, LAGOS, Mar 18 – Nigeria\’s acting president Goodluck Jonathan was in consultations on Thursday over a new government, a day after he asserted his authority and dissolved the cabinet he acquired from his ailing predecessor.
Naming a new government in Nigeria usually takes weeks — but given that elections are due in less than one year, observers said a fresh government could emerge in a matter of days, subject to senate approval.
Jonathan\’s spokesman Ima Niboro said Wednesday\’s cabinet dissolution was designed "to inject fresh blood and bring even greater vigour to governance".
"It is part of a larger strategy to frontally confront the core challenges that face the nation at this critical moment of our history," added Niboro, quoted in the newspaper ThisDay.
Sources said Jonathan had already started consultations prior to Wednesday, and that he appeared to have the backing of some powerful figures in the country.
Most of the prior 42-member cabinet are expected to be retained, however, sources in the presidency said.
"More than half will come back and we are expecting it (the new government) next week," a presidential source told AFP, adding the appointment has to be fast-tracked as Jonathan tenure is left with less than a year.
"Remember there is no vice president, and he (Jonathan) needs a government to support him and there is not much time left for this government," the source said.
Jonathan "is in talks already with the leadership of the senate so that it can expedite the clearance of the nominees," said the source.
He might even submit a proposed list to senators by week\’s end.
"Today is going to be key since it is the last day of the National Assembly sitting (this week). Therefore it is going to be key in determining whether he may send a list," said Tolu Ogunlesi, a columnist with a Nigerian daily, Next.
"I am sure he will not want a vacuum …and he wants to fill the vacuum immediately. Power vacuums are a cause for concern in Nigeria. I don\’t think he wants to see vacuums exploited by all sorts of forces."
The cabinet appointed by ailing President Umaru Yar\’Adua has been divided since he was taken ill in November and travelled abroad for treatment.
Jonathan\’s decision to dissolve the government of Africa\’s most populous nation comes at a tense time following Muslim-Christian violence in the north and renewed unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta in the south.
Observers said Jonathan could face legal challenges from some of the ministers in the dissolved cabinet, especially those aligned to Yar\’Adua.
But the move would allow Jonathan, 52, to appoint his own team rather than rely on Yar\’Adua allies, thus giving him a stronger hold on power.