PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of ministers Wednesday was said to have political undertones, especially coming at a crucial time in the life of the administration and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) currently embroiled in a crisis.
Observers noted Wednesday night that virtually all the sacked ministers had links with state governors or powerful leaders opposed to the leadership of the party and the president in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
They discountenanced the government’s stated need for enhanced performance, transparency and accountability in governance as reasons for rejigging the cabinet.
In August, Jonathan made public a rating procedure known as Performance Contract Agreement for ministers.
Watchers of the polity then assumed that the rating would be used to weed out many of the ministers perceived to have under-performed since some of them joined the cabinet under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration.
But Jonathan dispelled such an expectation, promising that rather than use the result of the assessment to consider whom to relieve of their portfolios, it would be employed to review his administration’s performance and delivery of set targets to Nigerians.
“I read all kinds of things in the media, that the president wants to assess the ministers so that he would know who would go and who would stay. That is not the purpose of this.
“We would have done it probably in the first week when we came on board, but the key thing is that we have given ourselves points that we think we will get at.
“We believe that if we get at those points or even if we achieve 70 per cent of that, at least it will be better off for our own country.”
The president reiterated that the assessment was to ensure enhanced performance, transparency and accountability in governance.
“I want to assure every one of you (cabinet members) who has taken part in the exercise that this is not a witch-hunt targeted at anybody,” the president said.
However, just as they had concluded following the ministers’ signing of the Performance Contract Agreement, observers easily said yesterday that Jonathan had done the exact opposite of his promise not to witch-hunt with the cabinet shake-up.
With the exception of one or two, the sacked ministers, observers believed, have links with those regarded by the movers and shakers of Abuja as opposition to the president in regard to the 2015 elections.
For instance, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyat Rufa’i, is from Jigawa State. She was nominated by Governor Sule Lamido, one of the arrowheads of the group of governors bent on stopping Jonathan in 2015 and linked to the New PDP.
The same is true of the other dropped ministers. Samplers:
• Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs) from Ogun Sate: Former President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly recommended him for the cabinet post.
Although he is leading a reconciliation effort in the fractured PDP, Obasanjo was said to have stoked the fire of rebellion in the party ahead of the 2015 elections. State House sources told The Guardian that the former president is not regarded as an innocent bystander in the PDP-New PDP crisis.
During last Democracy Day ceremonies, rather than join Jonathan in marking the day in Abuja, Obasanjo was guest of Governor Lamido in Dutse, the capital city of Jigawa State.
There, he was quoted as praising the developmental strides of the state administration and prayed that Lamido should extend the same to the national level from 2015.
• Ama Pepple (Minister of Lands) from Rivers State: She was the nominee of estranged Rivers governor, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who also claimed to have nominated the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, who is today Amaechi’s nemesis.
Those in the know said Pepple was recommended along with Dr. Tonye Cole, son of Dr. P.D Cole, but the former was chosen for the cabinet post owing to Amaechi’s insistence.
As a source noted last night, “if President Jonathan had only one person to remove from the cabinet today (yesterday), that person would surely have been Ama Pepple because of her relationship with Amaechi.”
• Shamsudeen Usman (Minister of National Planning) from Kano: He was made minister under the Yar’Adua administration. Yet, he is reportedly close to the Kano State governor, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
The governor, according to Abuja minders, is next to Amaechi in the hierarchy of “enemies of the President,” politically.
Kwankwaso’s role is well documented in the scuttling of alleged plan of the presidency to install Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State as the “chairman” of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
The governor is one of the anti-Tukur elements of the PDP reportedly earmarked for “severe punishment” in the ongoing schism in the party.
• Erelu Obada (Minister of State, Defence) from Osun: She was a nominee of former Osun State governor, Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is one of the leading lights of the Kawu Baraje-led New-PDP that is threatening to derail the ambition of Jonathan for a second term in office.
A source revealed that Oyinlola nominated Obadan, a deputy governor under him, after he learnt that the portfolio of Minister of State, instead of a full cabinet post was allocated to Osun.
• Zainab Kuchi (Minister of State, Power) from Niger: She has links with the state governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, another vocal campaigner for a Northern president in 2015
Sources said the governor was the “most slippery” of the governors advancing the interest of the North in 2015.
“When he (Babangida) sees the president or his handlers, he will say ‘I’m with you.’ But when he turns back, he will say a different thing. So, the presidency people fear the man as they fear ‘Maradona.’”
Other ministers affected in the shake-up are either from states controlled by the opposition and thus, seen as sympathetic to their cause, or that they had issues with the leaders in those states.
But the acting Chairman, Caretaker Committee, South West People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Adedeji Doherty, dismissed insinuations that Jonathan was being influenced by the ongoing crisis within the ruling party.
The Lagos and Oyo state chapters of the PDP and the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) commended Jonathan’s cabinet shake-up.
Reacting to the speculation that the likes of Ashiru and Obada were sacked by the President as a result of their closeness to Obasanjo and Oyinlola, who is one of the principal actors in the New PDP, Doherty said such thinking was not only wrong but anti-development.
Speaking with The Guardian on phone yesterday, Doherty said the shake-up was a prelude to the general one that is on the way and it is also long over-due.
culled from The Guardian