Jonathan Takes Firm Grip at the Top: After Several Months of Uncertainty Surrounding the Presidency, the Dust Seems to Have Finally Settled and the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, Appears Secure in the Top Seat. the Economy, Paralysed by the Political Impasse, Has Now Begun to Pick Up. Frederick Mordi Reports from Lagos
Mordi, Frederick, African Business
Nigeria's Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has put paid to speculation about his role in government following President Umaru Yar'Adua's continuing absence from office. He has made it abundantly clear to all that he is fully in charge of the affairs of the country.
Having shocked Nigerians when he dissolved the erstwhile 42-member cabinet on March 18th, about five weeks after he assumed duty as Acting President, he has now reconstituted the cabinet more to his liking.
The dissolution of the former cabinet invariably triggered intense lobbying in Abuja as many of the affected ministers fawned on him to regain their former portfolios or be assigned new ones in the remodelled cabinet. But when he eventually unveiled the new list of ministers with their portfolios on 6th April, many were disappointed.
Perhaps, to convince everyone that he wields full executive powers, Jonathan has taken on arguably the most difficult and troubled ministry--Power--under his own portfolio. Nigeria's perennial power shortages have been a huge drain on the nation's economic growth and its financial resources. His nomination of Murtala Yar'Adua, nephew of the ailing Umaru Yar'Adua, as Minister of State for Defence, is considered a master stroke.
Jonathan's nomination of Olusegun Aganga, the MD of Goldman Sachs International, London, as Finance Minister, is also seen as a strategic decision, particularly among stakeholders in the financial sector of the economy. Oil majors popped champagne corks when it emerged that Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former hot shot at Shell and immediate past Minister of Solid Minerals, has been made Minister of Petroleum Resources. She is the first woman in the country's history to occupy this exalted position, vacated by Rilwan Lukman, a former Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroluem Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Jonathan also caused more ripples in the oil industry when he relieved the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mohammed Barkindo, of his post, ostensibly due to his inability to tame the recurrent fuel crisis in the country. A retired Group Executive Director, Commercial and Investment, NNPC, Laden Shehu, replaces Barkindo. The fearless Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, who was earlier sidelined during the nomination process, eventually regained her portfolio, after attempts by a section of senators to stop her from returning, failed. Akunyili had earlier courted the ire of some of her colleagues when she suggested that they should empower Jonathan to become acting president on account of the embarrassment that the stalemate had caused the country's image, which her ministry was battling to rebuild. (See African Business, April 2010).
There are also indications that Jonathan might recruit the immediate past Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as his Special Adviser on Anti-Corruption. An editorial by Anver Versi in the April issue of African Business, in which Ribadu featured promently, has created quite a stir both inside and outside Nigeria.
If Ribadu is reinstated, many believe it will add a fillip to the anti-corruption war and boost Jonathan's profile in the international community, as Ribadu is a well-respected figure. However, well-placed rumours suggest that there are grand plans to checkmate Ribadu, who currently resides in the US after he was forced to flee Nigeria in the wake of an alleged state-endorsed clampdown on him.
No longer a 'yes man'
Before now, Jonathan was seen as a 'yes man', but he appears to have debunked this theory with his actions so far, which have ruffled many feathers in political circles. Shortly after he became the Acting President, Jonathan appointed a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), comprising eminent Nigerians, to give him ideas on how to run the country, headed by retired General Theophilus Danjuma, a former military top brass. …