WHEN the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, dissolved the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday March 17th 2010, most Nigerians welcomed the gesture. The number one reason for the sweeping approval of this step was that the federal cabinet was severely split into three parts.
While one part was loyal to ailing but incapacitated and absentee President Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua, the other was openly identifying with the Acting President, while a third faction was non-aligned, at least in their public posturing.
The dissolution therefore came as a sign that the new helmsman was poised to take decisive actions to ensure that the Yarâ€™ Adua/Jonathan ticket ends its four-year run with at least one or two things to show. Expectations were naturally high that those that would replace the sacked ministers would be men and women of proven track record of performance, and not merely recycled deadwoods.
Besides, the calibre of individuals Jonathan chose was to be a parameter for reading the quality of decision making and governance to be expected from him in the months to come.
By Monday, March 22nd 2010, the first group of nominees forwarded to the Senate for screening made it to the public arena. Two days later when the Federal Executive Council meetings should have held if not for the dissolution, the number of nominees had risen to 33. From then on, the picture had started getting clear as to what the Acting President had in mind in making his choice.
It became immediately obvious that the acting chief executive officer of the federationâ€™s primary objectives were three-pronged. In the first place, he was interested in weeding off the rebellious ministers, some of whom went so far as to issue him with a letter warning that he had not powers to sack the cabinet as he did not hire its members. Some of them are said to be priming to go to court to press their position home.
The second group that were axed from the cabinet were the former governors, ex-colleagues of Yarâ€™ Adua and Jonathan when they were state chief executives. Yarâ€™ Adua believed in working with ex-and serving governors. It was during his tenure that the Governorsâ€™ Forum became so relevant as to play a role in arresting the move to remove him when he was smuggled back from Saudi Arabia in less than tidy circumstances.
The ex-governors included Dr Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Chief Achike Udenwa (Imo) and Alhaji Adamu Aliero (Kebbi). They manned very strong ministries, even though their performances were generally rated below expectation and yet they were kept in office.
The third group were elements of Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s so-called government of national unity; members the Progressive Peopleâ€™s Alliance and All Nigerian Peopleâ€™s Party (ANPP) who were brought into the cabinet in 2007. It came as a surprise that Jonathan, in turn, recycled a number of names from past regimes such as Chief Jubril Martins-Kuye, former Minister of State, and Finance, who had to be dropped by former President Obasanjo to bring the financial technocrats that eventually moved the economy forward, such as Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He also brought back a number of Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s ministers, including all three who are of Ijaw stock (Dr Odein Ajumogobia, Mrs Diezani Madueke and Elder Godsday Orubebe).
In the days to come, Nigerians will get to know many of the dark horses, through their performance or lack of same. But Acting President Jonathan has to realise that since he has chosen to beat his own path away from that of Yarâ€™ Adua, the buck stocks squarely on his desk. He will take the kudos and knocks for the choice he has made. The usual early romance every newcomer enjoys with the Nigerian people will end or continue based on the ability of his team to achieve concrete deliverables, especially in the areas of power, petroleum supply, infrastructure, Niger Delta and the 2011 transitional elections.
We call on Nigerians to give this team a chance to prove their mettle because it has only fourteen months to do so.