has postponed its recess in order to carry out fast moving confirmation hearings which it has since concluded. Unsurprisingly all 43 nominees were approved by the Senate because the APC have a good working majority in both houses of the National Assembly.
However, the president has potentially wasted the opportunity to pass sound economic policy through the National Assembly because of the perceived overriding need to maintain peace among the APC big wigs.
This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Nigeria which provides essential bits of political, economic and security analysis on the region. Get a free sample here.