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The politics of Jonathan’s EXCOF dissolution

By Hugo Odiogor, Deputy Political Editor

The aura of invisibility weaved round the cabal and the political structure created by ailing president Umar Yar’ Adua seem to be cracking with the dramatic dissolution of the Federal Executive Council, on Wednesday March 17, 2010, by Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan anxious to write his chapter in the nation’s history.

Shocking as it was, Dr. Jonathan confounded all those who considered him naïve and too effeminate to take on the cabal and assert himself in power within the short time available to him. Now, the presumed sacred cows in the federal executive council would recognize how transient power is as they readjust to the life of ordinary Nigerians.

In a nutshell, those ministers who wanted Dr. Jonathan to remain a puppet President while the ailing President Yar’ Adua pulls the string from the backstage are now faced with bleak political future as Dr. Jonathan goes for the broke in the game of political survival that pitches him against the cabal and their cohorts within and outside the Aso Rock power circle.

These include those who opposed his emergence as Acting President and those who feel he should cut short his political ambition for geopolitical zoning configurations.

But beyond that there are a number of issues arising from the sacking of the ministers on Wednesday in Abuja. The first is the assertion of influence and authority at the highest level of governance within the short period at the disposal of Dr.Jonathan.

The second point revolves round the resolution of the issue of ailing Alhaji Yar’ Adua as the invisible president.

Thirdly there is the issue of the overbearing influence of state governors whose survival will depend on the type of politics that Dr. Jonathan will want to play in 2011. Put different, whatever decision he takes to either present himself as a candidate in 2011 or to exit at the level of Acting President will determine the fortune of many political actors in the 2011 elections. The sacking of the Yar Adua’s ministers will unfold all the power permutations in the days ahead.

Former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili 'briefing newsmen on the dissolution of EXCOF

The first point of interest will be the face of nominees of the new Federal Executive Council (FEC). This will be the first point where the power and influence of the State Governors will be tested, as the leaders of their party at the second tier of governance.

It will equally test the influence and authority of Dr. Jonathan as the leader of the party at the national level as such appointments are used by politicians to consolidate and strengthen their power base. For instance, three of the five governors of South Eastern States who shot themselves in the head by publicly supporting the concept of “ghost” presidency, before the February 9, 2010 proclamation of the National Assembly, would not be rewarded ministerial nominees in the Dr. Jonathan presidency.

It was gathered that the three South Eastern governors from PDP would go the extra mile to convince Dr. Jonathan that they deserve a second term ticket, because as the national leader of the PDP, their opposition to his emergence as the Acting president is a source of discomfort. “There is no basis for trust between the Acting President and those Governors. He would choose his own men from those states simply to weaken the position of those Governors”. Not only that, the Governors controlled the party structures and had absolute loyalty of the political appointees since they were seen as the leaders of the political parties in their respective states. With his position as the Acting President, Dr. Jonathan is now the national leaders of the party. State governors especially those from his party are not in a position to undermine his influence any more. They would have to play ball or risk the consequences of federal might.

First, the Acting President is the one to accept or reject their ministerial nominees and this could signal the survival or otherwise of such governors. “This is the time for the Acting President to get ministerial nominees from those governors he can trust and work with in resolving some intricate national decisions ahead of him.” According to sources “those Governors that have shown open or subtle opposition to his emergence as the Acting President should forget the idea of getting their ministerial nominees from their state and possible their re-nomination for second term”. This is very important because the new Federal Executive Council will be expected to resolve the issue of Yar’ Adua’ health status.

With the national budget yet to be passed, some state government’s are feeling the pinch of Alhaji Yar’ Adua’s absence from power and their desire to get funds to run their states has played a substantial role in their half hearted support for Dr. Jonathan’s presidency, sources said holding on to the budget play out in Dr. Jonathan’s favour as well and determining the ministerial nominees of the governors would tell that it is longer business as usual.

Another crucial element in the unfolding game of survival is that as the national leader of the Peoples Democratic Party Dr. Jonathan holds the ace in terms of determining the fate of the governors in 2011. “It is also important to know that Dr. Jonathan wants to consolidate his hold on power. This means that he will appoint only those who would enable him curtail the over bearing influence of the state governors”.

The dynamics of national political equation in the country presupposes that there must be radical changes within the political structure in PDP.

A situation where the South is dominating the presidency and the party leadership at the national level is not healthy for the country. Consequently, there is a clamour for the replacement of Prince Vincent Ogbulfor as the national chairman of the ruling party.

The decision of some PDP leaders and the Governors Forum that Dr. Jonathan should not contest in 2011 is a double edge sword that will show its deadly swing in weeks to come.

In the event of such change taking place, the new national party chairman will be somebody that will be in the good books of Dr. Jonathan regardless of what part of the country that throws him up. Dr. Jonathan strong hold on PDP will therefore determine his own political future. As it is now, Dr. Jonathan has little to loose by compelling a change in the structure of the present leadership of PDP, to face internal democracy.

The Acting President is under pressure from national and international communities to pass the Electoral Reforms Bills and the Freedom of Information Bill, which are expected to open the political space by promoting credible elections and transparency in the political terrain that will make rigging very difficult for political office seekers. Political analysts argue that an electoral bill that makes INEC less dependent on the executive for fund will create room for credible elections in Nigeria. This will make many Governors and elected leaders to face the real democratic test that some of them would not survive.

The unfolding situations therefore throws open questions on what becomes of Dr. Jonathan’s political future in all this? Does he have enough time to consolidate his hold on power and build his own political structure? Would the Northern political elite look at Dr. Jonathan’s performance and allow him to contest in 2011? These are issues to be discussed subsequently.


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