Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan swore in eight new ministers on Wednesday, shoring up his power base just 10 days before a closely fought presidential poll.
Jonathan faces an election on March 28 against his main rival for the top job, former military ruler and opposition alliance candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a contest analysts say is the closest since return of democracy in 1999.
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“This is in injury time. It is like bringing on a player when the match is about to end,” Jonathan said at a swearing in ceremony in the capital Abuja, making the link with the upcoming election explicit.
“You are coming at an injury time and your dancing steps will be watched by everyone,” he said.The positions were spread across Nigeria’s diverse regions, mindful of the need to be seen to be maintaining ethnic and sectarian balance in a country fraught with tensions.
Jonathan, a southern Christian, is overall more popular in the largely Christian south, while Buhari, a northern Muslim, is more popular in the mostly Muslim north. Both must seek broad appeal across regions in order to win.
Patricia Akwashiki a senator from central Nasarawa state, where she is influential despite the state being run by the opposition, was made information minister.
Nicholas Ada, a lawyer from central majority ruling party Benue state, was made minister of state for foreign affairs.
(READ MORE: Nigerian elections postponed to 28 March: INEC)
Musiliu Obanikoro, a Muslim from the Yoruba southwest who contested for governor of the commercial hub Lagos, is the second minister of state for foreign affairs. He was moved from minister of state for defence, which went to a retired colonel, Augustine Akobundu, from eastern Abia state.
Fidelis Nwankwo, from eastern Ebonyi state, was made minister of state for health, Kenneth Kobani, from Rivers state in the Niger Delta, became minister of state for trade and industry, while Hauwa Lawan, from northern Jigawa state, is minister of state Niger Delta Affairs.
Joel Ikenya, from easterly Taraba state, was appointed as minister for labour.