In this report, Jonathan Nda-Isaiah details some key decisions President Buhari will likely take when he returns from his medical trip and why he is bound to take them.
Happenings around the seat of power in the past few days indicate that President Muhammadu Buhari is expected back in the country any moment from now. From the press briefings by presidential spokesmen on recent visits by some governors to the president in London to the hint by wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, that the president will chase “the Hyenas and Jackals away from the kingdom” when he returns to the country, the country’s political firmament is already saturated with issues about Buhari’s next line of action on arrival.
The president had jetted back to London on May 7 this year for further medical checks. While he is away, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has held forte admirably in the absence of his boss. Even though Osinbajo has proven to be a worthy and competent deputy to his boss, piloting the affairs of the country in the absence of the president has not been rosy for the Professor of Law.
Just as he braces up to address sectional agitations threatening the unity of the country, executive-legislative impasse sets in as if it is calculated to distract the acting president. Insurgency in the Northeast, which before now, seemed contained, has also reared its head as if it is bound to join forces with farmers/herders’ clashes and the growing spate of kidnapping to make the country ungovernable for Osinbajo in the absence of his boss.
There is a congruence of opinion among analysts, policy makers and keen observers of the polity that President Buhari will hit the ground running by taking certain crucial decisions and make some sweeping changes when he comes back. This is even so when his deputy, some weeks ago, embarked on a trip to London to brief the president on the state of affairs in the polity.
That trip by Osinbajo, according to close watchers, was not ordinary. The thinking is that a toad does not run in the daytime for nothing, to borrow a leaf from Chinua Achebe. Anything that would warrant Osinbajo to seek audience with his boss on one-on-one basis in faraway London when he is supposed to be holding forte for him, must be something for which crucial decisions are required.
Below are some pending decisions the president is expectedly going to make on arrival, according to close sources in the seat of power.
It is expected that the president will reshuffle his cabinet immediately he comes back. The acting president penultimate Wednesday swore in two new ministers from Kogi and Gombe states without assigning portfolios to them. Reliable sources at the presidential villa told LEADERSHIP Friday that the president will assign the portfolios for the new ministers himself in the course of reshuffling the cabinet.
Political pundits have contended that the cabinet, as presently constituted, cannot take Nigeria to the Promised Land by delivering the much needed change Nigerians desire. With such perception in the public domain, there are indications that sweeping changes are expected. While some ministers will be outrightly sacked, some will be redeployed to other ministries.
As if it was part of what they agreed with the president when he travelled to London, that he should make some minor appointments pending his return to carry out the major shakeup, the acting president, on Tuesday, appointed Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye as new chairman for the ICPC.
In a statement issued by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Osinbajo also appointed 12 others as members of the ICPC board, while Musa Abubakar, a professor, will serve as secretary.
The acting president also appointed Ekpo Nta, the former ICPC boss, and 10 others for the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission. He also appointed Special Assistant to the president on prosecution as chairman of presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property.
The statement also noted that “these appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.” But Senate’s role in the confirmation of some presidential appointees has generated controversy, following Osinbajo’s endorsement of the view of Lagos lawyer, Chief Femi Falana that Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), does not need to be confirmed by the Red Chamber.
Report Of SGF, NIA Probe
Three weeks before the president jetted out to London, he suspended the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal and director general of National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke over allegations of financial sleaze.
The president had directed his deputy to investigate the duo and report back to him in two weeks. Members of the investigation panel are the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami.
Babachir was investigated for allegedly awarding contracts worth millions of naira to Global Vision Limited, a company in which he had interest, under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
A Senate committee on Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, which had earlier found the suspended SGF culpable of alleged complicity in a N200 million grass-cutting contract to clear “invasive plant species” in Yobe State, had demanded his resignation and prosecution.
Oke was probed over alleged $43.4m operations cash found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at apartment 7B in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. He had reportedly claimed that the money belonged to the NIA and was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for some covert operations.
However, just before submitting the report, the president left the country. Sources in the presidency said the acting president had recommended that Lawal and Oke be relieved of their jobs. It is expected that President Buhari will name a new SGF and NIA boss immediately he comes back.
Less than two years to the next general election, most of the appointments to federal government boards are yet to be made. Most of the people who worked for the victory of the president at the polls are becoming disgruntled that two years after, they are yet to be compensated for their efforts.
Recall that six months into the administration of President Buhari, appointees of former President Goodluck Jonathan were still holding key board appointments much to the consternation of APC members. The president is expected to fill the boards with certain appointments so that governance can move forward.
The Country’s Unity
There is no doubt that Nigeria has never been this divided since the civil war. There are threats of secession from the South East. In the North, a coalition of Arewa Youth Group also issued quit notice to Igbos living in the region to vacate before October 1. To balance the terror, a coalition of Niger Delta groups also issued a similar ultimatum.
Although the acting president had done well in calling leaders of thought from both the North and South East to douse the tension in the country, it is expected that President Buhari will continue in that direction by calming the tension in the country with further meetings with leaders of thought in the country.
Delivering On Campaign Promises
President Buhari hinged his campaign on a tripod- fighting corruption, tackling insurgency and reviving the economy. While he performed well in the first two areas some few months into the administration, the fight against corruption and insurgency is fast losing steam.
Boko Haram has regrouped in Sambisa Forest, the incidents of suicide attacks have increased and the federal government is also losing high profile corruption cases in the court.
The economy is still in recession, despite assurances that the country will soon exit recession.
The president needs to rejig the war against corruption and insurgency and revive the economy. He has less than two years to deliver on his mandate and the clock is ticking fast.