By Lateef Ibrahim, Anthony Bassey & Ademola Babalola:
• Three ex-governors shocked
• Alao-Akala, Folarin at war over Babalola
APPARENTLY keeping them for the last five names to be sent to the Senate for approval, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan may have penciled down former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh and the former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Funsho Kupolokun, as ministerial nominees.
A source said last night that “they are being considered seriously because of pressure from some powerful forces”.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is believed to be one of the forces behind the coming back of Kupolokun.
It is not known if he is also backing Ogbeh, who he forced out of office as the national chairman of the PDP in 2005.
The source said that Ogbeh who fell out with Obasanjo in 2005 is being tipped as a replacement for Abba Sayyad Ruma, dropped 10 days ago as the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Kupolokun who was dropped by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the early days of his administration may take charge as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Septuagenarian oil industry guru, Rilwanu Lukman, was last Wednesday sacked as the Petroleum Minister when the Acting President dissolved the 42-member Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The Benue State-born Ogbeh was the Communications Minister under President Shehu Shagari in the defunct Second Republic.
Ogbeh who took the PDP chairmanship baton from Chief Barnabas Gemade in November, 2001, was forced to resign by security operatives who were sent after him in his Abuja home over his opposition to Obasanjo’s tenure elongation project, which collapsed on May 16, 2006.
Kupolokun, an engineer, was the GMD of the NNPC between November 2003 and 2007.
Before his appointment, he was a Special Assistant to Obasanjo on Petroleum Matters between 1999 and May 2003.
At the request of Obasanjo’s estranged deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Kupolokun was given the top NNPC job.
He replaced Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, with whom he had quarrels as the two men differed on several issues.
Kupolokun was reputed as the main force behind the expansion of NNPC’s E&P operating unit of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC) both within the country and abroad.
Meanwhile, days after the names of the ministerial nominees were forwarded to the Senate by Jonathan, three former governors who worked frantically to ensure that their names were included on the list are still in shock.
Ardent supporters of at least three former governors who hail from some Southern states were last Wednesday also shocked that their leaders did not make the ministerial list.
In Akwa Ibom State, there were wild jubilations over the nomination of Ndueso Essien as a minister.
One of the governors from the South-South, it was gathered, was worst hit by this development. According to a source, the camp of the former governor was said to have concluded plans to celebrate his nomination at a hotel owned by his son-in-law, located in the heart of the oil-rich state.
The former governor, it was further gathered, had relocated to Abuja shortly after the dissolution of the cabinet to lobby his way into the FEC on the belief that he and the Acting President were at one time members of the Governors’ Forum and because he, at a time, called for the declaration of Jonathan as Acting President.
It is believed that the former governor had wanted the ministerial appointment as a springboard to gain his lost political relevance in the state, re-launch the governorship campaign of his son-in-law in 2011 and take a shot at the Presidency, the ambition for which he had been nursing since 2007.
A Presidency source said yesterday: “The decision to ease out former governors from the FEC is the best action taken in the prevailing circumstance. Don’t forget that some of those former governors wanted to be President in 2007 but failed. How do you expect them to be made ministers under somebody who they believe they are better than? That would amount to committing political harakiri by the Presidency.”
It was also gathered that a former South-East governor, who had been having a running battle with his successor, suddenly became friendly with the governor immediately after the cabinet dissolution, hoping that that would guarantee his nomination.
He was said to have, a few days ago, publicly embraced the sitting governor in a show of friendship.
But the former governor was said to have received the shock of his life when he later heard another person’s name announced on the ministerial list.
Another former governor, a minister in the dissolved cabinet, was also said to be in shock over the refusal of his successor to re-nominate him for the plum job.
The trio are finding it unbelievable that despite their moves, they could not make the list and are yet to leave Abuja for their respective states as a result of the shock.
Essien’s supporters praised Jonathan for making the right choices, considering the calibre and quality of people he has nominated.
A chieftain of the PDP in Uyo, Obong Dominic Udoro Attah, said: “We are happy with the choice of Essien Ndueso and it is a message to the spineless opposition in the state that Governor Godswill Akpabio is in charge in the state. He has, by this appointment, tightened his hold on the state and the party. Ndueso is a well grounded politician and a staunch supporter of the governor. As a member of the chairman of the PDP south-south caucus in the House of Representatives, he led a powerful delegation to challenge the Dr Ahmadu Ali led NEC of the PDP’s decision not to allow the governor to run in 2007.”
Meanwhile, the leadership crisis in the Oyo State chapter of the PDP is threatening the chances of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala to re-present the former Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola, as a minister.
Babalola, a banker and former Executive Director of FirstBank Nigeria Plc, was a member of the dissolved FEC and an acolyte of the business mogul and Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao.
Babalola, since 2007, had been representing the state in the FEC before it was sacked by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Nigerian Compass reliably gathered that intrigues, power play and high tech politics might have been responsible for the delay in re-presenting Babalola as a ministerial nominee, contrary to the expectation of political observers in the Pace Setter State that the ex-minister would have a smooth sail.
Notwithstanding his performance, Babalola may lose out in his attempt to become a minister the second time, if the feelers reaching the Nigerian Compass are anything to go by.
The state PDP crisis, which has pitched Alao-Akala against some aggrieved party leaders, including his former boss, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, a Third Republic Senator, Chief Lekan Balogun, former Minister of Special Duties, Elder Wole Oyelese and Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, among others, may finally nail Babalola’s ambition.
The Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin, was also not left out among the party leaders who have been having a running battle with the governor over the latter’s hold and control of the party machinery in the state.
In the crisis, Folarin has pitched his tent with the anti-Alao-Akala camp and is opposed to the idea of re-presenting Babalola.
His grouse was said to be over an alleged sidelining of his camp in the scheme of things and running of the government by the governor.
To underscore their readiness to frustrate the governor from re-presenting Babalola, Folarin, our source disclosed, is hell-bent on taking his own pound of flesh from Alao-Akala by making sure that “this time around, the governor does not have his way”.
Instead of Babalola, Folarin was quoted as saying that since he would not want to offend Arisekola-Alao, he preferred that the Islamic leader present one of his sons for the ministerial job or in the alternative, Senator Lekan Balogun, be given the slot to balance the political equation in such a way that the aggrieved leaders would have a sense of belonging.
A top aide of the Babalola, while confirming that there is a serious power play and intrigues over his boss’s attempt to make it to the Federal Cabinet again, was, however, quick to add that “Arisekola-Alao as a father and influential leader is on top of the situation”.
The aide who preferred anonymity maintained that the initial opposition to his boss was dying down gradually, stressing that “there is no cause for alarm because Insha Allah, Oga will go back to the seat of power sooner than expected”.
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