Written by Taiwo Adisa, Idowu Samuel and Bolaji Ogundele:

• As militants reject Madueke

THERE appears no end in sight to the intense lobbying in the presidency for key ministerial portfolios as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan prepares to swear in the new cabinet on Tuesday. Although the acting president is yet to make public the structure of the new cabinet, those who claim to have insights into the unfolding cabinet have continued to protest what they perceive as lapses which could portray Dr. Jonathan in bad light.
At least three groups had, at the weekend, petitioned the presidency asking Jonathan to reconsider his decision to send the Bayelsa State nominee in the cabinet, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke, to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

The Movement for Transparency in Governance (MTG), Arewa Democracy Watch (ADW) and the League of Oodua Democrats (LOD), in separate petitions made available in Abuja on Sunday, declared that the acting president needed to be cautioned against nepotism and a “winner takes all attitude.”

In the petitions said to have been sent to the presidency at the weekend, the groups claimed that there were no elements of federal character in the emerging cabinet.

ADW, in its petition signed by Mallam Sani Dogo, said that it received information on the emerging cabinet and felt disappointed that Dr. Jonathan was playing dangerous politics, which would ensure that Bayelsa State took the nation’s number one seat as well as the most important ministry of government.

“We understand that certain anomalies were condoned during the President Olusegun Obasanjo era but it never degenerated into the level of nepotism. The former president never made his state representative to head topmost ministries. He acted as a statesman, even when he kept the portfolio for himself, he still maintained a balance.

“With what we have seen of the ministerial nominees, there are enough materials who can successfully run the oil industry and there is no need to limit the slot to Bayelsa State, more so, when the nominee is not a popular choice of the people of that state.”

“While we will not advocate that the slot be retained in the North, we insist that it should not go to Bayelsa. Anything to the contrary will speak volumes for the kind of leader Jonathan is,” the group said.

The MTG, in a statement by Mr Eyo Essien, said the allocation of ministries in the emerging cabinet had to be done with utmost caution and sense of responsibility.

The group said it was unthinkable that a leader like Jonathan, an academic, would have problems in allocating ministries.

“Our position is that where there are technocrats, they should be deployed to their areas of competence. Certain fields need not be politicised because of ripple effects. What we are hearing about Petroluem and FCT ministries give cause for concern,” Essien said.

The LOD, in its statement signed by Comrade Ayo Olutosin, said that Jonathan had the chance in the world to paint himself as a statesman and not a clan leader.

The group said that while there was the need for ethnic balancing in the cabinet, ministries such as Works, Housing, Petroleum, Health and FCT should be manned by professionals who would deliver the good, not only to the satisfaction of the political leaders but also to the generality of Nigerians.

“We make bold to state that Mallam Nasir el-Rufai performed well at the FCT because he is an estate surveyor who understands what it takes to build a city. He was appointed by Obasanjo not because he was a northerner or hails from Abeokuta, but because of his competence.

“We want Jonathan to toe this same path and allocate ministries to true professionals. By that, he can raise his head with quality performance in a short time,” the LOD said.

Meanwhile, youths in Bayelsa State have also continued to oppose the nomination of Madueke, with the claim that she was not a representative of the people of the state.

Last week, the Movement for Genuine Democracy, led by Ebiowei Amatari, addressed a press conference in Bayelsa, where it insisted that Madueke be replaced with another nominee from the state.

The group said she had not been a representative of the state.

“In the past two years of democratic rule, Allison-Madueke has failed to justify her position. The people of the state are yet to feel the impact of her stewardship at the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Interestingly, the acting president is an indigene of the state; he should demonstrate a greater understanding of the dynamics of governance and respect the feelings of the people by making an alternative nomination for the state.”

But it was learnt that Jonathan appeared to have stuck to his guns and insisted that Madueke should go to the Ministry of Petroleum. It was learnt that the major oil companies pushing her case were also unrelenting in their pressure on Jonathan to pick their choice for the top ministerial slot.
Loyalists of the acting president were also not in agreement over the allocation of certain portfolios to ministers.

Some of those who claimed to have played some roles in the emergence of the acting president said they were also interested in ensuring that the man made a mark within a short time.

It was gathered that disagreement had crept into the  allocation of portfolios among nominees of members of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who made the cabinet, interests in the North, as well as members of the National Interest Group (NIG) and Nigerian First Forum (NFF) in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It was gathered that loyalists of the former president, who made it to the cabinet, as well as those who have the backing of General T. Y. Danjuma, PAC chairman, were engaged in last minute battle for key portfolios on Sunday.

Sources said the list of ministers’ portfolio compiled after series of meetings on Friday and Saturday had kept changing and the acting president was keeping the portfolios close to his chest.

The face of the new cabinet, however, started emerging on Sunday, notwithstanding the secrecy surrounding the operations in the presidency.

Sources said former Minister of Justice, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, was being pencilled in for the Ministry of Environment; his former counterpart in the cabinet, who occupied that ministry, was to occupy the Ministry of Niger Delta as a Minister of State.

Former Minister of State in the Ministry of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, was set to be elevated as substantive minister in the ministry.

Senator Bala Moha-mmed was being tipped to take over Power ministry, while Alhaji Suleiman Yusuf from Sokoto State was being tipped as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. The nominee from Abia State, Chief Emeka Wogu, was to take over as Minister of State for FCT.

Alhaji Labaran Maku, the former deputy governor of Nasarawa State, according to sources, would man the Information ministry, while Honourable Isa Bio was said to be returning to the Ministry of Transport where he operated under President Umaru Yar’Adua.

There were conflicting signals on the portfolio being allotted the former Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, on Sunday.

While some sources said she had been allocated the Ministry of Education,  there were also indications that the Ministry of Science and Technology would be allocated to the nominee from Kebbi State, Professor M. K. Abubakar.

Captain Ihenacho Emmanuel from Imo State was being tipped to take over the Ministry of Information as minister of state.

Mr Olutoyin Aganga from Lagos State was set to become the Minister of Finance, while the nomine from Ogun, Senator Jubril Martins Kuye, was being tipped as Minister of Interior.

Navy Captain Ernest Olubolade, who was initially tipped for the Ministry of Works, was being taken to the Ministry of Defence.

Sources said the former Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Dr Aliyu Idi Hong, was being moved to the Ministry of Health as minister of state, while Mr Odein Ajumogobia was tipped to take over the Foreign ministry.

Mr Chris Ogiewonyi, who retired from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last year and who sources initially linked with the Petroleum ministry, was said to have now been pencilled in for the Ministry of Works, but sources said there could be changes in view of protests especially, about the impropriety of taking Mrs Allison-Madueke to the petroleum ministry.

The nominee from Kogi State, Mr  Mohammed Bello Adoke, was being tipped as the new Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Former Minister of National Planning, Dr Sham-shudeen Usman, was set to retain that portfolio in the new cabinet, but his predecessor in the ministry, Senator Sanusi Daggash, was being tipped to head the Housing ministry.

The former Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Aderemi Babalola, might take over as Minister of Aviation.

Meanwhile,Acting President Jonathan has staved off pressure on him to divulge the portfolio he has assigned to ministerial nominees cleared by the Senate, following his resolve to keep the information close to his chest.

Since last week, top lobbyists had been thronging the Presidential Villa to press for certain nominees to be assigned key ministries, but facts made available to the Nigerian Tribune were indicating that none of them had the slightest hint of the portfolios assigned to the ministers-designate.

A top aide of the acting president dismissed earlier publications on the portfolios assigned to the cleared nominees, which he described as a hoax, stressing that even his boss could not give a direct answer on the issue because he was yet to conclude consultation on the list.

Findings by the Nigerian Tribune revealed that those  eager to see the list of portfolios for would-be ministers trailed the acting president to the church and his official residence on Sunday, just as he reportedly dashed upstairs after returning home, as a ploy not to keep appointment with anybody.

The aide of the acting president hinted, however, that work would be concluded on the nature of the new cabinet to come with portfolios assigned to each of the ministers-designate latest Monday afternoon, ahead of the swearing in on Tuesday.

The militants were said to be demanding that the Niger Delta ministry and other key ministries should be considered for South-South ministers-designate with the argument that if the ailing President Yar’Adua could give almost all the key ministries to ministers from Kano and Katsina, there was nothing bad if South-South ministers were given a similar consideration.

The pressure by militants on Jonathan, findings revealed, came on the heels of admonitions by some northern intelligentsia to tread softly on the issue of cabinet re-composition, given the reported improving condition of the health of President Yar’Adua.

However, there are indications that the Niger Delta militants are planning to soft pedal on their agenda of hostility in the region, going by the fresh condition which they had given the government.

It was scooped in Abuja, at the weekend, that the militants had started initiating underground talks with the acting president through the South-South leaders, including Chief Edwin Clark and Mr Alabo Grahams Douglas.

Clark, whose residence in Abuja has of late been a beehive of activities, is said to have received representatives of the militants who reportedly offered conditions for their laying down of arms and with preparedness to cooperate with government henceforth.

However, words were said to have been passed to Jonathan that Yar’Adua was fast recuperating more than earlier imagined and amid reports that he may eventually make himself visible sooner than later, such that the acting president should not be caught off guard.

There was a news hype last weekend about the visit of some Islamic clerics to the ailing president who claimed that they saw President Yar’Adua where he was being kept, just as they went ahead to give graphic details of his condition and living style.

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) had given vent to the hype when it interviewed the clerics who repeated their earlier claim that they saw the president.

Till date, there had not been any report that the acting president had been able to see Yar’Adua since he was secretly brought back into the country.10:40 05/04/2010

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