The Presidency has placed members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under security watch in preparation for the dissolution of the cabinet. Consequently, President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience, have started ignoring programmes obviously packaged by ministers to curry their favour. Saturday Newswatch gathered that anti-graft agencies have been given green light to take an intense look at the activities of the ministers. As a confirmation of the President’s new strategy, he did not only fail to attend the launch of a rebranding project packaged by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Chief Edem Duke, held at the Presidential Villa on Thursday night, but also prevented his wife from adding colour to the occasion. The minister had placed a full page advertisement in some newspapers with photographs of the first family and himself while announcing the launch of what he called, “Fascinating Nigeria.” Several slots were also bought on radio and television to herald the unveiling of the project.
But President Jonathan, according to sources in the presidency, had to send his Vice, Namadi Sambo, to represent him at the last minute when he learnt that only two governors, Liyel Imoke of Akwa Ibom State and his Benue State counterpart, Gabriel Suswam with three other ministers were at the venue. “Three things could ordinarily have prevented Mr. President from attending; one, the fact that he would want to be careful in dealing with the ministers now that some of them would be dropped; two, he was told the attendance was extremely poor; and three, some concerned civil servants had through some informal channels protested that rather than use civil servants, the minister contracted the re-branding to event managers,” a senior presidential aide who does not want his name in print confided in Saturday Newswatch.
It was gathered that the presidency might have also begun investigation into the appointment of one Mrs. Chika Balogun, one of the aides of the minister who signed the advertisement placed in the newspapers. Mrs. Balogun signed the advertisement as senior special assistant. It was gathered that ministers are only allowed to appoint special assistants and personal assistants. Besides, it was gathered that civil servants were not carried along in the re-branding project which was a minus point on the launch. Civil service operations, according to sources close to the presidency, frown at chief executives who carry out projects without involving civil servants who are expected to continue such projects when such chief executives are no longer in office. “Mrs Balogun and Stephany Duarte that signed the advertisement are not staff of the ministry and the ministry is not actively involved. In fact, staff of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture are angry,” Ben Okocha, who claimed to be a staff of the ministry, told Saturday Newswatch yesterday.
Some Nigerians, however, condemned the rebranding exercise as a waste of public fund. But, the media aide to the minister, Dr. Taiwo Oladokun, said the rebranding project did not cost the ministry, and indeed the government, a kobo. This is not the first time the minister is using event managers to handle ministry projects. During the Ministers’ Conference in Calabar, he allegedly gave the project to an ex-beauty queen. This, some senior civil servants said, undermined the structure in the ministry. An aggrieved Abubakar Tanko, said: “As at now, we should be silent and see what we can do to build a good and united Nigeria; if there is indeed a need for rebranding, definitely, it is not now. It is I’ll-timed.”
But a legal luminary, Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN): said: “Some of these challenges are a direct result of lack of direct foreign investment. What was being launched was with a view to attracting tourists into Nigeria. You will agree that in other parts of the world such as Egypt, Syria and South Africa, where there are challenges, they all still try to attract tourists because they feel that it is a good way of making money for their countries. “Everything about Nigeria is not gloom; we have hope. So, I’m not concerned about the cost. I wouldn’t know how much will be used to do it, but since it’s a socio-economic programme, I think it is not out of place,” he added.