Since inception, President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has been accused of impunity, usually caused by decisions and actions of the President, including those of his ministers and close associates.
Most of the glaring cases of abuse of power including reckless spending of taxpayers’ money have been carried out by the women in Jonathan’s cabinet. These women have proven to be more powerful than the number one citizen of Nigeria because despite public outcries that greet some of their decisions, they go scot-free.
Those who fall in this seemingly untouchable category are the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan; the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke; the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms. Arunma Oteh; and the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah.
These powerful women have some things in common. They are all from the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones. Four of them had their higher education in the United States and two of them are daughters of traditional rulers. Needless to say they occupy some of the most strategic and ‘lucrative’ positions in the Federal Government.
In Nigeria’s history, Patience Jonathan is believed to be the most powerful First Lady in terms of the amount of influence she has over her husband and his cabinet. Mrs. Jonathan first gave a glimpse into the enormous power she wields in 2011 when she traversed the country, campaigning for her husband in a way that irked many Nigerians.
Several calls by individuals and groups to the President to restrain his wife yielded no result. Also, in June this year, in apparent violation of the electoral act, Mrs. Jonathan reportedly started campaigning for her husband ahead of the 2015 elections. Another show of impunity by the President’s wife is the way she cripples any town or city she visits with her long motorcade, including bulletproof limousines and scores of armed policemen.
She grounded Lagos in 2012 when she visited to say “thank you” to some women groups for their support in electing her husband. Despite the protest by several Nigerians, who felt that their right to move freely in their country was violated by the movement of an unelected individual, the President’s wife was never cautioned, at least not publicly. Instead, the Presidency rose to her defence, giving her the liberty to do more in other cities. Her visits and grounding of traffic in Port Harcourt and Warri were also greeted with wide condemnations.
To show how powerful she is, Mrs. Jonathan publicly admitted making attempts to dictate to the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, a move that largely precipitated the ongoing political crisis in the state.
In Aso Rock, where she resides with her husband, the fear of Mrs. Jonathan is the beginning of wisdom as she leaves no one in doubt that she is in charge. There is always a retinue of favour seekers waiting to see her daily.
Mrs. Jonathan, a native of Bayelsa State, was born in Port Harcourt on October 25, 1957 and holds National Certificate of Education in Mathematics and Biology from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, and a Bachelor of Education degree in biology and psychology from the University of Port Harcourt.
Right from when the negotiation to bring her from the World Bank started, it was obvious that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was bound to wield so much power in Jonathan’s government.
With her position as the coordinating minister for the economy (a new position created for her) and Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala, who is currently 83rd on Forbes’ global list of powerful women, calls the shots as far as Nigeria’s economy is concerned. While doing that, she has called the bluff of many including state governors and the National Assembly without any consequence.
The state governors, who have complained about the shabby way the minister treat them, have called for her removal while the Academic Staff Union of Universities has called her a ‘dictator.’ But no matter the protest, Okonjo-Iweala remains a darling of the President.
The sacking of Mr. Shuaib Yushau as the Head, Media and Information Unit of the National Emergency Management Agency, after he wrote what was considered a critical article against Okonjo-Iweala, further showed that the minister was not to be messed with.
The article entitled ‘Still on Okonjo-Iweala over Controversial Appointments’, published on March 6, called on the minister “to ensure that appointments into important positions should be done in credible and transparent manner that can withstand public scrutiny.”
Similarly, Mr. Lawrence Ani, was reportedly suspended indefinitely from his job as Saturday Editor of Thisday Newspaper for publishing a story that cited data that indicated a drop in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch.
In 2011, against the opinion of the majority of Nigerians, Okonjo-Iweala and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, insisted on the removal of fuel subsidy, and literally ordered it on the outset of 2012, resulting in the Occupy Nigeria protest.
Okonjo-Iweala, who also served as finance minister and foreign minister under President Olusegun Obansanjo and as a Managing Director at the World Bank, was born on June 13, 1954 to Professor Chukuka Okonjo, who is the Obi (traditional ruler) of Ogwashi-Uku.
She graduated from Harvard University in 1977, and earned her Ph.D. in regional economic development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
She is married to Ikemba Iweala from Abia State.
Virtually all sections of the Nigerian society have called for the resignation of the Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, all to no avail. Most of those who sought her removal had cited several allegations of corrupt practices under her watch as reasons for their demand.
After the revelation of massive fraud in the fuel subsidy administration to the tune of N1.7trn, many had thought that heads would roll, including that of Alison-Madueke, who supervised the rot. Some heads did roll, but not that of the queen of the Nigeria oil and gas industry.
Till date, the Presidency has not queried or probed Diezani over allegations against her and the indictment of departments under her by several panels, including those headed by Nuhu Ribadu, Farouk Lawan, and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as well as the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.
Diezani has also not explained to Nigeria, whom she was appointed to serve, what role she played in the massive corruption that led to the loss of huge amounts of public fund. Apart from the demands for the Alison-Madueke’s resignation and prosecution by civil society groups, who led the Occupy Nigeria protest, the House of Representatives also demanded her removal as minister.
Despite this, the President did not suspend her, and gave no explanation for that. This shows how powerful she is.
Alison-Madueke is the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria, and in October 2010 she became the first woman to head a country’s delegation at the annual OPEC conference. She was also the first female Minister of Transportation, and the first woman to be appointed to the board of Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria. Alison-Madueke was born on December 6, 1960 in Port Harcourt.
She graduated from Howard University in 1992, with a Bachelor’s degree in architecture and returned to Nigeria to join Shell Petroleum Development Corporation.
About 10 years later, she earned an MBA from Cambridge University and was appointed as the first female executive director of Shell Nigeria.
In 1999, she got married to Admiral Alison Madueke (retd), one-time Chief of Naval Staff who was at different times military governor of Imo and Anambra states.
Not many are aware of the tremendous power of the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, in Jonathan’s government. For her role in Jonathan’s 2011 campaign, she was reportedly rewarded with a ministerial appointment to the aviation ministry, even though she had no prior training in the field of aviation.
Many believe that the President feels indebted to her for her role as the Director of Finance and Administration of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation and in the establishment of Neighbour-to-Neighbour outfit, which reportedly spent billions of naira on adverts and media propaganda in favour of Jonathan, especially while the Occupy Nigeria protest lasted.
Considering this relationship with Jonathan, it should not be a surprise that Oduah’s response to critics after the Dana and Associated Airlines crashes reeked of arrogance.
The latest revelation that she forced the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to buy her bulletproof vehicles has again elicited calls for her removal and prosecution but considering the way the President has treated public outcries against these powerful women, Oduah is likely to remain minister till the end of Jonathan’s administration. Princess Stella Oduah was born on January 5, 1962 to Igwe D.O. Oduah of Akili-Ozizor in Anambra State on January 5, 1962.
She got her Bachelor’s degree in accounting and MBA from American universities.
Oduah joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 1983 and in 1992, she established a petroleum products marketing company, Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Limited. She was married to the former Minister for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi.
Through her battles, the Director-General of the Securities Exchange Commission, Ms. Arunma Oteh, has sufficiently earned the name ‘Iron lady’ even beyond her official sphere of influence. When she clashed with the House of Representatives Committee on the Capital Market, it was the chairman of the committee, Mr. Herman Hembe, that got hurt.
The committee had accused Oteh of fraud and misappropriation of funds. She fired back, accusing Hembe of demanding bribe from SEC. The SEC board suspended Oteh in order to investigate the findings of the lawmakers, who probed the capital market and indicted her. She immediately petitioned the President and Okonjo-Iweala. After two months, the President returned Oteh to her position, following the auditor’s report that said her offence amounted only to ‘administrative lapses.’ The directors and staff of the commission, who had protested Oteh’s alleged high-handedness, were advised to calm down and obey their boss.
On the other hand, Hembe was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and also stepped down as chairman of the committee.
The crisis led to an intense battle between President Jonathan and the House of Representatives. The House demanded the sacking of Oteh but Jonathan refused.
The passage of the 2013 budget was delayed because of the fight. Eventually, the lawmakers insisted on zero budget for SEC to force the President’s hand, but he did not budge. Calls for her removal by civil society groups also fell on deaf ears. Oteh, who is an indigene of Abia State, is also a British citizen.
She graduated with first-class degree in computer sciences from the University of Nigeria in Nsukka and earned her MBA from Harvard Business School.