By Biodun Oyeleye, Ilorin, Wole Oladimeji & Akeem Oyetunji:
•Jonathan is in charge, says Saraki
•Ohanaeze: We want to know President’s health status
THE position of governors on who is running the country now was made clear yesterday, just as a faction in the House of Representatives is getting set to raise a motion, this week on President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his whereabouts.
According to the Kwara State governor and Chairman of the Governors Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the man in charge of the country is Dr Goodluck Jonathan and not the ailing Yar’Adua.
Saraki said: “We need to separate the arrival of the President from what has been agreed upon by the resolution of the National Assembly, which made Dr. Goodluck Jonathan the Acting President. The President’s arrival has not jettisoned that position. The period of ambiguity is over and we all agree that he (Jonathan) is in charge of the country.”
Saraki, who spoke with reporters in Ilorin, Kwara State, confirmed that he, too, has been unable to see Yar’Adua.
He added: “The mere fact that the arrival of the President was not known to everybody does not translate into an ambiguity. But I think the decision of all the stakeholders is clear that Jonathan is the Acting President.”
Meanwhile, 175 lawmakers are demanding explanations on why the President is still being kept away from the public and from the Acting President.
The lawmakers, who are planning to raise a motion under matters of urgent importance, believe that since the President is back in the country, the Acting President should have liaised with him on the need to move the country forward.
One of the lawmakers, who pleaded for anonymity, said that the President’s cronies want to continuously keep the position or state of his health away from the public. He argued that it is the job of the National Assembly to ascertain whether the President is not fit to continue in office, adding that the group condemned the action of keeping Yar’Adua away from the people.
“We are going to condemn this action, and we want our President to be presented live to the Nigerian people,” he said.
But, the Spokesman of the House, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh told reporters who heard about the proposed motion that the issue had not been brought before him.
The lawmakers would also insist that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole should recognise them on the floor, so that the motion could be debated.
Saraki also added that by his training as a medical doctor, he was aware that being discharged from hospital was no guarantee for a patient to return to work immediately, as such person might still need a period to recuperate and gain strength fully. He urged all stake holders, including the press to shun sensationalism that could lead to the extinction of the on-going democratic endeavors.
He stressed that contrary to the impression that had been created in the public mind, majority of members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) aligned with the position of Information and Communications Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili on the need to empower Jonathan as Acting President.
He said that none of the governors opposed the issue when it was brought before them for deliberation at a meeting of the Forum.
His words: “We agree there are a few people who might be overzealous and are not looking at the bigger picture, but over 90 per cent of people in government today are responsible and appreciate that Nigeria is larger than all of us and must do what will stabilise the nation. I don’t think there is in-fighting within the FEC although there might be difference of styles. Some people believe in consulting within while others believe in going public. I know there is not only one Dora in the FEC; it’s only that they didn’t speak out.
“My concern is the media perception that some people are benefiting from this calamity. If there are, they can’t be up to one per cent of the people. Majority’s concern is the survival of the democracy we are in. We are in a position the Constitution did not envisage and we are being tasked to provide creative solutions to that challenge which we are doing. In this type of environment, we all have a role to play.
But if you read some of the newspapers reporting issues surrounding this development they sound like fictions. If you do not have the fact I think we should leave the fiction. I cannot answer some of your questions too because I too have not seen the President.”
Asked to speak on the rumoured face-off between himself and his father over the issue of succession in the state, the governor waved such insinuations aside describing them as the handiwork of those who wanted to benefit through the backdoor.
He said: “I don’t have any candidate per se, and he too doesn’t have and several times he has said the matter is in my hand; that is why I talk about people looking for position just spreading all sort of stories.
“The emergence of a candidate is a process; I am best to say who will do my current type of job then other permutations will follow.”
He added that he was yet to decide on what role to play in the polity after leaving office on May 29, 2011 saying his current concern was leaving behind a legacy of good governance as well as a successful transfer of power.
Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) mandated the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to raise a medical panel to determine Yar’Adua’s health status, the pro-democracy group yesterday got an ally in the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
The pan-Igbo socio-political association coalition called on all relevant constitutional organs to immediately initiate the process of ascertaining the fitness or otherwise of the President to continue to exercise his functions as demanded by his exalted office.
In a statement, the Ohanaeze, through its President-General, Ambassador Raph Uwechue ( OFR), stated that it was improper for the country to have two presidents at a time.
The statement reads: “Our country cannot have two presidents in office at the same time – one ailing and unable to cope with the onerous demands of his high office and the other also exercising his functions as Acting President.
“The President’s return has, therefore, provided the opportunity to rectify this debilitating anomaly.
“To save this nation from further undeserved agony, short of Mr. President deciding to relinquish office on grounds of incapacitating illness, Ndigbo now call on the relevant constitutional organs to immediately set in motion the process of ascertaining the fitness or otherwise of the President to continue to exercise his functions as demanded by his exalted office.”
Besides, the association sought for a constitutional certification on the health status of aspiring presidents to forestall a recurrence of the political impasse.
Uwechue said in the statement: “A cardinal constitutional requirement for election to the presidency of Nigeria is evidence of sound health of mind and body. This stipulation on health condition is expected to apply throughout the duration of the President’s tenure of office.
“This is why the constitution provides for a certification to that effect whenever there is a reason to do so. Clearly, the recent and current events surrounding Mr. President’s health urgently warrant that certification.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo decried the manner in which the return of the President was shrouded in secrecy, after getting the best form of medical care that money could buy.
The association made particular reference to the fact that the President “has not yet been able to show himself publicly to his country men and women, who prayed fervently for his recovery, clearly indicates that for Nigeria, it is not yet Uhuru.”
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