By Daniel Idonor
A last minute move by those considered to be members of the kitchen cabinet of ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua , to mount intense pressureonÂ and lobby key members of the Governorsâ€™ Forum, made up of the 36 governors of the federationÂ was all that was needed to save Yarâ€™Adua from a looming and imminent resignation and impeachment saga.
Most governors who came under intensive anti-resignation and impeachment lobby from a strong team of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s kitchen cabinet members made up of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Minister, Alhaji Adamu Aleiro, Minister of Agriculture, Dr Sayyad Abba Ruma, that of Works, Dr Hassan Lawal and the Chief Economic Adviser to Yarâ€™Adua, Professor Tanimu Yakubu, successfully achieved their target.
These Yarâ€™Adua men had a very busy day throughout Tuesday as they move from one meeting location to another maintaining a constant tab on key but influential governors who had arrived Abuja, the previous day. They trailed the State Chief Executives with a mandate, suspected to have emanated from the Yarâ€™Adua political machinery, preparatory to the governorsâ€™ meeting which held by 2:00 pm same day.
The governors who had earliermet Tuesday afternoon without a word to the press later met with Jonathan in the evening of same day where they pressed for a commitment from him to accept the acting president status and stop further moves that may lead to the resignation or impeachment ofÂ Yarâ€™Adua.
They however refused to talk to the press on the outcome of the meeting. The governors’ silenceÂ howeverÂ increased the worries of the Yarâ€™AduaÂ supportets as they became visibly restless, when sighted at the residence of the Acting President, venue of the crucial meeting. They remained awake for the period the meeting lasted to ensure that the outcome reflects the commitment they got from most governors. They however heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the meeting, as they watch with keen interest while the governors briefed the press.
The governors, undoubtedly, were able to mount considerable pressureÂ on the Acting President,Â and at the end secured a deal to allow Yarâ€™Adua remains Nigeriaâ€™s president, perhaps till 2011; no thanks to the political skills and arsenals of northern politicians.
It was on these compassionate ground and sympathy for the first family that the 36 state governors rose in strong defence against any impeachment move on the ailing President, insisting also that his resignation is not an option.
The Acting President had told cabinet members at a meeting that preceded the last week cancelled FEC meeting that the report would be submitted today at FEC for discussion; which many believed would have ignited the invocation of the controversial section 145 of the 1999 Constitution.
Rather than encouraging his sympathizers to continue with the ongoing political fireworks with those loyal to President Yarâ€™Adua, the governors prevailed on Jonathan to direct his energy to the critical developmental needs of the country, as he continues to preside over the affairs of the state, in acting capacity.
The governors also pledged their unflinching support for the various moves so far taking by Jonathan to stabilize the polity, especially the recent constitution of the 25-man Presidential Advisory Council, headed by Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma; saying that they expect more of such actions in the near future.
The meeting which was billed for 8:00 pm started almost 30 minutes behind schedule and ended at 10:00 pm. TheÂ governors alsoÂ enjoined top officials of the presidency to exercise highest level of restraint in their comments both for and against President Yarâ€™Adua and Acting President Jonathan, so as not to overheat the already heated polity.
At the end of the meeting, the Chairman of the Governorsâ€™ Forum and Kwara State governor, Dr Bukola Saraki, Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and Governor Timipreye Sylva fielded questions from State House Correspondents. According to Governor Saraki,Â “We noted that the president has returned to the country and we noted the need for him to recuperate and get better soon before he can think of assuming duty.
â€œFor us, the issue of his resignation is not an option for now. What is important is for us to be compassionate, to be sympathetic and to realise that anybody no matter highly placed can get ill. Thank God he is back now and he is recuperating and we are satisfied that recovery is on the way. We are praying for him.
According to Saraki, â€œwe congratulated the acting president for stabilising the polity at the moment. And we in return, pledged our support to the acting president during this trying time. We encouraged and said he is doing a good job and that he has the full support of the Governors Forum in this exercise.
â€œWe agreed to have regular consultations during this period among the Forum. The Acting PresidentÂ educated us on a number of issues, for example on the Presidential Advisory Council that was set up, the reason behind it and other things. By and large, we emphasized the need for government to work very hard to ensure that we all play our role to provide leadership at this crucial time and the need to talk to members of government to ensure that some of the comments made are well guided.
â€œAt the end of the day, we acknowledge what he is doingÂ and appreciate it and we said that the 36 governors will support him for this country to move forward. We have expressedÂ happiness to see the president back in the country. We have also said we should separate the two issues. The return of the President to the country is an indication that there is progress in his recovery process.
â€œAnd that does not at all deviate from what decision we took as a Forum where we all decided that a political solution to provide a resolution for the Vice President to act as the President. And that is still the positionâ€, he said.
From what is going onÂ in the Presidential Villa, one cannot but hail and applaud the ingenuity of the First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yarâ€™Adua, and some key politicians loyal to Yarâ€™Adua, in their decision to hurriedly relocate the recuperating President back to Nigeria, in a manner, many would likened to a coup; following the deployment of heavily armed soldiers to strategic location along the Presidentâ€™s routs, from the Airport to the Villa.
Indeed, this move paid off Wednesday when little attention was given to the earlier expected debate on the president’s state of healthÂ as the six man panel that went to Saudi Arabia submitted itsÂ report to FEC.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, who briefed State House Correspondents after the meeting said FEC received the report of the six-man panel; but added that it was not debated as there was no reason for such exercise, after all.
If events in the seat of Nigeria political power, Aso Rock, since the governors meeting, are anything to go by, then one might say that after several weeks of political fireworks between factions loyal to ailing President Yarâ€™Adua and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, normalcy may have finally returned to the Presidency.
Cabinet members made up of ministers and presidential aides Wednesday attended the FEC, meeting, which was presided over by Jonathan, with perhaps oneness of purpose devoid of the usual rancour and acrimony that characterized previous meetings in the recent past.
The meetingÂ could not hold last week due to its cancellation by Jonathan following the sudden appearance of Yarâ€™Adua from his Saudi Arabia medical bed, a development that further heated up the polity, especially in the presidency, with its attendant high level uncertainty, as to who was really in charge, between two
Though the meeting started barely 40 minutes behind schedule, Vanguard could not find cabinet members in their usual group discussion along geo-political and religious lines; except for the exchange of banters among ministers and aides.
FEC had on the 17th of February council constituted a six man cabinet delegation to visit President Yarâ€™Adua. They were also to convey the appreciation of the government and the good people of Nigeria to the Saudi Monarch for the care and support given to our President.
The team which is headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed,Â had Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, CFR, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma as members.
Preparatory to the visit the Acting President had addressed a letter to the Royal Majesty, King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, introducing the delegation as a special envoy from the presidency.
In the letter, the Acting President conveyed the profound appreciation and deep gratitude of the government and the entire people of Nigeria to the king, for the kindness, hospitality, fraternal care and excellent facilities extended to PresidentÂ Yarâ€™Adua.
The delegation reported that they departed Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, early hours of Tuesday, 23rd February 2010, some minutes after midnight. On their arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, they were received byÂ the Nigerian Ambassador, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminchi and the Royal Protocol Personnel and driven straight to the Conference Palace, where they were accommodated.
It was gathered that â€œprior to their arrival, the Nigerian Ambassador has secured appointment for them to be received by His Highness, Prince Saud Al_Faisal, and Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs at 18.00 hours on the 23rd February, 2010.
The Foreign Minister received them on behalf of the Saudi King and re-affirmed the commitment of the Saudi Government to promoting good relationship with Nigeria. He also assured the delegation that the Health of President Yarâ€™Adua was improving.
The delegation thanked the Saudi Foreign Minister for the warm reception and the hospitality which the kingdom accorded to them and delivered the Acting Presidentâ€™s letter to him, for onward transmission to His Royal Majesty, King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.
Thereafter, the Nigerian Ambassador, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminchi informed the delegation that he had received information that President Yarâ€™Adua had been discharged and was on his way back to Abuja.