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HomeExecutive BriefA sneak preview of possible surprises in President Tinubu’s cabinet

A sneak preview of possible surprises in President Tinubu’s cabinet

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By ETIM ETIM

Nigerians are in for a few surprises as President Bola Tinubu unveils his new cabinet in a few days. Both in composition, size, and structure, the next Federal Executive Council would be far different from what we’ve always known.

A Lagos banker and politician, Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, will likely emerge as the new Finance Minister when President Bola Tinubu unveils his cabinet in a few days. The President has only 20 days left out of the 60 allowed by the Constitution for him to send his list of ministers to the Senate.

Abiru, is currently a senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District. Born March 25, 1964, he was also the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive of Polaris Bank.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Lagos State University and is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). In addition, Abiru had also attended several courses at Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School.

He was executive director at First Bank (2013–2016) and Commissioner of Finance in Lagos State (2011–2013) under the Fashola administration. He resigned as bank CEO in 2020 to run for the Senate seat.

Contrary to expectations, the new cabinet would be a large one, consisting of 42 ministers and 20 Special Advisers. But unlike in past administrations, there will be no Minister of State in the Tinubu government. Special Advisers will contribute to discussions at FEC, unlike in the past when they were only silent participants.

Some large ministries would be broken into two and some into three to create enough portfolios for the cabinet members. Those to be split include Works and Housing; Agriculture and Rural Development; Humanitarian Affairs; Disaster Management and Social Development; Sports and Youth; Health; Education; Transport; Finance; National Planning and Budget; Petroleum; and a few others.

Dele Alake, currently Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication, and Strategy, will move up as Minister of Public Communication, a new name for the Information Ministry.

He will also double as the Presidential spokesman and may continue to work out of the villa or split his time between the Villa and the Ministry at Radio House. So far, Alake is one of the closest people to the President and a very influential member of the administration.

In a way, renaming the Information Ministry and combining it with the function of the presidential spokesperson is akin to what occurs in many advanced democracies, where the press secretary is the only official responsible for the public communication of the government.

In addition to restructuring the government, the President has also been busy trying to sift his preferred nominees from a long list of interested party officials, some of whom were recommended by party bigwigs in different states. Former Ekiti governor Kayode Fayemi is being considered as the new Foreign Affairs Minister.

READ ALSO: Bank of England says Britain’s economy coping with surge in interest rates

It is a portfolio he’s always craved, even in the Buhari administration, in which he served as Minister of Mines and Steel. But he lost out to Geoffrey Onyema, who came highly recommended by the late chief of staff to the President. Both Onyeama and the late Abba Kyari were childhood friends, dating back to their school days.

Bayo Onanuga, who also worked hard for the president’s election, is also being considered for a job in the government. Onanuga was one of the spokesmen of the Tinubu campaign, but Nigerians will readily remember him for the inflammatory statements and ethnically insensitive outbursts that he made in the immediate aftermath of the elections in Lagos.

A versatile journalist, he was the Managing Director of NAN in the early days of the Buhari administration.” Although Bayo embarrassed himself and the President with his incendiary outbursts, he may not be left behind’’, a political leader from Oyo State told me in the course of researching this article.

Festus Keyamo, has been fighting tooth and nail to be the new Minister of Justice and Attorney General. He wanted that position badly in the Buhari government, but he stood no chance against the all-powerful Abubarkar Malami, another SAN.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in July 2019, Keyamo told the lawmakers that his priority would be to decentralize the Supreme Court into six, one for each geopolitical zone. It is not clear if Keyamo will be lucky this time.

Another new face to look out for in the Tinubu cabinet is Tunji Bello, a veteran journalist with an impressive track record who is also a longtime associate of the President. Like Dele Alake, Bello was also editor of the National Concord, the defunct newspaper owned by the late MKO Abiola.

Bello later served as a commissioner under Tinubu and Fashola, as SSG under Ambode, and returned as a commissioner under Sawon-Olu. He has been in the government of Lagos State since May 1999. His wife was appointed the VC of Lagos State University in 2021. Don’t mess with some Lagosians!

What will also surprise many Nigerians is the emergence of some very senior politicians, who had held almost all leadership positions in the past, in the cabinet. Two former governors of Kano, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso and Abdullai Umar Ganduje, are fighting hard to join the cabinet. The former was the presidential candidate of the NNPP in the February elections.

He was Minister of Internal Affairs (now Interior) in the first term of President Obasanjo. Of course, the former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is also interested in returning as a minister. He served President Jonathan as Minister of State for Education.

Nigerians usually scoff at the recycling’’ of old politicians into government. But their experience could also be useful. “These people are not looking for a job in that sense of the word. They just cannot shake off the urge to be in public office all the time, for whatever reasons,” a senior government official told this writer.

I have also been told that the President may rationalize some agencies and parastatals to achieve optimum functionality. For instance, three important revenue earners—FIRS, NIMASA, and Customs—could be consolidated under one big group to be headed by the Special Adviser on Revenue, Zacchaeus Adedeji. “This is essentially to block leakages and tighten fiscal control,” one of the highbrow members of the administration said this morning.

Journalists will be pleased with the preponderance of their colleagues in the new administration: Alake, Bello, Onanuga, and Tunde Rahman. Rahman is a former editor of Thisday newspaper who has served Bola Tinubu as a media staffer for a long time. He has since assumed duties as the President’s Principal Private Secretary. Certainly, a good journalist can fit into any role. But in which other administrations have journalists been this plentiful, and how will this help the profession?

Remember my article a few weeks ago on the appointment of Wale Edun as the Special Adviser on Monetary Matters? I had argued that the rather unusual designation could be a pointer to his eventual elevation as the new CBN Governor. I have nothing more to add!

(omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

  • Etim, a former financial journalist is also a public commentator and reputation manager

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