At the 1 September meeting of the Federal Executive Council, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari fired power minister Saleh Mamman along with agriculture and rural development minister Mohammed Nanono. Mamman was replaced by Abubakar Aliyu, formerly works and housing minister. Aliyu served as deputy governor of Yobe state from 2009 to 2019, having previously worked as a civil engineer in the public sector.
Assuming his post on 6 September, Aliyu told staff at the ministry “I am not an electrical engineer or having anything to do with power in the past, but I am an engineer and I know when something is going wrong I will detect it”. Noting he had been appointed to improve the country’s generation and transmission and distribution capacity, he also said “I am not a magician. I am coming to add value to what you have already been doing”.
The sackings were widely perceived as a response to shortcomings in food and power provision. Buhari said he “found it essential to reinvigorate this cabinet” after a process of “independent and critical self-review”. In his statement, the president also emphasised, twice, that the process of cabinet reshuffling “shall be continuous”, a further departure from the norms of his time in office until now.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said the sackings were “a ludicrous and infective attempt to cover for his failures in office” and that “the manifest inefficiency of the Buhari administration is a product of the president’s myopic and divisive approach to governance as well as the impunity and corruption deeply embedded in his administration and party”.
The ministerial dismissals were unexpected. Buhari has been given the nickname ‘Baba go slow’, reflecting his cautious governance style, with little turnover of ministers or senior military officers in his first five years as president. Calls for a cabinet reshuffle were frequent owing to the challenges faced by the country’s economy and in particular the electricity supply industry (AE 443/6). Likewise, demands to refresh the army’s top brass were a steady refrain after the onset of overlapping security crises in 2012 that have resulted in at least 80,000 deaths, yet Buhari only relented in January (AE 440/24).
The recent changes at the top of the political and military establishments may reflect a desire by Buhari to bolster his legacy in his final two years in office. The president’s statement on the reshuffle explicitly referred to a desire to “consolidate legacy achievements”.