by Niyi Odebode, Fidelis Soriwei, Olusola Fabiyi and Adelani Adepegba
President Goodluck Jonathan has sent the names of people being considered for ministerial appointments to the State Security Services for screening, investigations have revealed.
A source in the Presidency told one of our correspondents on Sunday in Abuja that a former Special Adviser on the Niger Delta, Mr. Timi Alaibe, was on the list.
Others, it was gathered, included a former Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Hamisu Mai Rago; the immediate past acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje; and former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Ada Okwuonu.
A former National Chairman, the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife; former PDP National Organising Secretary, Uche Secondus; former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali; former PDP National Legal Adviser, Olusola Oke; Senator Abba Aji and some of the aspirants who withdrew for the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, at the party’s last national convention, were said to be on the list.
The source said that the SSS would begin the screening of the nominees this week.
“That the President will drop some ministers is a foregone conclusion. Security agencies have received names of those who will replace them,” he said.
Investigations showed that the decision to forward Alaibe’s name for screening for the Bayelsa State slot in the Jonathan’s cabinet had generated anxieties in some quarters.
But a source close to the former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission said on Sunday that he was not aware of the development.
The source said until Alaibe’s name was received and announced at the National Assembly, it would only be mere conjecture.
A source in government who pleaded anonymity said that with the screening of Alaibe, it would take a “miracle” for Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to be included in the President’s cabinet.
Both Alaibe and Diezani are from Bayelsa State and the state has only one slot.
The PUNCH had on March 5 exclusively reported that Jonathan planned to drop some ministers before May 29, when he would have spent a year in office.
Ahead of the cabinent shake-up, ministers and politicians aspiring to become members of the Federal Executive Council were reported on May 4 to have started lobbying key figures in the Peoples Democratic Party including the National Chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur; a leader of the South-South, Chief Edwin Clark, and a former Chairman of the party’s board of trustees, Chief Tony Anenih.
While ministers who had been in the cabinet since 2007 might be dropped, performance would be a major determinant for the continued stay of any minister in the FEC, sources close to the Presidency said.
The Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, and Alison-Madueke, have been in the cabinet since 2007, when they were appointed by the late President Umar Yar’Adua.
Ministers who were appointed in 2010 by Jonathan included Mr. Segun Aganga (Trade and Investment), Bala Muhammed (Federal Capital Territory), Ruqayyat Rufai (Education), Emeka Wogu (Labour), and Caleb Olubolade (Police Affairs).
Meanwhile, our correspondents learnt on Sunday that President Jonathan might have yielded to pressure to remove his National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi (retd.).
Investigations in Abuja revealed that President Jonathan might replace Azazi with the current Director-General of State Security Service, Ekpeyong Ita.
A source privy to the decision said, “There are signs and I think Azazi may also be aware of this. There is no way the President will remove him without him knowing because they are from the same state and the President admires him a lot.
“Having worked with the President since he assumed office and because of his experience from his days at the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the President respects his views on security a lot.”
The President has been under pressure from members of his political party, the PDP, to relieve Azazi of his job since he (Azazi) linked the insecurity problem facing the nation to Jonathan’s declaration for Presidency in 2010.
The NSA, at the Second South-South Economic Summit, which held in Asaba, Delta State on April 27, had blamed the PDP for the activities of the Islamic group, Boko Haram.
Azazi had said, “A situation where a political party insists on fielding a particular candidate over another to get a massive win, and that if they get that massive win the party has arrived, is the source of the problem.”
But Jonathan, in an interview with journalists on April 28, defended the PDP, describing it as one of the most democratic parties.
He said, “…I don’t believe that it is the undemocratic practices in the PDP that could give rise to Boko Haram or any other groups. So, probably, people need to ask the NSA to explain what he really meant. I have read it from the papers. I don’t believe it is undemocratic practices of the PDP that gave rise to this or any other militant groups.”
Jonathan reportedly called for the script where the NSA blamed the upsurge in activities of Boko Haram on the PDP the following Monday.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, had also faulted Azazi. He said contrary to assertions by the NSA, the PDP had remained the strongest catalyst for the unity and progress of Nigeria.
It was gathered that Jonathan took the decision to replace Azazi after reading the text Azazi delivered at the South-South summit.
Just like Azazi, Ita is also believed to enjoy the confidence of the Presidency.
One of the senior directors in the service is expected to step into Ita’s shoes as DG, SSS if he is appointed the NSA.
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