Okupe Defends Jonathan’s Process of Ministerial Appointments

Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, Mr Doyin Okupe, today defended the nomination and sack of ministers by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Mr Okupe, speaking from Channels Television’s Abuja studios, insisted that before the President makes his appointments, he certifies “that this person (nominee) is of a good quality, a good calibre and must possess a reasonable intellect, loyalty and patriotism to serve his country.”

Okupe explained that in a parliamentary system of government, members of parliament are mandated to supervise different ministries “that has nothing to do with their profession.” He added that “a man that is qualified, a graduate with good experience; that has distinguished himself in the society and has some sense of loyalty can run any ministry.”

Mr Okupe also vehemently stated that “anybody running a ministry, is not running it by himself, he is running it for and on behalf of the President who has appointed him…he carries on the programme of Mr President.” He emphasized that “each minister is a representative of the President in his ministry”.

Meanwhile, a legal practitioner, Mr Tokunbo Odutola, speaking from the Lagos studios of the multiple-award winning television station, agreed with Mr Okupe on the selection process but was quick to add that the appointment process was “a three pronged process”.

These processes according to Mr Odutola, are the taken from the “legal, political and moral” perspectives. He explained that the legal aspect, as enshrined in the constitution, is for the President to make sure he appoints ministers with each state represented amongst the nominees.

The political provision, he added, allows the President to assign whomever he so wishes to a ministry “because it is his team” and such “reflects on whom our President is”. On the moral aspect, he said that this has to do with the person being nominated, who must be screened to ensure that he or she had not been involved in any criminal activity.

On the newly nominated ministers, he expressed the view that 2015 being just around the corner, “the President would not want to pick anybody who cannot make sure that, if he intends contesting in 2015, he can help him or his party.”

Earlier in the week, one of the ministerial nominees, Mr. Oyewale Adesiyan, from Osun State, told the Senate that he had been wrongfully accused of having a hand in the murder of a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, who was assassinated in his Bodija home, in Ibadan, Oyo State on December 23, 2001, a case for which he was in jail for three and half years.

Although, Adesiyan claimed that his implication in the death was a ‘political blackmail’ by enemies, Mr Odutola said that “morally, the candidate should be dropped”.

Responding to questions from Channels Television viewers via Twitter on whether the President was making the decision to sack some ministers at the right time, Mr Okupe noted that this was “a preposterous question”. He wondered why “Nigerians would vote for a man, if he does not have the capacity to decide what he wants to do, and when he wants to do it.”

He further noted that “the President is the captain of the boat, he knows where he is leading the boat to, and he knows the kind of staff that he needs to assist him to get there.” He insisted that those ministers who were dropped were still useful and they have done nothing wrong.

Cabinet Shuffle: President’s Political Life At Critical Stage – Nweze

A lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University, Austin Nweze, has attributed President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to sack four ministers, including former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, to the current status of the President’s political life, which he described as in a critical stage.

“This is a critical period in the President’s political life because of 2015 and just like we say we in business, it’s not those that help you start a business that will grow the business,” he said, adding that “it’s about time this change was made to enable him begin to look at 2015.”

Another reason he gave for the shake-up was a policy shift in what the administration wants to achieve which would necessitate the injection of new persons into the system.

“It’s normal in the life of any administration that at some point you need new ideas, new people that can add some variant into the policy implementation.”

He further urged the President to have fewer politicians and more technocrats in his cabinet, in order to help him make the economy better than it was.

“The economy is going to play a role in the next election so you need people that can really drive this economy and come up with policies that will turn around events to enable him be in a better state for 2015.”

Commenting on arguments that some ministries are not needed, especially the Ministry of Police Affairs and Ministry of the Niger Delta, Mr Nweze submitted that “the size of government is huge for our size of economy, so anything to trim down” is welcome.

According to the analyst, the creation of the said ministries was a duplication of already existing agencies handling similar tasks.

Asked if some of the ministers would be invited for questioning by anti-corruption agencies since they had been accused of corrupt practices whilst in office, Nweze said “it depends on what they do after now.”

He highlighted that the trend is that when a public officer leaves office and maintains a low profile, he or she is left alone. He however warned that “if other interests are at variance, like if you defect, you’ll see the agencies of EFCC and ICPC coming after them.”

National Conference: Real Issues Are Corruption And Ethnic Differences – Ezeala

A Legal Practitioner, Chukwuma Ezeala, has recommended that the National Conference must have real representation of Nigeria’s 6 geo-political zones, for it to truly address the issues confronting the country.

While speaking on Channels Televison flagship breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’, he noted that since the year 1964, the main issues confronting Nigeria had bothered on corruption and ethnic differences.

While admitting that leadership was also an issue, he argued that one of the reasons Nigeria has not had good leadership was because of the ethnic problems, explaining that the ethnic problems affect the way the leaders emerge.

He explained how ethnic groups determine who should be the Nigerian President and also influence who would be Ministers to work with him. He claimed that it has also been ethnicity that had shielded corruption over the years.

Mr Ezeala, however, suggested that this situation does not require that the National Conference be tagged ethnic. He said that what Nigerians must ensure is that issues of ethnicity are discussed. He said: “If we already have accepted to 6 geo-political zones, why don’t we make sure that there is real representation of those 6 geo-political zones, which represents the ethnic issues and which has fairly equal representation?”

On the issues of a “no go area”, the lawyer said: “If we must discuss how we are going to live, first thing will be to affirm that we want to live as one country. I think that 90% of Nigerians want us to be together, so why are you avoiding it?

“Let it be that for the first time, Nigerians have said they want to live together.

“Now, the next question is yes we want to live together but how do we live together? Is it possible for an Ondo man to come to Lagos and become the Governor of Lagos State? I think it should be possible if he is the most qualified…but we need to agree because my own view should not be the view of Nigerians.

“We should come in, discuss, decide this and we now give it a print of authority to say this is what Nigerians have done, and any president and any leader can now enforce it and not say that it was Decree 24 that brought us together and decreed how we should live.”

In a show of cautious optimism, Mr Ezeala expressed confidence that the constitution of the National Conference has the ingredients to address the Nigerian issues once and for all, provided that at the end of the conference there is a written agreement which would make it easy for political leaders to enforce the people’s resolution.

He also suggested that the National Assembly should pass a law that would enable the outcomes of the National Conference to go through a referendum, and if they are not ready to do so, the Conference could recommend or decide that what they had done should go through a referendum.

He also spoke about the structure of the representation at the conference as it affects the body of lawyers in Nigeria.