By DANIEL IDONOR,Â Asst News Editor
If events in the last seven days around Aso Rock, Nigeriaâ€™s seat of power, are anything to go by then one may be right to say that political warring factions in the corridors of power may have laid down their political arms, as unrepentant loyal incumbent Vice President Goodluck Jonathan becomes more assertive in the performance of the functions of Nigeriaâ€™s number one citizen on behalf of his boss, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. Â
A pointer to the laying down of arms by the two perceived political groups around Aso Rock was the all-important stakeholders meeting, comprising officials of the presidency, leadership of the National Assembly, and the leadership of the ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP), the umbrella body where all the key players belong. The meeting which held in the office of the Vice President last Tuesday evening was presided over by the man who is holding forth for recuperating President Yarâ€™Adua.
Those present at the meeting were the Senate President, Senator David Mark, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Demeji Bankole, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Usman Nafada, the Chairman of the Governorâ€™s Forum and Governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Mike Aondoakaa, and the Chairman of PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor.
Although the details of the meeting which held behind closed doors could not be immediately ascertained, later it was learnt that the meeting was convened with a view to finding a way out of the present political imbroglio resulting from the lingering perceived disaffection between the Vice President and some cabinet members believed to be enjoying the influence of a political interest outside Aso Rock, following the ill-health of Mr President. And at the end of the meeting, it was further gathered, an agreement was reached that henceforth all stakeholders must work with the Vice President, whose continuous loyalty to the President was not in doubt, as he continues to perform the â€œfull functions of Mr Presidentâ€, without resorting to bickering whatsoever.
Another source however said that the composition of the team that visited Jonathan gave strong indications that the issue tabled at the meeting may not be unconnected with the state of health of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and the long debate over the handing over of power to Jonathan. What further fuelled this believe, the source said, was the collective decision of those present at the meeting to remain mum over what was discussed at the meeting, which lasted for a little over an hour.
On the same Tuesday there was also a security meeting which was staged at the instance of the Vice President, following resurgence of bloodbath on the plateau, resulting from sectarian crises that erupted in Jos, the State capital on Sunday.
Those present at the meeting presided over by Jonathan were the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Sarki Mulktar (rtd), Minister of Interior, Shettima Mustapha, Minister of Police Affairs, Yakubu Lame, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Paul Dike, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ogbonaya Onovo, and Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI),Mohammed Moguno.
While a source linked the security meeting to the decision of the Vice President to sanction erring top government officials another sources said the meeting wholly convened by Jonathan who was piqued by the resurgence of violence Jos coupled with conflicting reports from the area to address the crises. Such security meetings are routinely held and convened in Aso Rock by President Yarâ€™Adua, and since he left for Saudi Arabia, Jonathan has also been convening this meeting regularly.
Since the â€œpeace accordâ€ the question many have been asking is, why now? The simple answer to this, according to a source in Aso Rock, is that the Vice President, perhaps, may have kept quiet for too long. The source said that after one or two weeks that the President left for medical treatment political fireworks started which was were directed at the Vice President, with the sole aim of creating disaffection between Jonathan and Yarâ€™Adua. And while these fireworks lasted, the source added, the Vice President has remained silent hoping that â€œlike every firework, the season may be over and celebrants will return home from the scene but this did not happenâ€.
Asked what could be responsible for the rather long silence by the Vice President, the source said that Jonathan may have decided to maintain silence knowing full well that he is in constant communication with his boss since he travelled, a privilege, according to the source, the so called close associates do not enjoy, as they are simply ignorant of the entire scenario. Asked to give further detail of the ongoing communication between Jonathan and Yarâ€™Adua, the source said â€œbefore the President left he actually directed his Principal Secretary, Mr David Edevbie to route all correspondences to the Vice President for action, a decision the President also communicated to the Vice President.
â€œBut the Vice President being the kind of person he is, always wanting to accord his unalloyed loyalty to his principal or boss at all times no matter the odds, may have deliberately refused to assume such responsibilities, so as not to be seen to be an ambitious subordinate. It was this rather in action that some mischievous politicians decided to capitalize on to drive a wedge between the president and his Vice
Asked why the Vice President is acting now? The source said that the Jonathan has to do just that because at this position nobody will ascribe ambition to any action of his as he has been mandated to do so by all stakeholders, and I think the he sees this avenue and opportunity as more rational than taking it upon himself to initiate or make moves without the backing of the generality of key players.
â€œAgain, the source said, the Vice President is not also particularly comfortable and happy that few individuals within and outside the corridors of power are taking undue advantage of the Presidentâ€™s ill health as a platformÂ to actualize their selfish political interest, hence the need to call all such people to order or be made to face the musicâ€
The Vice President had penultimate Saturday declared that government has identified some Ministers and Heads of parastatals who have decided to abandon their duties for politics using the Presidentâ€™s medical trip abroad as a platform; warning that those in this business should not blame anybody for what will befall them in the near future.
The Jonathan, the statement noted, has identified some officers of government who are on top of their official assigned duties, saying that such functionaries need not harbor any fear of sanction whatsoever but that those who rather than face their jobs squarely choose to cause acrimony and disorderliness in the system have every reason to panic under the new order.
There is no gain saying the fact that it was this recent outburst by the Vice President who appeared pushed to the wall that necessitated the series of peace meeting going on at the various levels of the polity; first it was the PDP and secondly at the level of the presidency, the PDP and the leadership of the National Assembly.
An indication that political peace may have return to Aso Rock and indeed Nigeria, was the state of affairs in the seat of power in the last one week, everything appear to have fallen in place as more cabinet members now pay regular visit to the Vice President to denounce their membership of the now disintegrating firework group; events at the Wednesday Federal Executive Council (FEC), meeting speak volume of this, clearly instructive of the Vice President willingness to put cabinet members to regular check.
Unlike previous FEC meeting Jonathan stormed the session without the usual announcement â€œladies and gentleman, the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeriaâ€ heralding his arrival, as he simply but smartly walked into the Council Chambers, took his seat and called for the national anthem. Indeed he took most ministers unaware as they were seen rushing to take their seats.
On the side of Jonathan, it was learnt that he has resolved to assiduously work toward the unity of the cabinet and ensure that he keeps it in tight as it was before his boss traveled. This, according to our source, he hopes to achieve by forgiving members perceived to be over ambitious while the fireworks lasted.
And an indication that the cabinet members no longer habour any grudge against the number two citizen, for the first time, some kitchen cabinet members who have suddenly become very sober and friendly were seen going to pay homage to the Vice President, the same way they always do whenever Mr President is around. For the Yarâ€™Adua cabinet to agree to work together again by allowing the Jonathan to lead the team while they await the arrival of Mr President will indeed be cheering news to President Yarâ€™Adua in Saudi Arabia, which could lead to his speedy recovery, and eventually return to assume his office.