Written by By Ali M. Ali:
Show me your friends, a popular adage says, and I will tell you who you are. The friends or more appropriately, close associates of the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan give some insight into the kind of leader he is. Though not totally new to power, Jonathan has successfully courted and has powerful and influential men who could be rightly tagged the ‘President’s Men’.
Some may even describe them as the ‘kitchen cabinet’ or ‘inner circle’. Whatever sobriquet they are labelled with, these are men and women who exert considerable influence on the acting president. These people will shape events and policies in the coming months, as the Jonathan administration settles down to the onerous task of nation building. They cut across a broad spectrum of the business and political class, and the finest from the retired group of top military brass.
Leading the pack is Lt. Gen TY Danjuma (rtd), former minister of Defence and who has the acting president’s absolute confidence. Jonathan, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND investigations show, wants Danjuma around Abuja all the time. The acting president is aware that Danjuma can be very dispassionate and can give fair advice without strings attached.
Next in line is the national security adviser (NSA) Lt. Gen Ali Gusau (rtd). He brings to the table his vast experience and amazing network in local and international security organisation. Quietly efficient and proficient, Gusau has returned to familiar territory, following the sack of his predecessor, Sarki Muktar. This would be his fourth time as the nation’s ‘super spy’.
The third power broker in Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet is King AJ Turner.
Enter Senator Emmanuel Paulker, representing Bayelsa Central. He is easily the closest political ally of the acting president. He was Jonathan’s commissioner of Lands and Housing during his time as governor. In this category is another senator, Nimi Barigha Amange. He is a member of the Nembe ruling house and represents Bayelsa East senatorial district. As a lawyer, Amange shares a close rapport with the acting president. In the coming months, Senator Amange’s legal mind will impact on the policies of Jonathan.
Behind every successful man is a woman, the saying goes. This, indeed, may be true with Dame Patience Jonathan. Like most state first ladies, she did not take the back bench in visibility. As first lady of Bayelsa State, she was prominent. As wife of the vice president, she had mainly remained in the shadow of the first lady, Turai Yar’Adua. Undoubtedly she wields considerable influence over her husband. What is not certain is whether she will appropriate power, like Turai.
Hassan Tukur is a technocrat par excellence who has been a friend to the acting president for a very long time. Their friendship dates back to Jonathan’s pre-Aso Villa days. He was President Yar’Adua’s special assistant on Petroleum Resources. Tukur is believed to be the acting president’s closest friend from the North. At one time, he was also the helmsman of the Nigeria-Sao Tome Commission. He was also Nigeria’s envoy to Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. Tukur has a vast network of friends and contacts within and beyond Nigeria. He is eclectic in his abilities.
Next is Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi, an Ijaw man like the acting president. As a retired general, he has a vast network of contacts. At a time, he was rumoured to be the replacement of the sacked NSA, Sarki Muktar.
Another fellow Bayelsan enjoying the confidence of the acting president is Oronto Douglas who is currently one of his special advisers. Trained as a lawyer, he was a commissioner of Information in Bayelsa State.
Also enjoying the acting president’s confidence is his political adviser, Dr Akilu Indabawa. He came to national limelight as the national youth leader of the PDP, from where he was made political adviser. Being from Kano and a former university don, Akilu earned his principal’s confidence by his staunch loyalty.
Next is Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, one of the two ministerial nominees of the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in Yar’Adua’s cabinet. Her inclusion on the fresh list of ministers was not an accident. She enjoys the confidence of the new helmsman of Aso Villa and is likely to head the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Femi Otedola, billionaire and oil magnate, is also said to enjoy Jonathan’s confidence. He is the president and chief executive officer of Zenon Petroleum and Gas, the company that is currently sitting atop the commanding heights of the nation’s diesel and kerosene business.
Another influential figure in the kitchen cabinet is urbane and cultured businessman Emmanuel Ojei. Following closely on his heels is Jide Omokore. Leading a pack of elders from Bayelsa is Chief Edwin Clark. The fire-spitting Clark is seen by many as a counter-force to anti-Jonathan elements from the Niger Delta. He is considered a rallying point of support by people of the South-South. In this fold also is Ebitimi Banigo, banker and former minister of Science and Technology. He is well heeled and also has a wide network in the business world.
Close associate of the acting president, Godsday Orubebe,immediate past minister of state for the Niger Delta Ministry: His inclusion on the new list of ministers was a foregone conclusion. He is energetic, civilised, loyal and a go-getter who Jonathan depends on.
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