by Olalekan Adetayo
A Yoruba proverb if literally translated means that the food a particular child turns down will be eaten by another child.
That exactly is what is expected to play out in the Villa following the exit of seven ministers. The ministers exited (or are planning to exit) the Federal Executive Council in order to pursue their political ambitions of taking over from their respective state governors in 2015.
One thing is that the President in his magnanimity is giving the seven ministers a long rope to pull. Although he announced their imminent exit from the council during the last FEC’s meeting, he still told them that they had the opportunity of changing their minds before Monday which is the last day stipulated by the Peoples Democratic Party for government officials who are interested in contesting for any position to resign.
He said as of Wednesday, although the seven ministers had shown interest in contesting the governorship elections in their states, none of them had resigned.
The President said, “I want to make it very clear that as of this morning, about seven members of council may, and I use the word ‘may’ because you don’t conclude anything in politics. So, seven of us may not be here next Wednesday if their plans continue. But we may not say they are not with us until they write to us through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“As we are talking now, nobody has written and we have not dropped anybody, people should not say we have dropped ministers, no. We have not dropped any minister. They are still ministers of council but assuming between now and next council, if they decide to go on with their plans, it is only proper we wish them well, assuming we don’t see them again.
“But if they change their plans, they will continue to be with us but after receiving the letters and they change their minds, it will be too late. So, if they have to change their minds, they have to change their minds before sending the letter to the SGF.”
He gave the affected ministers’ names to include: Mr. Labaran Maku (Information); Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu (Health); Mr. Nyesom Wike (State, Education); Samuel Ortom (State, Industry, Trade and Investment); Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (State, Defence); Mr. Darius Ishaku (State, Niger Delta) and Chief Emeka Wogu (Labour).
The imminent exit of these ministers has also opened the floodgates for lobbyists who may want the soon-to-be-vacant seats for themselves or their cronies.
PDP stakeholders from Nassarawa, Ebonyi, Rivers, Benue, Lagos, Taraba and Abia states will be falling upon one another to fill the positions that will soon be vacated by their kinsmen.
Maku and his oratory prowess
The outgoing Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, is not by any means a man of a few words. State House correspondents who have been listening to him over the years during the weekly post-FEC press briefings can testify to this fact.
Maku, who is seeking to sack Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa State from the Government House, Lafia in 2015, was again on hand to display his oratory prowess on Wednesday when Jonathan asked him to address the FEC on behalf of his six other colleagues exiting the council.
He had words of appreciation to all: the President, Vice President, co-members of FEC, council secretariats and the media.
Without any fear of contradiction, that was the first time in recent times that somebody would commend the press inside the Council Chambers.
He declared, “So we want to thank colleagues in council who have worked with us and from whom we have learnt extensively in the course of working together.
“For the Vice President, the Chief of Staff, Head of Service and all those who have worked with us, we can not really thank them less. They have been inspiration to us, they have been good to us and have helped in connecting this government to the people of Nigeria.
“We have also worked with those who sit behind the table, they are very important, preparing memos, sitting through our conversations. I’m talking of officers who prepare us every week for council. And I know sometimes they work harder than those of us sitting here. We appreciate them and we thank them for helping us to succeed in the modest service we have rendered to our nation.
“The media, particularly for journalists who are here, I want to appreciate you all for what you have done in the support of our country. And I believe the media represents a very strong arm of government which is not elected but has the constitutional duties to help this country in terms of connecting government to the people and building the image of our country.”
While council members had been the ones clapping intermittently since Maku started his farewell speech, the last leg of his commendation drew a loud applause from State House correspondents most of whom found it unusual to be lauded in the hallow chamber.
Like a Minister of Information that he is up until Monday when he will quit the stage, he had words of advice for Nigerian journalists: “I will therefore continue to ask that you (journalists) put patriotism first and that you put the image of our country first because what you write affects not just the image of Mr. President but the image of the nation as a whole. So I’m appealing and will continue to appeal that no government is perfect, no country is perfect and every country has negatives. But when the media of a country continue to concentrate on negatives, they run down their country. So I will appeal that there must be that sense of patriotism and balance in the way we report this government because we are a nation in transition.”
The emotion-laden farewell speech later drew another loud applause and a standing ovation from council members who were mesmerised by Maku’s oratory prowess.
Chukwu as a reluctant aspirant
At least, one minister among the seven who had shown their interest in quitting Jonathan’s cabinet seems to be already sure of occupying his state Government House by 2015. That person is the Minister of Health.
Unlike his other colleagues who may have forces to contend with, including sitting governors in the state, Chukwu is actually being begged (or so we are made to believe) to contest the election in Ebonyi State.
The state governor, Martin Elechi, had told State House correspondents on Tuesday that although the minister had no political ambition, the people of the state are begging him to come and serve them as their governor.
“The Minister of Health has no ambition to become governor or hold any other political office but we the people of Ebonyi State have assessed him and we think he is a good material to do the job. So, we are appealing to him, he is not canvassing, but we want to conscript him to answer the call of his people,” he had said.
Choosing to quit on Wednesday was therefore an indication that he had hearkened to the voice of the people. With the governor behind him therefore, it is almost sure that Chukwu will soon change from being an “Honourable minister” to “His Excellency.”
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Olalekan Adetayo/Punch