Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua will Thursday officially inaugurate his new cabinet, nearly two months after he took over from President Olusegun Obasanjo. The senate approved the cabinet nominees about two days ago. Some have criticized the long delay in naming the new government, saying it might have hurt productivity and continuity in some key sectors of the government.
Professor Kabir Mato is head of the political science department at the University of Abuja. He told VOA that President Yar’Adua’s new cabinet is a mixture of old but mostly new individuals.
“What’s going to happen today is that the president will be formally swearing in those that have been cleared by the senate and assigned portfolios. There are quite a lot of them that are very prominent, especially those that are from the last government, notable among them are people like Dr. Ruma (Abba), Dr. Hassan Lawal, as well as Halimat Alao. Apart from them, there are quite a lot of other very distinguished Nigerians that have been nominated to serve in the government,” he said.
Mato said some of the old names might have been reappointed by Yar’Adua not for the purpose of continuing the Obasanjo era but because of their individual qualifications.
“Quite a lot of those that have been returned were ministers that did not stay for a very long time. They were appointed by General Obasanjo toward the end of his administration. In most cases, they represent a very brilliant crop of young Nigerians that I think Nigerians will not have much problem in their returning to the government,” Mato said.
He agreed with some critics who say that the nearly two months it took for Yar’Adua to form his government might have impacted some key sectors of the country like the economy. But Mato said President Yar’Adua is a person who likes to do things methodically.
“I think the delay has tremendously impacted on the need to deliver services to the people in good time. On the other hand, I think to those who have a fair idea of who President Yar’Adua is, he’s not a Russian per se; he’s not an individual that likes doing things in a hasty manner. He loves taking his time even at the expense of so many crucial national issues. And I think this must have informed his decision to really take his time and then wait for the political parties in various states as well as state governments to make their nominations that have finally culminated into this assembly of men and women that are going to be sworn in today,” Mato said.
Yar’Adua was handpicked by President Obasanjo as his successor. But while acknowledging speculations that the former president might have had his hand in the selection of Yar’Adua’s cabinet, Mato said the trend of the senate confirmation of the nominees did not support such speculations.
“That’s a very popular view in Nigeria. But the confirmation from the senate two days ago confirmed that one of the major nominations of the president was rejected roundly by the senate. So you can see that in as much as we want to believe that the delay was caused by General Obasanjo, the constitution of the cabinet does not seem to suggest that there is a lot of intervention or interference from the former president,” Mato said.