By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR
Left to the President, it is clear that he would have preferred not to have anything thing to do with a group of persons to be addressed as Ministers, to join hands with him in salvaging the ship of state called Nigeria. His body language on this issue is clear to all Nigerians, but for the Constitution, he probably would have gone solo.
After keeping Nigerians waiting for well over four (4) months since his assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), finally came out with his list of ministerial nominees, whom he had at one point (during an interview granted a foreign media) described as “noise makers,” which he sent to the Senate (in batches) for confirmation as ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That list, when it was finally released, contained what some have described as the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigerian politics. To many, the list did not meet the expectations of Nigerians considering the long wait. In one of my recent writes up, I have had cause to commend the President on the list of ministerial nominees especially as it related to the first list of nominees.
With the final list of ministers (whether good or bad), submitted to Senate by the President, the battle shifted to the Senate. That the list contained the names of Nigerians with well known antecedents both in private and public sector or service, is not in doubt.
The Senate had on its part, through it spokes person, Senator Dino Melaye, assured Nigerians that the screening process was not going to be business as usual, following the change mantra of the APC. With this assurance, Nigerian had from the previous experience, expected a departure from the “take – a – bow and go” Era, to one of rigorous and earth shaking screening that would have put all the ministerial nominees on their toes.
But lo and behold, what we have seen and experience so far, can best be described as an anticlimax, a return to the old school era of take – a – bow and go. There has been no significant change in the screening of the ministerial nominees.
Suffice to say that on the first day of the screening exercise, the Senate gave Nigerians the impression that it was not going to be business as usual when all ten ministerial nominees that were screened were grilled by the Senators with none allowed to take a bow and go. Except for Lai Mohammed, every other nominee was grilled by the senators.
A return to the status quo of ‘take a bow’ and go, returned with the screening of some of the subsequent ministerial nominees.
This complete departure from the initial hard stance of the Senate to go for the jugular of the ministerial nominees, has left many Nigerians, including my bumble self, wondering as to what went wrong. What can justifiably account for such a dramatic somersault by the upper legislative body? We have not seen the fireworks promised by the Senate.
Could this dramatic somersault have been due to the fact that the Senate was intimidated by the ongoing war against Saraki, principally, and other members of the house of Senate? Could it have been as a result of some hidden skeletons uncovered in the cupboard of some Senate members? Could it possibly be that the Senate has been overawed by the personality of PMB, that they choose to drop the initial hard stance and posture they had given to Nigerians concerning the screening of the ministerial nominees?
The ‘take a bow and go’ stance of the Senate is not new to us. The rationale behind this can be gleaned from the explanation given by the former Senate President, Senator David Mark. It will be recalled that Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, a ministerial nominee by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, appeared before the seventh (7th) Senate led by David Mark, on Wednesday, 12th February, 2014, amongst other ministerial nominees for screening.
When he mounted the podium to commence his screening by way of questions and answers, the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, simply asked him to ‘take a bow and go’. When asked later why he took that decision, his explanation was that “it was a privilege reserved for former Federal Law makers.”
Understandably, that was then, in the Senate led by the PDP. Under this dispensation of change, Nigerians had expected a different attitude to screening of ministerial nominees, a departure from the old order of ‘as it was in the beginning …’, going by the change mantra of the APC, which incidentally is the party in majority of the Senate. What we have witnessed so far does not show to us a departure from the old order.
Are PMB, the Executive, the Senate, Senate President, Ministerial Nominees, APC, PDP, Nigerians, etal, reading and digesting this Sunday sermon on the mount of the Nigerian Project?