Since 'power has changed hands' unofficially a few days ago, it is certain that a lot of things in the political terrain of Nigeria will also change.
In this piece, The Punch's Olalekan Adetayo and Eniola Akinkuotu write on the influential personalities who will be greatly affected by President Goodluck Jonathan’s exit from power. Here are 10 power brokers whose level of influence will drastically reduce the moment Rtd. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari officially comes to power on May 29.
1. Mrs. Patience Jonathan
Mrs. Patience Jonathan is the wife of the President. Like wives of Presidents before her, she runs the Office of the First Lady with glamor despite the fact that the office is not recognized in the nation’s constitution. So powerful is the woman who prefers to be called Mama Peace that she was also elected the President of the African First Ladies Mission, a body of wives of Presidents across the continent. She also founded a non-governmental organization, Women for Change, which has the mandate of empowering women nationwide.
The influence she wields cannot be measured. Her hands seem to be on everything. She is believed to be the unseen hand behind the travail of a former Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, which denied him a second term ticket. The former governor was made uncomfortable in the Peoples Democratic Party until he left to join the All Progressives congress.
They replaced Sylva with Governor Seriake Dickson. The current governor tried hard to please the President’s wife to the extent that she was made a Permanent Secretary in the state. The honeymoon, however, did not last. Dickson also ran into troubled water with the woman who is said to have pencilled down the Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Matters, Dr. Wariponmowei Dudafa, as the next governor. She has since resigned her appointment from the state job.
It is also a known fact the problem between the President and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State which forced the governor out of the PDP started with a disagreement he had with Mrs. Jonathan over the demolition of some houses in Okrika, the ancestral home of the President’s wife. To get something in this government, you must be in the good books of Mrs. Jonathan. That is why government officials and their spouses bow and tremble before her.
2. Senator Pius Anyim
Anyim is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. By virtue of his position, he is a big man (not about his stature) in the cabinet. He coordinates the activities of ministers. Because of his closeness to the President, the former President of the Senate wields huge influence. He was accused of providing cover for the former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, when she was facing fire over the two bulletproof BMW cars bought for her. To avoid journalists, Oduah was on many occasions driven out of the Presidential Villa after weekly Federal Executive Council meetings in Anyim’s official car.
He is also alleged to have a hand in the crisis rocking the state chapter of the PDP in his home state, Ebonyi. The state governor, Martin Elechi, had claimed that Anyim was the brain behind the impeachment process initiated against him by some members of the state House of Assembly.
His camp was accused of foisting the state Deputy Governor, Dave Umahi, on the people as the PDP governorship candidate in the April 11 governorship election at a time when Elechi was rooting for a former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. The situation has forced many PDP stakeholders in the state to be working for the Labour Party.
3. Diezani Alison-Madueke
Alison-Madueke is the Minister of Petroleum Resources. To say that she is one of the most influential ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet is an understatement. She is very powerful. She is one of the few ministers who are driven straight into the forecourt of the President’s office through the Service Chiefs’ Gate. Others always walk a distance of about 300 metres from where their official cars are parked to the President’s office.
The minister was recently elected the first female President of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Three weeks after, she was also appointed the first female President of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.
So powerful is she that she dragged the House of Representatives to court to stop the House from probing her for allegedly spending N10bn on the charter and maintenance of a jet for unofficial purposes. The Presidency remained quiet over the issue. Alison-Madueke is no doubt a super minister in Jonathan’s cabinet.
4. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Okonjo-Iweala is the Minister of Finance. Jonathan elevated her slightly below the Vice-President when he named her the Coordinating Minister for the Economy.
During a typical FEC meeting, ministers mill around the woman because of the kind of influence she wields in the cabinet. They consult her before presenting any memo to the council since they would need money to finance them. Many Nigerians call Okonjo-Iweala the nation’s de facto Prime Minister.
5. Governor Godswill Akpabio
Akpabio is the Akwa Ibom State Governor. He is also the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Without any fear of contradiction, he can be said to be the closest governor to the President.
The governor supports Jonathan to a fault. The PDP Governors’ Forum that he chairs was formed to solely drum support for Jonathan in the face of continued friction between the Presidency and the Rotimi Amaechi-led Nigeria Governors’ Forum.
He is also one of the governors who formed the parallel NGF being led by Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State. In supporting Jonathan vehemently, however, Akpabio had unknowingly been enlisting more enemies for the President.
6. Chief Edwin Clark
Clark is not a government official but he wields the influence that is more than what a government official can do. He sees and carries himself like the President’s father.
The residence of the First Republic Minister of Information is like Mecca. Those in search of government jobs or contracts visit him regularly while government officials who want to remain in the President’s good book also lay siege to Clark’s house. He is one of those who held the belief that Jonathan must be re-elected or we should all forget about what is called Nigeria.
7. Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu
Mu’azu is the National Chairman of the PDP. Popularly called “the game changer,” Muazu took over the office when the PDP governors moved against the then chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
By virtue of that position, the former governor of Bauchi State is very influential in and outside the government. He has inputs in many of government’s decisions. With his party losing control of the Federal Government as well as its waning popularity in Bauchi, Mu’azu may be idle politically for the next four years.
For former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, otherwise known as Tompolo, power will not remain the same after May 29 when Buhari takes over government.
In 2009, he was declared the most wanted man in Nigeria by the Joint Task Force for allegedly killing 11 soldiers but his story has since changed following the amnesty he received from President Umaru Yar’Adua and his closeness to Jonathan.
So powerful is the ex-militant that not only did he ensure that his younger brother was made a local government chairman in Delta State, he reportedly nominated the current Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Ziadeke Akpobolokemi.
NIMASA awarded a N15bn contract to Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, a firm widely believed to be owned by Tompolo, to supply 20 vessels for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the waterways.
So powerful he is that he even stopped the President from going to Delta State to inaugurate the Export Processing Zone following a misunderstanding with Itsekiri leaders. He reportedly influenced Jonathan to sack a Minister of Transport, Yusuf Suleiman, following a disagreement. With Jonathan’s imminent exit from Aso Rock, Tompolo’s influence will definitely decline.
9. Senator David Mark
Although he has made history by becoming the first senator to win a fifth term, Mark’s influence will wane in the 8th National Assembly.
Mark, who is also the nation’s longest serving Senate president, cannot retain his seat since the All Progressives Congress now controls the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. At best, Mark can be made the minority leader.
Mark made life easy for Jonathan throughout the President’s tenure and defended the President even to a fault. He came under fire recently when he reportedly manipulated the screening process that ensured Senator Musiliu Obanikoro − who was accused of rigging the Ekiti State governorship election − was confirmed a minister.
Besides getting Obanikoro confirmed, Mark has never blocked any of Jonathan’s ministerial nominations. Last year, he convinced his colleagues not to pass a vote of no confidence in Jonathan over the President’s failure to curb insecurity. In November last year, he foiled a move by some senators to impeach Jonathan.
In return, Jonathan gave him several benefits including the nomination of some ministers in his cabinet. Jonathan’s defeat and the waning power of the PDP in the senate has certainly relegated Mark to the background.
10. Chief Tony Anenih
Anenih is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP. He took over from former President Olusegun Obasanjo who resigned from office because of some anomalies he noticed in the running of the party.
The former Minister of Works who hails from the South-South, the same geopolitical zone with the President, has never hidden his support for Jonathan.
Long ago, it was Anenih who first said it publicly that the President should be given an offer of first refusal as far as the party’s presidential candidacy is concerned. He wields no small influence in the Presidency.