Goodluck Jonathan wasted no time in asserting his authority last week when he orchestrated a minor cabinet reshuffle on his first full day in charge. The reshuffle itself was an offshoot of an attempt to sack Michael Aondoakaa, who was until recently attorney general of the federation.
Reliable sources told NEXT that Mr. Jonathan was advised not to sack the former justice minister and the deployment to the “special duties” ministry was seen as a concession.
Sources have also confirmed that there are likely to be a few more changes in the coming weeks and more cabinet members are in danger of being dropped in the next round.
NEXT can also reveal that Mr. Jonathan has met individually with almost all the members of his cabinet and is believed to have outlined his expectations for each of them.
One of those considered at high risk of losing his job is Lanre Babalola, the minister of power who presided over the abject failure to deliver the promised 6,000 mega watts by December last year. On Thursday, Mr. Babalola was locked in a meeting with the Acting President which lasted for about 45 minutes.
During the meeting, Mr. Jonathan expressed his “embarrassment” that the administration had broken its promise to meet its power target last year. Mr. Babalola has been asked to draw up new plans on how exactly he intends to deliver on the proposed 6000 MW.
During his televised address on Tuesday, the Acting President mentioned power generation as one of the “most critical areas which continue to plague our effort at engendering meaningful economic growth and development.”
One of Mr. Babalola’s aides denied that any ultimatums were laid down based on performance but confirmed that the power ministry have been asked to draw up new plans to present to the Acting President.
“It is normal that any new president will have a one-on-one with his ministers,” the aide said. “There was nothing like [an] ultimatum during the meeting. We just need to re-strategise on how to meet our target for this year. That’s all.”
Sam Egwu, the education minister, is also in charge of a sector that has performed poorly in the past year. The Academic Staff Union of Universities and various other teachers’ unions went on strike for a large part of 2009 with several protesters calling for Mr. Egwu’s resignation.
The academic ranking of world universities for last year indicated that no Nigerian university was ranked within the top 500 higher institutions in the world.
Ukachukwu Awuzie, the universities’ union president, said last August that Mr. Egwu and his advisers had made it difficult for an agreement to be reached between the union and the federal government.
The minister of petroleum, Rilwanu Lukman, is also likely to be dropped said analysts who noted his poor performance in the past two years. A stalwart of several administrations, Mr. Lukman will be hard put to convince the Acting President that he is still the right man for the job.
The privatisation of the nation’s refineries is no closer to completion than when he took over. Additionally, Abuja and Lagos have been beset by fuel scarcity and irregular pricing since last year. NEXT has also indicated that Mr. Lukman has long had several business interests which represent a conflict of interest for an oil minister.
However, Mr. Lukman has considerable influence and is highly regarded and it will require some high degree of tact for him to be replaced.
Dora Akunyili, the Information minister, submitted a memo last week that arguably jolted the National Assembly into action. It has been long suggested that her role as the government spokesperson was an under-utilisation of her talents.
After bravely pitching her tent in the Jonathan camp, it is not likely that she will be booted out but she is almost certainly earmarked for a more substantive role in any future shake-up. She said on Wednesday that the Acting President “has the power to move any of us.”
The Yar’Adua loyalists
Abba Ruma, the minister of agriculture, is one of Mr. Yar’Adua closest confidantes. In December, Mr Ruma said Mr. Yar’Adua’s absence was not a problem and that a previous military ruler had once vacated the country for so long with no repercussions.
Speaking to journalists, he said: “Let us not hold the Nigerian public to ransom; let us not continue to deceive them but educate and enlighten them because we have the opportunity, with information at our doorsteps today.”
The minister, who previously served under Mr. Yar’Adua in Katsina State, has been embroiled in a controversy surrounding fertiliser subsidy after his ministry’s decision to centralise the distribution of the commodity. Food importation has also risen sharply and has not stabilised but in spite of this,
Mr. Ruma claimed last year that Nigeria was immune to the global food crisis.
Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi is the ailing president’s chief economic adviser. He is undoubtedly one of Mr Yar’Aadua’s key men and is one of the few people who is on the loop concerning the true status of the president’s health.
During Yar’Adua’s time as Kastina State governor, he was commissioner for finance between 1999 and 2003. In the run-up to the 2007 presidential election, Mr. Kurfi was appointed finance director of Mr. Yar’Adua’s campaign organisation. Following the disputed election victory, Mr. Kurfi reappeared at Aso Rock as the president’s deputy Chief of Staff. It was from that position that Mr. Yar’Adua named him as his chief economic adviser.
He will certainly not enjoy the same closeness with Mr. Jonathan that he did with Mr. Yar’Adua and the acting president may decide that he is better placed elsewhere.
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