By Chiawo Nwankwo, Emma Anya, Everest Amaefule, Olusola Fabiyi and Ihuoma Chiedozie:
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, on Thursday night led members of the party’s National Working Committee to a crucial meeting with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan over the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council.
After the meeting which was held behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the PDP decided to covene an emergency National Executive Council meeting to consider the recent happenings in the country, especially the dissolution of the cabinet.
A PDP source disclosed the NEC meeting would hold on March 25 just as indications emerged that Prof. Dora Akunyili, Maj-Gen. Godwin Abbe, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, Godsday Orubebe and Sani Ndanusa might top the list of former ministers that would be reappointed as FEC members.
Members of the PDP NWC were reported to have been jolted when news of the sacking of the cabinet members reached them after their weekly Wednesday meeting.
The NWC meeting with Jonathan, according to the source, discussed how the PDP would be carried along in the composition of a new FEC.
He explained that the NEC would discuss both the cabinet dissolution and the timetable for the 2011 general elections.
It was gathered that Ogbulafor pointed out that the PDP executive expected to be carried along in the appointment of new ministers.
Another source in the Presidential Villa informed one of our correspondents that the Acting President assured that the party would be carried along in the exercise.
In an encounter with journalists after he emerged from Jonathan’s office, Ogbulafor admitted that he was in the Villa to brief Jonathan on “party issues.”
He expressed optimism that the PDP leadership would play a key role in the reconstitution of the cabinet.
Ogbulafor said, “The Acting President will consult us. He did the dissolution yesterday and we will give him time to do the consultation.
“The party has always played a role; we still play a key role.
“I have absolute confidence in the Acting President. He is a party man; he has been governor of a state and he has been a vice-president and now an acting president, so he is a party man to the core.
“I am in the State House to brief the Acting President on party issues.”
He went ahead to dismiss views that the party was not carried along in the dissolution.
The party chairman said, “It is a PDP government. PDP is the ruling party, what else do you want?”
However, The PUNCH, which reported on Thursday that the cabinet change caught the PDP leadership unawares, confirmed from its sources that it truly did.
Asked what advice he would offer Jonathan in the selection of new ministers, Ogbulafor said the Acting President should go for those that would be able to work with him.
“I will advice that he gets those that will work with him so that he can run the government efficiently and effectively”, he said.
The Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, in company with the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, also visited the Presidential Villa on Thursday for talks with Jonathan.
It was gathered that the two men briefed Jonathan on the procedure of sending names of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly for confirmation.
However, Abba-Aji told journalists that he was yet to get the list of the nominees.
It was reported on Thursday that Akunyili, Abbe, Ajumogobia, Orubebe and Ndanusi might be among 20 others that might be reappointed as ministers by the Acting President.
Their names, according to Reuters, might be forwarded alongside others to the Senate next week for confirmation.
According to Reuters, Akunyili may become the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory while Abbe might return to the Internal Affairs Ministry from where he was appointed as the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament of Niger Delta militants by ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Akunyili was until Wednesday when Jonathan dissolved the Yar’Adua cabinet, the Minister of Information and Communications while Abbe was the Minister of Defence.
Our correspondents learnt that Akunyili, a former director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, might head the FCT Ministry. The position had been the preserve of the North since Abuja became the country’s capital.
A Reuters source said Abbe would return to the cabinet to continue work on the implementation of the post-amnesty programme.
Before the sacking of the cabinet on Wednesday, the former Defence Minister was the chairman of the presidential sub-committee on disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant militants in the Niger Delta.
The Reuters source, who confirmed THE PUNCH’s exclusive report on Wednesday that 20 out of the 42 ministers might be reappointed, also revealed that Ajumogobia might become the Minister of Petroleum.
Ajumogobia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was the Minister of State for Petroleum.
Orubebe joined the dissolved cabinet as a minister of State for Niger Delta almost one year it was inaugurated by Yar’Adua, He was said to have fought a big political battle in his home state, Delta, against forces that swore never to allow him to become a minister.
It was alleged that former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, blocked his way, with his enormous influence on Yar’Adua.
A prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who was in the forefront of the campaign to make Jonathan Acting President made his being appointed a minister a success.
Ndanusa, until Wednesday, was the Minister of Sports. He too joined the cabinet late.
The governor of his state (Niger), Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, is a well known critic of the cabal that ensured that Jonathan was not made an Acting President.
If Ndanusa’s first cabinet experience was at the instance of the governor, then his renomination is a forgone conclusion.
Besides, the World Cup in South Africa is less than 100 days away. A Presidency source said the country would not like to toy with the idea of bringing in a green horn to head the Ministry of Sports now.
Other sacked ministers that might return to the cabinet because of their perceived support for Jonathan to be made Acting President include: Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Chief Ufot Ekaette and Mr. John Odey.
The rest are: Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Lanre Babalola, Mr. Chuka Odom, Mr. Remi Babalola and Mrs. Dieziani Alison-Madueke.
Osotimehin was the Minister of Health; Egwu (Education), Maduekwe (Foreign Affairs), Ekaette (Niger Delta), Odey (Environment) and Kayode (Justice).
Omotoba was in charge of the Aviation Ministry; Babalola, Aviation; Odom, Minister of State, FCT; Remi Babalola Minister of State, Finance; and Alison-Madueke, Mines and Steel Development.
They were said to be behind Akunyili when she moved a motion seeking FEC’s approval for Jonathan to be made Acting President.
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