If President Bola Tinubu needed any reminder of the role his cabinet members and other appointees will play in resetting Nigeria’s struggling economy, the financial market’s reaction to the suspension of Godwin Emefiele as the governor of the central bank, provided a glimpse.
Suspension of the head of Nigeria’s most powerful agency not only triggered the biggest gain in the country’s stock market in 15 years, it also caused the country’s dollar-denominated bonds to rally by the most this year while the naira posted a rare gain in the parallel market.
Emefiele had adopted unorthodox monetary policies that spooked investors and ended up doing the economy more harm than good. His removal is considered a necessary precondition to shift to a functioning monetary policy and exchange rate regime.
The ex-CBN’s boss example shows that sometimes, getting it right in Nigeria is as simple as getting the right people in. That’s why the make-up of Tinubu’s cabinet is the next test before the 71-year-old after ending the country’s long-standing addiction to costly petrol subsidies and suspending Emefiele.
Business leaders and investors say Tinubu’s cabinet will send the clearest signal yet of what his administration holds for Nigeria’s wobbling economy.
Tinubu has assured that competence rather than politics will shape his selection of ministers. He doesn’t have a choice. Nigeria’s dire health demands a team of competent individuals who have the vision and capacity to breathe life into the ailing country.
Tinubu’s decision of who leads key ministries from finance to trade & investment will be key for the economy even as his appointment of a new CBN governor will be decisive.
To capture the work ahead for the next ministers of finance as well as trade and investment, Nigeria is contending with low revenues and a mounting debt burden that is piling pressure on public finances. Foreign investment into the economy has also slumped with foreign direct investment (FDI) sliding to a six-year low.
“With the petrol subsidy gone and the new administration signaling a shift in monetary policy, the next big test for Tinubu is who he selects to form his cabinet,” a leading investor in Nigeria said.
Several other investors and analysts also told BusinessDay that the new trigger for the markets will be the choice of President Tinubu’s team.
With Godswill Akpabio emerging as Senate president on Tuesday, Tinubu’s cabinet is closer to being formed.
All that was standing in the way of announcing his much-anticipated team of ministers was the formation of the 10th Senate and with that over the line, there are expectations that Tinubu will unveil his team any moment from now.
The two appointments Tinubu has made so far signal his commitment to selecting ministers based on competence. He picked Femi Gbajabiamila, former speaker of the House of Representatives, as his chief of staff, and George Akume, as secretary to the government.
However, appointing ministers solely on competence won’t be that easy for Tinubu whose Aso-Rock residence has been besieged by several politicians in the last week as intense lobbying continues ahead of the formation of his cabinet.
The president has since his assumption devoted extra time to meeting politicians, who played active roles during his campaigns, as well as members of the opposition parties.
Tinubu has also met with Rabiu Kwankwaso, the leader of the Kwankwasia movement and leader of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Unlike the previous cases when new administrations were not guided on such appointments, a bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari compels the president and the 36 state governors to nominate their cabinet members, ministers and commissioners as the case may be, within the first 60 days of assumption of office.
The bill specifically means that President Tinubu and all the 36 governors must submit lists of nominees for ministers and commissioners respectively before the end of July.
As part of the consultations, the president also embarked on a series of meetings with the state governors and national assembly members, in preparation for the inauguration of the lawmakers and subsequent submission of ministerial lists.
The president also met with former Governor Nyesom Wike-led members of the Integrity Group, also known as “G5 Governors”, three times within one week.
The Wike-led group comprises Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and former Governors Okezie Ikpeazu, of Abia, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi- of Enugu, and Samuel Ortom of Benue.
Prior to this, Wike had earlier visited the State House in the company of James Ibori, former governor of Delta State and Governor Seyi Markinde of Oyo State.
Wike’s visits are said to be a continuation of his pre-election romance with Tinubu when he was the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
BusinessDay gathered that these visits may not be unconnected with the ongoing intense lobbying for political offices, ahead of the submission of the president’s ministerial list to the National Assembly.
The president had earlier met with Siminalayi Fubara, governor of Rivers State, Peter Mba of Enugu of State, as well as governors of Plateau and Akwa Ibom states, Caleb Mutfwang and Umo Eno, respectively, as he continues consultation for his ministerial list.
For the purposes of political expediency, state governors are expected to have inputs into the choice of those to represent their states as political appointees at the federal level.
The president is expected to announce a list of 42 ministers that will represent the 36 states, with extra six representing each of the six geopolitical zones, soon after the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 13, 2023.
Adetokumbo Kayode, a former minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation (AGF), urged the president to “put square pegs in square holes.”
“There are well qualified Nigerians who can effectively occupy these offices and I have confidence that the president will put square pegs in square holes,” Kayode said.
“He is coming from a rich background with sound knowledge in politics and administration, so we do not have any fears that he will get it right this time around,” he added.