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Nigeria: President Jonathan reshuffles cabinet

Two Northern members of the opposition All Nigerian Peoples Cabinet have been appointed into the Federal Cabinet in a move by President Goodluck Jonathan to woe new interest groups ahead of the presidential election in January, 2011

Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta in the south, has not yet declared whether he intends to run in the election, but he would need the support of the north if he were to do so.

Jonathan named Yabawa Wabi, a member of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as his new minister of state for finance, replacing former junior finance minister Remi Babalola, who was made minister of special duties.

Babalola had been under fire after saying last month that state oil firm NNPC was insolvent, a statement which was publicly shot down by three cabinet colleagues.

Salamatu Suleiman, another ANPP member and former women’s affairs minister, was appointed minister of state for foreign affairs. A third new addition was Kenneth Gbagi, a lawyer and senior member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who was made minister of state for education.

Other ministers were unaffected by the changes.

“I want to make it clear that redeployment especially at the ministerial level is a part of our service. (For) a minister to be redeployed is not an indictment,” Jonathan told reporters as he announced the reshuffle.

Some northerners have indicated they would support a Jonathan candidacy, but governors of northern states — who form a strong caucus in the ruling party — have stopped short of endorsing him.