12th September, 2013
It was no surprise that President Goodluck Jonathan reshuffled his cabinet yesterday, but the timing was wrong and the shakeup was not far-reaching enough as most of the ministers axed were junior ministers. Although the president has the powers to appoint and sack ministers, the reshuffle by Jonathan is perceived as a political gimmick rather than one of national interest.
With the president’s political party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the brink of disintegration, political experts believe the cabinet reshuffle was carried out to weed out ministers that may be loyal to the ‘New PDP’ led by Kawu Baraje.
If the nine ministers sacked (Ruqayyat Rufai, Olugbenga Ashiru, Ama Pepple, Ita Okon Bassey Ewa, Zainab Kunchi, Shamsudeen Usman, Olusola Obada, Bukar Tijani and Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafiya) was because they were incompetent as Nigerians are being made to believe, then why were the likes of Diezani Madueke, Nyesome Wike, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and others spared?
With Jonathan yet to make an impression on Nigerians less than two years to the end of his tenure, it is rather unfortunate that he spared an unpopular minister like Wike, Minister of State for Education, who has now been saddled with the Education Ministry after the sack of Ruqayyatu. Is it because Wike is fighting Jonathan’s proxy war with the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi?
If the president thought Ruqayyatu Rufai failed as Minister for Education, then Wike should have been shipped out too. In fact, there is the conspiracy theory that Jonathan’s shakeup was designed to fight those who are loyal to the ‘Seven Rebel Governors’. Rufai was nominated by Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, while Zainab Kuchi, Minister of State for Power, was nominated by Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State. Then there is the longest serving minister in the cabinet, Shamsudeen Usman, Minister of National Planning, who Jonathan praised very recently, from Kano State, where Musa Kwankwaso is governor.
Loyalty has a price and the ex-Minister of Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, learnt that yesterday. She was Osun State deputy governor under Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the National Secretary of the Baraje-led faction of PDP. Gbenga Ashiru, Foreign Affairs Minister and an ally of former president Olusegun Obasanjo was dealt a heavy blow to the face as well.
Despite all this, Labaran Maku, Minister of Information, claims there is no political undertone regarding the shakeup. But the sacked ministers can tell better. In the coming weeks, more tales from this politically soaked soap-opera is expected to be unravelled.
We believe the sacked ministers were sacrificed for Jonathan’s 2015 ambition as they will be replaced by those who will work towards actualising the president’s ambition. We won’t be surprised if the new ministers that will be appointed will come from the Bamanga Tukur faction of the PDP, which the president supports.
But one thing is clear about all the shenanigans going on: national interest has been sacrificed at the altar of selfish political interest of a few individuals, including President Jonathan. With the ASUU strike persisting, the economy in downward spiral, unemployment soaring higher, elusive regular electricity supply and hope for a better Nigeria still dim, what impact will the vindictive, half-measure cabinet reshuffle achieve?