With less than 48 hours to the unveiling of the ministerial list by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, some nominees have embarked on intensive prayer sessions ahead of their screening by the upper legislative chamber, The New Telegraph has gathered .
The ministerial list will be read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday while the screening process is likely to commence the following day.
Besides, senators have come under intense pressure as rumours of likely hurdles on the ways of some nominated persons became rife.
Among those to face tough screening as well as resistance from senators from their states are former Rivers and Ekiti governors, Rotimi Amaechi and Dr Kayode Fayemi respectively. With both states under the control of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party just as the senators are of the same party, Sunday Telegraph gathered that the governors are warming up to put up serious resistance.
Coming on the heels of this development is the anxiety that has pervaded Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Ondo states as President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to settle for anyone in those states.
According to sources in the know of the ministerial nominations, the underground lobby of senators began shortly after the submission of the list by the President. ‘’As usual, you know that lobbying would have commenced as expected but the difference in this case is that no one in the presidency is ready to put in a word for the nominees.
They are on their own and their personal credentials and character will see them through. ‘’Gone are the days when once you are nominated, you are as sure as being a minister.
Your nomination is different, whether your attitude and character will carry you through is another. So if any of the nominees thinks because President Buhari has nominated him or her, it is over, such a person must have a rethink.
“‘Quite honestly, some of them are already aware of this fresh mantra and are even going the extra mile to lobby. Senators have been under pressure since Wednesday’s submission of the list.
“‘Some of them who may come across difficulties and challenges have even resorted to prayers. I know of some who claimed to be on fasting and prayers since the submission of the list,” a source said.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that the governors of Rivers and Ekiti states, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose respectively, have reportedly mandated the senators from their states to oppose the nominations of Amaechi and Fayemi.
While Wike and the Rivers state senators are banking on the outcome of the recent probe of the former governor’s administration to nail him at the Senate, Fayose is said to have mobilised the lawmakers from Ekiti to oppose Fayemi and instead opt for human rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN). As regards the slots for Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Ondo three states, Buhari is said to be “confused” as to who should be nominated.
“‘I think the President appears confused because of the various complexities in those states. Politics is a game that requires consultations but I think something is wrong in the case of the three states because of the intrigues,” a source told Sunday Telegraph in confidence.
The source said, in the case of Akwa Ibom for instance, the President has yet to make up his mind on whom to nominate between the state governorship candidate in the last election, Chief Umana Umana and Chief James Akpanudoedehe.
In the same vein, the decision of whom to pick between Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and Chief Ndutimi Alaibe is the bone of contention in Bayelsa. Alaibe, who withdrew from the recent APC governorship primary in the state, was believed to have been muzzled out of the contest as the Presidency reportedly had its preference for a former governor, Timipre Sylva, who eventually got the party’s ticket.
The case of Ondo is who among three contenders – the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in 2013, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN); Femi Agagu, younger brother to a late former governor of the state; as well as former speaker of the house of assembly, Hon. Victor Olabimtan.
If it is not mere grandstanding, there are indications that the Eighth Senate wants to set a precedent in the process and procedure for screening ministerial nominees, in line with the much touted change mantra of the present administration.
Speaking to Sunday Telegraph on the position of the Senate on the issue, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji pointed out that passing security screening was not a guarantee that a nominee would be confirmed by the Senate. Ogbuoji, representing Ebonyi South, said that be-yond the security checks of the security agencies of government, there were other parameters to be considered by the Upper Chamber before a nominee could be confirmed to serve as a minister.
He explained that though a nominee might not be guilty of criminality in the past, such an individual might still be dropped by the Senate based on social and moral grounds. The politician insisted that the Senate would not allow any sentiment that would not be in the best interest of the citizenry to influence its decisions.
He said, “The Senate is going to look beyond criminal considerations in the screening process. Even if a nominee has passed through screening but fails to meet some social and moral standards in the estimation of the Senate, the person can be dropped.
“It must not be on criminal grounds that the Senate can disqualify a nominee. If for instance, after interviewing a nominee and the Senate found that he/she cannot perform and contribute meaningfully to the development of the country, the person is obviously not qualified to hold such an exalted public office.
“The fact that somebody is not a criminal or does not have criminal tendencies does not qualify the person automatically.
The Senate, which represents the interests of Nigerians in the process of democratic governance, has a duty to ensure that those appointed to positions of authority are those who have what it takes to serve Nigerians diligently.”
In past dispensations, once a ministerial nominee passes security screening, and has no issues that can attract opposition from at least two senators representing his or her state of origin, the nomination was as good as confirmed.
Again, there is a tradition in the Senate that if a former member of the Upper Chamber or the House of Representatives appears in the Senate for screening for any appointment, the person will not be subject to rigorous interrogation by senators but simply takes a bow and walks away automatically confirmed.