I had never heard the name Maryam Shetty before the second batch of the ministerial list was sent to the Senate. But in the past one week, I have been told several tales (mostly street gossip) about her. That is not unexpected in a patriarchal (and largely hypocritical) society
where women are easily defamed. And in a sensational move last Friday, Shetty’s name was dropped from the ministerial list and replaced by another woman from Kano. That the presidency would not have the decency to inform her of the decision (allowing Shetty to arrive the Senate for her confirmation session with fanfare) was what I found most callous. It is also quite telling of the current dysfunctionality at the Villa.
A day after she was dropped, Shetty spoke to her embarrassing elimination by substitution. “I have found myself at the centre of a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s political landscape. President Tinubu, in a move that brought me immense honour, chose me as a ministerial nominee. Coming from the traditional, conservative region of northern Nigeria, this represented a significant stride towards a more inclusive national representation,” she started her take on the unfortunate drama. “Yet, life, with its characteristic unpredictability, led to the withdrawal of my nomination. To some, this could seem like a setback, but my faith as a devout Muslim guided my understanding. I saw it as the divine will of Allah, who I believe grants power as He wishes, when He wishes. His plans are always superior to ours.”
Shetty ended her statement with appreciation to both the president and vice president as well as to those who supported her. She then expressed hope in her future, with the assurance that the disappointment would not shake her faith in Nigeria. “This phase of my life has instilled in me a deeper sense of resilience, faith, and the value of service beyond titles and positions. It has reaffirmed my belief in the potential for change and in the inherent greatness of Nigeria. The dream is still alive, and my commitment to our nation remains steadfast.”
Shetty deserves commendation for her graciousness after being dealt such a heavy blow. Unfortunately, rather than allow the sleeping dog to lie, the new All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman and former Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje decided to stoke a needless fire. “Maryam Shetty’s name emerged from the top, and since Mr President has the right to do as he wishes and we are his followers, one has to be patient; we did not object to it. She was not well-known to us,” Ganduje told some assembled journalists last Saturday in Kano. “We could not appraise her. But suddenly she (Shetty) came under attack on social media. People questioned her integrity and experience, with many of them doubting her credentials to represent Kano at the national level. There were growing disaffections. The dissatisfaction is not from Ganduje, but the people of Kano.”
It is interesting to note that a ministerial candidate could be dropped because of social media posts by politicians who we all know have scant regard for public opinion, except when it suits their purpose. But let’s go to the question of Shetty’s credentials and integrity raised by Ganduje. Considering that Shetty has never held any public position before, I doubt if anyone would allege that she took dollar bribes or more egregiously, tried to hide such loot under her wrapper. I am also not aware that Shetty has ever publicly threatened anybody with physical violence. Besides, if integrity and credentials were indeed preconditions for ministerial appointment, there are not many among the 48 names who are more qualified than Shetty. Nor do I consider her less worthy than the other women on the list. And where did the people of Kano gather to say Shetty cannot represent them?
The idea that a social media campaign led to Shetty being dropped is rather ridiculous, especially coming from Ganduje. If the negative things that have been written and said about the former Kano governor in the past four years really matter to those who dropped Shetty, Ganduje would not be in the position he now occupies. I invite readers to find the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) statement following Ganduje’s coronation as APC national chairman last week. It is not from my mouth that anybody would hear that the teacher’s mother is a witch, as they used to teach us in those good old days in the village! But Ganduje was not done with his hatchet job against a woman young enough to be his daughter: “President Bola Tinubu’s attention was drawn to the torrent of criticisms greeting Shetty’s nomination. The president asked whether I had nominated Shetty. I said no. He asked how then her name appeared on the list. I told him I had no idea whatsoever.”
The president knew nothing about the woman he was to appoint a minister or how she emerged on the list, according to one of his closest henchmen and current national chairman of the ruling party! Nothing can be more damning. We are talking about a nomination to the federal executive council, whose members will superintend critical sectors for the president. One oga ‘from the top’ (Ganduje’s words, not mine) just inserted Shetty’s name. You begin to wonder how many names got on the list in such manner.
The decision-making process at the villa, going by what Ganduje said next, raises so many questions. “When he asked whether there was a need to replace her, I answered in the affirmative, because the ministerial slot requires someone with integrity, knowledge, experience, and commitment to the party – what one contributed to the making of the Tinubu administration. To satisfy these requirements, we are in the best position to nominate somebody from Kano. Even if someone recommended somebody, we should have been consulted on the matter.”
At a period when our country is going through serious challenges with hope that the next federal executive council will be peopled by those who will contribute ideas to improve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians and influence social change, Ganduje has told us the factors informing the choice of ministerial nominees. Stripped of all pretensions, Shetty might have been dropped because, from what is now in the public domain, she was a social media cheer leader for former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s presidential aspiration and only switched to Tinubu after the APC primaries. So, Ganduje is invariably saying, “Shetty did not work for us from the beginning of ‘Project Emilokan’; she cannot now just come to eat.”
In his 30th July column, ‘Matters Arising from Tinubu’s Partial Ministerial List’, Waziri Adio wrote that despite all the drama and the suspense around it, Tinubu’s ministerial list landed ‘not with a bang but a whimper’ to the disappointment of many Nigerians. “Save for the presence of a few clearly exceptional nominees, the incomplete list left many Nigerians with a hollow feeling: ‘is this it—is this the list that took the president almost all of the allowed time to compile and send, is this what we have been anxiously waiting for?’” To Waziri, and this is a view shared by many, Tinubu’s ministerial list “looks like a settlement/compensation list”, adding that the president “comes off as placing more priority on rewarding those who, within and outside his party, worked for his victory and the long-term aides who need to be compensated for staying the course with him.”
That much has now been confirmed by Ganduje who concluded his diatribe with how he nominated his former commissioner for higher education to replace Shetty. “We are happy because the people of Kano are happy with the current development,” he said even as readers may wonder who conducted the poll to sample how happy or sad the people of Kano are about dropping Shetty’s name from the ministerial list.
I don’t know the Shetty lady, but she can hold her head high. She has not committed any crime to warrant the humiliation she suffered, even if she lobbied her way to the list—as many others also did. But Shetty is not even the issue for me. The real concern here is how much control President Tinubu has over his own government. After the inglorious era of ‘I am not aware’, Nigerians would not want to be saddled with another set of proxy and shadow presidents who will be making critical appointments behind their principal. Yet, the overall handling of the ministerial list is, to put it mildly, disgraceful. Even in the case of Shetty, the lack of diligence and thoroughness is reflected in the fact that it was her nickname rather than the real surname, Shettima Ibrahim, that appeared on the list sent to the Senate.
Leadership recruitment at the highest level of governance, which nomination into the federal cabinet represents, is different from hiring for routine jobs. Unfortunately, except for a few good men and women, the next federal executive council appears more of an APC pork sharing list than the team of a serious new government. Indeed, from what we have witnessed in recent weeks, the entire process was so banal that just about anybody can be a minister in Nigeria if you know someone ‘from the top’. That’s the real takeaway from the Shetty fiasco which Ganduje and fellow travellers cannot see. Otherwise, he would have kept quiet.
In a statement he personally signed on 16th March, then as president-elect, Tinubu promised to assemble a cabinet driven only by competence and that he would be blind to other considerations. “There have been talks of a government of national unity” he wrote in the statement that delighted many neutrals. “My aim is higher than that. I seek a government of national competence. In selecting my government, I shall not be weighed down by considerations extraneous to ability and performance. The day for political gamesmanship is long gone.” Securing Nigeria and working for its prosperity, according to Tinubu, “must be our top priorities. We cannot sacrifice these goals to political expediency. The whims of politics must take a backseat to the imperatives of governance.”
Thanks to Ganduje, we now know that was just another audio promise!
2023 Teens Conference
Online registration for the 2023 edition of the teens career conference of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Everlasting Arms Parish (TEAP) will be closed by this weekend. The conference holds next week Saturday, 19th August with the theme, ‘Wake Up and Take Responsibility’. It will be streamed live. The main speaker this year is the Chairman of both UBA and Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu, CFR. He is being joined by two British women, Ms Dorota Oakley Matuszyk and Ms Juliet Lamin. As in previous editions, it is going to be a day of fun, music, networking and impactful sessions. While attendance is completely free of charge (including food and drinks), intending participants must register online by visiting www.rccgteapteens.ng. But only a few slots remain.
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