Uncertainty and anxiety have pervaded the seat of power, Aso Rock, following the removal of Mike Oghiadomhe as chief of staff by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday.
The once-powerful presidential aide's removal has been attributed to reports linking him with some alleged shady deals in the nation's cash cow, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
His removal is interpreted in many quarters as the commencement of a cleansing exercise in the Presidency ahead of the 2015 elections.
Presidential aides and ministers, LEADERSHIP gathered, have embarked on lobby moves to save their jobs. It was learnt that Oghiadomhe was asked by the president to resign, following a series of official lapses that have been going on in the presidency, which were linked to the office of the former chief of staff.
The latest among the sins allegedly committed by Oghiadomhe was that he attempted to sideline the Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wamakko, when President Jonathan visited the state last Saturday.
A source at the presidency told our correspondent that Oghiadomhe deliberately refused to write officially to Wamakko informing him that the president was visiting the state for a rally organised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Rather than write to alert the governor to the visit as had been the practice, Oghiadomhe was said to have chosen to deal with the deputy governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Shagari, using his own discretion to keep Wamakko away following the governor's recent defection from the PDP to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Shagari had refused to follow his boss to the APC, which automatically makes him the leader of the PDP in the state.
According to the presidency source who pleaded anonymity, even though Wamakko openly expressed dismay over the manner in which he was kept in the dark over the presidential visit, the governor "still proceeded to do the needed preparations for the president's visit by providing accommodation and other necessary logistics for the presidential advance team.
"Jonathan was visibly angry but tried to control his emotion when he was told and apparently resolved that Saturday to take a drastic action against his CoS," the source added.
Another of Oghiadhome's many sins, the source further told LEADERSHIP, was his failure to acknowledge a request by Niger State traditional rulers to pay the president a "thank-you" visit following the flag-off of the Zungeru power project in the state late last year.
Jonathan had also expressed his displeasure at the development at the time when the state governor, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu, told him that months after the royal fathers wrote a letter requesting the visit, the office of the CoS had refused to acknowledge their letter.
Signs that Oghiadomhe had fallen out of favour with the president started to manifest in 2012 when the presidential delegation that went to Edo State for the grand fianle of the governorship campaign was shunned by the Oba of Benin. Rather than receive the delegation, the royal father insisted on having a private audience with President Jonathan owing to what a source linked to the short notice given to the palace. The source said Oghiadomhe did not write officially to the Oba until two days to the visit.
LEADERSHIP also gathered that when Oghiadomhe was informed about the termination of his service on Saturday, he quickly went to his office at the presidential villa, Abuja, to clear it of his personal belongings including photographs.
He was said to have attended a meeting with the president and his aides after which he tendered his resignation letter on Monday.
The Presidency also clarified that his decision to quit was to enable him engage in other political ventures.
Special adviser to the president on media and publicity Dr Reuben Abati refuted online reports suggesting that Jonathan fired Oghiadomhe following his involvement in alleged corruption and financial crime in the NNPC.
He said that the president has not named any replacement for Oghiadomhe yet.
Abati described speculations that the former CoS was fired as "callous and completely unreasonable", even as he noted that Oghiadomhe had diligently served the Jonathan administration without blemish.
The presidential spokesman explained that Oghiadomhe's resignation was in line with the directive by the president to his cabinet members that those who may wish to get involved in politics to contest for political offices should resign their appointments.
He said: "I can confirm to you that the chief of staff to the president has resigned his appointment and that it has nothing to do with the speculation that one online portal was trying to do out. The president received the letter this morning and he says he wishes to pursue other political necessities within our great party.
"You will recall that about two weeks ago before the president travelled to Ethiopia, he had announced in Council that if there was any member of the cabinet or an major political appointee who wanted to pursue some political endeavours, that he had been hearing rumours that some people wanted to pursue some other political interests in whatever capacity, that if such were going to be engaged heavily in political activities, they should let him know.
"And if they saw that they were going to be really busy that it would occupy their time, ordinarily, they should please step aside or let him know, or they should come and see him for discussion. It happened on the open floor of the Council. And you can see what I have pointed out as the reason for the chief of staff's resignation. It is in line with that."
Faulting online reports that the former CoS was sacked over corruption, Abati said, "So, we find the speculation, particularly by some of the online platforms as callous and completely unreasonable, considering that this is the man who has served and who has given time and energy to the pursuit of the good interest of our country.
"Mr. President appreciates his contributions and he would like to put on record that, indeed, he was a man who discharged his responsibilities diligently and the country is very grateful to him, and the president personally would like to wish him well in his future endeavours."
Dokpesi may emerge Jonathan's chief of staff
Meanwhile, indications emerged last night that President Jonathan may appoint Chairman of DAAR Communications limited as his new Chief of Staff (CoS).
A presidency source told LEADERSHIP that the choice of Dokpesi may not be unconnected to the fact he is from Edo State where the former CoS hails from and would be the appropriate son of the state in the South-east who is politically fit to take the appointment.
Besides, the source recalled that Dokpesi was the one who was tipped for the job before political consideration tilted the position in favour of Oghiadomhe.
Also, the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole was also at the presidential villa where he met with the president for about 40 minutes and left shortly before it was confirmed that Oghiadomhe had resigned.
The mood at Aso Rock yesterday evening was that of excitement, following news that the erstwhile Chief of Staff to the president had resigned, as staff of the place were seen in groups according to their departments gossiping over the development.
Some of them expressed delight that sudden exit of the Chief of Staff who oversees the day to day running of affairs at the villa would change things for the better in terms of their welfare.
Anyim, Gulak's jobs shaky as president mulls more changes
The sack of the presidential aide, it was learnt, would herald some more changes. President Jonathan was said to have made up his mind to effect "needful changes in the system".
In the impending re-structuring, President Jonathan is said to be considering the appointment of a politician from the south-west as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF). The implication is that the current holder of the office, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, will give way if this thinking was implemented by the president amidst pressure coming from a section of Yoruba leaders who have complained about the absence of one of theirs in the Presidency.
Also being contemplated, according to findings by LEADERSHIP, is that a former governor from one of the northern states who recently joined the ruling party might be approached to take up the job of President Jonathan's political adviser.
If the deal was sealed between the former governor and the president, it would see to the exit of the current political adviser, Ali Ahmed Gulak.
LEADERSHIP gathered that a few hours after the announcement of Oghiadomhe's exit as chief of staff to the president, close allies of the president outside government started to receive phone calls from presidential aides and ministers.
"Well, the only permanent thing in life is change; that is the situation on ground and I think more and more changes are likely to follow because most of the ministers, advisers or assistants have become more of liabilities than assets to the president and this has to stop.
"We have seen some ministers or advisers not helping enough to propagate the ideals of the government they serve; rather, they promote themselves in all questionable manner. If we allow this to continue, then, we can as well forget this talk about 2015," a source close to the president said on the telephone.