By Chiawo Nwankwo, John Alechenu, Olusola Fabiyi, Oluwole Josiah and Ademola Oni:

High level intrigues and lobbying intensified on Sunday ahead of today’s commencement of the screening of ministerial nominees by the Senate.

Involved in the lobbying are governors who had either nominated persons for appointment; or governors seeking to ensure that some of the nominees do not scale through.

Others are senators who are lobbying for or against nominees from their states and other interested parties.

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who dissolved the Federal Executive Council two weeks ago, had nominated 33 people, including a few members of the dissolved cabinet.

Our correspondents gathered that some of the nominees had been making frantic telephone calls to senators while others had besieged their (senators’) homes in order to have an easy clearance during the screening.

Some of these nominees were taken to the houses of the legislators by senators from their states, or other senators sympathetic to them.

It was gathered that such senators had pleaded for ‘cooperation’ from their colleagues on behalf of the nominees so as to ensure an easy passage for them.

Our correspondents also learnt that many of the nominees were apprehensive that they could face hostility from some of the senators, who are aggrieved over one issue or the other concerning the nominations.

One of the nominees who pleaded anonymity in order not to jeopardise his chances, said some of them started to lobby the senators last Wednesday when their names were forwarded to the Senate for confirmation.

The nominee claimed that reports reaching him and other nominees showed that they could have a tough time during the screening. He explained that that was what necessitated the contacts they made with senators from their states.

He said, ”We needed to see our senators before the screening to interact with them, because it will not be in our interest to start seeing them for the first time on the floor of the Senate, either on Monday (today) or Tuesday or any day we are to take our turn to appear before them.

“We believe that the only persons who are capable of handling this assignment for us are our senators; at least, to some of us who have the backing of our senators and governors.”

Asked if there were pecuniary demands by the senators, the source answered in the negative.

It was also learnt that ex-ministers, especially those that were in the kitchen cabinet of President Umaru Yar’Adua, had made moves to ensure that some of their former colleagues nominated for reappointment were not cleared by the Senate.

Another source in the Senate claimed that the former kitchen cabinet members believed that they were betrayed by those that had been nominated for reappointment.

Even fresh nominees are being rattled by moves to drop them, following interest shown in their nominations by some senators from their states.

One of them is Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) from Kogi State, whose senator, Otaru Ohize, came to his aid.

A senator said, “Adoke was almost dropped because a serving senator showed interest in being made a minister. But Senator Otaru Ohize (Kogi Central) saved the day by taking him to meet with other senators.”

The desire of the senator who wanted to be made a ministerial nominee may have been buoyed by Jonathan’s nomination of Senator Bala Mohammed, an All Nigeria Peoples Party lawmaker from Bauchi State.

Mohammed is the chairman of a group of pro-Jonathan senators; and his nomination did not go down well with Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda.

Yuguda, who is an in-law of Yar’Adua, defected from the ANPP to the Peoples Democratic Party last year.

Some of the senators who did not want their names in print confirmed that they were under pressure from state governors, whom it was learnt, had threatened to ensure that some them (senators) lost their second term tickets should they fail to do their (governors) bidding.

When contacted by one of our correspondents, the Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, confirmed these developments.

He said, “Naturally, you will expect that, because of one interest or the other. It is normal but like I always say, the Senate is a political institution; it is not a judicial institution. So, there will be pressures and political pressure will be brought to bear on senators one way or the other.”

The names of more nominees are expected to be forwarded this week to the Senate.

A former minister of state for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola, is said to be undergoing security screening as his governor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala and Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Balogun, allegedly resolved their differences over his nomination on Friday in Ibadan.

Meanwhile, the Ogun State chapter of the PDP has petitioned the National Chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, urging him to prevail on Jonathan to drop the two ministerial nominees from the state in the interest of peace.

In the letter dated Friday, March 26, copies of which were sent to Jonathan and Senate President, David Mark, the Secretary of the state PDP, Chief Pegba Otemolu, who cited the resolution of the State Working Committee meeting, said the state chapter was not a party to the emergence of the nominees.

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