Jonathan: A post-Yar'Adua era?

VANGUARD Newspaper-Rotimi Fasan

ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday last week finally put the Executive Council of the Federation out of the misery induced by the crisis of confidence that followed the yet unaccounted disappearance of President Umaru Yar’Adua since November last year.

If Jonathan is to function properly without having constantly to be on the lookout for enemies within, there was no way he could or should retain the dissolved cabinet, many of whose members have shown themselves to be more interested in feathering their own nest than doing what is in the interest of Nigeria, namely, ensuring a smooth and orderly management of the crisis that Yar’Adua caused when he went missing in action and members of his so-called kitchen cabinet, led by his wife, decided they could hold the rest of the country to ransom by playing power games with the President’s health issue.

By dissolving the ECF, Jonathan is not only consolidating his position, which is what he should do to move the country from where it got stalled since November 2009, but he might have effectively ushered Nigeria into a post-Yar’Adua era.

We cannot continue to pretend that Yar’Adua is likely to return any time soon which was the impression those who smuggled him into the country and have ensured to lock him up had wanted to create- that Jonathan was but at worst a pretender to the presidency or at best only a Vice President holding forte until the ailing President chooses to return. But if even Yar’Adua were to return today, there is nothing to suggest he would be able to fit into the scheme of things any longer. Which is to say that his era has effectively been consigned into history with the dissolution of his cabinet last week.

The next step should be quite obvious: Jonathan will have to constitute another cabinet ‘in his own image’, one that shares his vision and that can help steer Nigeria for the next 12 months or thereabout. Certainly he needs to consolidate his hold further as there is no telling what those who are bent on causing mayhem in the country might yet come up with.

It may not be entirely fortuitous that the crisis on the Plateau in which villages are being ethnically cleansed is assuming more virulence now that Jonathan is in charge. Despite effort to bring the mayhem under control, the perpetrators of the mass murders on Dogon Na Hauwa village have simply moved ahead to yet another part of the State to continue with their activities that can radically transform the image of Nigeria as a country yet under law if not brought to an end. Surely, the intention is to create the impression that Nigeria is back to the state of nature, a place where neither law nor order prevails.

Thus some marauders can just wake up, pick up their weapons and go on a killing spree with nobody holding them to account. Faced with such situation, Jonathan cannot but wield the big stick. But he can only do that with the confidence that comes with the assurance that he has the authority to do so; not in an atmosphere where his own ministers have their allegiance to some persons not recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria.

Inevitably, Jonathan can do with the stabilising presence of persons who are not new to the corridors of power, people who know the ropes and, where necessary, the intrigues that go with working in the domains of power. It may explain the constitution of the Presidential Advisory Council headed by T.Y. Danjuma, the former Chief of Army Staff and past player in bloody showdowns.

Where Jonathan might otherwise be weak, afraid to take decision he is not sure might go down well with certain individuals, particularly those who still see him as an upstart who only stumbled into power- with the support of old hands like some of the members of the PAC, Jonathan need not fear. He can look such bulldogs in the face and call their bluff without fear that he would be bitten. But Jonathan’s reliance on such old hands also throws up it own problems. One of which comes in the form of a question: When will Nigeria move beyond the era of recycling old faces?

Are there no new faces that can be trusted to exercise power with the confidence and assurance that they know what the stakes are? Why must we always have to take several steps backwards in order to advance? The manner Nigeria is presently constituted makes the return or presence of certain persons in power inevitable if not permanent. Why would it have been necessary to have a Presidential Advisory Council if the former Executive Council had played its constitutional role and informed the National Assembly immediately it became obvious that Yar’Adua was too ill to continue in office?

It would have saved us all the many weeks of confusion when Nigeria was effectively without a president. Instead, the Council decided to start playing games, coming up with sentimental nonsense about the need not to abandon the President even when Nigerians knew the Council members were only thinking of themselves. Thus how much independent action can one expect from Jonathan when he is surrounded not only by old faces but several closely linked with former President Olusegun Obasanjo? Is this not a case of moving out of frying pan into fire?

As for the former ministers, some of them might yet stage a comeback. Jonathan must be careful however that the likes of Michael Aondoakaa do not come within the vicinity of the Council chamber. He can, if he so wishes, resume work in Turai’s cabinet. Mansur Muktar, the Finance Minister, is sometimes identified as a member of the so-called Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet- perhaps because he is from Katsina.

But this is one man who has done nothing to suggest that he shares in the negative traits that such identification connotes. He has so far operated with the know-how, panache and dignity befitting his high office. Except he chooses to go, he deserves a place in any cabinet Jonathan may want to come up with.


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