Lost out

Nigeria: How Fani-Kayode, Faleke and others failed to make Tinubu’s cabinet  

By Eniola Akinkuotu

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Posted on August 8, 2023 09:00

 © File photo of Nigeria President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (C)  in Lagos, Nigeria. (Reuters/Joe Penney)
File photo of Nigeria President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (C) in Lagos, Nigeria. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

With President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet now set, we take a look at 10 key politicians who failed to make his ministerial list, and the politics behind the decision. 

After victory come the spoils of war. This has been the tradition in Nigeria since its independence in 1960.

It applies as much to democratically elected administrations as it did to the country’s military juntas, where civilians and senior military officials who played key roles in coups were rewarded with cabinet appointments and those who made sacrifices were compensated.

Following Bola Tinubu’s inauguration as president on 29 May, 2023, many names have been mentioned for his cabinet due to the roles they played in the campaigns.  

Nigeria’s constitution states that each of the 36 states must produce at least one minister. However, the need to satisfy some political interests and strike a balance has led the president to nominate 48 people. These include major opposition politician Nyesom Wike, who played a role in Tinubu’s victory. 

With the screening by the Senate now over, we take a look at the also-rans: the key figures who failed to make the highly coveted ministerial list

James Faleke 

A native of Kogi State, although currently representing Lagos State in the House of Representatives, Faleke was a major driver of Tinubu’s campaign. 

A year before Tinubu revealed his intention to contest, Faleke set up the Tinubu Support Group (TSG), a coalition of hundreds of Tinubu campaign groups, and rented a campaign office in upscale Maitama, Abuja, on behalf of Tinubu. 

He also picked up the presidential nomination form for the All Progressives Congress (APC) on behalf of Tinubu and filled it in for him. The lawmaker was subsequently appointed as secretary of the campaign and became the ‘go to guy’ during electioneering. 

After Tinubu’s inauguration, the federal lawmaker had unfettered access to the presidential villa, Aso Rock, and was seen in many photos with the new president, thereby sparking rumours that he would be appointed as chief of staff. However, Tinubu settled for former House of Representatives speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. 

Following Faleke’s failure to clinch the chief-of-staff position, many assumed that he would be compensated with a ministerial nomination, but this turned out to be false. Shuaibu Abubakar Audu, the son of the late former Governor Abubakar Audu, was picked as the consensus ministerial nominee by Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who needs to deliver the November governorship election to the APC. In the end, Faleke was left to retain his former position as chairman of the House Committee on Finance. 

Kayode Fayemi 

Many expected the former governor of Ekiti State, who stepped down for Tinubu at the presidential primary of the APC, to become the next foreign affairs minister. Fayemi, who had previously served as minister of mines and steel, has close ties with the diplomatic corps in Nigeria. 

The expert on war studies also played a key role in drafting Tinubu’s manifesto. However, he was edged out by Dele Alake, a long-time friend and spokesman for the president who also hails from Ekiti State. Fayemi’s suitability for the job was also undermined by some of the president’s key men, who felt his loyalty to Tinubu could not be guaranteed. 

Femi Fani-Kayode 

Femi Fani-Kayode, a highly controversial ex-minister, served as a spokesman for the presidential campaign. Seen by many as over-zealous, he came down hard on Tinubu’s critics, raining expletives on them online. 

His constant attacks on the opposition drew the attention of Ben Llewellyn-Jones, British deputy high commissioner to Nigeria, who called for restraint. But Fani-Kayode rained insults on the diplomat. Sources tell The Africa Report that the ex-minister, who is facing several corruption charges in court, lost out because he was seen as an outsider in the party and too controversial. 

He lobbied for a position but lost the ministerial slot to Gboyega Oyetola, a former governor and cousin of the president. 

Babatunde Fashola 

Babatunde Fashola is a known name in Nigerian politics having served as chief of staff to Tinubu when the latter was governor of Lagos in the early 2000s. Fashola then succeeded Tinubu as governor, serving for eight years. In 2015, he was appointed minister of works by President Muhammadu Buhari and held the position for another eight years. 

When Tinubu emerged as APC presidential candidate, Fashola did many media rounds trying to convince voters why Tinubu was the best candidate. On election day, he was in charge of the party’s situation room, monitoring and ensuring that everything went according to plan. 

However, when Fashola failed to make the ministerial list, sources confirmed to The Africa Report that his relationship with Tinubu was not as close as before, adding that the politics of Lagos did not favour Fashola, who was not “generous” to Tinubu’s loyalists while he was in office. 

Dayo Adeyeye 

A year prior to the election, Adeyeye, who is a former senator, set up South West Agenda ’23 (SWAGA 23) which was one of the first support groups for Tinubu. He held street processions in honour of Tinubu long before the president declared his intention to contest. 

During this period, Adeyeye was engaged in a fierce battle with Fayemi, who was also planning to contest as well. However, Adeyeye, who has never been a member of Tinubu’s kitchen cabinet, was edged out during the campaigns. 

He lost out to Tinubu’s ally, Dele Alake, in the race for the Ekiti ministerial slot. He is expected to be compensated with another appointment. 

Ben Ayade 

Professor Ben Ayade – the immediate past governor of Cross River State – was a prominent member of Tinubu’s campaign council by virtue of his position. During the campaigns, however, there was a crisis in the Cross River chapter of the party after Ayade handpicked Bassey Otu as his preferred candidate. This was rejected by Senator John Owan-Enoh. 

Tinubu appealed to Owan-Enoh not to be discouraged and promised to reward him in future, to which he obliged. Meanwhile, Ayade was also contesting for senator in the state. Ayade lost his senatorial bid and then began lobbying for a ministerial job like other governors who had lost their elections. 

But Tinubu picked Owan-Enoh as his preferred ministerial nominee and Betta Edu, who had the firm support of Tinubu’s wife. 

Rabiu Kwankwaso 

Although a member of the opposition New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Senator Kwankwaso was expected to be on the ministerial list after his surprise visit to Tinubu in Paris. The new president had also promised to inaugurate a “government of national unity”. 

With Kwankwaso the most influential politician in Kano State, which holds the highest number of real voters, many thought that Tinubu would appoint him a minister, just as he had picked Wike, but this was not to be. 

The Africa Report has learned that Kwankwaso’s appointment was vehemently opposed by the APC in Kano State, where their members are being “persecuted” by the Kwankwaso-led NNPP.  

In a bid not to rock the boat, Tinubu gave up his plan to nominate the Kano godfather. 

Bayo Onanuga 

Onanuga, a veteran journalist, was also expected to have been appointed a minister or at least the chief spokesman for the president, given the role he played as the spokesman for Tinubu’s campaign before the presidential primary. 

On social media, Onanuga constantly knocked the president’s opponents, and even lambasted all members of the Igbo ethnic group living in Lagos following the president’s loss in the state. 

He neither made the ministerial list nor the list of media advisers. Sources tell The Africa Report that he will be compensated with another appointment. 

Yemi Cardoso 

Cardoso was a member of Tinubu’s economic team while he was governor of Lagos State, and was is also concurrently a member of Tinubu’s policy advisory team. The former chairman of Citibank, who is very close to the president, has now lost the highly coveted finance minister portfolio to Wale Edun. 

Sources tell The Africa Report that Cardoso is primed to take a top government job like the central bank or another financial agency. 

Aisha Binani 

Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, popularly known as Aisha Binani, is another big name missing from the list. Binani was the governorship candidate of the APC in Adamawa State and came close to becoming Nigeria’s first elected female governor, but she lost to Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP. 

Having lost, she was expected to have been compensated with a ministerial appointment. She has in recent times been facing allegations of election rigging after an unauthorised electoral official announced her as winner. This move almost plunged the state into crisis. 

The incident also affected the popularity of Binani, who had hitherto enjoyed massive support from gender rights groups.  

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