President Goodluck Jonathan Monday swore in two ministers but delayed the announcement of the ministerial portfolios the duo of Prof. Chinedu Nebo from Enugu State and Alhaji Kabiru Turaki from Kebbi State will oversee.
The delay in announcing the portfolios for the two ministers who are coming in as replacements for the former Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, and former Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, strengthened speculations of an imminent cabinet reshuffle that will see some ministers swapping positions.
Nnaji resigned his position in August last year, while Mohammed was sacked two months earlier along with the then National Security Adviser (NSA), the late General Andrew Azazi.
Jonathan, after the swearing-in of the two ministers, directed the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to assign portfolios to the new ministers.
However, THISDAY learnt last night that the president, who is scheduled to leave the country today for Egypt, the United Kingdom and France, was yet to issue a directive to the SGF on which portfolios to assign both men.
Contrary to the widely held belief, presidency sources said the two new ministers might not be given the power and defence ministries where their kinsmen whom they replaced held sway.
According to a source in the presidency, for the sake of equity in the distribution of positions among the six geopolitical zones, Turaki may not go to the defence ministry as this will lead to the concentration of the leadership of the nation's security apparatus in the hands of people from the North-west zone, where he hails from.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who was appointed in January 2012, is from Zamfara State, while the NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), appointed in June last year, is from Sokoto State.
However, not only are Turaki, Dasuki and Abubakar from the North-west geopolitical zone, they are from the contiguous states of Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto.
The president's men, it was gathered, are not comfortable with the concentration of such sensitive positions in the hands of persons with a kindred affinity, especially ahead of the 2015 elections.
A source said Turaki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), might be considered for the position of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice or any other ministry.
But he added that the president had not taken a final decision on this because the incumbent, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, is seen as one of the president's men.
On the other hand, some of those close to the president are also pushing for Nero, a former vice-chancellor, to go to the Ministry of Education because in their estimation, the incumbent, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa'i, has been an underperformer, in addition to some political considerations that may not be unconnected to the 2015 presidential ambition of some northern governors.
Since mid-last year when the then defence minister was dropped, the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, has been running the affairs of the ministry.
Similarly, the vacancy caused by the controversial resignation of Nnaji has left the leadership of that crucial sector in the hands of a Minister of State, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, who was moved to the ministry late last year while her predecessor, Mr. Darius Ishaku, was redeployed to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
At the swearing-in of Nebo and Turaki yesterday, Jonathan, who likened himself to a football coach who is expected to clinch a desirous trophy, urged the duo to assist him in proving his mettle as a worthy instructor so that the confidence reposed in his administration by Nigerians will not wane.
He told the two new ministers that they should bear in mind that Nigerians would be the final arbiters on his coaching prowess, which will be based on their performances along with their other colleagues.
On their portfolios, the president directed Anyim to work them out.
He said: "We are admitting two new ministers into our fold. From the profile we have heard about them, they are eminently qualified to serve this country at all levels. If it is not political, they are eminently qualified to serve as councillors to the president of the federal republic by their antecedents.
"But then background qualification is one thing; serving as a minister is another thing because the challenges are different.
"One thing I believe is that you will succeed. But to me, it is a big challenge because if the coach of a football team sends his 11 players and decides to make changes close to half time, then he knows that there may be weaknesses in some areas and he is bringing people to strengthen the team to make sure they score goals.
"So Nigerians are expecting that if I am bringing ministers in at this time, I must be bringing people that will strengthen the team and make sure I bring people that will score more goals than we are already scoring.
"And if Nigerians don't realise that, they will feel that I am not a good coach. If they realise that, then they will know I am a good coach.
"So it is quite challenging for me to bring you in at this time and also for you because they will expect you to perform extremely well.
"Just like when the coach introduces a new player sometimes 10 minutes to the end of the game, they expect you to score the next goal."