Femi Falana, Segun Oni, Ayo Arise: How will Buhari replace Kayode Fayemi in his cabinet?

Kayode Fayemi

The Ekiti state governorship elections will take place on the 14th of July and Kayode Fayemi is a candidate running on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. Already, the verbal fireworks have been elevated to the point where the outgoing governor, Ayo Fayose, has declared his most immediate predecessor unsuitable for a return to the Ado-Ekiti governor’s lodge on the basis of his character and record from his previous tenure.

To run for Fayose’s seat, Kayode Fayemi has left his position as the Minister of Mines and Steel Development after two years and seven months. One of those appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari following a six month period of wrangling and indecision within the APC, Fayemi, like his erstwhile colleagues still part of the cabinet, did not hit the ground running. The man he is seeking to replace in his home state has regularly provided a steady stream of distraction in forms of corruption allegations and threats of a probe. Then, there are the still existent fragilities within the ruling party of which Fayemi is a founding member and egghead, hence, increasing the demand on his time and attention. However, he has been favorably rated after two years on the job in comparison to most other Ministers who have been largely uninspiring.

Kayode Fayemi was appointed by Buhari to the cabinet as part of an A-list of opposition veterans whose presence would sure up the inaugural federal executive council to be formed by a party once on the wrong side of the Abuja Power Play. With Rotimi Amaechi, Babatunde Fashola, Lai Mohammed and Ogbonnaya Onu, Fayemi’s presence at Wednesday FEC meetings as well as at the defence of budgets before the National Assembly (one not exactly obsequious to the Executive) was to put up a formidable wall of resistance worth its weight in political gold, that would provide a dependable platform for President Buhari to operate, navigate and evade. To the extent that no one of this class of Ministers (or any other for that matter) has been fired or changed since 2015, the wall has to be praised as holding forth strongly. While Buhari was twice away for long periods to the irritation of many across the country, Kayode Fayemi proved to be capable of keeping guard of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to act as president. There was no body language that seemed uncomfortable with President Buhari’s extended stay especially given Fayose, from Ekiti, threw the heaviest stones envisioned at Buhari’s capitation.

And after confirming his departure from the cabinet, Fayemi’s send-off could not have come at a more important moment, having contributed to the cause leading up to the historic announcement made by President Buhari this June. The recognition of June 12 as the official Democracy Day and conferment of the GCFR honor posthumously to MKO Abiola has been rightly hailed as an ode to the will of the Nigerian people in determinedly desiring democracy twenty-five years ago. But while everyone shares in the glory, it cannot be denied that some particular persons led the coalitions that sustained the symbolism of the stolen mandate especially through the five tumultuous Sani Abacha years. Fayemi – whose Ekiti state was created by Abacha in 1996 – was one of such persons and it is only fitting that he has been part of the administration that made the daring attempt to re-write the wrong.

How then do you replace such a utility player in your team approaching the final quarter of a must win game with the balance of play not firmly under your control?

“We are going to work very hard to fill his space in the executive council so that we keep on exploiting more and more of our solid minerals and less politicizing of our petroleum resources”. That was President Buhari’s homage to the exiting Minister, supposedly praising Fayemi for some a turnaround in Nigeria’s commitment to creating more value from the immensity of natural resources buried under literally every pound of soil within these borders. But Nigeria has not been “exploiting more and more of our solid minerals” in the past three years if illegal mining proceeds unabated and the restoration of THAT steel company remains an illusion. If it is merely about the expertise to continue the job, the President could very easily let the Minister of state, Hon Abubakar Bawa Bwari, fill in just as Ibrahim Jubril has been doing at the Ministry of Environment since the departure of Amina Mohammed to the United Nations. Bwari has been handed over to by Fayemi but going by Buhari’s words, “working hard to fill his space” may have more to do with his political capital however.

What this means is that the door would be open to one more Ministerial appointment on the cabinet before the 2019 general elections. Actually, there has to be one going by the federal character rule that requires a Minister to be chosen from every state in the country. With the coming elections reasonably a priority, any choice to be made will be one capable of generating support for the President from Ekiti state or – should Fayemi become governor – work with him to ensure the state’s voters turn out for Buhari next February. Considerations of political value, in tandem with the need for stability, could rule out some of the more popular names from the state, especially those who contested the APC’s governorship ticket with Fayemi.

Would that make it possible for a Femi Falana, until now without a political appointment, to move to Abuja to take an office? The popular lawyer, who turned 60 in May, has been one of the Executive’s most vocal defenders in the last three years and it would not be out of place if he has been sounded out. But it will not be straightforward, if unlikely. Falana has, within the last month, taken up a case against the Buhari administration as counsel for the Bring Back Our Girls group to challenge the Government’s ban on their protests.

It may then come down to simply opting for a temporary good fit willing to last the cause of the campaigns till next May 29, after which, should Buhari be returned, a shuffle should produce a revised version of the core wall.

Technically, Kayode Fayemi could still return to Abuja to continue the role he now leaves as a major brick in that wall if things do not work out as planned in four Saturdays time. Till then, recruitment will now be underway for capable talent to play in his wing.



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