President Goodluck Jonathan did not appoint Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki as defence minister as widely expected because he wanted to break the purported domination of the north-west in the Defence Council. He is allegedly holding on to the defence portfolio.
Two newly appointed ministers, Prof. Chinedu Osita Nebo from Enugu State and Turaki from Kebbi State, were sworn in last week to replace the former ministers of power and defence, Barth Nnaji and Haliru Bello Mohammed respectively, who left the positions last year.
Instead of posting Turaki to the defence ministry, President Jonathan made him minister of special duties in the presidency.
He told the new ministers that Nigerians would judge his coaching abilities by the innovations they would bring into the federal cabinet.
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 in politics they are eminently qualified to serve as councillors up to the president of the Federal Republic, by their antecedents."
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt that,unlike the practice, the new ministers' portfolios were not disclosed while the brief swearing-in lasted but came shortly from a statement from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim. It disclosed that the president had approved the appointment of Turaki as minister of special duties and Nebo, minister of power.
Even the Senate, which cleared the new ministers, had thought that Turaki would replace his kinsman, Haliru Mohammed, as defence minister, hence most of the questions thrown to him during the screening were based on the prevailing insecurity in the country.
But a top official of the State House disclosed that Turaki was assigned special duties to balance power sharing in the polity and to allow President Jonathan to directly supervise the defence ministry. He said: "Recall that I have been telling you that the political calculation was not in favour of appointing the substantive minister from Kebbi State.
We all know that is where the former minister whom we all respect very well hails from, but that state is located within the north-west which has more than enough members in the Committee of Defence. You are aware that is where the national security adviser [NSA] comes from, the inspector-general of police is from the zone and, until his retirement, the immediate past chief of air staff , Air Marshal M.D. Umar, is from the zone; and; in fact, that was why his successor (Air Marshal D.S. Badeh) has to come from the north-east."
According to the source, President Jonathan was advised to revisit the appointment for political expediency. "I am not sure if President Jonathan would assign anyone as the substantive minister for some reasons, and two of them are: the security situation in and around the country and the performance of the minister of state.
You are aware one of the reasons for the removal of Dr. Haliru Mohammed was because of the Boko Haram factor, which is still pending. With the situation, President Jonathan would prefer being in charge with the present arrangement and, in addition the woman that is there now is doing extremely well. Since the former minister left, nothing has been left undone.
The president has no problem with the woman and when you remember that the immediate past chief of defence staff, Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin (rtd), is from the south-west where the minister of state hails from; with her in charge might be a way of placating the Yoruba who are feeling marginalised in the Jonathan presidency," he said.