Why Buhari Is Delaying Cabinet Expansion

Why Buhari Is Delaying Cabinet Expansion
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 he delay in expanding the federal cabinet by President Muhammadu Buhari 100 days after he made the disclosure has been traced to five factors, sources close to the president have said.

Sources at the Presidency, National Assembly and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) say as soon the factors are addressed, names of nominees would be forwarded to the Senate for confirmation.

The president disclosed his intention to expand the cabinet on October 31 last year during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC.

Buhari who described the council as compressed, pledged to accommodate more supporters and inject fresh ideas into the cabinet following an improvement in the country’s economy.

However, 100 days after that, nothing has been heard on the subject, and no letter has been transmitted to the Senate in this regard.


Fear of backlash

The first reason for the delay, according to Presidency and Senate sources, is the fear of a backlash that would arise since it would lead to the sack of some of the current ministers.

A Presidency source who doesn’t want to be named said: “The president is in a tight corner because automatically any minister he drops at this period when everybody is preoccupied with election matters, becomes his enemy.

“Whether you like it or not, the minsters, including those initially considered as novices in politics, have attained a high degree of popularity in their respective states. They are now stakeholders that you need to reckon with.”

Corroborating this view, a senate source said despite the shortcomings of some of the ministers, they have created a sort of an ‘empire’.


Presidency: Buhari will act at his own time

But in an official response, the president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Nigerians should wait until Buhari expands his cabinet as promised. He said in an interview with our correspondent yesterday that Buhari was not forced to make that promise.

“When a president has said he would do something, the onus is on us to wait until he does it, particularly when that president is not a frivolous person. We know that President Buhari is painstaking, and nobody forced him to come out to say that he was going to expand the cabinet,” he said.


Budget defence

However, other sources attributed the delay to the ongoing budget defence at the National Assembly.  President Buhari had on November 7 last year presented the 2018 budget proposal to the lawmakers.

The presentation was done a week after the president declared his intention to expand the cabinet. The sources said the president was of the view that since the proposals were made by the present set of ministers, they should be allowed to finish defending it at the National Assembly.

An APC senator faulted the link to budget defence, describing it as blackmail and lie. He said it was the nature of the government to act at a snail pace.

“It is the nature of the government epitomized by the president. That’s the way he does his things, very slow. You can’t change him. Remember how long it took him to release the board appointments and yet you see the embarrassment that we were exposed to,” he said.

The lawmaker said the earlier, the better for the president to expand the cabinet for him to appease aggrieved party echelons.


Lack of funds

Another reason adduced for the delay is lack of funds for implementing the expansion. A lawmaker close to the  president said the delay was as result of lack of allocation for the expansion.

“You aware that the cabinet expansion will lead to the creation of new ministries to accommodate the new ministers that will be appointed. The president wants each of the ministers to have a portfolio. But the unfortunate thing is that funding of the additional ministries was not captured in 2017 budget which is being implemented,” he said. However, one of his colleagues described the argument as weak, saying   the president during his announcement of the expansion said funds to accommodate more cabinet members was available.


Weekly FEC briefing

The newly introduced weekly briefing at Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings by ministers is said to be another factor delaying the expansion.

Since last month, ministers have been, during the weekly FEC meetings, giving accounts of how their ministries utilised the funds received so far.  This is believed to be one of the major ways the president is assessing the performance of his ministers with a view to arriving at the best way of reshuffling the cabinet. Until this process is completed, it was gathered, new ministerial nominations may not be announced.


Bola Tinubu’ reconciliation team

Party sources said the appointment of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu by the president to lead his reconciliation team may further delay the cabinet expansion.

One of the sources said though the grudge of Tinubu on ministerial appointments is being addressed by the president, aggrieved stakeholders won’t hesitate to raise the issue as it affects them when the reconciliation exercise commences.

“I’m sure in the course of Tinubu’s reconciliation work the issue of ministerial appointments will come up. Saraki, Kwankawso, Wamakko and all those who played key roles in 2015 were not consulted  when the ministers were appointed in 2015. Nominees were picked from their states without their input,” one of the sources said.


No longer an issue

Another source close to the presidency said nobody is even talking about the issue anymore.

“Initially, it was like a talk of the town in the party, but I can tell you that nobody even talks or cares about it now. I can’t really say what’s happening to the issue,” he said.

A member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the APC blamed the president for the delay, saying, “As a leader you can’t just make such a serious statement when you are not prepared.

“Is it that after making that statement he was asked not to do the expansion again? It is just like when you tell me that you are going to Kaduna and I see you somewhere else. Having taken him six months to constitute the first executive council, it may take him similar time to expand the cabinet. The question is; what is his habit as to decision making? Go- slow,” he said.
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