The Bola Tinubu administration got off to a fast start, with some boldheaded policy initiatives and an overhaul of the economy. However, as the president approaches his 60th day in office, it’s possible that he drove himself into a false start that would need a severe reset.
Indications surfaced yesterday that President Tinubu could not have a functioning Federal Executive Council (FEC) until September if the Senate leaves today as planned for its 2023 end-of-session break, creating a nearly four-month gap in the new government.
As a result, President Tinubu may not only be avoiding his constitutional obligation to submit his ministerial list to the Senate for review and confirmation on the deadline day, but by delaying making this crucial decision until the very last moment and thereby impeding governance, he is infamously following the example of his predecessor, former President Muhammadu Buhari, who didn’t form his cabinet during his first term until after six months.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan presented his list of ministerial nominations to the Senate on June 28, 2011, one month after taking office. On September 30, 2015, for his first term, and on July 23, 2019, for his second term, Muhammadu Buhari did likewise.
Contrary to Buhari, President Tinubu has chosen certain Special Advisers (SAs) to oversee key government departments.
President Tinubu might be impeached by the 10th National Assembly for violating the Constitution if he fails to submit his list of ministers today.
Ben Rollands Igbakpa, who represented Ethiopia Federal Constituency in the Ninth House of Representatives, had sponsored the legislation, and on March 17, 2023, Buhari had given his assent. The legislation required the new President and governors to submit their nominations within 60 days of entering office.
Important items on the Order Paper were withdrawn by the legislators on Tuesday, and the plenary session was deferred as senators—including Senate President Godswill Akpabio—left the National Assembly to attend Bamidele’s 60th birthday lecture and book presentation.
The Senate adjourned on Wednesday without the list, 24 hours before the constitutional cutoff. The MPs, who came back to plenary a bit later than scheduled, took up a few motions and other items on the Order Paper without making any mention of communication about the list.
Therefore, today’s announcement of the well-guarded cabinet selections will be watched closely in the Senate chamber.
If President Tinubu were to present the list to the Senate today, it was reported that some senators might contemplate postponing their annual break to vet and ratify cabinet nominations. By the constitutional deadline of July 27, Tinubu must provide the Senate the list of ministerial candidates for consideration and approval.
In accordance with Section 42 of the Constitution as amended, “(a) the nomination of any person for appointment to the office of a Minister for confirmation by the Senate shall be made within sixty days after the date the President has taken the oath of office; (b) not less than ten percent of persons appointed as Ministers shall be women: Provided, That the President may appoint a Minister at any other time during his tenure and such appointment shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
As of yesterday, several states have not yet formed their cabinets, including Lagos, Enugu, and Cross River.
But because he took so long to provide the list, senators have started talking about how they might help the administration create the cabinet quickly in order to promote good governance.
Even if the list of ministerial candidates is read out today (Thursday), sources in the Senate said that attitudes are mixed on whether or not the Senate should continue on break.
This group of senators, it was learned, requested that a formal request for reconvening the Senate for the purpose of screening the nominations be issued to each senator, which would incur additional expenses for the treasury if senators were brought back from break.
The other category, which has the backing of the Senate leadership, is asking for the break to be postponed so that the screening may start right away after tomorrow.
The National Assembly is expecting the list to be forwarded to the Senate before to today’s session. The anticipation originated from Senate Majority Leader Opeyemi Bamidele’s public announcement on Tuesday that Tinubu will submit the list today.
Screening of candidates for ministerial posts is done in the Committee of the Whole in accordance with Senate procedure and custom. The Senate has been forced to request that all of its members attend the screening since, as a result, the screening cannot be sent to any of its standing committees.
At a book launch in Abuja, Bamidele said that Tinubu will release the much awaited list of ministerial nominations within the next 48 hours. She also said that the President had gone into seclusion to prevent undue influence.
Oladipo Adamolekun, a professor of public administration and World Bank consultant, has suggested to President Tinubu that the cabinet list be given to the Senate with a portfolio attached to ensure adequate vetting.
In addition, he encouraged him to take into account lowering the number of political appointments in order to reflect the hardships that Nigerians are facing in the nation. The university dean emphasised the need for the Senate to assess the competency of the applicants for ministerial positions based on the proposed ministry.
Tinubu took office in the face of tremendous hopes from Nigerians and the world community that government would change.
After 60 days in office, there have been a variety of responses, with many observers — though not all — stating that the APC-led administration has so far fallen short of the hoopla and expectations that surrounded it.
Numerous Nigerians are also likely to draw the conclusion that this development may have worked to obstruct Tinubu’s progress even as he tries to keep up with the demands and associated difficulties of governing.
After serving for 60 days, several Nigerians have compared the leadership philosophies of former President Buhari and Tinubu to show how they differed.
Contrary to popular belief, many people appear to concur that Muhammadu Buhari, the outgoing president, and the current leader have a lot in common, particularly in the first months of their terms in office.
Buhari received a lot of criticism for setting up an economic advisory council over seven years into his eight-year term and taking over six months to form his cabinet-level appointments.
While Tinubu might have taken a lesson from the criticisms of the economic team’s formation, which took the former President many years to put together, he might not have done so from the general annoyance of millions of Nigerians over the country’s sluggish approach to solving basic and fundamental economic problems that may have conspired to afflict the country.
For instance, it is said that President Tinubu began by appointing a few of his cronies and allies to what many have called the “Presidential Committee on Taxation” in a staccato manner.
Even though there is a constitutionally mandated 60-day window, Tinubu is taking longer than his predecessor to choose the members of his cabinet. Therefore, the glaring resemblance between the two is that they both find it difficult to make choices on crucial issues like the establishment of a cabinet to guide the conduct of state activities.
In a no-holds-barred statement last week, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the leader of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, said that President Tinubu had been abroad more than five times already in less than two months since taking office.
“Millions of Nigerians are already concerned about the alarming number of international visits this current President has made in such a short period of time and are wondering whether he won’t follow the globetrotting habits of his predecessor.
President Tinubu, in the words of Onwubiko, has also caused “massive economic dislocation” by removing the subsidy on petrol without first considering what corrective measures he should have put in place before carrying out whatever subsidy withdrawal he intends to do. Instead, Tinubu, according to Onwubiko, is frantically looking in the dark for what palliative measures to put in place. During his first 60 days in office, more Nigerians have already fallen into poverty.
“But in the case of Buhari, he made Nigeria the poverty capital of the World in 2018 and overtook India, which has over two billion people, just before he left in May 2023. About 130 million Nigerians became multidimensionally poor at that time.”
President Tinubu removed the fuel subsidy shortly after making the announcement on the day of his inauguration, forcing immediate action to relieve the suffering of the populace, the majority of whom were reportedly basking in the euphoria of the dawn of a new era.
President Tinubu’s supporters are confident that he has arrived to rescue the ravaged economy and restore hope to the afflicted populace despite the misery Nigerians have been through since he took over the reins of governance due to his withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
The president and his lieutenants are in charge of determining if there will be light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is not yet uhuru since the country’s impoverished majority is already experiencing problems.