President Bola Tinubu did not attach portfolios to the ministerial list sent to the Senate so he could have the latitude of freedom to tinker with it if necessary.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, made this disclosure in an interview with correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday, explaining that why it would have been the best idea, fixing portfolios to the names will cause problems if the President changes his mind after they have been screened.
Asked why portfolios were not attached, he said: “Yes, I mean for me that would have been one way to go about it. It would have been a welcome development. As good as that sounds it straight-jacket the President to pigeonhole one person in an office or the other.
“What happens then if you change your mind? Do you then bring the person back for screening again, because the President is at liberty to change your mind?
“For instance, if I decide I want somebody as Minister of Labour, and then after setting the name, later on, I decide that, you know what, I didn’t know this about this person, this person would actually be better with another portfolio.
“And meanwhile, the senate has screened that person for that particular initial portfolio, what happens then? Do you now rescreen the person?
“So, a lot of these things have their merits and demerits, advantages and disadvantages.
“I like the idea of attaching portfolios, I actually do, because it makes it necessary for the Senate to know exactly what you’re asking and what you’re looking for.
“But for now, it’s been thought wise that we stick to the tradition of sending the names and then whilst the screening processes going on allowing the Mr. President and his team to to look at the portfolios and the characters and see how they fit.
“The first step that he has done is that these are people that can work wherever you put them, except these specialized fields like attorney general and what have you.”
“But in the main in most of the portfolios, he believes most of them can fit in anywhere. And what’s important is also that the Mr. President intends to separate portfolios or restructure the ministries in such a way you might be hearing of new ministries that were not standalone ministries before. So the process continues.”
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The Chief of Staff observed that the nominees have a good balance as according to him, President Tinubu took him time to assess them.
He added: “Well, first of all, I mean, I’m sure you all know that the government is not fully formed until a cabinet is in place. And that process started a while ago culminating in the delivery of ministerial nominees today.
“The President took his time, spent a lot of time going through, did a lot of due diligence, going through the nominees one by one.
“As you know he had 60 days from the time of inauguration, as stipulated in the Constitution. He has fulfilled that requirement of the Constitution by submitting 28 names today.
“As his letter stated, and was read on the floor of the Senate, the remainder names, not sure how many, probably about 12, maybe 13, will be forwarded to the Senate in the coming days.
“As far as the nominees themselves are concerned, and like I said, Mr. President took his time to sift through those names. He dissected those names with a fine tooth comb. And that’s what you’ve seen. Each and every one, I believe, of the persons on that list are worth being on that list.”
“But I really hope that we haven’t missed anything that would have necessitated any name not been on that list. But we wait and see. It’s a good mix of both people with political acumen and technocrats.”
“So, this is a good balance and it’s needed. These are people who have keyed in to the vision and mission of Mr. President. Like I said, it’s a good balance needed to move the country forward, as Mr. President is eager to do and has already started doing.”
Gbajabiamila expressed confidence that in the next few weeks, the new ministers would hit the ground running, hinting that they would even begin work in some ways before their clearance and inauguration.
The Chief of Staff explained: “Well, like I said, it’s a process. And we’re in the middle of the process now. As far as Mr. President is concerned, he has his cabinet. I’m sure there will be those who will be working behind the scenes, giving him advice, you know, even now, before confirmation in anticipation of confirmation, because there’s no time to waste, not a day. Every day is important to this government.”
“So, I mean, they may not start fully officially until they are confirmed, but I’m sure they will still continue to contribute advice here and there to Mr. President.
“Even before I fully assumed officially, my office as the Chief of Staff, I was doing some skeletal work and advise to Mr. President as his presumptive chief of staff.
“For all intents and purposes, work should start in earnest for them in the next week or two because I don’t see the Senate wasting too much time in the confirmation, not because they’re not going to do a thorough job, they will do a thorough job. But they will balance it with the knowledge that in this time that we are in time is of the essence.”
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