By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi:

• Face Still Opposition In Senate

Five Ministerial nominees simply have to walk the gauntlet of opposition to make it through Senate scrutiny, as adversaries pile up  knocks against their pick by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Senate starts the  job interview for the 33 nominees on Monday, a departure from the tradition of doing so between Tuesday and Thursday.

The groundswell of backlash is over the conduct of some new nominees, as well as returnees to the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) Jonathan dissolved on March 17.

Senators have mounted a campaign against two from the North and three from the South.

In the frame are former Information and Communications Minister, Dora Akunyili (Anambra); former federal Attorney General and Justice Minister, Adetokunbo Kayode (Ondo); Olusegun Aganga (Lagos); Sanusi Daggash (Borno); and Mohammed Bello Adoke (Kogi).

Akunyili is a target for some Northern Senators who have not forgiven her for presenting a memo in the EXCOF on February 3 calling for an investigation of the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

The memo divided the cabinet, even though it was never debated before the National Assembly (NASS) proclaimed Jonathan Acting President on February 9.

Jonathan is still pleading with the Senators to backpedal on their opposition, it was learnt, but they have so far refused, which has prompted another round of meetings between Aso Rock and the Senate.

A third term Senator from a state which borders the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is in the vanguard against Kayode’s return, even after he reportedly begged a prominent caucus to back down on opposition to his initial nomination to the cabinet by Yar’Adua.

The man was said to have complained against the ‘use-and-dump’ attitude displayed towards him by Kayode when he told another third term Senator who intervened in the matter.

The aggrieved Senator narrated how “I was brought in to speak with our caucus because Kayode is a learned colleague, being a lawyer.”

To douse the anger in the Senate, the third term Senator has co-opted former Ondo  State Governor, Olusegun Agagu, into the matter.

Agagu was Governor when Kayode was first nominated into the EXCOF. He was re-nominated by incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko.

“Mimiko,” it was learnt, “has no problem with Kayode’s return to the federal cabinet. The only snag is in the Senate.”

A source confirmed that the Senate leadership is “in the know about the opposition by a section of the Chamber.

“In fact, two members of the leadership are actively in the plot to stop the five Ministerial nominees.”

Opposition to Aganga stems from the fact that some Northern Senators are not too comfortable with him becoming Finance Minister, as is being speculated.

They are angling for former National Planning Minister, Shamsudeen Usman’s return to the Finance Ministry.

Usman was once in charge of Finance in the cabinet before he was re-deployed to National Planning.

Another extraneous factor is the talk that Aganga could be an indigene of Lagos State purporting to be a Northerner.

Some Senators argued that the name ‘Aganga’ sounds Lagosian, others said “information at our disposal is that he is in fact from Ogun State.”

In the case of Daggash, Senators have refused to be placated over his role in the 2008 budget crisis between Aso Rock and the NASS.

Daggash was said to have shown Yar’Adua areas where lawmakers reportedly padded the budget before it was passed into law.

Senators recalled that he urged Yar’Adua to cut allocations to certain Ministries, “which delayed the budget more than necessary.”

The lawmakers later demanded his sack. Yar’Adua obliged.

Adoke’s confirmation hangs in the balance “as his nomination is unknown to both his Governor and other interested stakeholders in Kogi.”

Members of the National Interest Group (NIG) in the Senate were scheduled to meet with Jonathan on Thursday evening for him to step up his plea “on behalf of the affected nominees.”

A compromise was expected to be struck at the meeting.

Jonathan has nominated the NIG Chairman, Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), as a Minister, the group still met on Wednesday to articulate its grouses against some of the nominees.

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