BY ALEXIS AKWAGYIRAM
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen a cabinet dominated by political veterans, opting to strengthen his power base rather than surround himself with technocrats who could overhaul Africa’s biggest economy.
Buhari won March’s election on promises to usher in a new era in the West African nation where a rich elite has controlled key state jobs for half a century. Most Nigerians live in poverty despite the enormous oil wealth of Africa’s top producer.
The former military ruler had asked Nigerians to be patient and get ready for “change” as he took four months to pick his cabinet while a plunge in oil prices triggered the worst economic crisis for decades.
But in the end the 72-year-old has selected many familiar faces – those who helped him win the election and some who had hoped for jobs at a national level since he first ran for office in 2003.
Out of 36 nominated ministers, about 20 are veterans from Buhari’s party, former state governors, ministers or associates from his military career. A dozen could be classified as ‘technocrats’.
“It is a cabinet that seems to have been drawn from different interests that brought Buhari to power,” said Clement Nwankwo, director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, a think-tank in Abuja.
Buhari will unveil portfolios only after the Senate has approved his list.
But his nominations show a desire to close ranks in his All Progressives Congress (APC), an alliance of powerful Nigerians united by a desire to remove the People’s Democratic Party of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan rather than a shared vision.
While he promised during the election campaign to take on the establishment in order to root out corruption, Buhari’s priority was to overcome APC divisions and reward allies such as party spokesman Lai Mohammed with cabinet jobs, analysts say.
To reinforce his power base, Buhari has even taken on the controversial figure of his campaign manager, former Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi, who has been accused of corruption. Amaechi has denied the accusations.
“It was the political trade-offs which definitely cost a lot of time. There was internal wrangling within Buhari’s party,” said Bismarck Rewane, CEO of Lagos consultancy Financial Derivatives.
As a result, most ministers have had careers that span decades making Kemi Adeosun, a 48-year-old former investment banker and one of the technocrats, his youngest nominee.
Other prominent veterans include Babatunde Fashola, former governor of the commercial capital Lagos, who won praise for getting infrastructure projects off the ground but also criticism for clearing slums. Read full on Reuters