Religion and nepotism: Roundup of the drama that attended 3rd day of #MinisterialScreening
The ministerial screening began on Tuesday, October 13 with 10 ministerial nominees screened on that day. There was some mild drama on the following day when President Muhammadu Buhari withdrew the nomination of a nominee from Niger state, Alhaji Ahmed Musa Ibeto, but the senate went ahead to screen 8 other nominees that day.
Against general expectations, chairman of the senate committee on media, Senator Dino Melaye announced on Tuesday that the senate would be screening only three nominees in a bid to be more thorough, adding that while Mr Bayo Shittu was among the three nominees to appear before the senate, Mr Rotimi Amaechi would have to wait till Wednesday.
Upon the commencement of senate plenary and after some minutes spent on the business of the senate which included reading out the names of some bills and motions as well as an eulogy session for the deceased former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the senate finally called upon Mr Adebayo Shittu to come up for his screening.
Mr Shittu, a lawyer, set the ball rolling by lavishly praising the “distinguished senators” who he referred to as the most hardworking in Africa, among other patronising but colourful adjectives. What would however follow was a session of humour and perhaps cringe-worthy moments but not before the ministerial nominee had mentioned the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as his role model and that he had been actively involved in politics for 36 years. He had held previous roles at the Oyo state legislature and served as the attorney-general of Oyo state aside being the chairman of the state Muslim pilgrimage board at a time. He similarly mentioned he had published 7 books and hundreds of papers on Islam.
The first question asked Mr Shittu was about a white paper on allegation of religious intolerance against him over a crisis that occurred in Saki, Oyo state in 2000. Shittu denied being indicted but admitted that a recommendation was made to advise him to refrain from inciting sermons, a recommendation he claimed was made with a malicious intent. He mentioned that his secretary at his law firm is a devout Christian and has enjoyed a very good working relationship with him.
Shittu’s subsequent statements about religion, however, caused some murmurs within the chambers. For one, Shittu recommended that religious leaders be paid by the government so that they could moralise the people while also advocating that religion should be made compulsory in institutions.
The ministerial nominee also referred to God as the most effective police, adding that if confirmed as a minister, he would not need to be watched by policemen or anti-corruption agencies to avoid stealing.
The most dramatic moment, however, will perhaps be when Mr Shittu was asked his views on the terrorist group, Boko Haram. The ministerial nominee categorically refused to condemn the insurgents citing the fear for his safety as some people who had done so in the past had been killed, including a former legal adviser to the terrorist group.
Beyond his interesting take on issues, however, Mr Shittu advocated for reforms in the judiciary, focusing on effective training and adequate welfare.
The only other ministerial nominee who appeared before the senate on Tuesday was Mrs Khadija Abba Ibrahim, a sitting member of the federal house of representatives and wife of former Yobe state governor and three-time senator, Buka Abba Ibrahim.
Mrs Ibrahim read out her opening speech in an emotion-laden voice, highlighting how she was born into a family where integrity is emphasised with politics. Daughter of the late Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri who was known for promoting the ideal of “politics without bitterness,” Mrs Ibrahim had similarly served as the commissioner for transportation while she doubled as First Lady of Yobe state.
As Mrs Khadija Abba Ibrahim rounded off her speech about her political lineage and experience in government, Senate President Bukola Saraki took over proceedings and said he would ask the nominee a question, something he had not done since the screening began last week.
Saraki added that he would call on a senator to ask one question before he asked his. He thereafter called on the nominee’s husband, Senator Buka Abbar Ibrahim who chipped in that the electoral victories of the nominee had never been challenged at any election petition tribunal. Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim after a few chuckles simply asked his wife, “after all you have told us about yourself, how will you feel if you are simply asked to bow and go?”
A voice vote was taken afterwards with the senators unanimously agreeing that the nominee could take a bow and leave which was followed by much laughter that definitely did not match the seriousness one would have expected of a process the senate vowed would be thorough in the interest of the nation.
Mrs Khadija Abba Ibrahim’s screening would sure remain etched in the memories of many for different reasons, some of which will be the brief display of nepotism in Nigeria’s governance and the seeming portrayal of the ministerial screening process as an elaborate display of theatrics, a joke to put it bluntly.