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Power play rocks Aso Rock

Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua and Acting President Jonathan

By Leke Adeseri, News Editor, Jide Ajani & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THERE were more questions than answers about happenings at the nation’s seat of power, the Aso Rock, yesterday.

The signs of cleavages and outright disloyalty to the Acting President were glaring. This may have even landed the Commander, Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Abdul Mustapha a verbal query.

Also, the core team of President Yar’Adua’s minders, made up of Alhaji Abba Ruma, Agriculture Minister, Mansur Muhtar, Finance Minister and Professor Tanimu Yakubu, Chief Economic Adviser, were in a series of meetings with the First Lady yesterday.

However, the Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili said, yesterday, that Jonathan will remain the country’s Acting President until the National Assembly reversed the resolution giving him executive powers.

She said: “He (Jonathan) cannot go back to Vice President until the National Assembly reverses their resolution that made him Acting President, which was even supported by the Federal Executive Council and more importantly by most Nigerians.”

Mustapha queried over troop’s deployment

Indications emerged in Abuja that the Commander,  Brigade of Guards, the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Abdul Mustapha who single-handedly deployed troops between  12 midnight and 3.00 a.m., Wednesday, when ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was brought into the country, was queried verbally for the action.

Investigations by Vanguard showed that General Mustapha as Commander, Guards Brigade, has the routine duty of providing security for the Presidential Villa, the President, Acting President and the Vice President as the case may be.

Military command structure

As Commander Brigade of Guards, Mustapha’s immediate boss is the Commander, Army Headquarters Garrison, Major General Jacob Edi, whose boss is the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Bello Dambazau.

Before any such deployment is made, courtesy demands that the AHQ Commander is informed, who in turn informs the Chief of Army staff. The COAS on his part then informs the Chief of Defence Staff.

Vanguard gathered, however, that while these procedures were not followed, what further irked top Defence and military officials, was the fact that the troops were deployed to welcome Yar’Adua at such unholy hours without Mustapha informing his bosses and bypassing the office of the Commander in Chief.

One officer asked: “Supposing anything happened to Yar’Adua while on his way from the airport to the villa, what excuse would the Commander have given especially when he bypassed his superiors to carry out such a deployment?”
A military source told Vanguard that the saving grace for Mustapha is the fact that he is directly responsible to the President.

Kitchen cabinet in crucial meetings  with Turai

Meanwhile, the core team of President Yar’Adua’s minders, made up of Alhaji Abba Ruma, Agriculture Minister, Mansur Muhtar, Finance Minister and Professor Tanimu Yakubu, Chief Economic Adviser, were in a series of meetings with the First Lady yesterday, at a time when the latter snubbed Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

Although details of the meetings remained sketchy, a source familiar with the ongoing power tussle in Aso Rock Presidential Villa told Vanguard that “such a meeting couldn’t have dwelt more on any other thing than to cripple the influence of the Acting President.”

Vanguard has also been made to understand that the Muslim Festival of today may not witness the usual visit to Mr. President by religious leaders, on the grounds that “he would be said to be resting.”

It was also learnt, yesterday, that members of the Yar’Adua family are meeting in Lagos and Katsina to deliberate on two options. These are to ask Yar’Adua to resign or to seek extended medical leave.

Yar’Adua’s return: PDP shocked

Meantime, indications have emerged that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was shocked on reading on the pages of newspapers like other Nigerians the return of Yar’Adua to the country after 93 days in far away Saudi Arabia.

Vanguard gathered that some members of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party complained of not being carried along since the political quagmire started.

The source said further that the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor and some members of the leadership of the party, on hearing that he had returned, tried to reach him even though they were said to be unhappy that they were not carried along throughout the preparation for his return, it was gathered that they could not see him.

PDP issues statement

Speaking with Vanguard, yesterday, a member of the NWC on whether they knew of Yar’Adua’s return to the country, said, “no, no, the matter is sad, it is very sad, I will see you later.”

It would be recalled Prince Ogbulafor and other members of the National Working Committee were not able to see ailing President Umaru Yar’adua even after spending six days in Jeddah

The NWC members, the National Chairman, the Deputy National Chairman, Bello Haliru Mohammed and the Deputy National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo returned from Jeddah without seeing him. They only had talks with First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua and the doctor.

But despite the treatment, the party issued a statement, Wednesday, which read: “the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor, OFR, on behalf of the National Working Committee warmly welcomes the President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR, back to Nigeria from his medical leave.

“The safe arrival of Mr. President from his sojourn in Saudi Arabia is a testimony to the fact that the prayers of all Nigerians for his quick recovery have been answered. We, therefore, rejoice with our fellow citizens for this unique favour done to us by the Almighty God.”

Turai shuns planned talks with Jonathan

The high power play in Aso Rock which the secretive sneaking of Yar’Adua into the country heralded, continued yesterday with reports of a purported shunning of Acting President Jonathan by the First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua.

There were strong indications that the First Lady had shunned the planned Wednesday night’s meeting between her and Jonathan, at the President’s residence located within the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting, it was learnt, which was at the instance of Jonathan, contrary to reports that it was being convened through a directive of the First Lady, was part of the peace processes being initiated by Jonathan, as a way of assuring the first family that his empowerment to act by the National Assembly was to douse the rising political tension in the country.

Vanguard gathered from a top security source that when the Acting President sent his aides to meet with the First Lady to arrange for the meeting, they were told that she was unavailable for the briefing.

“Around 7.00 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday), when the team went to the President’s residence, the woman was not ready to come down for any meeting so Jonathan’s aides went back to their boss to report the situation. It was then that the meeting was put off,” the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.

According to our source, “what the Acting President wants to do is to welcome her back and get briefing on the President’s health from her. He also wants to show solidarity with the family and to make her understand that there is no rift between him and the Yar’Adua family. But I think people may have misinterpreted the whole thing.”

At a brief but crucial meeting, which further asserted him as being in control of state affairs, Acting President Jonathan had told the ministers of his planned meeting with the first lady during which he hoped to get the full briefing on the President’s state of health so he would know the next line of action.

The meeting which held at his conference room by 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, was to be a replacement of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, that was put off suddenly, by the Acting President.


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