Cabinet Dissolution: Springboard for Vibrancy & Good Governance

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Acting President Goodluck Jonathan
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It is no longer news that the President (Acting), Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on a day most ministers considered as black Wednesday, dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), sending ministers away in the much-awaited cabinet shake-up. This bold decision has strongly sent signal to the world that there is no vacancy in the affairs of governance in Nigeria, and also a correction to the misgiving that the (Acting) President is a lame duck, as initially speculated by political quislings. He is now fully in charge of State affairs.

Without anyone telling those ministers affected in this ''Political Tsunami'' by now they ought to have handover to the permanent secretaries in the respective Ministries. As a result of this step, Political observers now laud President (Acting) Goodluck Jonathan saying his meritorious decision will help to sieve out charlatans, mediocre, sycophants political jobbers etc from the serious business of governance. Akunyili also shed light to some grey linings in the decision made by the Acting President when asked if the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Special Advisers were affected by the dissolution; Akunyili said if they were statutory members of the council, they were affected. Similarly the Acting President, in a press statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Ima Niboro, said the dissolution, was “to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance. It is part of the larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this crucial moment of our history.”

Meanwhile, media reports have it that sacked ministers wore long faces after the meeting and walked away from the council chambers to their waiting vehicles. Even ministers whose memos were treated and approved at the EXCOF meeting abandoned Akunyili to talk to journalists alone after the meeting unlike the usual practice whereby such ministers accompany Akunyili to explain details of approved memos to journalists. Further intriguing publication show that at the meeting, the council approved many juicy contracts worth billions of naira, including that for the purchase of about 150 long buses meant to be distributed to federal universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education in the country to alleviate the transport problems of the students. It's unfortunate that the dissolved FEC had been involved in a hide-and-seek game over the issues surrounding the health of Yar'Adua and the emergence of Jonathan as acting president.

But it would also be uncharitable not to have noticed some patriotic move by few of the ministers who tried to salvage the messy situation in the polity; one of them is Dora Akunyili who in February 3 presented a 'controversial memo', which however called on Yar'Adua to smoothen the empowering of Jonathan in the agenda. The action was greeted with vituperations from Yar'Adua's kitchen cabinet, especially from the former Special Duties Minister, Mr Mike Aondoakaa, who was the spokesman for the so called cabal. Consequently, the move split members of the council along anti-and pro-Yar'Adua groups. FEC members were jolted when the Senate, having waited for the one-week ultimatum given to Yar'Adua to expire, passed a resolution empowering Jonathan as Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country. And shortly after Jonathan became Acting President, he redeployed Aondoakaa from the Ministry of Justice to Special Duties, in a minor cabinet reshuffle involving three ministers.

Also in February 18, FEC in its wisdom raised a six-man team to visit Yar'Adua in Saudi Arabia and convey the gratitude of the nation to the kingdom, unknown to the team that Hajia Turai Yar'Ádua and members of kitchen cabinet had perfected plans to prevent the delegation from seeing the president, who was moved into the country in the early hours of Wednesday, February 24. The statutory meeting of FEC for that day was cancelled, following confusion which trailed who would chair the meeting. Consequently, Jonathan, on Monday, March 1, set up a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), chaired by Lieutenant-General Theophilus Danjuma and the council was inaugurated on March 4. At the meeting of the council on March 3, the report of the delegation was considered and, contrary to speculations, the President was not declared unfit. Another meeting of FEC scheduled for March 10 was, again, cancelled by Jonathan, who cited other state engagements as reasons. Overwhelmed by increased responsibilities, Jonathan sent a letter to the Senate, seeking approval to appoint five new special advisers to help him cope with the new challenges.

The lawmakers had since given their consent to the move by Jonathan, though those on the list had not been made public.

It is amazing to know that the decision by Acting President Jonathan to sack the entire cabinet constituted by President Yar'Adua on Wednesday, was borne out of the need to prevent “perceived persecution of certain ministers.” My observation is that the Acting President had originally planned to relieve only a few of the ministers of their posts and appoint a few others to replace them, but his stance could be that, while the ministers were busy pledging loyalty to him, some of them were also orchestrating reports that only some of them had been pencilled in for dismissal. The national publicity secretary of the Peoples' Democratic Party, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, also believed that it was within the prerogative of the Acting President to perform such a task. He said the position of the party was that there was no vacuum in the presidency had been justified by the actions of Dr Jonathan since assuming office. The organised labour also declared the dissolution as a welcome development, saying that it was long overdue for hitch-free socio-economic development to happen in the most populous black nation.

Moreover, quite a number of Nigerians from different strata of life are now throwing their weight behind the Acting President; one of them is the Lagos Zonal Chairman of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Tokunbo Korodo, national president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Babatunde Ogun who even said that Jonathan's action was in the right direction, adding that it showed that he was in charge. The national president of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr Joe-Okei Odumakin, while reacting said the step was a good one, adding that it was obvious that many of them had joined the cabal and the country needed to be let off its hook. Also, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also lauded the decision to dissolve the FEC, saying that it was a step in proper direction. He advised Jonathan to choose a cabinet that he had confidence in, with the view that the dissolved cabinet members were having a divided loyalty. Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Afenifere, Chief Supo Shonibare, said he welcomed the dissolution of the FEC, adding that it would enable the Acting President to exercise his full executive functions without interference. Another chieftain, Senator Femi Okurounmu, commended the Acting President for the courage to dissolve the FEC, adding that by this development, he had demonstrated that he was in charge. Former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba, said the Acting president needed to have his own team, adding that in any endeavour one embarked on, to be successful, one needed his own team.

However, it was learnt that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have just recalled the Nigerian Ambassador to Libya following the scary statement credited to the Libyan President Colonel Ghadaffi, who said Nigeria should split into two as a result of the carnage in Plateau State (North-Central Nigeria), apart from that, Nigeria is also likely to break its diplomatic ties with Libya. I believe every Nigerian will agree with me that, the decision was premature and hasty. Since they could hurriedly take such step to address ''misguided statement'' by a Libyan President, I also think that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should equally deem it necessary to recall the Nigeria Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Abdullah Aminchi, sequel to the role he played in the Yar'Adua health's saga while he was in Saudi hospital.

It is so embarrassing that Alhaji Abdullah Aminchi could mislead and deceive Nigerians over issues that attract such high profile issue; his roles seemingly battered the integrity and image of Nigerians in the international community, who now treat Nigeria with disdain. Ambassador Aminchi told Nigerians that he visited the President and that he is really feeling better. Alhaji Aminchi also spoke with the news agency AFP: "I saw him the day before yesterday ... He's really feeling better now. Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is sound and fit in hospital in Saudi Arabia, but it is unclear when he will be able to return home''. In his interview with Reuters he said: "President Yar'Adua is recuperating in a royal suite attached to the hospital for VIPs. He is sound and fit, he sits, eats and walks very well.'' But the good news however is that Nigeria now know the truth and they can no longer be hoodwinked by people who lacks integrity and patriotism.

Similarly, Nigerian will never forgive former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, although he was showing loyalty to his boss, but that was extremely at the detriment of over 150 million Nigerians. I was not alarmed hearing Professor of Constitutional Law, who reacted to the whole anomaly; Professor Itse Sagay described the real stuff Michael Aondoakaa is really made of and the damage he caused in the capacity of an Attorney-General of the federation: ''...Aondoakaa has become a suffocating nut on the throat of Nigerians; he was choking the whole country to death. That man has been the originator, generator, the stoker, the fire man of all the crises we have had. He has rendered this country in a ridiculous light before the whole world; CNN is even making fun of us, to say a President can rule from any part of the world permanently, to say that everything was alright and there was no vacuum, to say that the Vice President can rule by dedicated powers as if is President, telling blatant lies, manipulating, covering up, going from intrigues to intrigues, dragging us to a very severe crises, and threatening us, threatening our democracy, the man ought not to be in the executive...''

Well may be Nigerians should not be too surprised about what Michael Kaase Aondoakaa has been found doing over the years as a public officer, for those who do not know he was born in a more controversial date in the history of Nigeria's democratic rule, June 12, 1962 in Benue. June 12 we would recall was the day the freest and fairest election held in Nigeria, but the acclaimed winner, late Chief MKO Abiola, in 1993 Presidential election, was denied his mandate; he was incarcerated and was subsequently killed after taking tea, we all know the story.

I implore His Excellency Dr Goodluck Jonathan to try and bring in people of values and purpose, technocrats etc, and ultimately people who are overwhelmed with the fear of God in the overall interest of Nigerians, people who can help to bring Nigeria back on track to her place of pride locally and internationally. Nigerians also expect a quick fix to the deplorable energy sector; the moribund 6,000 megawatts which Yar'Adua and Babalola promised us in 2009 year end, should not just be realized but should be surpassed so that the socio-economic life of Nigerians can be substantively revitalized. He should also concentrate his genuine efforts on the implementation of the Niger Delta post amnesty deal; the boys who have retired from restiveness and arm struggle should be rehabilitated and their agitations must not be jettisoned, so that there can be lasting peace in the region. Electoral reform is another impetus which I believe can help to restore confidence in the minds of Nigerians in this newly constituted administration; it is the only veritable tool that can empower Nigeria democracy which has witnessed many turbulence over the years. I don't agree with some school of thought which opined that the ''old brigades'' shouldn't be reintegrated to Dr Jonathan's cabinet, people like Nasir el-Rufai, Mallam Nuhu Riibadu, Obi Ezekwezili, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as well as other technocrats irrespective of party affiliation, provided that can usher in constructive contributions for national growth and prosperity.

Emmanuel Ajibulu is a Public Affairs Analyst

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Articles by Emmanuel Ajibulu