Just as Nigerians await President Goodluck Jonathan’s announcement of his reconstituted cabinet, OLAWALE RASHEED, in this report, highlights the politics going on within the corridors of power for interested parties to get plum jobs in the cabinet.
THE race for ministerial nomination is reaching a crescendo with many names now with the Presidency and with screening said to be ongoing . The focus is already shifting from the states to the centre as names that should reach the decision point are there already. The level of anxiety among interested party chiefs within the affected nine states is also palpable.
A check across the affected states of Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Osun, Sokoto, Rivers and Borno revealed that the party leaderships have responded to the reported request of the president that they should forward three names for consideration. This may not hold, however, in states whose governors are considered anti-Presidency or in states where the ruling party is not in control of the government. In such hostile states, party chiefs known to be loyal to the president are to be kingmakers in term of nomination of names to the centre.
A fringe development may be the reallocation of the zonal ministerial representatives which, before the resolve, were held by Kano, Ogun and Rivers states. For the South-West, there are strong indications that the zonal ministerial slot has been zoned to Lagos State. The reason may not be unconnected to the lack of political root by the current minister from the state, Olusegun Aganga, who many Lagos indigenes even claimed is not from their state.
The other reason may be the resolve of the president to strengthen Lagos which is known to be weak and weighed down by the ubiquitous machinery of the All Progressives Congress (APC). What Ogun missed with the removal of Olugbenga Ashiru is what Lagos has gained. If eventually Lagos had the zonal slot, it will then be having two ministers which Ogun State used to have until the recent reshuffle.
Recent news reports, however, indicated that the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unsettled by the scheming for the slot. As usual, with its persistent internal wrangling, the party chiefs are at each other’s throat over who should pick the slot. The party was reported to have initially selected its chairman, Tunji Shelle, before the issue of gender preference came up. The president is said to prefer a female nominee.
A report had it that three female nominees were subsequently short listed by the state chapter of the party. The list already submitted includes Adenike Jones (Lagos Central), Tanwa Olusi (Lagos West) and Ajoke Maina (Lagos East). Jones is reported to be the favourite.
For the North-West, the choice is politically important for the president. The former minister from Sokoto was nominated by the state governor, Aliyu Wamakko, and House of Representatives speaker, AminunTambuwal. Now, the presidency has to select directly, based on recommendations of the president’s allies in the state. The president›s allies in the state includeSenator Umar Gada; former Senate leader and Nigerian Ambassador to Morocco, Senator Abdallah Wali; and a host of others. Reports had it that while Senator Gada is acknowledged as a pointman of the president in the state, Senator Wali is being mentioned due to his experience in the Senate and as a former minister of national planning.
The choice of a minister in Sokoto is critical as the main PDP has to contend with the combined machine of the House speaker and the state governor. Insiders said many factors are being considered before a nominee is selected from the state. There was even a report that overture is being made to the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Saad. Facts, however, are that the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, is reported to be playing a key role in the search and screening for the right nominee.
Kano State is said to be a key battle ground. Already, the state governor, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is facing the pressure as his involvement in the G7 has empowered his traditional enemies within the PDP and the political opposition. Presidential strategists are looking at two main directions, both of which must have sufficient clout to take on the Kwankwasiya cult in Kano politics. Former House of Representatives speaker, Ghali Na’Abba, the old warhorse of legislative war under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is widely mentioned.
Na’Abba is believed to possess the political stubbornness like Dr Kwankwaso himself. Additionally, he has a strong leg within the federal legislature, having served crucially at a time to tame the Otta farmer. Many, however, think Na’Abba may be too controversial for the job, especially as a consensus builder is reportedly needed for the job in Kano State. That consensus is hinting at a nominee who can unite the anti-Kwankwaso forces in the state, including the Mohammed Abacha group which just joined the party.
This is where another name, Dr Akilu Ndabawa, a former aide to the president, is being mentioned. Indabawa has, however, been appointed into the National Dialogue Panel and this has raised questions on whether the president actually intends to put his old aide in the ministerial saddle. Some also believe that Indabawa may be too weak to confront the Kwankwasiya machine which is said to have ingratiated itself since the sitting governor got into office. His strength may, however, be his deep understanding of the Kwankwasiya machinery, having been an inner member in the recent past.
In Jigawa State, the tight grip of Governor Sule Lamido is making the range of choices difficult. Most prominent leaders of the party in the state are within the governor›s caucus. The challenge for the president’s people is to produce a nominee who can command the respect of the state and also serve as a counter weight to the governor. Economic empowerment is also said to favour the loyalists of the governor as many anti-Lamido forces have gone politically and economically bankrupt. A former governor of the state, Saminu Turaki, appears to be the only one with the network and wherewithal, but the former governor is considered unstable and “with many loads” which may be politically negative.
Others being mentioned include a former member of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Senator Mohammed Alkali, who was elected senator in 1999 and ran for governor in 2003 with the support of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lamido. He had since fallen out with the governor after he decided to challenge him during the 2011 election. He was also stripped of his traditional title of Sardaunnan Gumel. Alkali is said to be a favorite.
Another possible candidate is a former member of the House of Representatives, Abba Anas, a one-time secretary of the PDP in the state who fell out with Governor Lamido in the twilight of his stay in the House of Representatives.
The situation in Kaduna State is tricky as the sitting governor, Ramalan Yero, must have a say, being a supporter of the president and the vice-president. The vice-president must also have a say as Kaduna is his base. Ultimately, however, the president’s choice is critical and key to emergence of any nominee from the state.
A close ally of both the president and the vice-president is Senator Issiah Ballat who is also an adviser in the office of the vice-president. Ballat is a known campaigner for the president, but he is facing tough challenge from Senator Esther Nenadi who is a former minister of finance.
he senator’s weak point may be her role in the removal of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from the finance ministry under former President Obasanjo and her alleged closeness to the former president. The Ballat option is also said to be unclear with signs emerging that a new name may surface, especially as such nominee will not have the challenge like the nominees to come from Kano, Sokoto and Jigawa.
The Southern states of Osun and Rivers are unique. In Osun State, the party chairman, Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa, publicly announced that 24 individuals had signified interest. It is not clear what the party can do to narrow down the choice to three which is normally the norm. Insiders said the shortlisting had been done and that the three names were already in Abuja. Others, however, said nothing like that had been done as a party chief from the state is rumored to be the main decider. Osun is regarded as a battle ground and the towering presence of Senator Iyiola Omisore is cited as a major reason the choice may be a very easy one.
There is, however, mounting anxiety in the affected states. On Thursday, a news channel mistakenly reported that the list of ministerial nominees was out. That report created sensational panic in many political circles with calls and inquiries from far and near. When the report was found to be false, the tension died down automatically.
Some administration officials, however, hinted that the list may contain surprises for many.
“The president may shock those expectant politicians. We cannot be sure he will follow all those parameters you listed,” one of them hinted.