Written by Okey Muogbo, Taiwo Adisa and Dare Adekanmbi:

• Calls for nominations from govs, PDP

ACTING President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, on Wednesday, dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), sending ministers away in the much-awaited cabinet shake-up. The dissolution was announced by former Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, after the Council meeting which lasted for more than six hours. Nigerian Tribune had, on February 15, reported exclusively that Jonathan had concluded plan to sack his inherited cabinet.

Akunyili, who said the acting president did not give any reason for the dissolution, also added that former ministers were expected to hand over to their permanent secretaries today.

But the acting president, in a press statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Ima Niboro, said the dissolution, was “to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance.  It is part of the larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this crucial moment of our history.”

However, while briefing journalists, Professor Akunyili had said:  “Today, the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, dissolved the Federal Executive Council.  Thank you.”

Asked if the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Special Advisers were affected by the dissolution, Akunyili said that if they were statutory members of the council, they were affected.

Speaking to reporters earlier, former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Ibrahim Kazaure, said he was grateful for the opportunity he had to serve the country, adding that he had no regrets over everything he did while in office.

Kazaure, who was former Minister for Special Duties before he was deployed to Labour and Productivity, said that as a politician, he was returning to his people to continue with politicking.

Meanwhile, sacked ministers wore long faces after the meeting and walked away from the council chambers to their waiting vehicles.

Even ministers whose memos were treated and approved at the EXCOF meeting abandoned Akunyili to talk to journalists alone after the meeting unlike the usual practice whereby such ministers accompany Akunyili to explain details of approved memos to journalists.

Also, at the meeting, the council approved many contracts worth billions of naira, including that for the purchase of about 150 long buses to be distributed to federal universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education in the country to alleviate the transport problems of the students.

The dissolved FEC had been involved in a hide-and-seek game over the issues surrounding the health of Yar’Adua and the emergence of Jonathan as acting president.

Members of the council rose from one of their meetings in January to declare that Yar’Adua was recuperating and that there was no need to declare him incapacitated.

But at the February 3 meeting of FEC, Professor Akunyili included a controversial memo, which called on Yar’Adua to smoothen the empowering of Jonathan in the agenda.

The action was greeted with vituperations from Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet, especially from the former Special Duties Minister, Mr Mike Aondoakaa, who was the spokesman for the cabal.

Consequently, the move split members of the council along anti-and pro-Yar’Adua groups.

FEC members were jolted when the Senate, having waited for the one-week ultimatum given to Yar’Adua to expire, passed a resolution empowering Jonathan as acting president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country.

Shortly after Jonathan became acting president, he redeployed Aondoakaa from the Ministry of Justice to Special Duties, in a minor cabinet reshuffle involving three ministers.

On February 18, FEC raised a six-man team to visit Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia and convey the gratitude of the nation to the kingdom, unknown to the team that Hajia Turai Yar’Ádua and members of  kitchen cabinet had perfected plans to prevent the delegation from seeing the president, who was moved into the country in the early hours of Wednesday, February 23.

The statutory meeting of FEC for that day was cancelled, following confusion which trailed who would chair the meeting.

Jonathan, on Monday, March 1, set up a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), chaired by Lieutenant-General Theophilus Danjuma and the council was inaugurated on March 4.

At the meeting of the council on March 3, the report of the delegation was considered and, contrary to speculations, the president was not declared unfit.

Another meeting of FEC scheduled for March 10 was, again, cancelled by Jona-than, who cited other state engagements as reason.

Overwhelmed by increased responsibilities, Jonathan sent a letter to the Senate, seeking approval to appoint five new special advisers to help him cope with the new challenges.
The lawmakers had since given their consent to the move by Jonathan, though those on the list had not been made public.

Meanwhile, the decision by Acting President Jonathan  to sack the entire cabinet constituted by President Yar’Adua, according to sources, on Wednesday, was borne out of the need to prevent “perceived persecution of certain ministers.”

It was gathered that the acting president had originally planned to relieve only a few of the ministers of their posts and appoint a few others to replace them.

But information getting to him indicated that while the ministers were busy pledging loyalty to him, some of them were also orchestrating reports that only some of them had been pencilled in for dismissal.
It was gathered that the acting president’s men immediately decided that the entire cabinet be sacked to remove the impression being created by some ministers that some of them were being victimised.

It was gathered that the governors would be allowed to make inputs into the making of the new cabinet.

A source said inputs of the civil society might also be sought by Jonathan in a bid to constitute an all-inclusive cabinet.

It was gathered that a number of the former ministers, except those said to have offended the power caucus, would make it back to the cabinet.

Sources said the acting president had sent words to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and the governors to send in their nominees immediately.

It was learnt that the acting president, however, did not let anybody know when the cabinet dissolution would come.

Meanwhile, the PDP has said it was not surprised by Wednesday’s dissolution of the EXCOF by Acting President Jonathan.

According to the national publicity secretary of the party, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, the PDP believed that it was within the prerogative of the acting president to perform such a task.

He said the position of the party that there was no vacuum in the presidency had been justified by the actions of Dr Jonathan since assuming office.

The organised labour also declared the dissolution as a welcome development, saying that it was long overdue for hitch-free socio-economic development to happen in the country.

The Lagos zonal chairman of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Tokunbo Korodo, told the Nigerian Tribune in a telephone chat that the step taken by the acting president was long expected

Also reacting, the national president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Babatunde Ogun, said Jonathan’s action was in the right direction, adding that it showed that he was in charge.

The national president of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr Joe-Okei Odumakin, in her reaction, said the step was a good one, adding that it was obvious that many of them had joined the cabal and the country needed to be let off its hook.

Reacting to the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by Dr Jonathan, the national chairman of the Action Alliance (AA), Senator Suleiman Salawu, said it was long overdue, adding that Nigerians had been expecting the news of the dissolution for quite some time.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune in a telephone conversation, Salawu said his political party was totally in support of the dissolution, adding that it was a right step taken in the right direction to move the country forward.

Also, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also lauded the decision to dissolve the FEC, saying that it was a step in proper direction.

He advised Jonathan to choose a cabinet that he had confidence in, adding that it appeared the dissolved cabinet members were having a divided loyalty.

Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Afenifere, Chief Supo Shonibare, said he welcomed the dissolution of the FEC, adding that it would enable the acting president to exercise his executive functions without interference.

Another chieftain, Senator Femi Okurounmu, commended the acting president for the courage to dissolve the FEC, adding that by this development, he had demonstrated that he was in charge.

Former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba, said the acting president needed to have his own team, adding that in any endeavour one embarked on, to be successful, one needed his own team.

Also, a former governor of Oyo State and a chieftain of the Action Congress (AC), Alhaji Lam Adesina, while reacting to the dissolution of FEC, on Wednesday, said it was long overdue.

Chairman, Ogun State chapter of the AC, Alhaji Ola Bello, said with the development, Jonathan had demonstrated that he was himself.

Chief Niyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), also said the dissolution was constitutional and long overdue, adding that the acting president had the constitutional rights to dissolve the council
Another SAN, Alhaji Lasun Sanusi, said the former ministers disappointed Nigerians, adding that they failed to act in the interest of the country when it mattered most.

Additional reports from Leon Usigbe, Kunle Oderemi, Dapo Falade, Adunola Fasuyi, Muda Oyeniran, Adewale Ajayi, Adebayo Waheed and Olayinka Olukoya

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