By Emmanuel Aziken
ABUJAâ€”ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan, in an apparent move to consolidate his position, has requested the Senate to give approval to appoint five special advisers. No names were given in the letter dated March 5, 2010.
The demand has, however, been met with suspense in the Presidency as no word has been said about the fate of the 13 or 14 special advisers appointed by President Umaru Yarâ€˜Adua.
Jonathan, in the letter to the President of the Senate, received on 8 March, 2010 and read on the Senate floor, yesterday, said the request was upon the tremendous increase in the responsibilities facing him as Acting President.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua had, shortly after he was sworn into office in 2007, requested the Senateâ€™s approval to appoint 15 special advisers, though he did not appear to have fully utilized the allocation given to him by the Senate.
Remarkably, the Acting Presidentâ€™s request was received by the Senate the same day that he was believed to have taken the significant step to reshape the Presidency with the dismissal of Maj. Gen. Sarki Mukthar as National Security Adviser.
There was apprehension in some quarters in the Presidency about the request, with one appointee of President Yarâ€˜Adua saying that the Acting President had the right to appoint as many special advisers as the National Assembly approved for him.
A senior Presidency official told Vanguard yesterday: â€œIt is his prerogative and it is within his right to appoint the number of special advisers that may be approved for him.â€
But asked on the fate of those appointed by President Yarâ€™Adua, the senior presidency official was reserved saying only that the Acting President had the right to make the request for special advisers he so desired.
The letter addressed to the President of the Senate read thus: â€œFollowing my recent appointment as the Acting President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the responsibilities of my office has increased tremendously.
In order to cope effectively, I would require to appoint five special advisers. I am, therefore, through this medium requesting for approval of the Senate of Nigeria accordingly. Accept please, the assurances of my highest regards. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCON.â€
Section 151 of the 1999 Constitution gives the National Assembly the right to approve the number of special advisers that may be appointed by the President but does not compel the appointees to be approved by the National Assembly.
More changes coming
There were indications, yesterday, that as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan consolidated his hold on power, there might be more changes in the weeks to come.
Vanguard gathered that men loyal to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, were returning power, with the return of Aliyu Gusau as the National Security Adviser, following the ouster of Sarki Muktar over the poor handling of the recent Jos crisis, in which over 400 people were massacred.
According to sources, the former President is recalling his old confidantes and some new ones, developed after his Presidency to seize the moment with Jonathan to make some few changes and perhaps, as a source put it, â€œclean the slate out, re-assert Nigeriaâ€™s influence in the region and restore Nigeriaâ€™s credibility around the world.â€
The former President according to sources, was reported to have said that â€œhe made a mistake of picking and backing Yarâ€™Adua for President and at some point in the future, would make that known to Nigerians and eventually apologise.â€ But the source said: â€œHe did it for good reasons, but with unintended results.â€
Meanwhile another source said that even before Muhktarâ€™s sack by Jonathan, Obasanjo was the source of influence in firing and bringing back of Gusau. The sources said that Nasir El-Ruffai, Nuhu Rubadu and other self-described exiles were in constant contact with the Obasanjo and his re-emerging team, noting that they were eager to come home and help Jonathan.
The source close to Obasanjo said: â€œhe (Jonathan) needs these men to rehabilitate his battered image and preserve a legacy. He feels betrayed by the actions of some of his friends from the North lately, and the way they treated Jonathan in particular.â€
Another source, who claimed that he talks to Obasanjo daily, said â€œhe (Obasanjo) no longer supports the rotational agreement in PDPâ€™s constitution. The idea is to take over the party, PDP, and let Jonathan continue beyond 2011 to save the country from ridicule. Expect more changes in personnel, Nigeria will conduct election that is free and fair, but PDP will still retain power.â€
Another source accused the Acting President of acting-out a script composed at Ottah Farm and perfected in Abuja noting that at the end of the day, they may lead to removal of the PDP Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, and retention of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, in office.â€
The source said: â€œProf. Maurice Iwu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will be allowed to supervise the 2011 general elections, the argument being that a new INEC chairman will not have a enough time till 2011 to put together a logical poll.”