Punch Newspaper - Following the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, leading members of the All Progressives Congress from the South-East have renewed their interest in the top job.
Saturday PUNCH gathered in Abuja, on Friday that the position of the SGF was unlikely to return to the North -East should the Osinbajo committee find Lawal guilty and the President relieves him of his appointment.
This has not dampened the enthusiasm of other contenders from the North -East zone.
It was learnt that in the unlikely event that the President decides that the slot remains in the zone, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan are among top contenders.
While Kingibe hails from Borno State, Lawan hails from Yobe State. Those routing for the one time Presidential running mate to late Chief MKO Abiola, argue that he is already playing a role behind the scene and that making him SGF will be an added advantage.
Kingibe was appointed as SGF by late former President Umaru Yar’Adua in June 2007 and fired from the post on September 8, 2008 for allegedly spreading rumours about the Yar’Adua’s state of health.
Lawan on the other hand is seen as a loyal party member who is one of the few lawmakers who have been in the National Assembly since 2007.
A high ranking member of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said, “I am not a soothsayer but I do know that the President has strong ties to the North -East politically.
“The North -East as a political entity has remained loyal; Buhari appreciates and rewards loyalty. Besides, he is committed to rebuilding the area after the Boko Haram crisis. In any case, who says he cannot choose to give it to Adams Oshiomhole (ex-Edo State governor)? it is entirely up to him.”
Asked if the party has been consulted to make nominations the source said, “Not to the best of my knowledge.”
However, party loyalists from the South- East believe ceding the position to them will give the zone a greater sense of belonging.
Top contenders for the job from the South-East include: the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige and his Science and Technology counterpart, Ogbonnaya Onu, who hail from Anambra and Ebonyi states respectively.
A high ranking member of the party from the zone, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because, “I don’t want to pre-empt the Osinbajo committee”, said, the South- East deserves a greater sense of belonging.
He said, “For now, the position has not been declared vacant. However, whenever it becomes vacant, the South- East like every other part of this great country deserves a shot at it.
“We have competent men and women who can take up the challenge when given the opportunity. Should Mr. President deem it fit to appoint someone from the South-East, it will go a long way in dispelling the baseless rumour that he hates the zone and is punishing us for not voting for him massively like other zones did in 2015.”
When contacted, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, explained that there is no denying the fact that the President is trying his best to give all parts of the country a true sense of belonging. He said while he would not want to dabble into the matter of the position of the SGF, “No matter what anybody says, the truth of the matter is that there is a silent revolution being propelled by President Muhammadu Buhari, aimed at prosperous and progressive society going on in Nigeria.
“Like any silent revolution, it sips in like water. This is what majority of Ndigbo have identified, resulting in the surge into the All Progressives Congress and support for Mr. President, hence the exodus from the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Grand Alliance from the South-East.
“The entrants are more anxious, more passionate, and kind of remorseful; because they were misled into the falsehood that President Buhari will Islamise the country; he will construct only federal roads and other critical infrastructure in the north.
“Today, the 2015 general election had come and gone, Buhari has not Islamised Nigeria. He has gone to revive abandoned critical infrastructure in the East, West, North and South. Don’t forget, with the little which accrued to our treasury, he has demonstrated an uncommon foundation for transparency and accountability.”
Reacting to the development, a Kano State delegate to the 2014 National Conference, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said, the idea that the position of SGF could be zoned as part of the political arrangement was a very dangerous thing started by (President) Obasanjo.
According to him, President Buhari has built on the dangerous precedent set by Obasanjo but that he now has a rare opportunity to correct this error.
Mohammed said, “Buhari has a chance now to return honour to the position of the office of the SGF by taking it back to the civil service where it truly belongs. There has to be a basis for connecting a holder of that office to the main civil service, I still believe if Buhari is sincere, he should return the position to the civil service irrespective of the political loyalties of the person being considered because the job is essentially a civil service job.
“I have nothing but contempt for most of the names being mentioned and I believe appointing them will be another serious mistake, there are people who are not being mentioned that have compelling credentials.”
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, had in an interview on Thursday, said Lawal’s suspension was a journey to his total removal.
He had said, “I think the suspensions are inevitable, and in my view, they are a journey to total disengagement.
“The SGF is a top member of the administration. He should have known that for him to award a contract to his own company is absolutely prohibited by the Code of Conduct and the Constitution. What he was doing was illegal and unconstitutional.
“The worse is that he didn’t even award the contract for relevant activity such as for food, rather it was for grass cutting, which is totally unrelated to the needs of this people for very basic life-saving materials.”