NEW CABINET MAY BE INAUGURATED ON TUESDAY
There were indications on Thursday that the cabinet comprising the newly confirmed ministers will be inaugurated by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan next Tuesday.
The indication emerged just as lobbying intensified as ministers-designate made spirited moves to ensure they are not appointed ministers of state when Jonathan finally unveils the ministries where they will serve.
A source in the Acting President's office informed our correspondent that the cabinet would be inaugurated on Tuesday, immediately after the Easter holidays.
'The cabinet would be inaugurated on Tuesday next week; that is when the ministers would be assigned their portfolios. The portfolios would be announced at the inauguration ceremony.
'Until then, any other announcement or report is speculation because it is the Acting President that will take the decision,' the source said.
However, our correspondents said nothing was certain because deperate last-minute jockeyings by power brokers may cause a delay.
The lobbying, our correspondents gathered, has been responsible for the delay in the allocation of ministries to the ministers-designate.
The senate had on Wednesday concluded the screening and confirmation of the ministers who comprise members of the dissolved cabinet and fresh nominees.
It was gathered that last minute lobbying for perceived better portfolios by the prospective ministers and their sponsors, as well as petitions against some of them, were mainly responsible for the delay.
According to a source in the Presidency, who did not want to be named, the Acting President was still pondering about the proper ministries that should be manned by particular ministers.
The source specifically disclosed that the Nigerian Medical Association had already protested the possible choice of former Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, as Minister of Health, in the coming cabinet.
Akunyili, a pharmacist, is tipped to go to the Ministry of Health, which she lost out to a medical doctor, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, in the last cabinet.
The traditional feud between the medical association and the pharmacist council also came into play in the build-up to Osotimehin's eventual announcement as Health minister by President Umaru Yar'Adua.
The source disclosed that the NMA had made its feelings known to the Acting President 'through appropriate channels.'
Said to be involved in the final round of lobbying were prospective ministers and their godfathers, mostly state governors and influential members of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Of particular concern to some of the prospective ministers and their state governors is the need to avoid being designated as ministers of state, a position which is generally seen to be of junior rank.
It was gathered that the returning ministers, who served as ministers of state in the dissolved cabinet, were bent on not serving in the same capacity in the coming council.
Humphrey Abbah (Kogi), Remi Babalola (Oyo), Odein Ajumogobia (Rivers) Fidelia Njeze (Enugu), Godsday Orubebe (Delta), Nuhu Sumo Wya (Kaduna), and Aliyu Idi Hong (Adamawa), are returning ministers who served as ministers of state in the dissolved cabinet.
'The lobbying did not stop with the nomination of ministers, what is happening now is even more intensive.
'Now that they are sure of their place in the cabinet, the incoming ministers and their backers are now pushing for choice ministries.
'Besides some ministries which are seen as more prominent, they are anxious to avoid being designated as ministers of state, which is really a junior position in the cabinet.
'Some governors, whose nominees served as ministers of state in the dissolved cabinet, are said to be anxious and have been making their positions known to the Acting President.
'Also, some of the returning ministers, who served as ministers of state in the last cabinet, are eager to graduate, so to speak, from that position in this new council,' the source said.
Some of the nominees, who served as substantive ministers (rather than ministers of state) in the past, mostly during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, are also said not to be willing to serve as ministers of state in the coming cabinet.
These include Sanusi Daggash (Borno) and Adamu Waziri (Yobe).
Our correspondents gathered that this group of ministers and their backers had argued that it would be a sort of 'demotion' for them to return to the Federal Executive Council in a junior capacity, after having served as 'full ministers' in the past.
However, the ministers returning from the dissolved cabinet, who served as full ministers in charge of their ministries, are said to be confident that they would once again return to the cabinet as full ministers.
Those in this category include Akunyili, Adetokunbo Kayode (Ondo), Isa Bio (Kwara), Dieziani Allison-Madueke (Bayelsa), Shamsudeen Usman (Kano), and John Odey (Cross River).
Besides moves to avoid serving as ministers of state, our correspondent gathered that some of the prospective ministers are also flaunting their credentials in order to sway Jonathan's final decision.
Those in this group are mostly fresh nominees, who have not held ministerial positions before now.
Although some of them were believed to have been nominated in the first instance as a result of their professional pedigrees, the source noted that political considerations could eventually determine their eventual portfolios.
It was also gathered that the Acting President was yet to decide between Messrs Odein Ajumogobia and Chris Ogiemwonyi (Edo), for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Ajumogobia served as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in the dissolved cabinet and has up-to-date knowledge of the Federal Government's programmes and policies in the sector, but Ogiemwonyi is a professional with deep knowledge of how the sector operates.
'The ministry of petroleum resources is a cause for concern for the Acting President,' the source noted.
But Jonathan is said to have concluded portfolio sharing, but he is keeping his list to his chest.
However, the source said that the finance portfolio was most likely to go to Mr. Olusegun Aganga, an Oxford-trained, United Kingdom-based banker.
Aganga is the Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, a London-based investment bank with a $95bn capital base.
Also, Orubebe is being tipped to head the new Ministry of Niger Delta while Ajumogobia may head the Ministry of Petroleum.
Orubebe's background, understanding of the restive region and the forces behind his nomination to the cabinet favours him for the portfolio.
The Justice ministry, our correspondent learnt, might be manned Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).
However, another source said, 'As things stand now, only the Acting President knows the portfolio to be occupied by each of the ministers-designate.'