Uncertainty now surrounds the constitution of the next federal cabinet by President Muhammadu Buhari who sources say is keeping All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, ministers, associates and loyalists guessing on who are likely to be part of his team.
The situation notwithstanding, some of the outgoing ministers are lobbying to remain in office.
The president seems to have disappointed some lobbyists who hurriedly flew to London in anticipation of a 12-day break by him.
He was yet to make the trip as at press time.
Sources said yesterday that between three and five ministers who have been members of the President’s Kitchen Cabinet in the last four years may be re-appointed.
One of the ministers was made the chairman of the Finance Committee of the Presidential Campaign Council during the just-concluded general elections.
Investigation by newsmen revealed that it has been difficult for APC leaders including governors, ministers and the president’s associates to know his thinking on his coming cabinet.
Top posts on the card in the jostle or aspiration for cabinet appointments include the Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Finance, Petroleum Resources, Power, Works and Housing, Transportation, Education, Aviation, Budget and National Planning, Defence, Interior and Communications.
It was learnt that despite complaints about the job, about 60 per cent of the current ministers want to serve in the next cabinet.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “No one knows the mindset of the President on how he will constitute the next Federal Executive Council (FEC). The situation is so dicey that those rated as closer to the President in the cabinet cannot authoritatively say whether or not they will be retained.
“Despite reservations, about 60 per cent of the ministers prefer to remain if they have their way. This is why many serving ministers have been lobbying those who have the ears of the President for retention.
“One certain thing is that the new coming FEC will be a cabinet of legacies. The President has been stating it that he wants to leave sustainable legacies behind. He will go for hardworking candidates. He has agreed with his team that time is no longer on his side.
“The President will also, this time around, not condone the idea of some powerful lobbyists and leaders recommending candidates for ministerial appointments. He hardly knew some members of the outgoing FEC.
“Recently, when the President announced that he will be on a vacation in London, some lobbyists embarked on emergency trip to Britain to await his arrival. But the President caught them unawares by delaying his trip. This is the dimension the race for cabinet slots is taking. The President is shutting out lobbyists.
“It is almost concluded that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing might be split into two or three.
“For those who will survive, performance will be the key indicator. These are some of the indices which will guide the President as he had been indicating to a few strategists.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “I think the President will constitute the new cabinet within one month.”
When asked to comment, a presidency source said: “This is a difficult task; nobody can tell you those the President will pick.”
Another influential source, who is fully in the picture of intrigues, opened up to our correspondent a bit, saying: “Most of the ministers will go. There is no doubt that they are begging around to stay but they may not survive the lobbying.
“In spite of the difficulty in predicting Mr. President, there are issues surrounding some offices. As for the Chief of Staff, two ministers are aspiring to displace the present occupant, Abba Kyari, who has enjoyed the backing of the President in the last four years.
“As for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, members of the Kitchen Cabinet see him as harmless with comportment but he does not enjoy the confidence of some members of the First Family.
“The greatest battle is in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources where Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has introduced many initiatives into the Oil and Gas sector. Many forces, including some OPEC leaders, are making a strong case for his retention but the spat between him and the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, is a sore point he is trying to overcome. He may either remain in office or appointed as a Special Adviser to the President.
“Regarding Finance portfolio, some Northern governors are lobbying for the retention of Hajiya Zainab Ahmed but the President has not been forthcoming. It is unclear if he has shopped for another candidate. Although Zainab has been transparent, the challenge is said to be inexperience to manage the office.”
It was learnt last night that the President may dissolve the cabinet on May 22.
“This is the tentative date, “a source in the presidency hinted.
Section 147(1-3) directs the President to appoint at least 36 ministers unless the constitution is amended.
The section reads: “There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.
“Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.
“Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution:
“Provided that in giving effect to the Provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.”