It was President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari (90) who first introduced the idea of having Ministers of State in a Presidential System of Government. He could be excused for the introduction, for he was a graduate of the First Republic when Junior Ministers were allowed during the Parliamentary System of Government.
Section 135, subsection 2 of the 1979 constitution made provisions for the nomination of Ministers but not Ministers of State. Since President Shagari made that initial mistake, every elected President in Nigeria had followed suit.
On October 18, 1979, he nominated the following Ministers for Senate approval — Ministers with cabinet rank: M. Mohammed Ibrahim Hassan (Bauchi), M. Adamu Ciroma (Borno), Mr. Isaac Shaahu and Mr. Paul Unongo (Benue), Professor Iya Abubakar (Gongola), Alhaji Umaru Dikko and Professor Ishaya Audu (Kaduna), Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf (Kano), Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi (Kwara), Alhaji Ndagi Mamadu (Niger), Mrs. Adenike Ebun Oyagbola (Ogun), Mr. Samuel Adebisi Ogedengbe (Ondo), Chief Richard Akinjide (Oyo), Mr. John Jatau Kadiya and Mr. Gorge Baba Hoomkwap (Plateau), Mr. Victor Masi (Rivers), Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau (Sokoto), Mr. D.C. Ugwu and Mr. Chimezie Ikeazor (Anambra), Professor Sunday Matthew Essang (Cross River), Mr. Israel Amadi Emina (Bendel), Dr. Sylvester Ugoh and Dr. I.I. Maduike (Imo) and Dr. Wahab Olaseinde Dosunmu (Lagos).
Other Ministers with non-cabinet rank were Alhaji Ahmed Musa (Bauchi), Chief P. Bolokor (Bendel), Alhaji Asheikh Jarma (Borno), Alhaji Ali Baba (Gongola), M. Iro Abubakar Dan-Musa (Kaduna), Alhaji Bilyamin Usman (Kano), Mr. Ademola Thomas (Lagos), Chief Olu Awotesu (Ogun), Chief Mrs. J. Akinrinade (Oyo), Alhaji Ahmudu Nahuce (Sokoto), Chief E. Okoi-Obuli (Cross River), Mallam Mamman Ali Makele (Kwara), Mr.Cladius Agboola Bamgboye (Ondo) and Dr. Jakiri Igbani (Rivers).
Two days later at the Senate confirmation of the Ministers at the committee stage, Senators Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya, Jonathan Akinremi Olawole Odebiyi, Emmanuel Kayode Ogunleye, David OlatunbosunOke, Emeka Patrick Echeruo, Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, Obi Wali, Emmanuel Idahosa Akpata, Stephen Adebanji Akintoye and Senator F.O.M. Atake rejected the idea of Junior Ministers, but because the NPN were in the majority at that time, President Shehu Shagari had his way.
Shortly after re-election, President Shehu Shagari wrote to then Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas seeking confirmation for thirty-five Ministers.
In the letter dated October 17, 1983, he nominated the following: Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka Anyaoku (CON) and Mr. John Nwodo Jnr. (Anambra), Alhaji Sule Katagum, Alhaji Ibrahim Tahir and Alhaji Magaji Mu’azu (Bauchi), Chief J.A. Orhorho and Mr. Ralph Uwechue (Bendel), Mr. Audu Ogbeh and Dr. E.Y. Atanu (Benue), Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Haliru Dantoro (Borno), Dr. Simi Johnson (Lagos), Senator Idirisu Ibrahim (Niger), Chief Kehinde Sofola (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation (Ogun), Dr. Bode Olowoporoku (Ondo), Chief S.M Afolabi and Dr. Bimbo Akintola (Oyo), Alhaji Hassan Mohammed and Mr. Robert Doshun Gumut (Plateau), Chief Okoi-Obuli and Dr. A.J. Okonno (Cross Rivers), Alhaji Ali Baba and Mr. Paul Wampana (Gongola), Chief Emmanuel Adiele (Imo), Dr. Umaru Dikko and Alhaji Isma’ila Isa (Kaduna), Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule (CFR), Alhaji Bilyamin Usman and Alhaji Hamisu Musa (Kano), Dr. Ishmael Igbani and Mrs. E. Diete-Spiff (Rivers), Alhaji Muhammadu Lugga, Alhji Idirisu Koko and Alhaji Bala Sokoto (Sokoto).
After seizing power from President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari in January 1984 reduced the Ministers to fifteen without appointing any as Minister of State. The following were his Ministers: Major General Domkat Bali (Defence), Dr. Buka Shuaib (Agriculture), Dr Mammoud Tukur (Trade), Colonel A. Abdullahi (Communications), Alhaji Yerima Ibrahim (Education), Dr. Onaolapo Sholeye (Finance), Major General Mamman Jaya Vatsa (FCT, Abuja), Dr. Emmanuel Nsan (Health), Major General Muhammed Magoro (internal Affairs), Dr. Ibrahim Gambari (Foreign Affairs), Group Captain Sam Omeruah (Information), Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (Transportation), Professor Tam David-West (Petroleum), Rear Admiral Patrick Koshoni (Works and Housing) and Chief Chike Offodile ( Attorney General and Minister of Justice).
On seizing power from Major General Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida increased the Ministers to twenty-two on September 12, 1985. The following were his Ministers: Lt-General (rtd.) Alani Akinrinade (Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development), Lt.Colonel Tanko Ayuba (Communications), Major-General Domkat Bali (Defence Secretary and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), Professor Jubril Aminu (Education), Rear-Admiral Patrick Koshoni (Employment, Labour and Productivity), Professor Bolaji Akinyemi (External Affairs), Major-General Mamman Vatsa (Federal Capital Territory), Dr.Kalu Idika Kalu (Finance), Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti (Health), Alhaji Lawal Mala (Industries), Lt-Colonel Anthony Ukpo (Information), Lt-Colonel John Nanzip Shagaya (Internal Affairs), Prince Bola Ajibola (Justice), Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman (Mines and Power), Dr. Chu Okongwu (National Planning), Professor Tam David-West (Petroleum Resources), Lt-Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi (Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture), Professor Emmanuel Emovon (Science and Technology), Air Vice-Marshal Ishaya Aboi Shekari (Special Duties), Major-General Gado Nasko (Trade), Brigadier Jeremiah Useni (Transport and Aviation) and Air Commodore Hamza Abdullahi (Works and Housing).
Between General Sani Abacha, Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Abdulsalam Abubukar, Ministers of States were appointed but their cabinets were not more than twenty-six Ministers.
However in 1999, it was President Olusegun Obasanjo who had the largest list of Ministers to date with fifty-one. They were Alhaji Sani Zango Daura, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Chief Chris Agbobu, Engr. Mustafa Bello, Alhaji Mohammed Adzika, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (Rtd.), Alhaji L. Ade. Haruna-Elewi, Mrs. Modupe Adelaja, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Amb. Dr. Hassan Adamu, Mal. Lawal Tukur Batagarawa, Dr. Imeh T. Okopido, Arc. Ibrahim Bunu, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Mr. Solomon S.A. Ewuga, Sen. Jubril Martins-Kuye, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Dr. Tim N. Menakaya, Chief Dubem Oniya, Dr. (Mrs.) Aminat Ndalolo, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Chief Lawarence Nwuruku, Chief Dapo Sarumi, Chief S.M Afolabi (JP), Prof. Jerry Gana, Dr. Mohammed Shata, Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN), Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Chief Phillip C. Asiodu, Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman, Major-General David Jemibewon, Chief Bola Ige (SAN), Muhammed Bello Kirfi, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, Vincent Ogbulafor, Ibrahim Umar Kida, Chief Ebitimi E. Banigo, Engr. Dan Chuke, Mrs. Pauline K. Tallen, Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Dr. (Mrs.) Kemafo N. Chikwe, Dr.Bekky K. Igweh, Alhaji Bello Usman, Col. M. Bello Kaliel, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Precious Ngelale (JP), Isaiah C. Balat, Hajia Aishatu, M.S Ismail, Damishi Tonson Sango and Mr.Yomi Edu.
Both President Umaru Yar’dua and outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan have since maintained the culture of appointing Ministers of State.
One of the major task before the President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari now is the compilation of his list of Ministers. Section 147 of the constitution dictates that he must have thirty-six Ministers from the thirty-six states, but the section does not dictate that he should have Ministers of States. It is from his list that the country will know better the direction of his government. If the list of his Ministers is enlarged, one may conclude that his government is going to be prodigal. Even if he wants to be lavish or profuse, I doubt whether the money is there any longer. I understand that most of the money has disappeared. It is gone. In the words of a banker “the country is heavily geared.”
Major General Buhari has no choice but to be penny-pinching. Reducing his cabinet will certainly save cost. It will also reduce rivalry, conflicts and jealousy among members of his cabinet on schedule and responsibilities. There is always a constant conflict between Ministers and Ministers of state. We should spare the President from wasting his time from settling this in-built conflict.
One of the major problems President Obasanjo encountered early in his government was having so many Ministers which created conflicts between Ministers and Ministers of State. To solve the problems then, he summoned the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette to allocate schedules to the ministers and ministers of states. With inputs from his two top aides at that time, Dr.Goke Adegoroye and Mr. Tunde Kamilu Kasali, Chief Ekaette’s submission was not satisfying enough to the ministers and ministers of state – each claiming authority. They both claim they were all Ministers, appointed and sworn in in the same manner and representing their respective states. The permanent secretaries did not help matters.
Having a large cabinet might prove unwise.
Eric Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency, writes from Lagos.