The exit of five members of President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s cabinet last week was characterised by controversy over whether they were sacked, forced to resign or they voluntarily resigned. It is, however, in the interest of government to always come clean on the circumstances surrounding the disengagement of its cabinet members and other appointees, writes Vincent Obia
The recent disengagement of some members of President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s cabinet is enmeshed in media controversy. The huge attention has centred on the conjectures about the reasons behind their exits from government. The typical stock of words driving the current speculations range from sack or dismissal to resignation.
Minister of Information Labaran Maku seemed to set off the confusion with his account of the development at a briefing with State House correspondents.
Maku said, after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, â€œThe president announced further changes in the federal executive council. He said a number of ministers have been asked to step out of the federal executive council to further their own interest, some in politics, others in their own private focus.
â€œClearly, what the president did today was to allow ministers who have indicated interest in pursuing further goals in the polity, in the economy and in the life of the country to go.
â€œThose asked by the president to go include the following: the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama; Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olukolade (rtd); Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe; and Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah.â€
In one breathe, Maku gave the impression that the officers were sacked from their positions, apparently, for some reasons, in another, he painted the picture of voluntary resignations.
Such foggy details had also followed Mondayâ€™s removal of Chief Mike Oghiadomhe as Chief of Staff to the President
Expectedly, the ministerâ€™s explanation was greeted with a gale of speculations, which the federal government has been hard-pressed to address. Some said Oghiadomhe was dismissed for involving in shady dealings with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, while others attributed his exit to the Presidentâ€™s anger over the shabby treatment of Sokoto State Governor Aliyu Wamakko during a recent presidential visit to the state and failure to facilitate a thank-you visit to Jonathan by Niger State traditional rulers.
Yet, there are those who think Oghiadomhe was â€œasked to goâ€ for allegedly hobnobbing with the ruling All Progressives Congress in his native Edo State during the last governorship election there.
For Oduah, the natural assumption has been that she was sacked because of the N250 million bullet proof cars scam.
Interestingly, the storm of rumour following the latest cabinet reshuffle was largely absent when on September 11 last year, Jonathan, in a surprise move, sacked nine of his 43 ministers. He had equally offered no straight talk on why he thought the ministers should go. But the timing and choice of the appointees fitted a trend – most of the dismissed ministers either came from states whose governors had been involved in a battle of wills with the President or were nominees of perceived opponents of the President.
But the latest appointees to exit the government are known allies of the President. So, while it is possible that some of those who exited the cabinet went in pursuit of their political ambitions, many believe there are some who were asked to go for other reasons. It behoves the government to always make explicit the reasons for the exit of public officers whose offices are maintained with state resources. The resort to ambiguity in the communication of the exit of government officials to the public does not do democracy any good â€“ in fact, it is antidemocratic. And it does not do the governmentâ€™s image any good. It encourages a culture of governance in which erring public officers or appointees are given a soft-landing.
The fogginess around the recent exit of state officials in the country contrasts sharply with the practice in civilised democracies across the globe. For instance, when in October last year the US commander of the 20th Air Force, a strategic arm of Americaâ€™s Nuclear Weapons System, Major General Michael Carey, was sacked by President Barack Obama, the US Air Force told the country the action was caused by the administrationâ€™s â€œloss of trustâ€ in the commander.
If that country could be so transparent with such a sensitive decision, the Nigerian government certainly has no reason to shroud the disengagement of political appointees in the present secrecy.