The festering crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday claimed its first major casualties. President Goodluck Jonathan sacked nine ministers with “divided loyalty”.
The president’s action came 10 days after LEDAERSHIP’s exclusive report that the president was on the verge of purging his cabinet of ministers who were either nominated by the group of seven governors or other stakeholders who had pitched tent with the governors that staged a walkout at the August 31 national convention of the PDP.
A source at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting told LEADERSHIP last night that, while sacking the ministers, Jonathan told them that by next week they would not be attending the FEC again. He noted, however, that they didn’t commit any offence after all. He said it was as a result of government’s effort at retooling the cabinet.
The secretary to the government of the federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, has directed existing cabinet members to oversee the affected ministries pending the submission of a list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly.
The sacked ministers were: Gbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs); Erelu Olusola Obada (Defence – State); Zainab Kuchi (Power – State); Shamsuddeen Usman (National Planning); Prof Bassey Ewa (Science and Technoloty); Prof Ruqqayatu Ruf’ai (Education); Amal Pepple (Land, Housing and Development); Hajia Mailafia (Environment) and Alhaji BukarTijjani (Agriculture – State).
With the removal of the nine ministers yesterday, the number of ministers sacked by the president now stands at 10.
Information minister Labaran Maku told State House correspondents after the weekly FEC that the decision by the president to effect changes in the cabinet had no political undertone.
He added that it was in tandem with his commitment to deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians and to inject fresh blood in the system, even as he contended vehemently that the cabinet reshuffle had nothing to do with the current crisis in the PDP.
Explaining how the serving ministers had been directed by SGF Anyim to hold the fort for their sacked colleagues, Maku said he had been directed to supervise the Ministry of Defence while the minister of power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, was to take full responsibilities of the power ministry pending when a minister of state will be appointed.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, has also been directed to take full charge of the agriculture ministry until a new minister of state is appointed it.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be overseen by the minister of state, foreign affairs (1), Professor Viola Onwunere, while the minister of state for education, Nyesom Wike, will take full charge of the ministry until the appointment of a substantive minister.
The Ministry of Environment is to be supervised by the minister of state for Niger Delta affairs, Darius Ishaku, while the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development will be overseen by the minister of solid minerals development, Architect Musa Sada.
The minister of communication technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, is to supervise the Ministry of Science and Technology, while the Ministry of National Planning will be overseen by the minister of state for works, Ambassador Basir Yuguda.
With the new changes, President Jonathan is expected to forward the new list of ministers to the National Assembly for confirmation.
Maku, who noted that cabinet changes is a normal thing in government, said: “You know, even the press has been speculating cabinet reshuffle for a long time. I can’t remember how many times in the last one year that the press has been speculating that there would be cabinet reshuffle. In fact, some have been writing almost openly, saying they want cabinet reshuffle.
“There is no government in the world where the leaders do not reshuffle their cabinets; there is none. Cabinet reshuffle is part of a systematic public administration and I believe what the president has done is simply to address the issues of re-tooling his government to achieve service delivery. It is at the discretion of the president at all times to reshuffle his cabinet.
Maku said: “Also following this, a list will be sent to the National Assembly, to the Senate specifically, for the confirmation of new ministers, and, once that is ready and sent, I am sure the presidency will announce the list of the new ministers that will replace the ministers that were affected in the reshuffle.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the sacked ministers may have been taken unawares, but a tear-laden former environment minister, Mailafia, denied that their sack took her and her sacked colleagues by surprise.
Meanwhile, the sacked ministers were the very first to step out of the Council Chambers, venue of the weekly FEC where the president announced their sack.
Speaking to journalists after she stepped out with misty eyes, Mailafia said: “No. If you are wise enough, life is a cycle where from the day you come in you should know there is an exit. Isn’t it? And every Wednesday, I come in here hoping one day there will be a cabinet reshuffle. I have been grateful to all of you; I have enjoyed working with all of you. And please support government programmes, the Great Green Wall in particular, new map and so on. I have been part of the government I owe a lot to it. We have been honoured to serve and we are moving out honourably, and I think that is important. Many have come and gone without honour.”
Education minister Professor Ruqqayatu Rufai also stormed out of the Council Chambers wearing a serious look. With a straight face, she moved past journalists without a sign that she noticed them, even as others followed suit.
The sacked Ministers:
• Gbenga Ashiru (Ogun) – Obasanjo’s loyalist
• Erelu Olusola Obada (Osun) – Obasanjo/Oyinlola’s loyalist
• Zainab Kuchi (Niger) – Babangida Aliyu’s loyalist
• Shamsuddeen Usman (Kano) – Not giving Kwankwaso a good fight
• Prof Bassey Ewa (Cross River) – disloyalty to Governor Imoke/Jonathan
• Prof Ruqqayatu Ruf’ai (Jigawa) – Lamido’s loyalist
• Amal Pepple (Rivers) – Lacks political clout
• Hajia Mailafia (Kaduna) – disloyal to Jonathan
• Alhaji BukarTijjani (Borno) – disloyal to Jonathan