Premium Times (Abuja)

1 April 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan's Cabinet Full of Dead Woods, Says President's Ally

A close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan, Tony Uranta, has lashed out at the president over the composition of his cabinet, saying a lot of his ministers and special advisers are dead woods.

He urged Mr. Jonathan to urgently reshuffle the cabinet if he wants to deliver effective service to the Nigerian people

Mr. Uranta spoke last night as one of the three guests on Channels TV political programme, Politics Today, which focused on the level of service delivery at the federal level.

Answering a question, Mr. Uranta said Mr. Jonathan needs to speed things up in the country and govern in a more accountable and transparent manner.

"I'm saying while I'm of the school that President Jonathan has to speed things up, I'm also of the school that you should not give a dog a bad name so as to hang it," he said. "He has to do a lot of things more visibly, accountably and transparently. He must reshuffle his cabinet. There are lots of dead woods in there."

He cited the example of the presidential assistant on Millennium Develpoment Goals, Precious Gbenol, saying she had been completely anonymous, creating the impression she had not been working.

He said, "The SA on MDG. Amina Ibrahim was SA on MDG for quite some years. We knew her. We saw what she was doing. I don't even know the name of this young lady who is SA MDG because she's not been seen. And if you are not seen, it is not enough for you to tell me you are working behind the scene. Because you are a public office and you must be transparent."

Then with a tone of finality, Mr. Uranta repeated, "He must reshuffle his cabinet if he wants to get better results."

Mr. Uranta is a core loyalist of the president and his open criticism of the President came as a surprise to many.

He has unhindered access to the president, and is believed to have carried out many hatchet jobs for the presidency in the past.

But his comments resonate with critics of the administration most of whom have lambasted the president for being slow and corrupt.

Analysts believe Mr. Uranta's comment was suggestive of a crack in the president's inner cirle.

However, this is not the first time that associates of Mr. Jonathan have come out in the open to tear at the president.

In December, an ex-militant and one of the most vocal supporters of the President, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, joined the growing number of Nigerians accusing the administration of failure.

Mr. Dokubo-Asari said the President was fast losing his support base and might not be re-elected for failing to deliver on his promises.

Mr. Dokubo-Asari, who admitted to have greatly benefitted from the Jonathan presidency, said he could no longer keep quiet in the face of the unprecedented failure of the government.

"What has the Goodluck Jonathan government achieved to show that it is a departure from other governments that have existed since 1956? For us, nothing has changed. It is still business as usual," he said.

"We have continued as Ijaw people and the entire Niger Delta and south-south to support the presidency of President Goodluck Jonathan, but a time has come when silence cannot be golden."

Earlier in October, a Niger-Delta rights activist and ally of President Jonathan, Ankio Briggs, had angrily criticised the president's national broadcast on the monumental flood that ravaged Nigeria last year.

The President had in the broadcast announced the categorization of flood affected states and the approval of monies to the states. Mr. Jonathan also announced the setting up of a committee to raise funds to address the floods.

But when Ms. Briggs appeared on Channels Television shortly afterwards, she tore the president's argument to shreds and condemned each of the major decisions announced by Mr. Jonathan.

While speaking on the flood fund committee, Ms. Briggs said "setting up committee now, we are setting up committee now that will do what? The Government does not even know the affected communities."

The rights activist, who had visited flood-ravaged communities in some Niger-delta States at the time, condemned the categorisation of flood ravaged states by the president, saying "it is not about categorising states in category A and B. How did they arrive at these categories?"

On the money that was to be given to the affected states, Ms. Briggs said "it is not about funds. We have money. It is about help. Federal Government, States, Local Governments does not have capacity. We need international help."

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