Ministerial lists are being reportedly prepared by state chapters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the consideration of President Muhammadu Buhari for his next cabinet, though the Presidency did not officially request for that.
Although governors elected on the platform of the party have also publicly conceded the absolute right on federal cabinet appointment to the president, it has also been gathered that the state helmsmen have not given up on having an input in choosing ministerial appointees from their states.
With the president in the middle, political factors and factions within the party at the state level are now pulling strings in different directions to win what is considered the most important battle after the poll.
There are reports that the battles at the state level might be needless at the end of the day, considering the alleged near-solo run of the president in cobbling his new cabinet together.
Names earlier speculated to be on a purported ministerial list submitted by the president to the Department of State Service (DSS) included celebrated economist, Professor Pat Utomi.
When contacted, Prof. Utomi denied undergoing any kind of screening at the secret police headquarters. Another featured name, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, did not pick his calls.
As usual with political seasons after a general election, state chapters of the party are witnessing high-profile contention which the president is not likely to factor into his next selection.
It was learnt that he is possibly stepping out of his usualness to put in place a legacy cabinet, which reportedly informed his decision to keep the first-term cabinet in place all through as a way of fully compensating party faithful through the appointees.
Apart from the decision to have a much smaller cabinet in his second term, the president and his core team of loyalists are said to be head-hunting experts who are not completely disconnected from their people and bases.
Such experts reportedly include those with connection to national and regional leaders who are in disagreement with him.
A celebrated professional who is not particularly of the president’s hue but also not overtly partisan was reportedly checked on recently by someone close to the Buhari camp.
There were no firm commitments on both sides.
While the kind of Hadi Sirika, immediate Minister of Aviation, with filial relationship with the president may not have much difficulty returning, same as his Water Resources counterpart, former ministers scheming a return, especially from the Southern part of the country, may have to fight bigger battles to get in.
The immediate Minister of Communications from Oyo State, Adebayo Shittu, is an unapologetic Buharist and despite the opposition from the state chapter to his first-term nomination, the president stuck with him to the end.
His name is also reportedly missing from the three-man list put together by APC structure in the state for presidential consideration but his hopes are not gone with the omission.
He is said to be accessing the direct route he has to the president to stage a comeback and his biceps have now been strengthened with the court judgement that he needed not to observe the mandatory NYSC scheme to serve as minister.
Tendencies in the state are, however, united in opposition to Shittu, Saturday Tribune learnt.
If Shittu is returned, the party may suffer high-profile defection, as being currently threatened. Buhari is not seeking re-election and such threats may come with minimal force.
But the president is said to be more interested in making the party more popular with the populace by going after those with records of performance in their chosen fields.
Some of his known friends with ministerial interests, according to findings, may be compelled to let go for him to achieve his second-term agenda.
The most recent visit of the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to Aso Rock Presidential Villa was said to be partly about the president’s Next Level agenda and a general idea about those to deliver on it.
Embattled Senate returnee and immediate past governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, is another established friend of the president like Shittu. While he is not on the ministerial card, his long-drawn political battle with the Lagos political establishment and one of his predecessors, Segun Osoba, is reportedly featuring in the contest for Ogun slotIn Lagos, there is virtually zero presence of the immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in the state political firmament, but his shadow is still looming large in the ministerial race, expected to be largely determined by his estranged godfather, Bola Tinubu.
With a Christian governor replacing him, his consideration on the basis of religious balancing and harmony by the state chapter is also almost nil, though there are talks of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu serving a term, as a completion of the Ambode tenure.
If Sanwo-Olu eventually serves two terms, the Christian faith would have been represented for 12 straight years, which many of those of other faiths are reportedly not finding acceptable.
Ambode is allegedly tapping into his newfound friendship with the president as leverage, even though sympathy is reportedly thin for him among party chieftains outside of the state, especially in the South-West.
However, being an alleged major contributor to the presidential campaign that got Buhari re-elected, he is expected to fight to the end, like Shittu.
Wale Edun, a banker and a former commissioner in Lagos, is said to be the stakeholders’ choice.
Though Ogun State is Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s base, nothing serious could be currently traced to him as being a part of the struggle, though he is expected to play a role in the eventual nominee, an influence he conceded to Amosun in 2015.
Lobbyists are reportedly doing covert operations around him through some clergymen close to him, particularly a televangelist based in Lagos.
The tall, fashionable pastor was deeply involved in campaign strategies during the presidential contest.
In Osun State, the battle is said to be mainly among the Iyiola Omisore integrated group, immediate minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole and immediate past Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
However, a dark horse may emerge in a professional being packaged by influential Abuja-based APC faithful, loyalists, lobbyists, sympathisers and financiers.
When Omisore was cajoled into forming an alliance with the APC to ensure Gboyega Oyetola’s survival in the last contentious governorship contest, the agreement allegedly signed with him and his group was not only hazy but much of it was shrouded in secrecy and suspense.
Ekiti State is said to be relatively quiet with the technical ouster of former Governor Segun Oni from influence sphere, but it is not certain if Femi Ojudu and Governor Kayode Fayemi are in concert.
As the leader of all the governors and the president’s friend, Fayemi is expected to have the final say, even if the nomination would end up being on a regional basis.
The disposition of Buhari to the re-election bid of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State is not clear and despite the huge presence of the Lagos political family in that state, the president is expected to resolve the tussle.
It is yet unclear who will be the beneficiary of the president’s final decision.