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Jonathan to Ministers: Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank You and Goodbye

From Left; Acting President Goodluck Jonathan; former Justice Minister, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode and the former Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, Dr. Sa'ad Abba Ruma 'reciting the national anthem before the dissolution of EXCOF in Abuja.

* State governors may lose out again

By Jide Ajani

His letter to the ministers expressed  appreciation for their  contributions. He made them feel good about having served their fatherland. In fact, he commended them for their support and commitment to service.

This was President Umaru Yar’Adua’s way of dissolving cabinet and it was some time in late 2008.  He retained a few ministers and went a step further to saddle them with the oversight responsibilities for other ministries pending his reconstitution of a full cabinet.

But on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Acting President Jonathan sold what could be described as a dummy to the 42 members of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF. Jonathan shocked members of EXCOF with his dissolution of the cabinet.

Almost all the ministers did not know when it would happen. One of Jonathan’s recently acquired skills seems to be the element of surprise in the actions he would take. This is with a view to disembarking from his seeming timid disposition which has made him become so predictable in his actions since assuming the new responsibility of Acting President. Once the meeting of Wednesday got underway, Jonathan did not betray any emotions.

In fact, about 20 memos were discussed and contracts awarded thereafter.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that once the meeting commenced and memos were being debated, most of the members became relaxed, believing that last Wednesday was not to be “the day of the dagger”. The Acting President, Sunday Vanguard was told, did not betray any emotions neither did he allow Members of EXCOF into the workings of his mind until the meeting got to the item of Any Other Business, AOB.

One of the ex-ministers told Sunday Vanguard that “whereas we had expected that at some point the Acting President would dissolve the cabinet, yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) action was unexpected. “The truth is that most of my colleagues did not expect that with the way the meeting was going, the cabinet would be dissolved on Wednesday. “It was totally unexpected. The Acting President simply said (under AOB): Gentlemen and ladies, I want to sincerely thank you for your service to this nation and your cooperation….

“It was at that point that most of us began looking at each other.  It became clear that the next thing would be a bombshell which it was.  But the man had to act and he acted”, the minister disclosed to Sunday Vanguard.

The ministers handed over to the Permanent Secretaries of their respective ministries last Thursday, some 24 hours after the dissolution. What many people may not have known since Jonathan’s early troubled days as vice president waiting for his boss to return, there had been surreptitious moves to establish something of a kitchen cabinet that would propel the affairs of state in the way Jonathan wanted.

Since February 9, 2010, when the National Assembly made its resolution empowering Jonathan to commence serving as Acting President, only three things have been clearly achieved:  First the institution of PAC, the committee that will appraise government contracts and project around the country and the appointment of General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd) as the National Security Adviser, NSA.

But concomitantly, Jonathan had also been shopping for some individuals who would replace some of the ministers he inherited from Yar’Adua.

In fact, it was the fear of the fate that would befall them that led ministers like Rilwanu Lukman, Shettima Mustapha, Godwin Abbe, Uffot Ekaette, and a few others who had pitched tent with the Yar’Adua group, to make a subtle plea for a stay of the status quo when they met with Jonathan on the evening of Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

They wanted him to understand the importance of ensuring that he was not misled into dissolving the EXCOF as constituted, just as they pledged loyalty. But he has dissolved EXCOF now. The significance of Jonathan’s move is multidimensional. First is the 2010 budget which is expected to be passed very soon.

The second reason why Jonathan had to dissolve the cabinet was because of the in-fighting among ministers pitched into camps belonging to Yar’Adua and Jonathan himself.  While the Yar’Adua loyalists carried on in the belief that ‘it is not over yet’, the Jonathan loyalists wore the toga of ‘we are in charge now’.

Having succeeded in convincing Gusau to come on board as a stabilizing factor, Jonathan needed to bring his own men and weed out possible fifth columnists. Then, and finally, there was the need for Jonathan to deliver on the goods of governance and, therefore, needed people he could trust to give a good face to his administration.

Governors may lose out again
Another leg to the dissolution of EXCOF is that of the state governors. Jonathan, Sunday Vanguard was told, had become wary of some of the state governors, especially in the light of their role pursuant to scuttling his emergence as Acting President and the type of interpretation some of them gave to the sudden return of Yar’Adua to Nigeria. This was partly responsible for Jonathan’s decision to keep the state governors at bay when he began scouting for nominees into his Presidential Advisory Council.

And whereas the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the ruling party, has held crucial talks with the Acting President and state governors on its platform, there are very strong indications that some state governors may again lose out in the reconstitution of the EXCOF.

Sunday Vanguard can confirm that because of the way some state governors had pitched themselves against the Acting President, the latter may not consult with some of them in his reconstitution of the cabinet. Just as Jonathan did while constituting the Presidential Advisory Council when he appointed its members without relying on the state governors for nominees, Sunday Vanguard has learnt that the Acting President “might go it solo again”.

A source close to Jonathan hinted at this possibility when he made it clear that “because of what had happened and which led to a fractious cabinet, the Acting President would be circumspect in requesting for nominees from state governors. “When he was to constitute the PAC, he did not as much let all the state governors into it because some of them had played their hands out.

“They complained, they grumbled, but the man had to do what he had to do and which appears to be right because once members of PAC were announced Nigerians applauded. “Nothing would be different this time. The man would appoint a cabinet made of men and women of commitment.”


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