In what appears to be a clear departure from the past, President Muhammadu Buhari has kept Nigerians guessing with respect to the appointment of key positions like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the media and his publicity team.
Unlike his predecessors and most state governors, Buhari had yet to announce the names and designations of those he has picked to perform these and other functions on Saturday.
The various statements issued from the Office of the President at the Presidential Villa on Saturday were signed by Mr. Garba Shehu, the erstwhile Director of Media and Publicity of the now defunct All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.
Shehu told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the presidential campaign media team had continued to work for Buhari pending the official appointment of his spokespersons. “It is the same campaign team,” he said.
When probed on whether Buhari would be addressing the country soon to declare his next course of action, he said the President had said all he had to say in his inaugural ceremony and gala speeches.
Buhari, who succeeded Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn in as President on Friday.
Buhari had in a recent interview with a national daily revealed that he would depart from the norm in his approach to putting together his team.
Specifically, he said, “I am going to quote myself because I heard in one of the interviews that I said the type of people I am supposed to appoint like the cabinet and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Service Chiefs, will be different.
“Definitely my approach is going to be different from what we had under the PDP where governors nominated ministers.
“I have been around long enough to know the people that I can approach for things like that. Deliberately, we will look for competent people, dedicated and experienced to head ministries.”
While reacting to a list of ministers and advisers being circulated on the Internet, Buhari said at the time he had not written anything on paper for anybody to see.
However, there were news reports that governors submitted lists of their nominees for appointment into Buhari’s cabinet.
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha who is also the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum was reported to have confirmed to journalists that he submitted a list of three persons.
There have also been reports listing former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, his former Ekiti State counterpart, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi as some of those to be appointed as ministers.
Another report had named the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Femi Adesina as the possible choice as Special Adviser on Media.
Leaders of the party, the All Progressives Congress, were also not willing to comment on the President’s actions, noting that Buhari had transited from being the President-elect to President.
An APC leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “You will agree with me that things have changed. Buhari is now the President and what you are asking me to comment on is not a party matter any longer. It is his prerogative as President to make an announcement when he chooses.”
A member of the Buhari campaign team, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, also said, “Muhammadu Buhari is not a man you can push. I am sure he will make an announcement soon. He is a man who is prepared to hit the ground running, just exercise a little bit of patience.”
Also speaking on the issue, another member of the team, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin said, “What I think we need to do is to allow the new President – it is not that his mind is not made up on who he wants.
“It is a big decision to pick a person out of the whole pack to speak for him and present him for who he is and what he is.
“To be able to make an announcement of who is going to be Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser and so on, I think it will not be long. Allow him a few hours, may be a day or two, we will all have a clearer idea.”
In his inaugural speech, the President warned political forces or anyone who thought he would be answerable to him in the next four years, saying he belonged to nobody. “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” he said.
He allayed the fears by some suspected past corrupt leaders who might view Buhari’s presidency as coming to victimise them.
The President reassured such persons that their fears were unfounded, adding that he had opted to put the past behind him.
He said, “A few people have privately voiced their fears that on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”
Meanwhile, most of the newly elected and re-elected state governors who were sworn in on Friday have yet to begin work, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
While some of them have appointed few aides to work with, others have yet to do so. It was also learnt that lobbyists have begun moves for cabinet appointments.
In Kwara State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, who is now in his second term, had shortly after his inauguration, appointed three new officials and reappointed three former government appointees.
The new appointees are Head of Service, Zarah Umar; Chief of Staff, Babatunde Abdulwahab; Senior Special Assistant, Government House, Ibrahim Adeyemi; and Special Assistant Domestic, Segun Abifari.
The reappointed officials are Isiaka Gold, who was reappointed as Secretary to the State Government; Dr. Muyideen Akorede as Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity; and Abdulwahab Oba, Chief Press Secretary.
The governor, who listed several capital projects to be executed during his second term, urged residents of the state to tighten their belts as the government would embark on more Internally Generated Revenue-driven and cost-saving measures.
The new governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade, who succeeded Liyel Imoke, was still ruling the state from his private residence within the State Housing Estate in Calabar as of Saturday.
It was, however, observed that there was a flurry of activities at the official residence of the governor.
Imoke did not return to the lodge after the 2012 rerun of the governorship election in the state.
But Ayade is expected to move into his official residence on Monday, a Government House source told one of our correspondents.
Although there was no change or renewal of government in Osun State on Friday, SUNDAY PUNCH observed that most of the commissioners and special advisers of the dissolved Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s former cabinet were still found around the Government House.
The ministries in the state are being managed by permanent secretaries since the governor’s second inauguration on November 27, 2014. Our correspondents observed that contractors working on several projects in the state are no longer on site.
Moreover, expectations have heightened in Plateau State, barely 48 hours after Governor Simon Lalong assumed office. As of Saturday, the new governor had yet to make appointments into key offices, especially his principal aides.
A leader of the APC in Plateau, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed to SUNDAY PUNCH that some party members were unsettled due to disagreement over key appointments.
Former Director of Press and Publicity, Lalong/Tyoden Campaign Organisation, Mr. Festus Fuanter, however, said there was no cause for worry as the governor wanted to consult widely and ensure that all interests were taken care of.
He noted that things would begin to take shape, “in the next few days.”
In Oyo State, where Governor Abiola Ajimobi was re-elected to become the first two-term governor in the state, intense lobbying has started since the governor announced that his new cabinet would be smaller and based on performance.
Ajimobi had dissolved his cabinet on the eve of his inauguration.
A source said some of the commissioners and aides, who failed to canvass enough votes for Ajimobi in their wards and Local Government Areas, had been calling the Chairman of the APC in Oyo State, Mr. Akin Oke, to speak to the governor on their behalf.
Ajimobi had vacated the State House for his Oluyole home in Ibadan before the election and he is expected to move back to his official residence soon.
Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State has moved to the Government House, it was learnt. The official residence is now wearing a now look, while offices within the premises now have the official portrait of the governor.
It was also observed that the governor’s lodge, presidential lodge, as well as the offices of the governor and his deputy where the flags of the Peoples Democratic Party were hoisted had been replaced with that of the APC.
In Imo State, re-elected Governor Rochas Okorocha has launched a new pattern to reap in IGR for the state.
The governor, who had abolished any form of levy in his first term in office, had instructed the Environment Transformation Committee to enforce collection of levies.
Okorocha, in his maiden press briefing on the second lap of his administration, urged the people of Imo to prepare for sacrifices, noting that it was not going to be business as usual.
As of the time of filing this report on Saturday evening, the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has yet to announce any appointment into his new government.
Our correspondent gathered that the new governor is still consulting, and will name his appointees soon.
Feelers in the state chapter of the PDP indicated that former Governor Sullivan Chime and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, are likely to make key inputs in the composition of the incoming state executive council, as well as other appointments.
A source in the PDP said a picture of the new administration would emerge within the week.
The new Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, upon his assumption of office, has said he would streamline government operations in the state to reduce the cost of governance.
The governor, who met with the body of permanent secretaries in the state public service on Saturday, said although new offices would be created, efforts would also be made to attract more investments to the state.
The governor said he would be residing at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, adding that he would be available at his desk from 8am daily.
Ambode said he expected all public servants to also be at their desks by 8am.
“The state civil service will drive the change and the continuity which we intend to put in place in the next four years,” he said.