Nigeria’s ruling party to meet for crucial talks

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Nigeria’s ruling party is planning crucial talks after Acting President Goodluck Jonathan sacked a government he inherited from the country’s ailing head of state, sources said.

The People Democratic Party’s highest decision making body was expected to meet next week to discuss the cabinet dissolution as well as start planning for general elections due next year.

Jonathan, desperate to assert his authority since he took over the reins five weeks ago, is after a pro-reform cabinet following months of virtual governmental paralysis critics blame on President Umaru Yar’Adua’s protracted ill health.

But the party said it fully backed Jonathan’s dissolution of the predominantly PDP cabinet and would play a role in the drafting of the new government.

“We are satisfied, we are very, very satisfied with the dissolution,” PDP national chairman Vincent Ogbulafor said after a team of party senior leadership met Jonathan Thursday night.

Meanwhile a party source confirmed a meeting of the top brass was on the cards, but did not give details.

“We have not concluded arrangements yet,” one party source told AFP promising details later.

The planned talks were to include the powerful state governors and the party’s board of trustees, chaired by the former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo, accused of handpicking Yar’Adua as his successor, recently suggested that the president should step down from office.

Under the Nigerian constitution the president appoints at least one minister from each of the 36 states of the federation. The influential governors each submit lists of at least three nominees to the president before he onpasses them to the senate for clearance.

Presidential sources say Jonathan, who is enjoying the backing of the senate, which has the final say on who makes it into the cabinet, was eyeing a full line up by next week.

But experts and diplomats said its was unlikely to have the new government in place by next week. In the best case scenario, it might take two weeks before Jonathan’s new team is installed, they said.

Jonathan’s decision to dissolve the cabinet gives him an opportunity to appoint his own team and thus strengthen his authority.

In as much as he wants a reform minded cabinet to tackle a mounting set of crises, including a new bout of sectarian slaughter, violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta and recently a diplomatic row with Libya — some observers said he may not have much of a free hand in the nominations.

“But there is a chance he might capitalise on the fact that the party is divided and have some governors on his side,” observed a diplomat.

“It’s is fairly clear that Jonathan does not control the party but what is clear is that the party is divided and rather weak,” added the diplomat.

Africa’s most populous nation and one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, has been in a state of paralysis since Yar’Adua was stricken by a heart condition last November, critics say.


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