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Goodluck Jonathan's cabinet choices surprise Nigeria

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, file pic
Goodluck Jonathan has been acting leader since last month

Nigeria's senate has named 33 ministerial nominees submitted by acting leader Goodluck Jonathan a week after he sacked the cabinet.

Mr Jonathan included some surprise names, such as Olusegun Aganga, a UK-based Goldman Sachs banker.

The list, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, contained just nine ministers from the former cabinet.

Mr Jonathan has taken over as acting leader while President Umaru Yar'Adua recovers from a serious illness.

Mr Yar'Adua was taken to hospital in Saudi Arabia last November and, although he has now returned to Nigeria, he has not been seen in public since.

Mr Jonathan is battling to fill a power vacuum that has been plaguing Nigerian politics since Mr Yar'Adua fell ill.

Legal wrangling

The list of nominees is not expected to be the complete membership of the new cabinet - Mr Jonathan is expected to propose more names later.

YAR'ADUA ILLNESS TIMELINE
Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua (file photo 29 July 2009)
23 Nov 2009: Goes to hospital in Saudi Arabia
26 Nov: Diagnosed with pericarditis, a heart problem
12 Jan: President gives telephone interview from Saudi Arabia
27 Jan: Cabinet declares president fit
9 Feb: Goodluck Jonathan made acting president
24 Feb: Yar'Adua returns to Nigeria

But the current list does include one of Mr Yar'Adua's nephews, Alhaji Mutallab Yar'Adua, who has not held public office before.

Analysts say including him in the cabinet may be an attempt to groom him for higher office.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs confirmed that Mr Aganga, one of the bank's managing directors, had accepted an offer to be considered for a ministerial post.

The firm said he had spent his career in the private sector and had not previously held public office.

Media reports say he is tipped to become finance minister.

Mr Jonathan's choices have to balance the interests of 36 states and a wide range of interest groups, and approval of the new cabinet could take weeks.

Political analyst Reuben Abati told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that Mr Jonathan was sending a message that he is in charge.

The manoeuvring also showed that Mr Jonathan wants to run for president, he said.

But the ruling PDP alternates its leadership between northerners and southerners and recently announced that it would field a northerner in the presidential election next year - in effect ruling out Mr Jonathan, who is from the south.

Mr Jonathan was installed as acting president on 9 February after weeks of legal wrangling and widespread street protests by Nigerians demanding clarity on who was running the country.

Since then, he has been faced with an outbreak of communal violence in the central city of Jos and a renewed campaign by militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta.



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