Written by By Golu Timothy:
About 40 days into his adminis-tration, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday dissolved the 42-man cabinet constituted in December 2008 by ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
The dissolution, which was announced by former information and communication minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, after a lengthy meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), came after weeks of speculation that the cabinet might be sacked.
The action took the ministers by surprise. A presidency source told LEADERSHIP: “They least expected that it would take place today as they thought the acting president was not going to be his own man.”
Addressing State House correspondents in her longest ever press briefing, which she did without any of her colleagues by her side after attending to 20 memos, Akunyili said, “Today, the acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation.”
She said all the ministers were directed to hand over to their respective permanent secretaries today.
Probed further on what may have been responsible for the action, Akunyili, in a rare choice of words, answered, “The acting president did not give us any reason for the dissolution, so I cannot give you any reason.”
Before the end of the meeting, information had filtered into the press room that the cabinet had been sacked, but was first confirmed by the former FCT minister, Senator Adamu Aliero who was overheard telling a journalist, “My brother, I am now powerless, we have been dissolved.”
Our correspondent observed that yesterday’s EXCOF meeting, which started at around 11:00 a.m., was attended in good time by the ministers, most of whom came and sat in the council chambers before 10:00 a.m. until the arrival of the acting president, who as usual, led in the singing of the national anthem.
The announcement that 20 memos were available for deliberation at the meeting created a false impression in the ministers that at least there was no time to talk about the sacking of the cabinet.
Jonathan was said to have thanked them for their services to the nation and wished them well in their future endeavours.
Even though no reason was advanced, reliable sources said the action had to be taken in order to give the new administration a new teeth and to inject new blood into the system, which has been dominated by disillusionment following the prolonged absence and sudden return of Yar’Adua from Saudi Arabia.
The acting president has since assumption of full presidential powers on February 9 been under pressure to sack the council following the intrigues and consequent division that characterised the cabinet in recent times.
After the meeting, which ended at about 5:40 p.m., obviously knowing that it was their last, the ministers did not wait either in the corridors of the council chambers or the passage that leads to the car parks, but hurriedly rushed into their waiting cars, prompting their aides to wonder what may have happened.
Another reason given by top sources within the presidency ascribed the early action of Jonathan to the rising popularity of a cabal which has been accused of surrounding the issue of the president’s health in utmost secrecy. The sacking of the cabinet, according to this school of thought, was meant to cut the cabal to size.
Speaking to journalists after the dissolution, a minister who was redeployed only three weeks ago said he thanked the government for the opportunity to have served the nation and that he had no regret taking any action he took in the course of his service. He added that as a career politician, he is going back to the trenches to continue from this point.
Special Assistant on Media to the Acting President, Mr. Ima Niboro, said the cabinet was dissolved in a bid to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance. “It is part of the larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this critical moment of our history,” he said.
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