- Buhari plans London trip to stave off pressure, draw ministers list
As intense lobby for the new cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari hots up, a string of intrigues and complex power play is unfolding at the nation’s seat of power, Aso Rock. An unfazed President Buhari will however leave the country for London any moment from Friday 29th March, to stave off pressures, draw up his ministers’ list and take a deserved rest before returning home to face challenges of governance again.
President Buhari has been playing host to numerous groups, since he was announced winner of the February 23rd presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). While on the surface some appear to be congratulatory visits, some observers say those with vested interests might be using the opportunity to pressure him to consider them for political or ministerial appointments.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had last month hinted of the possibility of Buhari dissolving his cabinet before the May 29th inauguration ceremony. The Presidential Spokesman had assured that his boss would announce his new cabinet members as soon as he is sworn in as president.
President Buhari took six months to constitute his cabinet after he won the 2015 elections. There has been constant speculations that he would reshuffle his cabinet that will expire on May 29. On March 14th, a committee headed by the Secretary to the Government of Federation, (SGF), Boss Mustapha, ahead of May 29 swearing-in ceremony, was inaugurated.
It took Buhari one year to nominate Professor Stephen Ikani Ocheni to replace late James Enojo Ocholi as Minister of State for Labour.
Ocholi died in a motor accident along Kaduna – Abuja road alongside his wife, Blessing and one of his sons, including his driver in 2016.
In the case of six ministers that had left his cabinet to take up appointments or run for elective office, Buhari has only replaced them with ministers in the cabinet.
But to stave off current pressure from lobbyists and party members who played key roles in his re-election, the President is said to be planning to take his annual vacation shortly after the supplementary elections in affected states to enable him to compile his list of ministers and other political appointees and forward them to the Department of State Services, DSS for clearance, before forwarding them to the Senate for screening and approval. It was further learnt that but for the birthday of a national leader of the ruling APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which the President plans to attend on March 29, he would have travelled this weekend.
Presidency sources however said that Buhari was travelling to take a well-deserved rest after a rigorous campaign across all the states of the federation that led to his victory at the polls.
Already, the complex power play in the seat of power has claimed his Chief Security Officer (CSO), Bashir Abubakar, who had been redeployed with his replacement, Idris Kassim Ahmed, announced immediately. His Aide-De-Camp (ADC), Colonel Mohammed Lawal Abubakar, sources say, is also likely to be replaced. He is set to be due for a course in a foreign country. Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, Buhari’s State Chief of Protocol (SCOP), is also said to be on his way out.
The trio have been said to be at loggerheads when carrying out their official duties and President Buhari is said to have had enough of them and want them replaced.
As President Buhari plans to inject fresh faces into his cabinet as he begins his second term on May 29th, there are ministers who are sure of retaining their seats all other things being equal. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, it was gathered might be retained for his strategic role in helping the president on critical issues.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika is also said to be part of the President’s inner circle and because Buhari is keen about bringing back Nigeria’s airline before he leaves office, Sirika’s return is almost a done deal.
On Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, sources in the Villa say though the initial plan was to send him to the United Kingdom as Nigeria’s High Commissioner and replace him with the current Minister of education, Adamu Adamu, there are indications Buhari is yet to make up his mind on whether to let him go or not.