By Gbenga Olorunpomi
More than six months after taking the Oath of Office and pledging to bring much-needed change to Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari finally swore in 36 men and women as ministers to complete the formation of his government this month.
The intrigues and permutations that preceded the event were as interesting as they were unpredictable. The President kept his cards close to his chest all through the process and no one could tell who was getting what portfolio. Like a proper intelligence master, no one could read his play until the very last second.
When President Buhari finally read out his list of ministers and their portfolios, barely a few eyebrows were raised; while some were in disappointment, most were in surprise.
For the people of South-West Nigeria, those eyebrows must have been raised in uncommon delight and towering optimism. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the region was given some of the most critical ministries in public service. In essence, the President has acknowledged the region that has produced the highest number of intellectuals in the country by giving it the responsibility to lead Nigeria to greater heights.
A look at federal cabinets since the return of democracy shows that this is the first time the South-West region would be so anchored with such a magnitude of responsibility. Between 1999 and 2003, seven men from the region were picked to be ministers. Only four were allotted critical ministries: Education -Tunde Adeniran, (June 1999–February 2001) Babalola Borishade, (February 2001– May 2003), Power and Steel – Bola Ige and Segun Agagu (June 1999–Jan 2000 and 2000-2003, respectively) and Attorney-General – Bola Ige (Jan 2000–2002). None of the aforementioned individuals spent a full four-year term in their respective portfolios.
Again, between 2003 and 2007, three men from the South-West shared a significant portfolio. The Works and Housing Ministry was headed by three men at different times Adeseye Ogunlewe, (July 2003–March 2006) Obafemi Anibaba (March 2006–Sep 2006) and Cornelius Adebayo (Sep 2006–Jan 2007). The latter previously held sway at the Communications Ministry between July 2003 and August 2006.
The following individuals held critical positions in the 6th and 7th republics: Ademola Seriki -Minister of State, Defence; Remi Babalola – Minister of State, Finance; Prof B. Osotimehin – Minister of Health; Olusegun Aganga – Minister of Finance; Erelu Obada – Minister of State, Defence; Omobola Johnson – Minister of Communication Technology.
When you compare all those past quotas for the South-West with those currently on President Buhari’s cabinet, there is a remarkable difference in the weight of the portfolio and expectation placed on the region.
Former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) (Lagos): Federal Minister for Power, Works and Housing
Former Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi (Ph.D.) (Ekiti): Federal Minister for Solid Minerals
Former Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Kemi Osun (Ogun): Federal Minister for Finance
Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Isaac Folorunsho (Osun): Federal Minister for Health
Former Attorney-General and Oyo State Commissioner for Justice, Adebayo Shittu (Oyo): Federal Minister for Communications
Prof. Omoyele Daramola (Ondo) – State Minister for Niger-Delta.
With these appointments, the president is clearly telling the Yoruba people to take the lead and deploy their widely-revered brainpower and work ethics to the betterment of all Nigerians. This is a call to action for the people of deep reasoning to contribute immensely to the polity and make Nigeria a model for success stories that Lagos State has become under successive progressive leaderships. All the people of the region must now look beyond party and religious affiliations and support these great ambassadors with ideas, information, contacts and prayers to make their efforts seamless and fruitful. Who knows if one of these six will be in prime position to be President soon?