Acting President Goodluck Jonathan (right) at the opening of the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation at the State House, Abuja, yesterday. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

By Daniel Idonor
ABUJA— THE much expected declaration by members of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, that ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua is unfit to continue in office did not take place afterall.

Rather, there was a sort of confirmation of the position of the Governors’ Forum when they met with the Acting President on Tuesday night: that Yar’Adua remains the President while Jonathan acts.*

If events in Aso Rock, the seat of power, yesterday, were anything to go by, then it might be assumed that normalcy has finally returned to the Presidency after several weeks of political fireworks between factions loyal to ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

This is because, like they moved in to empower Jonathan to act as Nigeria’s President, the Governors again, moved in to halt further political hostility among actors in the lingering political imbroglio which had reawakened religious and ethnic sentiments among the federating units of the country.

This was as the six-man team dispatched to Saudi Arabia submitted its report without the expected sharp disagreement; apparently in line with the decision of the governors asking the cabinet not to consider any debate on the health of Yar’Adua, as the report only contained Nigeria’s conveyance of gratitude to the Saudi government.

The governors who had met, Tuesday afternoon, without a word to the press later met with Jonathan in the evening where they pressed for a commitment from Jonathan to accept the acting president appointment and stop further moves that could lead to the resignation or impeachment of the Yar’Adua.

Anti-resignation and impeachment lobby

Most governors who came under intensive anti-resignation and impeachment lobby from Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet members made up of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Minister, Alhaji Adamu Aliero, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sayyad Abba Ruma, Works Minister, Dr Hassan Lawal and the Chief Economic Adviser to Yar’Adua, Professor Tanimu Yakubu, successfully achieved their target.

Cabinet members made up of ministers and presidential aides attended yesterday’s weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, presided over by Jonathan, without the usual rancour and acrimony that characterized previous meetings in the recent past.

The meeting could not hold last week due to its cancellation by Jonathan following the sudden appearance of Yar’Adua from his Saudi Arabia medical bed. That development further heated up the polity, especially in the Presidency, with its attendant high level uncertainty, as to who was really in charge.

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.

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.

Six-man team report

“Recall that on February 17, council constituted a six man cabinet delegation to visit President Umaru Yar’Adua who was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia. 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 was headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, CFR, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma.

“Preparatory to this 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 President Umaru Yar’Adua.

“The delegation reported that they departed Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, early hours of Tuesday, February 23, 2010, some minutes after midnight. On their arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, they were received by the Nigerian Ambassador, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminchi and the Royal Protocol Personnel and driven straight to the Conference Palace, where they were accommodated.

Warm reception by Saudis

“Prior to their arrival, the Nigerian Ambassador had secured appointment for them to be received by His Highness, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs at 18.00 hours on February 23, 2010.

“The Foreign Minister received us 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 Yar’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 President’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 Yar’Adua had been discharged and was on his way back to Abuja.

“From all indications, the President must have departed Jeddah Airport at about 10.00 p.m, Saudi time on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. With news that the President had left Saudi Arabia for Nigeria, the delegation did not consider it necessary to proceed to Jeddah, where the President was hospitalized. Accordingly, they decided to return to Nigeria.

“The delegation departed Riyadh at about 5.30a.m on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 and arrive Abuja at about 10.30 am. The Acting President was accordingly briefed on their return.”

According to Akunyili, Council approved the reconstruction of Owerri-Elele road linking Imo and Rivers states as part of the post-amnesty programme aimed at enhancing accessibility and creating employment opportunities. Additional consultancy services for the project were valued at N469.73 million.

Also approved was the N1.45 billion contract for the rehabilitation of Dengi-Jarmai road in Plateau State. It is to be funded by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency and the Ecological Fund.

A consultancy services contract for the Obiakpo-Obeng gas pipeline was approved in the sum of N236.8 million. It involves project studies and technical surveys, among other technical supervision duties for the project.

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