Updates (all times are Abuja time)
0331 – Arrival confirmed of presidential convoy and ambulance at Aso Rock.
0305 – Confirmed sighting of intensive care ambulance, flanked by presidential convoy heading towards town.
0255 – A nine car convoy converges and drives to a distant part of the runway.
0230 – The ambulance drives away from the airport with three security vehicles in tow.
0155 – A second, larger plane lands on the tarmac and taxis around the first plane. The intensive care ambulance reverses to pick up a passenger from the plane. It appears to do so, then drives off to a distant part of the runway. One car follows.
0147 – Intensive care ambulance drives up to aircraft but does not appear to pick anyone up.
0145 – Private plane reportedly carrying Yar’Adua touches down in presidential wing of Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
Turai Yar’Adua has bundled her gravely ill husband onto an air ambulance and the couple and a coterie of close aides were making their way back to Abuja last night, scheduled to arrive in the pre-dawn darkness, highly placed sources told us last night.
As the nation’s capital was gripped in the anxiety and near panic induced by the news, a convoy of vehicles including a new Ford E-250 intensive care ambulance made its way from Aso Rock and arrived in a secluded area of the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, awaiting its fragile cargo.
As at the time of going to press, it was not clear if the aircraft had landed, or in which city it would land. The sources say the ambulance was accompanied by the Presidential jet and that the recent installation of additional life support machine at the Presidential Villa suggests that Mr. Yar’Adua will be taken directly to Abuja, although apparently the flight plans filed on departure also list Kano and Katsina.
The news of the President’s arrival is reportedly causing a lot of anxiety in Abuja especially among politicians, many of whom had prepared themselves for a post Yar’Adua era. Speaking to NEXT on condition of anonymity a source said the timing of the President’s return is suspect especially as he is still clearly ill and in no position to undertake such an arduous journey. “We face total political chaos and government paralysis,” an influential retired general told NEXT.
It is being speculated that Mrs. Yar’Adua, who orchestrated the return, is fearful of acting president Goodluck Jonathan’s growing stature and acceptance as de-facto president of the country.
It is still unclear if the intention of this sudden action is to regain the upper hand in a power game that has steadily slipped out of Mrs Yar’Adua’s control in the last few weeks.
The final turning of the tide appeared to come on the 9th of February when the Senate and the House of Representatives, invoking a “Doctrine of Necessity”, passed resolutions asking the Vice President to assume the position and title of Acting President of the country. The powerful Governors’ Forum wasted no time in shifting their pro-Yar’Adua stance and assured Mr. Jonathan of their support.
The Acting President immediately took charge of the government, effecting a minor cabinet reshuffle. He was immediately elected Acting Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to replace Mr. Yar’Adua.
In the last few days Mr. Jonathan has also garnered a groundswell of international support. Over the weekend he met separately with the former Presidents of America and Ghana, George Bush, and John Kuffour respectively, and the former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, who congratulated him and assured him of their support. The international community has in the last few weeks been vocal in expressing its concerns about the state of affairs in the country.
President Yar’Adua has been away from the country since the 23rd of November, 2009, when he was hurriedly flown to Saudi Arabia to seek medical attention. Days after his departure his personal physician revealed that the President had been diagnosed with pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart. That announcement, made through the President’s spokesperson was the last information that would be revealed regarding the President’s state of health, in all the time he has been away.
The three months since the President’s departure have been marked by widening intrigues and campaigns of misinformation originating from the President’s camp and aimed at concealing the actual state of his health, and obviating the need for a transfer of power to the Vice President. These schemes have been met with rising resistance from civil society groups, opposition parties and groups of influential politicians, including former heads of state.
On the 12th of January, two days after NEXT exclusively reported on the President’s poor state of health, the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a telephone interview purported to have been conducted with the President.
Mr. Yar’Adua’s return is coming barely twenty-four hours after Mr.Jonathan carried out his first official correspondence with the legislature, by sending a letter to the Senate requesting confirmation of his nominees for membership of the Code of Conduct Bureau.
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