Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan Prepares to Announce New Cabinet

Article excerpt

Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan, acting president, unexpectedly dissolved the nation's cabinet Wednesday in a move to quickly assert power during the elected president's absence. He's expected to announce a new cabinet within days.

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's acting president, has dissolved the cabinet five weeks after taking the reins of Africa's most populous country, in a bold move to sideline allies of the elected (but incapacitated) President Umaru YarAdua, say analysts. The blanket dismissal of 42 ministers on Wednesday is part of an ongoing power struggle, as Mr. YarAdua and his supporters refuse to transfer power fully to Mr. Jonathan, even though the former has been too ill to appear in public for almost four months. The resulting political limbo has caused concern both at home and among the Western nations who buy much of Nigeria's oil.

The move was to bring new "vigor to governance," according to Jonathan's spokesman. The acting president is expected to announce a new cabinet lineup soon, which must be approved by the Senate. "More than half will come back and we are expecting it [the new government] next week," a presidential source told Agence France- Presse Thursday.

A quiet vice president?

Critics of Jonathan, formerly a rather quiet vice president, often dismiss him as a figure put in place by higher powers. The full-scale firing thus came as a surprise to some, even though rumors have circulated in recent weeks that the acting president planned to hire and fire a number of ministers. "We were not expecting anything on this scale, so it goes to show that he should not be underestimated," says Rolake Akinola, a West Africa expert at Control Risks, a consultancy. "This move says 'I don't think YarAdua is coming back, so I'm going to establish my own base.'" Jonathan's push to assert authority comes at a particularly precarious time for Nigeria, a nation that includes150 million people, some 250 ethnic groups, a predominantly Muslim north and Christian south, and huge oil reserves. There is a keen need for active and effective government. In the oil-producing Niger Delta region, militants this week planted explosives outside local government offices. …