Cabinet list: Intrigues Galore as Lobbyists besieged President Jonathan; PDP Implodes!
High level intrigues and intense lobbying involving ex-Ministers, Senators, Governors and other political king-makers, including top brass of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have intensified in Abuja amid increasing pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan
to immediately constitute the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and appoint his other aides. Huhuonline.com understands that the list of the Ministers will be submitted to the Senate when it resumes in session next Tuesday, June 28, 2011. Involved in the lobbying are governors who had either nominated persons for appointment; or governors seeking to ensure that some of the nominees do not scale through. Others are senators who are lobbying for or against nominees from their states and other interested parties.
Indices emerging from Aso Rock indicate that some key PDP party members earlier nominated for cabinet positions have been dropped and replaced, triggering a maneuvering for advantage and jostling for positions campaign, that if care is not taken, the ruling PDP party may implode over the eventual cabinet list. Political pundits and Nigerians in general have insisted that pedigree and professional strength should be the bedrock upon which ministerial portfolios should be allocated but analysts believe that because of the pressure that has been brought to bear upon President Jonathan; the new cabinet will be a mixed grill of politicians, former cabinet members, professionals and new entrants to governance.
Huhuonline.com gathered from Senate sources that some of the nominees had been making frantic telephone calls to senators while others had besieged their (senators') homes in order to have an easy clearance during the screening. Some of these nominees were taken to the houses of the legislators by Senators from their States or other Senators sympathetic to them. It was gathered that such Senators had pleaded for 'cooperation' from their colleagues on behalf of the nominees so as to ensure an easy passage for them.
Huhuonline.com also learnt that many of the nominees were apprehensive that they could face hostility from some of the Senators, who are aggrieved over one issue or the other concerning the nominations. One of the nominees, who pleaded anonymity in order not to jeopardize his chances, said some of them started to lobby the Senators when their names were drafted and forwarded to the State Security Services (SSS) and the Police Criminal Investigation Department for clearance and confirmation.
The nominee claimed that reports reaching him and other nominees showed that they could have a tough time during the Senate screening. He explained that that was what necessitated the contacts they made with senators from their states. He said: 'We needed to see our senators before the screening to interact with them, because it will not be in our interest to start seeing them for the first time on the floor of the Senate, the day we are to take our turn to appear before them. 'We believe that the only persons who are capable of handling this assignment for us are our senators; at least, to some of us who have the backing of our senators and governors.' Asked if there were pecuniary demands by the senators, the source answered in the negative.
PDP sources told huhuonline.com that the party's Acting National Chairman, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed, a former Communications Minister in the Obasanjo administration, and who hails from the North has been drafted for the strategic Defence Minister portfolio. His nomination may have however affected the fortune of the party's National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, who had earlier made the list, and is now in consideration for another appointment.
The list has already triggered crisis in some state branches of the PDP and observers fear, after the House of Representatives and Senate imbroglio during which the PDP tried and failed to uphold its policy of zoning, PDP top brass in Lagos, Imo, Anambra, Ondo, Oyo and Enugu are tearing each other apart as the battle for nomination enters the final stretch.
Bolaji Abdulahi, a journalist and the immediate past commissioner for education in Kwara State, and incoming Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed are reportedly on the list of 10, submitted by the state PDP leader, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
In Oyo State, The list reportedly included the former Senate leader, Teslim Folarin; the acting chairman of PDP, former PTDF executive secretary Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar, Abdullahi Idris Umar and former president National Council for women societies, Aagiya Zainab Maina. But the Oyo PDP has vehemently opposed to the nomination of former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, as Minister, accusing him of anti-party activities.
In a press statement signed by the PDP Secretary, Alhaji Bashiru Akanbi, urged President Jonathan to disregard the nomination of Folarin and his sponsors who were accused of sabotaging the PDP and blamed them for the modest success of the party in the state during the last April polls. Folarin in a swift reaction said the opposition to his nomination was in bad faith, challenging Akanbi to explain why President Jonathan won in virtually all the states of the South West, whereas PDP sitting governors and others lost their positions to the opposition.
In Enugu, while the Deputy Senate president favours a new entrant, Governor Sullivan Chime is favourably disposed to the re-nomination of Mrs Fidelia Njeze, In Anambra State; the PDP is against the nomination of the former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili. In Imo state, the Okigwe people who lost out in the governorship race want the ministerial nominee to come from the zone. Already the former Deputy Governor Ada Okwuonu is said to have been chosen.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State chapter of the PDP has petitioned the National Chairman of the party, urging him to prevail on President Jonathan to drop the two ministerial nominees from the state in the interest of peace, saying the state chapter was not a party to the emergence of the nominees
In another dramatic twist to the unfolding drama, efforts by Godknows Ighali to wrestle the position of Chief of Staff to the President suffered another setback after a delegation of Ijaw leaders failed to convince the President to make his temporary appointment permanent.
Huhuonline.com was told by Aso Villa sources that Ighali invited the President's anger after he went round pompously introducing himself as the new Chief of Staff. Huhuonline.com learnt that in one instance, Ighali had showed up at the Aso Villa gate and, when security agents demanded he goes through the routine security check, the former Ambassador refused and quipped: 'Do you want to say you don't know me? I am the new Chief of Staff'.
As if this effrontery was not enough, Ighali and a faceless group of Bayelsa elite launched a campaign of 'Godknows Ighali for Chief of Staff' in the media to bring undue pressure to bear on President Jonathan to replace Mike Oghaidomhe with Ighali. Just yesterday, Dr. Godknows Ighali hired and conveyed two lorry loads of militants to protest against the retention of Mike Oghaidomhe as chief -of -staff. The leaders who met with President Jonathan at the Aso Villa yesterday prayed the president to sack Mike Oghiadomhe and allow Ighali to take his place, but the President snubbed the request, reminding them politely where the buck stops.
It has also emerged that, in line with the new policy direction and organogram of the presidency, the number of Ministries will increase. This is to reduce the number of Ministers of State and avoid the lingering issue of senior and junior ministers, which has brought untold bitterness and bickering among Ministers. Part of the immediate change that will result from the new Presidency organogram will be the scrapping of the office of the Principal Secretary to the President. It is to be replaced by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President. In addition, the functions of SGF are now to be well spelt out to avoid a clash with the duties of any principal aide to the President.
In addition, the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Relations 'is to be strengthened to give it more bite towards Nigeria's quest for a more robust foreign policy that will centre around the better well-being for Nigerians and their businesses across the world.'
Indications also emerged that not all the former ministers already screened by the SSS will make the list to be sent to the National Assembly for approval next week. To the consternation of some former Ministers like Allison-Madueke, the former Oil Minister, whose supporters were already celebrating in the media, some sleaze-prone Ministers will be shocked to learn that they have been screened and dropped by the President for different reasons and new ones are being forwarded to the SSS for the routine security check.