Jonathan’s (wo)men of Power By Olalekan Adetayo

In a democracy, the President has an executive power. His words are authority; men and women bow and tremble before him. What may not be known to many, however, is that the President is not the only person wielding this enormous power. In some cases, some of his lieutenants are even more powerful than the President, or so it seems.

The situation is not different with President Goodluck Jonathan. While he is the captain of the team, there are some of his appointees and aides who are very powerful in their own right.

Leading the pack is the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe. Though unassuming, the former Edo State Deputy Governor is a factor in the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Nobody or group meets the President without his knowledge. He designs the President’s schedule and itinerary. He even serves as an intermediary between the President and some of his aides.

Among the ministers, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala towers above her colleagues and that is why she combines the post of Minister of Finance with that of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy. She is referred to as the present administration’s “De facto Prime Minister” by the virtue of the power she wields. Her influence is felt beyond the Executive arm of government. If in doubt, ask any of the occupants of either the Red or Green Chambers of the National Assembly.

Apart from Okonjo-Iweala, other influential ministers in the cabinet include Muhammed Adoke (Attorney-General); Diezani Alison-Madueke (Petroleum Resources); Stella Oduah (Aviation), Bala Muhammed (FCT) and Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs).

By virtue of being technocrats, the likes of Olusegun Aganga (Trade and Investment); Akinwunmi Adesina (Agriculture) and Mobolaji Johnson (Communication Technology) also have the ears of the President.

Among presidential aides, Oronto Douglas (Special Adviser on Research Documentation and Strategy); Reuben Abati (Special Adviser on Media and Publicity); and Ahmed Gulak (Special Adviser on Political Matters) are also close to the President and hence wield a level of power.

The list is not restricted to political appointees alone. There are many civil servants and security aides who also wield enormous influence in the Villa. There are many others who do not fall into any of the aforementioned categories but are also powerful by virtue of their relationship with the President or his wife. They could be friends, family members or schoolmates among others. Some of those who fall into that category are the likes of Hajia Bola Shagaya, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Femi Otedola, and Chief Mike Adenuga among others.

When next you see these people, if you refer to them as the President’s men (or women), you are just stating the obvious.

…and the First Lady mourns

The foster mother of the wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Mrs. Charity Oba, fondly called Mama Sisi, died in an auto crash on Monday.

Oba was said to be on her way to Bayelsa State when the vehicle conveying her, a Toyota Corolla saloon car, got involved in an accident along Isiokpo-Elele Road in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The accident reportedly occurred at 4pm near Isiokpo Bridge along Port Harcourt-Owerri Road.

As at the time the accident occurred, the President’s wife was in far away Geneva where the news was broken to her.

The deceased came into public consciousness in April when speculations were rife that Mrs. Jonathan had again been flown abroad to attend to her alleged failing health.

In debunking the report, her spokesman, Ayo Osinlu, issued a statement saying the President’s wife “was abroad to attend to her mother, Mama Sisi, who was sick and to also use the opportunity of the trip to spend quality time with her children who were holidaying.”

As condolence messages poured in on Tuesday and Wednesday from state governors and friends of the First Lady, however, there was no official statement from the Presidency on the death apparently because of the absence of Mrs. Jonathan.

She however returned to the country on Wednesday evening into the waiting hands of her husband. She did not betray emotion as she was received by the President and some members of the Federal Executive Council. Former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (retd.) was also at the Villa at the time Mrs. Jonathan arrived. He arrived about 15 minutes before the First Lady’s arrival. It was not clear whether he was in the Villa purposely to join Jonathan in receiving his wife or he was there for consultations with the President and the visit merely coincided with the woman’s arrival.

What else can we say than to join other well-meaning Nigerians in commiserating with the “mother of modern Nigeria” in her period of grief and pray God to grant her the grace to bear the loss. Take heart, mama.

Pate’s exit and imminent cabinet shake up

Despite repeated media propaganda, President Jonathan has not carried out any major cabinet reshuffle since the inception of his administration. Speculations were rife in May that as part of activities marking his two years in office, he would drop some ministers and redeploy some others. None of those happened.

But with the voluntary resignation of the Minister of State, Health, Dr. Muhammed Pate, on Wednesday,  another vacancy has been created in the cabinet. That is in addition to the position of a substantive Minister of Defence that has remained vacant since Jonathan showed the former occupant the way out in June last year. Minister of State, Defence, Olusola Obada, has been holding fort in that ministry.

As elections draw nearer, some present ministers who are nursing ambitions will also leave the cabinet. For example, Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, had publicly declared interest in contesting the governorship election in his home state, Ekiti. His exit from the cabinet is therefore imminent.

As the vacancies increase, lobbying will also increase among politicians who may want to replace the ministers.  Political godfathers should be getting ready for action.

It’s a season of courtesy visits

As elections year begins to draw nearer, it is gradually becoming a vogue for groups to be paying courtesy visits to the President. On June 7, Chief Edwin Clark and a former President of the Senate, Ameh Ebute, led some elders of the South South and Middle Belt under the aegis of the Congress for Equality and Change to meet Jonathan. As if the interest of the Middle Belt was not properly protected during that visit, Chief Solomon Lar on July 2 led leaders and representatives of the Middle Belt Forum to meet with the President.

On Monday, the Urhobo Progressive Union led by Maj.-Gen. Patrick Aziza (retd.) came calling. On Thursday, it was the turn of the Nigeria Bar Association. That was an opportunity for the lawyers in Jonathan’s cabinet to reunite with their constituency. The likes of Nyesom Wike and Emeka Wogu dusted their suits.

A visit by another Ijaw group initially billed for Wednesday was shifted to a later date. It is indeed a season of courtesy visits.

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