Ogbulafor, PDP leaders leave for Saudi, Sunday
By Emmanuel Aziken & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJAâ€” PRESIDENT Umaru Yarâ€™Adua will hand over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan after transmitting a letter of his medical vacation to the National Assembly, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji said yesterday.
He said the President has been inaccessible to top Nigerian officials because he was being kept in the ward meant for the King of Saudi Arabia, with the best of security.
The revelation was upon pressure from the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, caucus which Wednesday night, extended its ultimatum for President Yarâ€™Adua to transmit the letter to February 15.Â The PDP senators also vowed not to accept any executive communication from Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in his present capacity, sources at the Wednesday night closed door meeting between the PDP national leadership and the senators disclosed.
Meanwhile, National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, and some other top party officials are to embark on a trip to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet President Yarâ€˜Adua to secure the letter. Ogbulafor told PDP senators during the meeting at the residence of the Senate president that visas for the trip had already been obtained as he pleaded with the aggrieved senators to extend the submission of their resolution by one week.
Vanguard learnt that after some deliberation, the senators agreed to shift the deadline for the receipt of the letter to February 15, marking one week from the date of the expected trip to Saudi Arabia. Ogbulafor had begged that the journey could not be commenced immediately because of this Saturdayâ€™s governorship election in Anambra, as he promised that the visit would commence the following day.
Abba-Aji, after a closed door session with the Senate, disclosed the Presidentâ€™s readiness to transmit a letter of his vacation. His appearance, according to Vanguard sources at the closed door session, also appeared to widen the crack in the executive arm of government that first appeared after the reported memo from Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili that President Yarâ€™Adua should temporarily handover to his deputy while recuperating.
He was reported to have fingered the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, of misinforming the Senate on the matter of a letter on the Presidentâ€™s medical vacation.
Meanwhile, in the closed door session, Abba-Aji, in his comments on the assertion by the SGF that a letter of the Presidentâ€™s medical vacation was prepared, but never handed over to the National Assembly, said: â€œThe President has never transmitted any vacation letter to the National Assembly prior to any of his travels to Saudi Arabia.
It was only during the Presidentâ€™s vacation of January 2009, and while the development that I have just outlined was unfolding, that a decision to write a vacation letter was made before it was later rescinded. The SGF should know what to do when he drafts a letter that fails to see the light of the day particularly, since the idea behind the letter was not even his own.
And if he still felt there was a January 2009 missing vacation letter, why didnâ€™t he ask the President in the twelve months that elapsed, instead of choosing to have hindsight at a time like this.
â€œIn any case, since the process of issuance of the vacation letter of January 2009 was not concluded before the decision to issue it was rescinded, the letter cannot be said to have been issued. As Special Adviser to the President, my job is clearly spelt out in Section 151 of the 1999 Constitution as that of assisting the President in the performance of his functions.
Mr. President, distinguished senators, my job, therefore, is to facilitate good communication between the President and the legislature. And I have never delayed let alone withheld any communication.â€
Meanwhile, the seven-man committee nominated by the House of Representatives three weeks ago to visit President Yarâ€™Adua and convey to him the solidarity of the House of Representatives, is leaving for Saudi Arabia today.
Abba-Aji in secret meeting with VP
Abba-Aji who had a secret meeting with Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, which was also attended by the Special Assistant to the President on Legislative Matters, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, said that since President Yarâ€™Adua left for Saudi Arabia, it was only the Aide de Camp, ADC, Colonel Mustapha Onoyiveta and the Chief Security Officer, CSO, Mr Yusuf Tilde that have been talking to most top officials.
Abba-Aji said: â€œI am in touch with Mr. President, through the ADC and CSO because the part of the hospital where the President is staying is different from other part of the hospital and that is actually where the King of Saudi Arabia himself if he needs treatment will stay.
So the security and protocol arrangements are controlled from the kingâ€™s palace in Riyadh so it is not like a general hospital that you can walk in or walk out from. Because of this we are communicating regularly through the ADC and the CSO and he is aware of everything that is happening in the NASS. The National Assembly’s resolution they have sent is on its way, and he will transmit.
The President I know will transmit the letter. He has never disrespected resolution and there is also a court ruling, he will weigh both and he will act wisely there is no doubt about that.â€
He, however, failed to be specific on the possible time for the transmission.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents, Abba-Aji said: â€œthe President has never shied away from making decisions. He will weigh the Senate resolution against the court ruling, and he will do what in his view is best for this country.
Obasanjo should know that Yarâ€™Adua has always been on the path of honour. I donâ€™t think it was right for the former president to share President Yarâ€™Aduâ€™s medical record with the public. This was a record that was given to him because he was the president of Nigeria. It was given to him because he was expected to make good use of the information but for him to go and share with the public the way he did leaves a lot in moral judgment on his part.
On the secret talks with the Vice President, he said â€œthe meeting went as planned; the issue of constitutional controversy surrounding the letter of vacation has now been finally laid to rest. Clearly there was a mix-up there on the part of certain government official who had claimed that when the president was going to Saudi Arabia that he transmitted a letter that remains not to be true as I have said before.”