The missing names in Jonathan’s cabinet

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The list of Honourable Ministers for the federal cabinet and Special Advisers or Assistants to Mr. President so far released is commendable on one hand. The list is made up technocrats and seasoned political calibers who have distinguished themselves in their fields of specialization. The appointments can be considered to be largely on merit.

Although the appointments came quite late, some of those who were reappointed did not come to many Nigerians as a surprise owing to the fact that during their first tenure, the nation's witnessed a level of transformation that touched the lives of Nigerians through their ministries.

Despite the achievements of some of the reappointed ministers, they preferred not to engage in media propaganda as some political figures often do. This, I believe, was quite novel and those ministers have shown the political will to tremendously push forward the transformation agenda of Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyat Ahmad Rufai, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammad are examples.

I recall an argument with a Nigerian female youth who claimed to have been an activist in the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Despite her hope to be appointed as one of the Special Assistants to Mr. President, she was furious on the reappointment of many ministers. Summarily, she was of the opinion that all the reappointed ministers had done nothing special to deserve return.

According to her, a new crop of youths were needed to aid the Jonathan's development plan, and not the old horses who often try to wear new hoofs to no avail. I insisted that, from past experiences in the Nigerian political scene, there may be no real difference in forming an entirely new cabinet, thus the need use some old experienced cabinet members is safer, and cheaper for Nigeria. I told her that, difficult as it had seemed to be to crawl away from the old system of business as usual, Nigeria does not need non-Nigerians to change her fate.

All she could realize at the end of the argument was that it was better to allow other citizens eat from the national cake because most of those in the government do not really have the interest of the country at heart. The first thing they are interested in, she noted, is their personal gains. If not so, in furthering her explanations, Nigeria would have changed for the best.

All in all, the list cannot be seen to be balanced, justified and ethno-religiously unbiased without one or two Igbo Muslim included in the cabinet. How long will this marginalization continue? There will be great sense to inculcate in the minority Muslims of the south the true spirit of federalism, equity and justice. Mr. President should consider Igbo Muslims such as Chief Haroun Ogbonnia Ajah, Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Idoko and Alhaji Yahya Ndu for ministerial appointments.

If their state governors can never nominate them for such federal assignments, Mr. President should prove his detribalized disposition and love for all Christians and Muslims who can selflessly deliver dividends of democracy, irrespective of religious and regional backgrounds. The Muslim political bigwigs should not be so snug that Igbo Muslims are so neglected politically, economically and socially.

A political activist once said carelessly that Muslim leaders from the Muslim majority in the country do not have the political will to help the Igbo Muslim minority. It is not a matter for debate. He further postulated that the Muslim minorities could even be given the national sense of belonging by a non-Muslim. It is hard to believe, however.

In some occasions, some Muslim leaders of the Igbo race had the opportunities to make an open face-to-face complaint to some former Muslim Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the chronic marginalization and deprivation of Igbo Muslim faithfuls in federal appointments, despite the fact that they often exert their little efforts in support of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the electioneering exercises.

Mr. President should consider these Igbo Muslim leaders, in the alternative, worthy for ambassadorial appointments. Or at least, Mr. President should appoint them as heads of federal agencies or parastatals. Mr. President should demonstrate to the Nigerian community and the world that, as he has often displayed, he is a lover and propeller of peaceful coexistence and harmony amongst humanity.

One of these prominent Nigerian Igbo Muslim compatriots, Chief Haroun has been in the political scene of his state for nearly two decades. He had contested the position of member of the Federal House of Representatives four times. The last was in 2007 when former Ebonyi state governor, Dr. Sam Egwu and for chairman of Afikpo North local government area, Barr. Idu Igariwey conspired to deny Haroun's mandate for the former Speaker of the state assembly, Rt. Hon. Christopher Omo Isu.

Haroun is a caliber who Mr. President has trust and a quality material that can add value to governance at the federal level. He contributed enormously to the governance of the old Abia state during the regime of former governor, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, now the national chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

As for Alhaji Ndu, he is a political juggernaut who has been the presidential aspirant of ARP in the last two political dispensations. It is now the time for Mr. President to act. This is though a weak voice of the down-trodden segment of the Nigerian society.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah