From John Eche, Onitsha
The relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and his serving Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke is clearly a close knit one. And despite widespread national umbrage over the Minister’s excesses, she has continued to enjoy the personal approval and confidence of the president.
But that is not exactly the view of a cross-section of Nigerians who in the wake of continuing allegations of graft and misdemeanour as well as recurring bottlenecks in the area of petroleum products supply and distribution were asked in a The Difference Poll last weekend to comment on whether the President’s firing of the embattled minister could have an impact on his own job approval rating and projected second term bid.
The results of the poll, which was conducted by The Difference Newspaper Correspondents, revealed that in the view of the majority of the people in the country, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke should promptly be booted out from her office as Minister of Petroleum.
In the South West region of the country precisely, 15 of 20 respondents were affirmative that a Diezani sack today would help shore up President Jonathan’s job approval rating and second term chances with the other five saying it would not.
As for the South East, which has long been acknowledged to be a safe support base for the president 10 of 23 respondents say sacking Diezani today would count in the president’s credit list; nine do not think so, with four undecided.
Specifically the question asked was: “Would the sack of the Petroleum Minister improve President Goodluck Jonathan’s job approval rating and second term chances?”
The respondents who were contacted in three cities of the South East and one in the South West were drawn from civil society, the professions, markets, political class and artisans.
Indeed, The Difference checks confirm that the job approval rating of Mrs. Allison-Madueke herself as Minister of Petroleum had continued to plummet over the years.
From a very high posting when she was picked as the first woman to head the very critical ministry that literally superintends over the bulk of the nation’s income, she has over the years come to see her popularity and job approval diminish on account of a number of untoward incidents, attitudes, perceptions and developments.
Of the lot, observers say, the most contentious would be the fuel scarcity removal fiasco of 2012, the recurring incidence of petroleum productions scarcity, the management of the NNPC and ministry’s revenues, her poor relations with colleagues in the Federal Executive Council, which include the anchor Coordinating Minister of the Economy, and even problems with the First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
Indeed a source close to the presidency confirmed that the ‘Diezani problem’ has been there all along but that ‘Oga’ (President Jonathan) had made it very clear to all of them that no one should even go there!
‘My brother, let us just leave that matter. Who has not intervened on the issue? The Senate President and even Aliko Dangote were told her removal could not be on the cards. Even First Lady, tough as we all know her to be was hushed up on the matter. Yes, Oga confronted her and told her to not even try anything to set her up; that it would fail. He asked where she was when the Minister’s dad was helping him out with pocket money back in his school days and threatened that if the First Lady did not want a fight with him, she should simply back off from that close.’
Another factor that has ensured the relative invincibility of the minister is her involvement in mobilizing resources for Jonathan’s electoral bids. In 2011 for example, she was accused of pulling out all of the stops and directly writing to players in the oil sector to make donations to the President’s campaign war chest.
She is equally expected to do the same in the build up to the current 2015 electoral battle where the President is soon expected to formally declare his intention to run for a second term in office.