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New Cabinet Expected Shortly In Nigeria - 2003-05-09

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is expected to name a new cabinet shortly, as he prepares for his second term. And politicians are already lobbying to be appointed.

Newspapers are rife with reports over which of the president’s 49 cabinet ministers may be dropped – and who may be added. One newspaper reports that only six officials may be retained and as many as 10 women are being considered. If that turns out to be true, it will double the existing number of female ministers. There are also calls for the appointment of younger ministers. Most of the outgoing ones are well over 50 years old. Another national daily reports that the president has come under enormous pressure from lobbyists.

Ministerial appointments are well sought after in Nigeria. There is a strong belief that they offer an opportunity to become rich at the expense of the state. But President Obasanjo has made it clear that this time, merit and competence will be his guide. The newspaper says he has decided to distance himself from the pressure by taking a week-long vacation beginning this weekend to draw up a final list.

According to law, the federal cabinet must reflect what is known as federal character. This means each of Nigeria's 36 states is guaranteed a place. Appointments to the outgoing cabinet were based on nominations by state branches of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. It remains to be seen if this time President Obasanjo can ignore the powerful lobby of party members -- especially those who worked tirelessly for his re-election.

Analysts say he will need to look beyond his party members to select a competent and tested team to effectively address the critical challenges facing Nigeria.