Inside Aso Villa: How Buhari shaped his surprise cabinet
• Why he empowers Fashola, Amaechi, others • Took Education away from professors • President understudies Awo’s model for education • Why Fayemi, Malami got Solid Minerals, Justice ministries
He had been described as clueless having only integrity without grit needed to manage Africa’s largest economy.
Some had even said he was an unrepentant northern irredentist who had allegedly given most of his appointments so far to northerners just as others had deconstructed him as another provincial leader from Katsina who would not know anyone beyond the Northwest and Northeast.
Others too, have called him an executive procrastinator – one who could not make his cabinet (of mediocrities) for six months.
But after last Wednesday’s cabinet inauguration and posting, attention has shifted from sentiments to pure analysis of the politics of President Muhammadu Buhari.
And also questions have been asked why he has unexpectedly empowered a southerner as yet another ‘vice president’ or coordinating minister for Nigeria’s critical infrastructure.
Prof. Akin Oyebode of the University of Lagos simply described as a “tragedy” posting of a young lady as finance minister and an accountant turned journalist as education minister.
Oyebode, a Professor of Law at the University of Lagos and former Vice Chancellor, University of Ado Ekiti while responding to questions on Channels Television last week had noted that getting a young graduate from an East London University, not from Oxford, not from Cambridge, not from London School of Ecominics as Finance Minister to manage Africa’s largest economy was unconscionable.
Besides, he said posting a former Vice Chancellor, Professor Anthony Onwuka as Minister of State, Education, to assist Adamu Adamu, was bad enough.
The professor had spoken the minds of so many elite corps members who apparently had been unaware of how the Buhari’s mind works.
The Guardian found that Buhari who was removed from office as a military head of state 30 years ago had actually done thorough risk analysis of the actions he took last Wednesday. It was learned, for instance, that he had done his due diligence on the ‘Golden Boy of Lagos’ Babatunde Fashola and had already earmarked him as the ‘Poster Boy’ of good governance long before his adversaries in Lagos landed in Abuja to demonise him (Fashola). As this newspaper was told, “President Buhari had in his diary, a short synopsis on why Nigeria has been so short on service delivery to the people on all fronts. He has discovered that we have a lot of people who thrive on rhetoric, speaking good English from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and others but lack execution power…
In the diary, President Buhari was told that from the last National Economic Council under Presidents Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and Good luck Jonathan, that Fashola was the only governor who was always taking notes of deliberations and executing decisions reached. It was learned that no other governor had had a journal to record decisions. The secretariat staff from National Planning that cover the National Economic Council headed by the Vice President confirmed that to the President’s intelligence and due-diligence team”, The Guardian was told.
Besides, it was gathered that Fashola’s exploits in Lagos were shown on three platforms, namely video, sounds and text to the President who has been concerned about how to change Nigeria’s poor rating on critical infrastructure, especially on transportation, power, roads and housing.
As our source noted to us, “only death could have taken away Fashola from the spotlight last Wednesday. The President did not mean to interfere in Lagos or southwest politics. He was simply looking for a clinical finisher who would not be wearing babaringa or agbada or fine suits to office or sites, oh yes, someone who could sleep in the office and work even on weekends to deliver Nigeria from shame of underdevelopment.
Actually, Mr. President found this in only two Nigerians, el-Rufai and Fashola, but unfortunately, the former is the governor of Kaduna State. There is no political armour against that fate…If el-Rufai had not been governor of Kaduna state, he would have been Fashola’s partner in this three-in-one ministry to deliver power and roads to Nigeria…When he (Nasir) was FCT Minister, the president discovered that he was working on Saturday and Sunday and that made the difference in Abuja in those days…
“Let me tell you. President Buhari has done some reading and he has been asking why has there been no good 10-lane road from Abuja to Lagos and from Abuja to Calabar and from Abuja to Maiduguri and so on… The president believes Fashola will take up the gauntlet and do it’.
The Guardian was told that it is that same spirit of governance above politics and religion that informed his choice of Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Rivers state to be in another set of high-spending ‘super ministry’, Transportation he didn’t give to any northerner.
The same source within the kitchen cabinet told this newspaper at the weekend that, “Mr President believes that the Amaechi who had his eye on quality when he built some world-class schools in Rivers State would fix the organized confusion called the Nigerian Ports in Lagos and elsewhere. He will also find solution to the national disgrace called airports. After all, it has been reported that Port Harcourt airport is the worst in the world.
Seriously speaking, the President believes that Amaechi should be angry enough now about the state of infrastructure in Nigeria and those who opposed him from joining the cabinet will be watching his conduct in Transportation. There is this nexus between Transportation and Works. That is where the spirit of Fashola will also come upon him (Amaechi). Really, Mr President has put the man from Rivers in the eye of the storm”.
In the same vein, The Guardian gathered from Abuja’s power house at the weekend that, that was also how Dr Kayode Fayemi generally believed to be headed in the direction of Foreign Affairs Ministry last Wednesday, was posted to Solid Minerals Ministry. We were told that the President believes in those that have documented Solid Minerals Development as a solid revenue stream for the country. “Mr President has given Fayemi too (who was not expected in the cabinet because of domestic politics in southwest) a charge to go there and change the place into a revenue earner as oil revenue has ebbed to an intolerable level. Mr President believes in foreign policy but he is persuaded that a strong foreign policy is anchored on strong economy and good domestic policy”. The Guardian had exclusively reported in its 14 October issue that solid minerals development could earn Nigeria a whopping $50 billion yearly.
Meanwhile, The Guardian also scooped why Adamu Adamu, who has had nothing to do with education has been sent there “to go over to Macedonia and help”.
A competent source who is very familiar with the relationship between Buhari and Adamu told this newspaper yesterday this incredible background: “There is no one in the cabinet that has been close to Buhari more than Adamu in the last 20 years. Adamu, a resourceful researcher and journalist has written almost all his (Buhari’s speeches). And he has supported all of the aspirations of the Daura big man. He was with him even in PTF. This is how a source told us last night:
But more important, the president who has studied why the education sector has failed Nigeria has come to the conclusion that the best man for the job (of education minister) is not a professor. The president noted that one of the loudest professors on the pages of newspapers today was a minister of education under the Shonekan/Abacha regime and the universities were closed down for nine months under him and he had no clue..
Therefore, the president called Adamu he believes in so much as a go-getter and asked him to go to the unusual beat called education and fix it. Mr President sees Adamu Adamu in himself, in integrity, passion and commitment. He sees him as somebody who can do the job for God and country. He wants business unusual in education…
Let me tell you, Adamu, earlier turned down any offers from the president. He did not want to work for government. Adamu just returned from Harvard where he has equipped himself but never wanted until Mr. President who gave him some books by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who took the South West to sophistication through education… Mr President who has read those books asked Adamu to read them and follow the discipline of the legend and the commitment he had for education. He said, the south westerners are what they are because of their commitment to quality and quantity in education.
Let this mind be also in you for Nigeria. I don’t want any of the professors, go and do it for Nigeria… I know you can, Adamu… So just watch Adamu. He will change the paradigm… Mr President’s research has shown that the only memorable progress in education in recent years was made by Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili who is not a Professor. She adopted some radical measures that could have changed the face and foundations of anomie there but forces of darkness swept her away…”
Similarly, we were told last night the President did not post Mr James Ocholi as Attotrney-General as generally expected because he has had much closer relationship with Malam Abubakar Malami who has been with him for ages handling all his legal briefs from ANPP to CPC. Apart from Ahamba, no one has been closer than Malami that he trusts so well as a lawyer of integrity who will not compromise standards. Mr President has been consistent. He goes for people he knows well and trusts…”
But as we rounded off this last night a source in Lagos political circle said to The Guardian, “people that have been underrating the president’s political skills will now see how the man has been consolidating his political base in the South West. He has deftly shifted attention from Bourdillon to Surulere. Now with this assignment for Fashola, nobody will go to Ikoyi again for value allocation. All roads will now lead to Surulere, the base of Fashola who has more values to allocate… and that is power and politics in action.
“Now Buhari who has used earlier appointments to unify the North by appointing a Christian from Adamawa (a core middle belt state) as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and another Christian as Comptroller-General of Immigration from Nassarawa is consolidating for the future.
“No one is complaining in the north now that Buhari is an ‘Islamist’. Analysts beware, watch the steps of the man who has given all the high spending ministries to southerners.”