In the wake of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s presidential election win on February 25, expectations soared that the new leader would quickly assemble his cabinet, breaking from the pace of his predecessor, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who took nearly six months to announce his ministers. Despite the initial anticipation, President Tinubu only released his list of 28 ministerial nominees close to the 60-day submission deadline after his swearing-in. Another batch of 19 nominees followed shortly after, totaling 47 names sent to the Senate for confirmation.
The screening process in the Senate was a blend of rigorous scrutiny, drama, and intrigue. Some nominees faced tough questions about their qualifications and past records, while others received a quick pass with the traditional “take a bow and go” gesture. Notably, nominee Bello Muhammed from Sokoto State stirred controversy over his academic qualifications. Another nominee, Prof. Joseph Utsev, raised eyebrows with his claim of starting primary school at three. During the session, tech guru and nominee, Bosun Tijani, faced questions about his past critical tweets on Nigeria.
The varied reactions and approaches by the senators during the screening sessions reflect the complex interplay of politics, personal histories, and the diverse expectations of a nation waiting for effective governance.
The Senate’s screening for ministerial appointments had its fair share of drama and unexpected turns. A significant instance was when former Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, appeared for screening. His previous confrontations with lawmakers came back to haunt him. Senator Darlington Nwokocha from Abia Central voiced concerns over Keyamo’s past actions, especially his alleged disregard for legislative summons and involvement in a controversial employment scheme. Despite these accusations, after a closed-door session, the Senate permitted Keyamo to apologize, after which he was allowed to proceed without further scrutiny.
However, not all went smoothly. Former Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, did not receive confirmation, alongside Abubakar Danlandi from Taraba State and Stella Okotete, former Nexim Bank Managing Director, from Delta State. The Senate cited ongoing “security clearance” as the reason for the delay. Following the non-confirmation, El-Rufai announced his disinterest in the ministerial position and subsequently left the country after meeting with the President.
Overall, the current Senate displayed leniency, with Senate President Akpabio often intervening to ease the process for nominees. This soft approach contrasts sharply with previous Senate sessions where nominees underwent rigorous screenings.