Ministers betray emotions as Jonathan sacks nine
President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday surprised Nigerians with his first major cabinet shake-up since his inauguration on May 29, 2011.
The President sacked nine ministers, an exercise that shocked the Federal Executive Council members, most of whom had arrived the Council Chambers in the Presidential Villa in high spirits exchanging banter.
The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, announced the cabinet shake-up after the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The ministers that lost their jobs include Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai (Education); Okon Ewa-Bassey (Science and Techology); Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs); Hadiza Mailafia (Environment); and Shamsudeen Usman, (National Planning).
Others are Ama Pepple (Housing, Lands and Urban Development), the Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada, and her counterparts in the Agriculture Ministry, Alhaji Bukar Tijani and Power, Zainab Kuchi.
Some of the sacked and retained ministers were said to have betrayed their emotions as they shed tears of joy or sorrow as the case may be.
Reasons for their sack were not immediately known, but it will be recalled that the president, last year made the ministers to sign a performance bond which stipulated assessment yardstick in rating the performance of his administration.
Correspondents who went round the affected ministries after the news broke,
Observed that their staff received the news with mixed feelings, while some aides were unaware that their bosses had been sacked. .
At the Ministry of Education, some members of staff were overheard attributing the sack of the minister to either the lingering strike by university lecturers or a move by the president to upgrade the status of minister of state, Mr Nyesom Wike, who had shown loyalty to the president.
Also at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, everywhere was calm, as civil servants, in their offices, discussed the development in groups.
Maku explained that the dropping of the ministers had no political undertone.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting, Maku, said the cabinet shake-up was with immediate effect.
He said the President, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, had named the retained FEC members that would oversee the affected ministries pending the appointment of substantive ministers to head them.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to be overseen by the minisiter of State, Prof. Viola Owuliri; the Education by the Minister of State, Nyesome Wike; and the Minister of Solid Minerals, Musa Sada, Housing, Lands and Urban Development.
The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, is to supervise the Science and Technology Ministry; the Minister of State for Works, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, Ministry of Planning; Maku, Defence; and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Goodsday Orubebe, Environment Ministry.
When Maku announced that he would oversee the Defence Ministry, State House correspondents shouted but he pleaded with them to allow him to continue his briefing.
He then added that the Ministers of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina and Power, Chinedu Nebo would take care of the duties of the sacked ministers of state in their respective ministries.
Maku said the President expressed satisfaction with the performance of the affected ministers while in office.
He stated that Jonathan assured them that he would call on them whenever their services were needed for the development of the country.
The Information minister said, 'These ministers have been affected in the cabinet reshuffle and the President in Council expressed his satisfaction and happiness over their commitment to government since they were appointed.'
'He (the President) also thanked them for their services to their fatherland and said he would continue to engage them in one way or the other in the implementation of the transformation agenda and of course in the various challenges that government faces around the country and in terms of efforts to transform our country.'
The minister said that the President would soon send a list of new ministers to the National Assembly to replace those who had been dropped.
Maku who described the cabinet shake-up as a normal process,added that it was meant to inject fresh blood into the government.
Maku said, 'There is no government in the world where the leaders do not reshuffle their cabinets, there is none. And cabinet reshuffle is part of a systematic public administration and I believe what the President has done is simply to address the issues of re-tooling his government to achieve service delivery.
'It is at the discretion of the President at all times to reshuffle his cabinet. It is his own prerogative under the constitution and this has nothing to do absolutely with any other factor other than having come two years into his administration in the last lap, what I see the President doing is to refocus his government, to inject in fresh blood to achieve greater service delivery to the people of Nigeria. That is the only reason for it, any other thing has nothing to do with the decision of the President.
'The President is trying to in reject fresh blood into the system while retaining again the loyalty of all those who have worked.'
A source at the meeting said the President caught the ministers unawares.
He quoted Jonathan as saying, 'Some of you will not be with us at the next Federal Executive Council meeting. It is not because you didn't do well, but that is the ingredients of democracy. You will hear the details from the SGF.'
He then read out the affected names and then hurriedly left the Council chambers.
One of the retained ministers, Edem Duke of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation was seen dabbing his eyes intermittently with his handkerchief. The former Minister of Environment, Mailafia, also did the same before she was driven out of the Villa.
Before Maku's briefing, Duke's action made journalists think that he was one of the nine that were fired.