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Weep not, Minister

By Ochereome Nnanna
There is a touch of cruelty developing among political chief executives in Nigeria. I am referring to governors and presidents of Nigeria whom the Constitution gives the power to hire and fire political appointees. The governor or president begins by floating rumours of impending cabinet shakeups.

It is done in such a way as to seem a deliberate psychological torture.
In most cases, they do not act when the shakeup is expected. A good example of this was recently demonstrated by the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha. He took his cabinet on an inspection of projects. Thereafter, he invited them to lunch. After a sumptuous meal accompanied with hefty swilling of choice drinks, he calmly informed them that their services were no longer required. Food particles immediately soured in the mouths of Honourable Commissioners. Bellies full of recently chewed expensive food churned and digestion processes were truncated. Why feed me first, then, sack me? That’s sadism!

What President Goodluck Jonathan did to his former ministers took on a note of playing skittles with the emotions of the men and women who represented him in the various ministries from June 2011 till date. Early in August 2013, the President was widely suspected to be about to dissolve the federal cabinet. That was shortly after the Nigerian Governors’ Forum split over its controversial election. With the crisis in Rivers State and five rebel Northern governors trooping to Port Harcourt on a solidarity visit to Governor Chibuike Amaechi, a sudden emergency cabinet meeting summoned by the President on a Thursday led to speculations that the long-awaited reshuffle would take place on that day.

Surprisingly, they all returned to their duty posts unscathed. There must have been a last minute change of mind by the President, who probably decided to act after the national convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It should have been obvious to the ministers (especially those nominated by the PDP rebels now masquerading as the “New” PDP) that this event was inevitable. The final straw was the breaking away to form a faction. Former Education Minister, Professor Ruqqayatu Rufai, Governor Sule Lamido’s nominee, seemed psychologically prepared. As soon as the President announced she was among those dropped, she calmly invited the media to her office and handed over to the Minister of State, Onyesom Wike.

However, her colleague in the Ministry of Environment, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia, was overwhelmed by the news. She wept “openly” as newspaper reports had it. I understand how she felt. It is possible for one to brace for bad news and yet still be devastated by its impact when it comes.

It is not easy to, in a split second, transit from the high office of Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to almost “nothing”, if you catch my meaning. The perks of office of a Nigerian minister are enormous. Even for brave Professor Rufai, it will not be easy to move from minister towering above over 64 vice-chancellors to a mere lecturer in Curriculum Studies taking briefs from the faculty head. But such is life.

Now, don’t be carried away by the antics of Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who said the reshuffle was not politically motivated. This is why Nigerians see government as a big liar. It is all politics and nothing else. The President is first and foremost a politician. Politics was the platform that brought him to power. The rebellion in his party threatens to ensure he does not get re-elected in 2015. When a politician is threatened in this manner, he shifts his primary attention from governance to politics.

When he reclaims his power base, he returns full attention to governance. That is the way of democratic systems.
If you examine the configurations, you will notice that ministers linked to persons and parts of the country participating in the attempt to deny GEJ a second term in office were affected. Most affected were the North and West where the moves to upstage Jonathan are gathering traction. On the other hand, the South East, with almost one hundred per cent solidarity for the President, was untouched. Minimally affected were the South-South and the Middle Belt.

Those areas affected will be quickly replaced by politicians loyal to the party and the President. Not only will they be given appointments, they will also be favoured with the party’s state structures to contend with the All Peoples Congress, APC and the “new” PDP.

I think the President has properly defined who his enemies are, and has started deploying for battle. The rebel camp in the ruling party will very likely begin to experience increasing isolation. Perhaps, by the end of September, those who have not found their ways back into the mainstream of the PDP may have to join Atiku Abubakar in his recently registered Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, or consider joining up with the APC.

Eventually, there will only be one PDP going to the polls with other registered parties.

Please spare Jigawa this disaster

There are reports that the President might bring former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’Abba, into favour as a replacement for Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso in Kano. It is a credible speculation because Kwankwaso is a notable loyalist of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a major stoker of the rebellion in PDP. Na’Abba will be glad to return to the war front against Obasanjo whom he once boldly told: “Mr President, look into the mirror. Whoever you see there is the biggest problem with Nigeria!”

But I am greatly troubled by the speculation that former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, is being considered for recruitment to fight for the President against Governor Sule Lamido’s camp in Jigawa State. Turaki, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, ruled Jigawa for eight years and reduced it to the poorest state in the North. But after six years, Lamido has made Jigawa a showpiece of rapid development in the country.

I am hoping that the Governor is able to mend fences with the PDP of which he is a founding father and avoid the spectre of reversing the gains of the past six years in a political civil war against an Abuja-backed Turaki. Bringing Turaki back to power will be a great disservice to the people of the state which the Presidency must avoid.


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