NIGERIA: EDO cabinet, waiting for Oshiomhole

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Governor Oshiomhole has received praises from far and wide for being a man of action whether on labour issues or service delivery in Edo State. The governor, however, has shown not much action in forming his next cabinet. Why?

THE issue of the spectacular milestones recorded by Governor Adams Oshiomhole in delivering democracy dividends to the people of Edo State is certainly not in doubt.

In achieving the milestones the governor was aided by several lieutenants in the guise of commissioners, special advisers, personal assistants and several others.

However, Oshiomhole was the central figure in the achievement of the projects that have received commendation from far and wide.

This fact has been buttressed by the fact that a substantial proportion of the aides who worked with the governor in his first term were carried over from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP regime led by Chief Lucky Igbinendion which has generally been flayed for very poor performance.

However, more than two months after his second term inauguration, and six months after his decisive re-election, the action governor is yet to make action in appointing a cabinet.

Given the pace of work and the famed tightness of the comrade governor in sharing the people’s patrimony among political office holders, it would be shocking that the issue of who makes the Oshiomhole cabinet remains an issue in the state capital, Benin City.

Remarkably, a number of commissioners, especially those who came in from high paying jobs were reported to have complained about the alleged downturn in their personal finances in the course of the tour of duty in the state.

Two of them left the cabinet midstream, though after making significant imprints to the Oshiomhole agenda.

“My Commissioners and Advisers were the least paid in the country because we tried to save money and they did not get full salary for the month of November when they were relieved of their appointments,” Oshiomhole himself confessed during a thank you dinner for the former commissioners earlier this month.

Even with the alleged dryness, many of those who served in the previous cabinet are still looking up to the Comrade Governor for a second term. Observers have pointed to the fact that virtually all those who served in the previous cabinet are still desirous for service. Like ministerial hopefuls in Britain who hang around the telephone immediately after a general election waiting for the customary telephone call from the victorious Prime Minister, nearly all of the former commissioners are still hanging around in Benin-City waiting for a call from the comrade-governor!

But what is delaying the comrade governor?
Given his performance during the first tenure of his administration, there were expectations that shortly after his landslide victory in the July 2012 governorship election; he would have set up a transition committee to look into the constitution of a new cabinet among others to sustain the process.

Although Governor Oshiomhole in his usual characteristic way has since embarked on the monitoring of projects across the state, the opinion of many people is that the governor is not settled in office until a cabinet list is submitted to and approved by the State House of Assembly.

Why appointment of commissioners is delayed
Several reasons have been adduced for the delay, chief among which is the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last gubernatorial election, Maj- General Charles Airhiavbere against the re-election of the governor. Some political observers saw the petition as a distraction to the governor who may have adopted the wait and see attitude before constituting his cabinet.

Another reason given is the prolonged holiday of the State House of Assembly. The comrade governor gave an inclination to that fact during the thank you dinner for members of the former cabinet when he disclosed that the list of commissioners would be submitted to the assembly once the legislators resume next Monday.

However, Mr. Austine Osakue, the chief executive officer of Foundation for Good Governance and Critical Action, while also citing the holiday of the lawmakers also cited the endorsement of the elders of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and godfathers in the selection of the would-be commissioners may have contributed to the delay

Delay not hindering governance – state govt
But the Special Adviser to the governor on Media Affairs, Prince Kassim Afegbua said the delay in constituting the State Executive Council had not in any way hindered the performance of the Oshiomhole administration.

His words: “There is no delay. Government is a process and until the processes are concluded, you don’t get to the final conclusions of issues. First, as a party based on democracy, expectations are that you allow your party structure and institution of the party and platform to commence the process of choosing those to represent the various local governments that would serve as commissioners in the cabinet.

“Once the party finishes, they present their positions through the party chairman to the governor, then, the governor will now present the list to the Assembly and the Assembly will invite those persons for interview and screening to see whether they are worthy to be so appointed into office”.

“So as we speak, the party has just concluded its own position and it is the governor who will now communicate to the House and the House is on recess until 28th January’ 2013 when they will resume and receive the list and commence the process of screening those candidates. From there, the appointment of those persons would be made. So, give or take by the first week of February we hope that there will be a constituted state executive council”.

Afegbua who insisted that the absence of Commissioners does not stop governmental functions, explained that there were ministries in place headed by Permanent Secretaries, and that some critical functionaries of government including the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) were already in place.

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