President Goodluck Jonathan is surrounded by “oligarchs” that are steering the wheel of his administration. Just like his predecessors, Jonathan has men and women who wield enormous powers in his government and even direct things as they deem fit. These are the men that have the ears of the President and indeed are also reportedly influence allocation of resources, appointments, projects and even day-to-day decisions of the present administration. They are regarded as the power brokers in Jonathan’s government.
Some of these men are known to have played crucial roles in getting President Jonathan elected, and have continued to wield influence in his administration. These people, DESERT HERALD gathered, include his wife, Patience Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Governors Rotimi Amaechi, Peter Obi, Adams Oshiomhole, Godswill Akpabio; Hafiz Ringim the Police IG, PDP acting National Chairman, the Speaker House of Representatives, three business moguls: Aliko Dangote, Jimoh Ibrahim, Femi Otedola; and the CBN Governor, the NSA Andrew Oweyi Azazi, Oronto Douglas, and David Mark, the Senate President.
Patience Jonathan the Wife
The wife of the President Patience, this paper gathered, has remained a kind of strong power in her husband’s regime just like her predecessors. In fact, Dame is gradually emerging to be more powerful than Turai Yar’Adua, late Maryam Babangida and Maryam Abacha. Right from the Presidential Campaign that she crisscrossed the whole federation, doing one thing to entice the voting public for her husband and since then she has remained a force to reckon with in her husband’s government. To anyone who knows, she is indeed among the major power wielders within the presidency. Just like Turai Yar’Adua, she is also seen as someone to lean on when seeking for appointments from her husband. A source said: “when you want to get something from the First Lady and if she has make up her mind to secure it for you, it is as good as done.”
Insiders that spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity reveal that the first lady is benefitting immensely from Dizeani’s NNPC and allegedly benefits from oil bunkering too. She is so powerful according to them that in many instances “she dictates what the president will do and in many occasions even break official protocols to demonstrate her overbearing power on the president. A good example is when they are coming back from the Obudu Cattle Range after the April presidential election, Dame broke the protocol and came out first on the plane instead of allowing her husband as the symbol of executive authority. There is also an occasion at the Eagle Square; I think is either during the PDP primaries or the Independence Day celebration that the first lady refused to stand for the president after his speech. She is indirectly managing the affairs of our nation not her husband, Mr. Jonathan.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
The Otta Chicken farmer became close to Jonathan after he engineered the impeachment of his then boss, Dipreyi Alamieyeseigha. Since then the two men have been pals, and Obasanjo was unarguably instrumental to the selection of Jonathan as running mate to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was the PDP presidential candidate in the 2007 elections. It would be recalled that during the last days of late President Yar’Adua, Obasanjo then publicly called on Yar’Adua “to do the right thing in view of his failing health”, a euphemism for him to resign and allow Jonathan take over as president. President Jonathan has continued to rely on the former four-star General who is the chairman, PDP board of trustees to rein-in the party behind him and to have a firm grip of the military.
It was also obvious that he was solidly behind Jonathan during the bitter debates on whether or not Jonathan should be elected because of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, zoning formula and this paper also gathered that he also played important roles in the appointment of Ministers from the South West.
Vice President Namadi Sambo
This former governor of Kaduna State is seen as a trustworthy deputy to his boss. That was obvious when he showed no sign of turning back and damned whatever may be the cost to work for the success of his joint ticket with Jonathan at a period when some sections of the North where he hails from openly opposed Jonathan and wanted the power to return to the region. One of his commanding influences is seen when of recent the president sacked chairmen and members of the boards of agencies and mandated Namadi Sambo to head committees made up of five members each, to choose new people for boards of over 400 agencies. Perhaps what may at long run affect his relationship with his boss is his generally perceived presidential ambition which forces like Obasanjo may likely not welcome when the time comes.
Deziani Allison Madueke
Diezani Allison Madueke has been among those calling the shots at the presidency. She is among those very few ministers who were reappointed into some key portfolios. She is also a key player in the Economic Team led by Okonjo Iweala. A source said that she played definitive roles during the presidential campaign. According to the source, there has been a running battle between this woman and the First Lady over the Petroleum Minister’s closeness to the President. Dizeani’s academic credentials is no doubt intimidating and she is arguably competent for the job she is handling but what perhaps attracts much criticism is her perceived mismanagement of the NNPC and how the NNPC was adjudged as the most corrupt government agency under her watch. The controversial issue of the fuel subsidy removal in a nation that produces large quantity of crude oil, her unpopular role and why other countries that produce oil are offering subsidy to their citizens and the stand of Mr. Jonathan to back Dizeani’s idea of the fuel subsidy removal demonstrates her influence and power in the current cabinet. Being the first woman to be appointed as the minister of petroleum, Dizeani is no doubt the most powerful person to have ever occupied the sensitive and seemingly lucrative office. As one commentator has rightly put it, “Dizeani wields the powers of a president and in fact more powerful and busy than some African presidents. The only difference is that she doesn’t have the executive authority to wake up and decide how the government in Nigeria will work.
Andrew Owoeye Azazi
This former Chief of Staff was one of 13 Nigerians to ever wear the rank of a four-star General. He is a close confidant and family friend of the Jonathans. Sources say Azazi’s appointment as the NSA is to re-enact the Obasanjo presidency in which two retired Generals whose area of specialisation is intelligence occupied the strategic position of NSA. He controls billions of naira in his office even though the security situation in Nigeria remained worse than ever. Despite the criticism against his seeming failure as the NSA, the president because of the powers Azazi wields still considers him as the best NSA the nation has ever had and that under Azazi, the threat of particularly Boko Haram will be contain. How that can be achieved in view of the failed and devastating approaches remains to be seen. Many also believe that under Azazi, Nigeria is blindly investing billions and making few others rich while the nation continued to suffered the crises of insecurity and violence.
Mr. Oronto Douglas, the president’s senior special assistant on strategy, is another key member of the new kitchen cabinet. Unassuming but highly intelligent, Douglass is a cat with nine lives and one of the few people in the world to have survived cancer. He is a dependable ally of the President since the latter’s days in Bayelsa State government. He is Jonathan’s link to the civil society groups, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and the international community where he is very strong and viewed as an environmental rights crusader. He is seen as a good strategist in Jonathan’s inner circle. Douglas has played major role particularly in arranging media related propaganda that will convince the west about the credibility of the presidential election that brought Mr. Jonathan to power in April, 2011 and in reaching out to selected personalities to support and endorse Jonathan’s candidature. Oronto according to many is stupendously rich and flambouyant.
She is regarded as the most powerful female power broker in Jonathan’s government, as she is totally in charge of the President’s economic agenda. Moreover, apart from being the Finance and coordinating minister for the economy, she is also in charge of the Economic Management Team. She has been touted as the person who sold the idea of fuel subsidy removal to the president in order to appease the west which critics believed pay a major role in her return as the finance minister. In the government circle she is looked upon as the defacto prime minister as she also heads the 15 member Economic Implementation Team. Unlike her tenure during the Obasanjo regime, Iweala is now very unpopular in the eyes of many Nigerians who see her support for fuel subsidy removal as effecting the agenda of the capitalists west against the poor masses of Nigeria in view of the fact that other oil producing nations did not undergo or subject their citizens to such unpopular policy before they attained development and in boasting their economy.
Hafiz Ringim IGP
When the name of this police boss was mentioned as the new IG, unknown to many, the President had his homework properly crafted; he was reportedly rewarding an officer who helped him along the line. It would be recalled that the new IG Ringim was the Bayelsa Police Commissioner who, in concert with the then President Obasanjo and allegedly with the active support of Goodluck Jonathan, then deputy governor, arrested and handcuffed former Bayelsa governor, Alameyesiegha, and in that condition flew him to Abuja where he was detained. That gave rise to Jonathan’s assuming substantive Bayelsa governor. It is alleged that the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, insisted on the appointment of Hafiz Ringim as the DIG of Zone 9 being Abia because Abia is her maternal home. Ringim’s closeness with Mr. Jonathan according to sources made the president to honour him with the national honours award instead of sacking him for incompetence when the Boko Haram strike at the Police Headquarters’ recently. The heavy casualties being suffered by the police almost on a daily basis, destructions of police stations through well-coordinated attacks by the Boko Haram and the seeming incapacitation of the police to confront such attacks is seen as an indictment of Ringim but each day and whenever such preventable attacks happens, the powers of the IGP and the “police ability” to contain the crisis increases in the eyes of the president. Even when it appears that IGP Ringim has reportedly relocated his family from Kano because of the fears of the Boko Haram’s attack, Mr. Ringim appears to be in control of the Boko Haram uprising and probably too the most capable police officer today in Nigeria that can contain the real threat.
David Mark has been on the side of the president for long; that fact became open recently when the Senate President prevailed upon his fellow angry senators who would have passed a vote of no confidence on the president on the rising wave of insecurity in the country occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency. Also, he has been in the shaping of the president through his consideration of the administration’s legislative proposals. Mark according to many credible reports is being anointed by the president and some members of CAN to succeed Mr. Jonathan in 2015.
CBN Gov, Sanusi Lamido
For some period this man has been seen as being controversial on many issues regarding monetary policies. A source revealed that the CBN governor allegedly doled out large chunk of money from the nations foreign reserves from the CBN three days to the presidential general election to Goodluck Jonathan for his election. He has remained the president’s economic transformation programmer.
For this man, who is arguably one of the governors who amassed lot of votes for Jonathan during the presidential polls. His emergence as the chairman of the Governors’ Forum has been favourable for the president, for instance he could rally the 36 governors to always see and buy into the president’s programs and activities as was expressed during the governors’ early resistance to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) which they later succumbed to.
Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and Jimoh Ibrahim
The trio are business moguls who have remained a great pillar and loyalists to President Goodluck Jonathan. The rapport between them and the President is getting smoother and rubbing off on the policies of President Jonathan. The president met with them and other business leaders in Lagos shortly after his re-election to look at government’s business policies. Given their business empires and their rating in the business community, they are playing crucial roles in reshaping the economy. But critics believe that Dangote is unduly being favoured and that he did not merit the prestigious national honours of the GCON recently given to him by Mr. Jonathan. Critics also believe that the trio of Dangote, Otedola and Jimoh Ibrahim are being unnecessarily favoured through waivers and other alleged business deals.
Bukola Saraki, Godswill Akpabio and Peter Obi
These trio, one of who is an ex-govenor and a serving senator, are die-hard Jonathan men. For Saraki who also was an out-gone chairman of the governors’ forum was solidly behind Jonathan fiercely at the polls soon after he lost in the preliminary battle for the PDP as a consensus Northern candidate. He also played an important role in the presidency through nomination of ministers and is still recognized and respected in the presidency; while the other two serving governors, Akpabio and Obi, have been in the driving seat for the election of President Jonathan. For Akpabio, he has reportedly contributed a lot of foot soldiers, who also buffed out to get the job done. Obi, though in an opposition party, APGA, is also the chairman of the South-East governor’s forum and vice chairman of the NGF. He also alongside the Ohanaeze rallied the South-East and Ndigbo to vote for Jonathan at the last elections.
What appears not clear to many Nigerians is the inability of this ‘great men and women’ despite their intimidating credentials, experience and wealth to make the desired impact in the administration of Mr. Jonathan and why despite such perceived failures their powers and influence in the government is growing by the day. Whether Nigeria will become economically prosperous, develop or tackle the enormous challenges of insecurity, corruption and indiscipline under their overbearing influence in the government of Mr. Jonathan remains to be seen.