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Panic in Aso Rock
•Five ministers to go • Real reasons Mukhtar was sacked

By Daniel Alabrah & Willy Eya
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Nigeria's seat of government has been thrown into fresh panic with loyalists of ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua in disarray over fears that the former Katsina State governor is gradually losing relevance in the nation's power equation.

This development came even as Sunday Sun scooped the real reasons for last Monday's sudden sack of the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Sarki Mukhtar.

It was gathered that Yar'Adua's kitchen cabinet members now engage in desperate behind-the-scene moves to worm their way into the heart of the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan.

A source close to the presidency told Sunday Sun that after the sudden sack of the former NSA, supporters of the former governor came to the grim reality that a new power bloc led by Jonathan had indeed emerged.

They were said to have been shocked that the Acting President summoned the courage to fire Mukhtar, who is perceived as a close ally of Yar'Adua.

Some of his core loyalists are said to be now hesitant to even identify with him and have deserted his palatial Aso Villa residence, which hitherto used to be a beehive of activities.

'Nigerian politicians are sycophants and their support for you is only when the going is good. Those who just recently used to sing Yar'Adua's praises have abandoned him when they discovered that the man might never be relevant in the nation's politics again.

'You know Nigerians are very clever when it comes to reading the political tide. They have realised that Jonathan is gradually consolidating his presidential power. First, he constituted a Presidential Advisory Committee. As if that was not enough, he sacked the National Security Adviser and now he has sent the names of five nominees for Special Advisers to the National Assembly.

'Does anybody need to be told that Jonathan is already in charge? He has shown some courage and that is why some people who want the status quo to remain are afraid,' said our source.

Sunday Sun further gathered that the cabal, which hitherto called the shots at the Villa, is surprised that the Acting President survived the heat from the lingering Yar'Adua health crisis.

Fear grips Ministers
It was also learnt that Jonathan's letter to the Senate seeking approval for appointment of five Special Advisers equally sent jitters down the spine of Ministers. Their fear, according to a source, is that the appointment of five new aides by the former Bayelsa governor would render the portfolios of some Ministers ineffective.

An impeccable source informed one of our reporters that at least five Ministers would be dropped in the looming cabinet reshuffle. It is already being speculated that among those to be affected are Ministers in the Power and Niger Delta ministries.

According to our source, with the cabinet reshuffle, Jonathan wants to tackle once and for all the endemic problems of poor performance, infighting among ministers and entrenched corruption in the ministries

Mukhtar's many 'sins'
Sunday Sun can reveal that the poor handling of the Jos crisis was just a 'convenient excuse' to sack Mukhtar as the former NSA was indeed long overdue to be shown the door.

The Acting President was said to have for a very long time tolerated the security chief. Mukhtar alongside the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, were said to be thorn in the flesh of Jonathan and did everything to ensure he was frustrated as Vice President.

Among the 'sins' of the duo was that they ensured the VP's office was starved of funds. To accomplish this, they enlisted the support of a former Permanent Secretary in the Presidency, who was later moved to the Ministry of Finance, to stifle Jonathan's office of funds.

At a point, Yar'Adua was said to have intervened and was planning to reverse the situation before his health condition got worse. Both Mukhtar and Kingibe were also said to have frustrated a blueprint for the holistic development of the Niger Delta prepared by the VP's office in 2008.

Jonathan had, with the permission of Yar'Adua, constituted a team of experts to prepare the document for the government. Our source disclosed that Kingibe and Mukhtar ensured that the document did not see the light of the day because they were not privy to its preparation.

The Acting President, who is from the Niger Delta, and wanted to use the blueprint to establish his relevance in his region, was enraged with the role the duo played with regards to the document.

All this while, Jonathan was said to have borne his cross in his stride, biding his time to strike back.

'Jonathan has been accommodating Mukhtar and the Jos crisis was the right excuse to remove him. He has long overstepped his bounds,' the source said.

He added that the sacked security chief's loyalty remained with Yar'Adua even after the Senate conferred the status of Acting President on Jonathan through a resolution.

A day after the Jos crisis broke out again, Mukhtar was last Monday replaced with his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd), who held the same position during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

A statement from the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr Ima Niboro, announced Mukhtar's sacking.

The short statement, which was titled 'Gusau replaces Mukhtar as National Security Adviser,' reads: 'The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has appointed Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd) as National Security Adviser.

'He replaces Maj.-Gen. Sarki Mukhtar (rtd).'