President Muhammadu Buhari and his close aides are in a dilemma over the fate of his political appointees who may resign in droves if he signs the Electoral Bill 2022 transmitted to him by the National Assembly on January 31.
The provision that makes it mandatory for political appointees who want to run for office in 2023 to resign is seen as a clog in the wheel of the electoral law currently before the president for assent.
But these appointees, do not want to resign because it is not certain that they will get back their positions if they lose the primary elections.
At least four ministers and a number of personalities heading Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) may be affected by this development.
“(10) No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.
“(11) Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.
“(12) Notwithstanding the provisions of this act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this act and the guidelines of a political party have not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election may apply to the Federal High Court for redress.
“(13) Nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general elections under this act pending the determination of a suit.”
The president had withheld assent to the Electoral Bill 2021 transmitted to him on November 19, 2021, to allow each political party determine its mode of selecting candidates for election through options of direct, indirect primary and consensus.
The president has several political appointees currently manning several MDAs who will be affected by the amended law when signed into law.
These political appointees include 43 ministers, special advisers, senior special assistants, special assistants and heads of government agencies holding sensitive positions that make it difficult for open declaration of their ambitions.
Some of these political appointees are currently being touted as contenders for presidential, governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives seats ahead of the 2023 general elections.
For instance, the names of the ministers of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; as well as Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; are being mentioned as the contenders for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Similarly, the ministers of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare; as well as the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, are being mentioned as the governorship aspirants in Katsina, Gombe, Edo, Oyo and Kebbi states respectively.
Although Mr Amaechi has not declared publicly that he wants to run for president, groups and close aides have been campaigning for him.
A chieftain of the APC and former national publicity secretary of nPDP, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, recently said in a statement that the Coalition of Northern Youths for Good Governance had endorsed the minister to succeed President Buhari in 2023 to back the views of the North on him.
“As Nigerians await his formal declaration, Eze commends the Daura Emirate Council and the Africa Blue Economy Forum for rewarding competence by finding Amaechi fit for the turbaning and award investiture and calls on all and sundry to keep praying for the enthronement of a man with the right frame of mind, perception and sound leadership mentality as Nigeria’s next president in 2023, while suing for patience to allow the committee comprising some of the best brains in Nigeria set up to develop a strategic action plan to revive and rescue Nigerians from insecurity and poverty in line with the vision and mission of Amaechi to achieve his type of Nigeria that will stand out in the comity of nations to complete their task and for Amaechi to act accordingly,” the statement added.
Unlike Amaechi, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said he would declare his presidential ambition in April.
The chieftain of the APC stated this in Awka, the Anambra State capital, during the empowerment of some graduate trainees in the state.
While the minister of science and technology has equally not opened up on his aspiration, various groups that cut across the country have been rooting for him ahead of 2023.
Although the minister of works and housing has not formally announced his decision to contest the 2023 presidency, he has been listed among the qualified personalities in the South West that can succeed President Buhari.
Also, among the heads of key government agencies being touted as possible presidential aspirants is the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
A political group, The Green Alliance (TGA), recently launched an initiative in Lagos asking him to contest.
Wale Fapohunda, convener of the group, told the gathering that since Emefiele’s appointment as CBN governor he had spent his energy building a resilient financial system that could serve the growth and development needs of the Nigerian economy.
At the states level, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, is being touted as a key contender for the governorship seat of Kaduna State.