By Yusuf Alli:

• Arisekola in Abuja to save godson Remi Babalola

Lobby for the remaining nine ministerial slots intensified yesterday in Abuja with governors, notable politicians and businessmen battling to get their preferred candidates into the cabinet.

Out of 42 cabinet posts, the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has sent a list of 33 members to the Senate for screening and confirmation, which will begin on Monday.

The remaining nine vacancies include six nominees from states and three representing geopolitical zones. The states are Benue (to be nominated by the Senate President); Kwara, Cross River, Ebonyi, Adamawa, and Oyo. The geopolitical zones are North-East, North-Central and South-South.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that the Acting President was under pressure yesterday to consider some members of the G- 10 in the sacked cabinet for ministerial jobs.

It was gathered that the G-10 actually designed the knotty memo presented by ex-Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, which heightened the debate by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the ill-health of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Although Akunyili was the face of the G-10 struggle, the group eventually plotted the actualization of Jonathan’s Acting Presidency.

But some members of the G-10 are shocked that their names are omitted from the cabinet list. The affected G-10 members are a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe (the real arrowhead of Section 144 debate); ex-Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola; a former Minister of State for Health, Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong; and a former Minister of Power, Dr. Lanre Babalola.

A source close to The Presidency said yesterday: “There is a raging battle to save the jobs of these members of the G-10. Those pleading for them said their exclusion from the cabinet will make their pro-Jonathan agitation worthless.

“Even some of their former colleagues have started mocking them for not making it back into the cabinet. They asked them if it would not have been better to stay put with Yar’Adua.”

The source said further: “The case of Maduekwe has attracted derision because he marshaled his experience to ensure that Jonathan was made Acting President.”

According to him, “those sympathetic to Maduekwe are asking Jonathan to give him the South-East slot but that may involve dropping either Prof. Dora Akunyili (representing South-East in the yet to be reconstituted cabinet) or Mrs. Josephine Anenih. Both nominees are from Anambra State.”

Apart from the G-10 members, other ex-cabinet members, whose fate has become an issue, are ex-Minister of Transport, Alhaji Isa Bio Ibrahim(Kwara); a former Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey; a former Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu(Ebonyi); ex-Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Muhtar(who was brought in from African Development Bank); and ex-Governor Achike Udenwa(Imo).

At press time, many godfathers were wielding influence to save their candidates.

Some of the godfathers include a business mogul Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola-Alao (who flew into Abuja since Thursday to save ex-Minister of State for Finance); Governor Bayo Alao-Akala(for the same Remi Babalola); Governor Martins Elechi(for Sam Egwu); Senator Jubril Aminu(battling for his godson Idi Hong); a former Senate Leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki(all out for his political son, Isa Bio Ibrahim against T.Y. Danjuma’s candidate, Mr. John Dara); Governor Liyel Imoke(who has cut short a trip abroad to save John Odey); and a team of Senators pleading for ex-Minister of Power, Dr. Lanre Babalola.

The Nation

learnt that only Arisekola-Alao appeared to have made progress. He was said to have succeeded in pleading his case for ex-Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola.

“Babalola had served as Finance Minister (State) since July 2007; he simultaneously held the post of acting Federal Capital Territory Minister in late 2008.

“He was instrumental to the implementation of e-payment by the Federal Government across its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); development of a medium term fiscal policy framework (MTFP), resolution of crisis in the insurance industry and implementation of a code of corporate governance for the insurance sector.”

Governor Imoke is insisting on John Odey as the Cross River candidate instead of a former Military Administrator of Osun State, Col. Anthony Obi, whose name was said to have been included in the cabinet list.

Another source added: “Some people took advantage of Imoke’s medical trip abroad to send Obi’s name to the Acting President.

“In fact, Imoke had to make frantic calls to Jonathan to explain the state’s preference for Odey.

“As for Idi Hong, he has problem with security clearance as relevant agencies have asked him to explain how he came about the alleged mansion he acquired in Utako district of Abuja.

“Hong has tendered documents to show that a loan was obtained for the mansion and how he sought permission from The Presidency to take a mortgage loan.

“But due to bitter rivalry between Governor Murtala Nyako and Senator Aminu, some supporters of the governor have been prevailing on the Presidency to drop Hong.

“Senator Aminu, who believes in Hong’s ability, is not prepared to be upstaged by Nyako boys. Aminu is wielding all influence to save his boy who he described as incorruptible.”

Concerning Benue State, a source said: “The Senate President ‘s nominee is not known yet but Governor Suswam is still pushing for his candidate, a Special Adviser on Local Government Affairs, Mr. Sam Ode.”

Meanwhile, there were indications last night that the 33 nominated candidates and their sponsors/godfathers have started jostling for ‘juicy’ portfolios.

The 12 key portfolios being sought after are the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Finance, Power, Petroleum Resources, Works, Agriculture and Water Resources, Aviation, Defence, Health, FCTA, Education, Niger Delta Affairs, Foreign Affairs.

The jostle has become complicated because among the nominees are seasoned legal professionals including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (Adetokunbo Kayode, Odein Ajumogobia and Mohammed Bello Adoke); finance experts like Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Olusegun Toyin Aganga; Jibril Martins Kuye, Sanusi M. Dagash.

Some nominees and their godfathers are mounting pressure on the Principal Secretary to the Acting President, Chief Mike Ogiadhome, to know how the portfolios are to be assigned.

It was learnt that Ogiadhome said that only Jonathan could determine that.

But a source added that the Acting President has made up his mind not to assign portfolios until the day of the inauguration of the ministers.

“The Acting President does not want these nominees to enter into any commitment ahead of their inauguration with anybody or group.

“Once the portfolios are known, smart contractors will infiltrate the ranks of nominees to curry favour. So, Jonathan is keeping the portfolio game close to his chest.

“The real task is that any ministerial nominee should be able to serve in any capacity. But these lobbyists for ‘juicy’ portfolios will not relent,” a PDP source close to the acting president said.

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