- List of nominees to boards of parastatals, non-career ambassadors to be reviewed
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Olawale Olaleye in Lagos
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo monday met with Senate President Bukola Saraki, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and five governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) behind closed doors at the State House, Abuja, to resolve the rising discontent among APC governors and other stakeholders over the absence of consultations by President Muhammadu Buhari in his federal appointments.
The governors who attended the meeting were Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, Sanni Bello of Niger State, and Jibril Bindow of Adamawa. Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola arrived after the meeting had been concluded.
Also in attendance were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Although there was no official statement from the presidency on the two-hour meeting, THISDAY gathered that Buhari who departed the country for Morocco yesterday, had mandated his deputy to meet with the National Assembly leadership and the governors to allay concerns and hold talks with them, after mounting complaints that they had not been carried along on several of the federal appointments previously made by the president.
Feelers from the meeting heightened the suspicion that all may not be well among the front line leaders of the ruling party, as the meeting was said to have been very heated.
Sources who spoke to THISDAY said that the meeting was essentially a meeting involving the governors representing the five geopolitical zones in the country and that Osinbajo had been mandated by Buhari to broaden the scope of consultations by bringing in the governors and National Assembly leaders who had been feeling disenfranchised since the outset of the administration.
Since the APC has no governor in the South-south zone, there was no governor to represent the zone at the meeting.
During the meeting, presidency sources said the issue of board appointments to federal parastatals and ambassadorial nominees was discussed, and the governors made their feelings abundantly clear that they were not happy that they had been shut out in past appointments made by the Buhari administration.
Also, the sources said party unity and the state of the party was emphasised by the vice-president against the backdrop of deepening cracks in the APC.
After airing their grievances, it was agreed that a committee head by the SGF, which had recently drawn up a list of nominees to the boards of federal parastatals, would be reviewed by the governors.
This will give the governors the opportunity to hold consultations at the state level and decide on whether to retain the nominees on the list or otherwise, revealed one source who was conversant with what transpired at the meeting.
However, in reviewing the list, the governors were informed that 60 per cent of the slots must be allocated to political considerations as a way of rewarding those who had helped the party to victory in the 2015 general election, while 40 per cent of the slots will be left to technocrats.
With respect to the ambassadorial nominees, said the source, it was also agreed that the National Assembly will tomorrow separate the names of career diplomats whose names had been sent to the Senate for screening and confirmation, while the list of non-career ambassadorial nominees will be withdrawn for review by the governors
The source explained that with the withdrawal of the list of non-career ambassadorial nominees, the governors, after consultations, will submit new names to fill the slots for their states.
He said: “The president asked Osinbajo to broaden consultations with the state governors and National Assembly leaders on board appointments to federal parastatals and the list of ambassadorial nominees.
“This stemmed from previous complaints that Mr. President was locking them out on several federal appointments, sometimes leading to embarrassing rejections by the nominees.
“See what happened with the ambassadorial nominees which caused considerable embarrassment, because the presidency failed to consult with the state governors.
“So, Mr. President mandated the vice-president to reach out to the governors and National Assembly to get their input for outstanding appointments to the boards of various parastatals.
“As you know, the disenchantment in the party is rising, so the purpose of the meeting was to forge party unity.
“Of course, the meeting gave the governors the opportunity to air their views and they accused the presidency of not carrying them along in the past.
“They made it abundantly clear that they cannot be fighting for the progress of the party if they are not carried along. They also stressed that they must always be consulted on key decisions including appointments henceforth.
“It was on this basis that the list of nominees for board appointments already drawn up by a committee headed by the SGF was handed over to the governors to review.
“It was then agreed that the governors will go and hold consultations at the state level to ensure that people who have worked hard for the party get appointments on some of the boards.
“However, the governors were informed that only 60 per cent of the slots will be allotted to political considerations while the balance will go to technocrats.”
Even after the meeting, the governors engaged themselves in a heated argument at the forecourt of the vice-president’s office and continued to discuss the apparently unresolved issues outside before they finally boarded their vehicles.
It took Saraki and Dogara’s intervention before the governors could end their open argument at the car park.
Although none of the governors volunteered to speak to the press, the Senate President who reluctantly volunteered a comment said: “I am sure the vice-president will issue a statement. But nothing of great alarm.”
When pressed further, he said: “It’s all for good governance, inclusion and collaboration with all arms. The states are here, the National Assembly executives just came up with ideas on how to make things work even better, that’s all.”
The APC governors had voiced their discontent over what they termed politics of exclusion, especially in the appointment of officials from their states into various boards and parastatals.
They had also complained to the president recently on their disapproval of the ambassadorial nominees he forwarded to the Senate for approval.
The presidency, in response, told the governors to put their grievances in writing.
Similarly, notable stakeholders in the ruling APC have consistently complained that they were being sidelined in the scheme of things.
Recently, the Senate turned down the president’s request for approval of the federation’s $30 billion external borrowing plan. It also threw out 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
Those in the know said the Senate, which has had a fractured relationship with the presidency since the outset of the current administration, did that to send a strong political signal to the presidency that it would not be trampled upon by the presidency any longer.
The presidency has said it would continue to engage the lawmakers to persuade them to approve the external borrowing plan.