By Semiu Okanlawon, Niyi Odebode, Olusola Fabiyi, Fidelis Soriwei, Segun Olatunji and Mudiaga Affe:
Governors, chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and at least one former head of state are said to be working to ensure that their candidates get ministerial appointments in Acting President Goodluck Jonathan‘s new
cabinet. Jonathan had, on Wednesday shortly before the end of the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation sacked the ministers in a move that was seen as a decisive step towards taking control of the Presidency.
Investigations by our correspondents showed that barely 24 hours after the news of the cabinet dissolution, PDP chieftains, who were caught by surprise, and governors, who are seeking to save their deal with Jonathan to influence the fresh appointments, have started lobbying to get positions for their candidates. On Thursday, for example, the National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, held a closed door meeting with the Acting President on the matter.
Also, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is widely known to enjoy the confidence of the Acting President, is also said to be rooting for the comeback of some of the men and women who served under him. However, a source in the presidency denied widespread insinuations that the former president would handpick most members of the new cabinet, saying that the selection would be done solely by Acting President Jonathan, but in consultation with all important stakeholders, including the Yar‘Adua political family.
”While it could be true that some of the ministers who served under Obajanjo may be reappointed into the cabinet, these ex-ministers are also friends of the Acting President. As a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Jonathan had relationships with some of the ministers and could not be said to have included them in the next cabinet because of Obasanjo,” the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said. However, he was quick to add that the appointment of the Obasanjo ministers would be based on their acceptability by their people, state governors and their respective political parties.
Those likely to be considered include former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; and a former Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Akin Osuntokun.
While Osuntokun may be considered for the slot of Ekiti State, Fani-Kayode is likely to be considered as the Osun State nominee. Fani-Kayode was actually nominated in 2007 for a ministerial position but was dropped for undisclosed reasons. Apart from the Obasanjo ministers, a former Ambassador of Nigeria to Equitorial Guinea, Amb. Tukur Hassan; also an associate of the Acting President, might be considered for the position of Principal Secretary or as the head of a strategic ministry.
Hassan, a very close ally of Jonathan was nominated for the position of minister in 2007 but was dropped in preference for a Personal Assistant to Prof. Jubril Aminu, Mr. Idi Hong; who was Minister of State for Health until the dissolution of the cabinet.
On Friday, Mrs. Diezani
Allison-Madueke, the immediate past Minister of Mines and Steel Development, was seen at the Presidential Villa. She came in company with the Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and they both held a meeting with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. Allison-Madueke is believed to be a member of Jonathan‘s inner circle and was reported to have received death threats for backing former Information and Communication Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, when she presented a memo urging the FEC to own up to the fact that ailing President Umaru Yar‘Adua was no longer capable of continuing in office on the grounds of ill-health.
In Lagos State a meeting of the Central Working Committee of the state‘s chapter of the PDP was slated to hold at the state secretariat of the party in Ikeja on Friday (yesterday). Top on the agenda of the meeting, a source close to the leadership said, was the discussion of who to put forward as ministerial nominee from the state.
Although the source admitted that the former minister from the state, Mr. Demola Seriki, who was the Minister of State for Interior, was making frantic efforts to be re-nominated, some party leaders were favourably disposed to having a new person as the state‘s slot in the new council.
The source said that one of the governorship aspirants in the state, Dr. Ade Dosumu, was being tipped as a replacement. Dosumu is a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency. But the party may be also considering presenting a former Head of Service to the Lagos State Government, Alhaji Rafiu Tinubu, and a governorship aspirant, Mr. Tokunbo Kamson.
When contacted, the state party Chairman, Mr. Setonji Koshoedo, confirmed that interested candidates had started making moves. He said, ”Those who are interested are already making underground moves. Because it is not an official thing it has to be decided by the party leadership. For a state like ours that has no PDP governor, the state chapter of the party might not take the decision alone, the zone will have input.”
A source within the PDP in Oyo State told one of our correspondents that two factors would determine whether the former Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola, would be reappointed into the cabinet or not.
The source explained, ”If the relationship between Akala and the well-known businessman in Ibadan who nominated Babalola to the cabinet is still cordial, the governor may still send Babalola‘s name back for appointment. But if the relationship is not as cordial as what obtained before Babalola‘s appointment, Akala may choose another person.”
former ministers from the North, are making efforts to reach powerful traditional rulers especially the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa‘ad Abubakar, to come back to office.
In Kaduna State, there were fears that the nomination of a new ministerial candidate could jeopardise the truce recently brokered between former Governor Ahmed Makarfi who is now a senator and Governor Namadi Samabo. The two had disagreed in 2007 when they individually nominated different candidates for the slot of the state. Makarfi‘s candidate, Felix Hyet, who was appointed Minister of State for Transport (Aviation) was dropped from the cabinet later. But Sambo‘s Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Umaru Sanni, said it was too early to speculate on Kaduna ‘s nominee. Our correspondent, however, learnt that the immediate Minister of State for Power, Mr. Nuhu Wya, was likely to be re-nominated.
In Ogun, sources in Abuja and Abeokuta told one of our correspondents that Governor Gbenga Daniel planned to nominate his Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief Kola Onadipe, for the slot. A source said that Daniel had advised the Acting President not to reappoint the immediate past Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, who hails from Ijebu-Igbo area of the state. ”The appointment of Onadipe will afford the governor to have a representative at the federal level. This will afford him the opportunity to withstand pressures from Ogun politicians in Abuja. Such people include the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, Senators Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Lekan Mustapha,” the source added.
Our correspondent, however, gathered that Jonathan was not predisposed to Daniel‘s advice. ”The acting president believes that Osotimehin has not done anything to warrant his non-appointment. Jonathan is of the view that personal political interest should not override national interest,” a source in the acting President’s innermost circle said.
A top official of the Ogun State Government, however, justified the governor‘s position. ”Daniel‘s position is not based on personal interest. Ijebu North, where Osotimehin, hails from, has produced Mrs. Modupe Adelaja and Chief Jubril Martin-Kuye as ministers. The principle of fairness dictates that other local government should be given the opportunity.” Onadipe, an engineer, is from Ijebu North East Local Government. Before his appointment as the Commissioner for Water Resources in 2007, he was the Commissioner for Special Duties between 2003 and 2007.
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