By Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Golu Timothy:

Security men bar Jonathan  ||  Why EXCOF meeting was cancelled  ||  Twenty-four hours after ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua returned to the country, he remains a ghost – unseen and unheard by anyone including Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

The “criminal secrecy” shrouding Yar’Adua’s return has spurned two classes of rumour peddlers. The first group described his purported return as a decoy to fool Nigerians, insisting that Yar’Adua was still in Saudi Arabia.

However, the second group claiming to be more informed said that the president had not been evacuated from the ambulance that picked him up from the airport yesterday.

LEADERSHIP reliably gathered last night that some life support equipment procured through Julius Berger Nigeria Plc – originally installed in Katsina State had been dismantled and was being installed in House 7 in the Presidential Villa.

Meanwhile, there was a near security breach yesterday at the presidential villa as armed security operatives, allegedly acting on the directive of Hajiya Turai, wife of ailing Yar’Adua, barred Jonathan from seeing her husband.

The stake heightened a few minutes later when Jonathan cancelled the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) meeting fixed for 10am to avoid being humiliated by the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President, Mr. Yusufu Tilde.

These events happened as Yar’Adua’s Special Adviser (Communications), Mr. Segun Adeniyi said yesterday that “Vice-President” Jonathan would continue to oversee the affairs of the nation pending full recovery of Yar’Adua.

LEADERSHIP gathered last night that Jonathan was “hugely embarrassed” when some stern looking security men prevented him yesterday from seeing his boss.

“The acting president made serious effort to see his boss yesterday even though he was kept in the dark over his return in the early hours of yesterday, but some security men prevented him,” a senior presidential aide stated.

“There were also plans to humiliate the acting president during the council session whenever he comes to take the seat of the president, which he had started occupying in an acting capacity about two weeks ago.

“Jonathan got security report before the commencement of the council meeting that the president’s CSO had directed security men to stop him from sitting on the chair with the coat of arms. To avoid humiliation, Jonathan had to cancel the council meeting.”

Yar’Adua’s security men had earlier taken charge at the chambers – venue of the council meeting with instruction to stop Jonathan from presiding over the meeting.

All the ministers had gathered for the weekly meeting  as usual when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, walked into the council chambers at exactly 12:18 pm and announced that he was directed by Jonathan to cancel the meeting  and summon all the ministers to a mandatory meeting in his conference room at 2:00pm.

Before the ministers assembled for the meeting, the atmosphere at the council chambers was charged as anxiety and uncertainty enveloped the chambers as the ministers were not sure who would preside over the day’s meeting. They waited till 9:00am when most of them arrived without any information. Few hours later, Alhaji Yayale strolled into the chambers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to inform you that the Acting President,  Dr Goodluck Jonathan,  has cancelled today’s meeting. He has directed that all ministers should attend a special meeting in his conference room by 2:00pm.The meeting is mandatory, it is mandatory to all the ministers. Even after passing his message, the SGF still kept emphasising and reminding the ministers of the rescheduled meeting,” Yayale told the ministers.

Even though no reason was given by an elated Yayale for the cancelation of the meeting, our correspondent gathered reliably that it was not unconnected with the politics of power play which had recently rocked and divided the cabinet over the health issue of the president, and also in an attempt to halt the excesses of a cabal which had dominated governance in the absence of the ailing president.

The acting president’s directive to the ministers to come over to his office for a mandatory meeting, sent jitters in the ministers, who were all astonished.

When the ministers reconvened for the meeting at the acting president’s office at 2:00pm,all the ministers who were present at the council chambers attended the brief session which lasted less than 15 minutes.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili said, “He invited us for a meeting in his meeting room at 2pm and when we came he told us that the president has returned, that he has been briefed by the aides of Yar’Adua and that he hopes to see the wife of the president this evening (yesterday) and that when we meet next week, we will be briefed on the outcome of the Saudi Arabia trip by the members of council. And that when he is eventually briefed by our president he will call us again.”

Our correspondent also gathered that apart from a few persons close to the president, the acting president and others were yet to set their eyes on the president.

Meanwhile, Yar’Adua has asked Jonathan to continue in office pending his full recovery. The president who returned from Saudi Arabia in the early hours of yesterday, commended his deputy for his loyalty and steadfastness in moving the nation forward in his absence.

A statement by his special adviser on communications said Yar’Adua had been discharged by medical experts overseeing his treatment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“‘President Yar’Adua wishes to express his profound gratitude to all Nigerians for their prayers for his recovery, their exceptional generosity of spirit and their appreciation of the fact that all mortals are subject to the vagaries of ill-health,” Mr. Adeniyi said in a press statement.

“President Yar’Adua is grateful to the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for competently overseeing the affairs of state in his absence. The President also wishes to thank the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the entire membership of the National Assembly, the Governors’ Forum, the judiciary, the armed forces and other security agencies, former heads of state and other eminent Nigerians for their roles in maintaining order and stability during his absence’.

“While thanking Nigerians for their ceaseless prayers and concern over his health, President Yar’Adua  re-assured all  that on account of their unceasing prayers and by the special grace of God, his health has greatly improved.  However, while the President completes his recuperation, Vice President Jonathan will continue to oversee the affairs of state.”

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