Written by Taiwo Adisa:

The serious lobby for key positions in the emerging federal executive cabinet intensified over the weekend with indications that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan might have bowed to pressure from the major oil companies operating in the country to appoint their choice, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke, as Minister of Petroleum Resources.

It emerged in Abuja over the weekend that the intense lobbying for positions got to a head on Friday and Saturday when lobby groups set up by the oil majors threatened that the companies would pull out of Nigeria if Jonathan refused to appoint a minister of their choice to the Petroleum Ministry.

It was learnt that other lobbyists, who were canvassing the appointment of a technocrat into the Ministry favoured the appointment of Engineer Chris Ogiewonyi, who retired from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last year after 34 years of service.

His choice is also being supported by some senators who lobbied their colleagues for his favourable reception during the screening process.

Besides, other interest groups in the sector are said to have favoured the man because he was said to have instilled discipline and due process when he served an executive director in the NNPC.

They claimed that he understands the system like his palm and would apparently not serve some offshore interests as it is being rumoured with the candidacy of Diezani.

It was also gathered that Ogiewonyi is being tipped to take over the Works Ministry, following pressure from the oil majors.

But a source said that the lobby team of the oil majors have made it clear that they might divest from Nigeria if  government fails to appoint a minister they would be disposed to as the head of the oil industry.

“There has been  intense lobbying for positions, but the case of petroleum has reached a crescendo. It appeared that the oil majors are forcing Jonathan to pick Allinson Madueke but they are overlooking the effects. People will easily see Jonathan as clannish since the woman equally comes from Bayelsa like him. Besides, it is not right to leave out a technocrat in the field and put in somebody who only did ancilliary duties in the industry. The woman was in the Public Relations unit of Shell,” said a source close to the government.

Meanwhile sources in Abuja confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that interests in the North are unhappy at the news that the petroleum portfolio will be going to Bayelsa.

A source said that some top leaders from the North consulted on the emerging scenario and the place of the zone.

It was gathered that while the North doesn’t have anything against Madueke, the feeling is that the petroleum slot should not go to the same state where the acting President hails from.

“It would be wrong for that to happen and I am sure the elders will chip in some words to correct any anomaly,” a source said.

Apart from the battle for the petroleum industry, there were also contentions on the Minister that would go to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Saturday.

It was gathered that while majority of the stakeholders around the Presidency favoured the appointment of a minister with Architectural background so as to be able to restore the Master Plan, the government is going for the Minister-Designate from Sokoto State, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman as the FCT Minister.

It was gathered that some protests immediately reached the Villa upon the emergence of the indications.

“Notable people who want things done correctly are reaching out to the Acting President. It is better we get things right this time, rather than allow undue interests take control of critical sectors. It is very important,” another source said.

How anti-Jonathan forces failed to stop Ministers’ screening
It was also gathered that forces opposed to the screening of ministers’ nominees in the Senate actually tried unsucessfuly to stop the exercise.

It was gathered that the forces were trying to play out the card of the cabal, which was opposed to the dissolution of the cabinet.

Sources claimed that the cabal had toyed with the option of filing a suit to stall the exercise but that when it became obvious that the Senate President, David Mark would not be disposed to the invocation of Order 53 of the Senate Rules to stall the debate, they dropped the option.

It was learnt that a team of Senators working for the cabal actually visited Mark and sounded him out but that they received cold treatment.

Following the failure on that front, it was learnt that the forces later concocted the idea of causing rancor on the floor by whipping up emotions during the screening.

It was believed that the tense situation that will ensue would be difficult to control and lead to a breakdown on the floor.

The forces were hopeful that the exercise would not go without a hitch. They were looking out for an atmosphere to prove that the Nigerian democracy was not working if a breakdown had occurred in the Senate. Though something close happened during the screening of Prof. Dora Akunyili, senators quickly rallied round to save the day and terminated the sitting to stop further embarrassing questions.

Members of the National Interest Group (NIG), a majority of senators who supported the invocation of the doctrine of Necessity which empowered Dr, Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President later met in the night of Monday, March 29 to take charge of proceedings and ensure smooth clearance of the  nominees.

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