Written by AbdulFattah Olajide & Muhammed S. Shehu:
Forty two Federal ministers lost their jobs soon after yesterday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council [FEC] when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan ordered a dissolution of the Federal cabinet.
Initial claims were that Secretary to the Government of the Federation Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, Head of Service of the Federation Stephen Oronsanye and the numerous special advisers and special assistants appointed by the ailing President Umaru Yar’adua were affected by the sack. At least 6 of the senior special advisers regularly attend meetings of the FEC. Former Minister of Information and Communication Professor Dora Akunyili, who announced the cabinet dissolution after yesterday’s FEC meeting, said Yayale and the special advisers to the president should be affected because they were regarded as cabinet members. However, Jonathan’s spokesman Ima Niboro told Daily Trust last night that “only the ministers are members of the council.”
Although Akunyili said Jonathan gave no reason for the cabinet dissolution, Jonathan’s spokesman Ima Niboro said last night that “the cabinet dissolution is 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.”
Daily Trust learnt that many ministers went into yesterday’s FEC meeting fully expecting a dissolution because 20 memos mostly for the award of contracts were presented at yesterday’s meeting, the largest ever in the council’s three year history. They also knew that Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet of close advisers met until 6am yesterday and made a list of ten ministers that should be dropped from the cabinet. However, a source said, the plan to sack the 10 ministers was abandoned because most of them were Northerners, and it was deemed as politically indiscreet to do so, hence the decision to dissolve the cabinet altogether.
Jonathan had announced under Any Other Business that he was dissolving the cabinet. He also said some of the ministers will be reappointed, while some others will not be. Indications also were that new ministers would be named by Monday next week.
A top politician however told Daily Trust in Abuja last night that Acting President Jonathan was “going for broke” by dissolving the cabinet in order to make himself substantive president and also ensure that he stands for election on PDP’s ticket in 2011.
He said, “This is the first move. He will now appoint ministers who are loyal to him, and who will invoke section 144 of the 1999 Constitution to declare Yar’adua permanently incapacitated. Jonathan will then become substantive president. Next, he will move to cow the state governors by removing EFCC chairperson Mrs. Farida Waziri and appointing his own man, possibly bringing back Malam Nuhu Ribadu or appointing Colonel Dangiwa Umar. The governors will then be forced to abandon their consensus that the PDP’s 2011 presidential ticket should be zoned to the North. After that, Jonathan will initiate the sacking of the Prince Ogbulafor-led PDP working committee, to be replaced by a caretaker committee that will support his political agenda.”
Daily Trust gathered yesterday that some of the sacked ministers may be reappointed by Jonathan. A Presidency source said Professor Akunyili, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, Elder Godswill Orubebe, Adetokunbo Kayode, and Chief Demola Seriki may re-emerge as ministers because “they are the acting president’s loyalists”. Allison-Madueke was said to have been nominated to the former cabinet by Jonathan, while Orubebe was said to have been nominated by the Ijaw Leader Chief Edwin Clark, who is a staunch supporter of the acting president. On her part, Akunyili may be re-appointed for being in the forefront of the campaign for the transfer of power to Jonathan.
Indications that the former information minister is probably sure of being re-appointed emerged yesterday. While many of the other sacked ministers wore long faces, Akunyili was beaming with smiles while briefing newsmen after the FEC meeting.
Political sources in Abuja also told Daily Trust that Dr. Jonathan is likely to nominate many serving senators and members of the House of Representatives to serve in the new cabinet. The idea, sources said, is to guarantee their easy clearance in the Senate and also secure the National Assembly’s cooperation when Jonathan makes his final move against Yar’adua.
Sources said last night that former Kaduna State governor Ahmed Makarfi, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, is billed to take over the Finance portfolio. Other sources said former House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Bello Masari, who spearheaded a campaign to transfer power to Jonathan, may emerge as the new Federal Capital Territory Minister in the new Cabinet. Masari’s former chief of staff Abubakar Sadiq Yar’adua last night refused to confirm or deny the rumour, saying only that Masari is ready to do anything that will help to stabilize the polity.
Daily Trust also learnt that the Acting President is planning to give the Petroleum Ministry to either Yar’adua’s Special Adviser on Petroleum Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah or to the former Minister of State for Petroleum, Odein Ajumugobia.
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