From Martins Oloja:

*  Power play continues over Presidency

HE mystery and drama surrounding President Yar’Adua’s return may soon be unravelled as all agencies and persons involved now face an inquest.

Even as the political turf gets messier daily and rumour mills get busier by the day, indications emerged yesterday that even the Intelligence and Security Community has been nursing a bruising wound for the supposed misjudgment of their officers who are generally believed to be running a ring around ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Indeed, the Chief Security Officer to the President, Yusuf Mohammed Tilde, Yar’Adua’s aide-de-camp, Mustapha Onoyveta and another security of staff officer (SO) are reportedly in trouble. Both Tilde and Onoyveta had become particularly influential within the period of Yar’Adua’s incommunicado status. As The Guardian exclusively reported then, both men were part of a few who saw the ailing Yar’Adua regularly even in Saudi Arabia and their words were accepted as the President’s. The CSO, ADC, and a Staff/Security Officer to the Acting President, Gordon Ogbua, who is a part of the security outfit and mission to the Presidency, were recently summoned by their boss, the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) for questioning.

The Guardian confirmed from the Presidency last night that the two officers from the State Security Service (SSS) were last Monday summoned by the Director-General of the SSS, Afakriya A. Gadzama and were tongue-lashed for the way “their unilateral action has heated up the polity.” The army is also dealing with the aide-de-camp, a Colonel.

Besides, it was learnt that the action of the SSS chief executive became necessary because it was revealed yesterday that neither the DG, SSS, nor the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj.-Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, was told when the two officers allegedly worked in concert with their colleagues in the army’s Brigade of Guards and the aide-de-camp to the President, Col. Mustapha Onoyveta, to ‘take the President to Saudi Arabia on November 23.’ And, according to sources, “when they smuggled him back on February 23, none of the agency heads was hinted of the President’s arrival.”

Indeed, Sarki, the National Security Adviser, was reportedly in Kano when the President was brought in by these President’s men and was as taken aback as anybody else was by the dramatic return.

Not a few people, even in the Security Community, however scoff at this idea. Their thought: Tilde and others may be mere sacrificial lambs in a high-wire politics that surpasses them. “How could the Chief of Army Staff, National Security Adviser and the DG, SSS claim ignorance of the explosive action”, a source asked last night. “If they were truly uninformed either officially or professionally of Yar’Adua’s return, then they are not fit to

guard a house on any Nigerian street let alone secure a nation.”

Meanwhile, more facts are emerging on how forces were arrayed against Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, which foreclosed any move to force the resignation of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, his impeachment or any investigation of his capability to continue to be President.

The forces range from the governors who acted in enlightened self-interest of protecting their turf and the Northern leaders who were alarmed at the prospect of a Jonathan presidency.

First, the North was “woken up” by the alleged campaign by prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, for Dr. Jonathan to transmute to full President. Sources also said that some serving and retired generals of the Nigerian Army from the North had by early this week started circulating text messages alleged to have originated from a former Chief of Defence Staff from the Niger Delta campaigning for support for the Acting President. The third worry for some sections of the North was the interview granted by the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili last Sunday which was interpreted as campaigning for the impeachment of President Yar’Adua and the enthronement of Jonathan.

In addition, some colleagues of Akunyili’s in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) felt that she was using the platform of her office to burnish her credentials as “a radical reformer” while projecting others as cowards or she as the only one capable of taking a stand. Most of them resolved to distance themselves from her position. “She can’t be running a campaign using the podium of spokeswoman of the government. This was going too far”, one of them said after yesterday’s Council session.

But the governors, who met under the Governors’ Forum, decisively dealt a blow to the radical move when they resolved, as the Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva said at the end of last Tuesday night’s meeting with Jonathan that “the President remains the President while the Acting President remains the Acting President.”

A source said: “At the meeting of the governors last Tuesday, the first to speak for maintaining of the status quo – keeping Yar’Adua as President and Dr Jonathan as Acting President for as long as possible – was the governor of his home State of Bayelsa, Chief Sylva. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State also spoke in the same vein. And the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi followed, contending that since President Yar’Adua has not committed any offence apart from being ill, he should be left alone until whenever he is in a position to re-take power.”

But most of the governors were allegedly “shocked” by last Monday’s constitution of three presidential panels without their input or knowledge. Last Monday, the Acting President announced new panels – the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), Federal Projects Assessment Committee and approved the reconstitution of the Presidential Monitoring Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). They reportedly felt the Acting President would sideline them in deciding who gets what at the federal level.

Most of the governors then aligned themselves with some elements from the Northern part of the country who are alleging insensitivity on the part of the Acting President’s handlers in appointing a Christian from the North – Lt.- Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) – as chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council and another Christian from the South – Prof. Ben Nwabueze – as Deputy Chairman.

According to a source, “unknown to supporters of the Acting President, by the time the Governors converged in Abuja, they had come with a common agenda – slow down Dr. Jonathan’s ascendancy. And they used the platform of their meeting to launch an attack on Dora Akunyili and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, whom they accused of disloyalty and leading a campaign for Jonathan and against President Yar’Adua.

In fact, some ministers termed loyalists of President Yar’Adua who were jittery up till last Tuesday night were seen yesterday talking and laughing. One of them had arrived and stood for over 45 minutes at the entrance to the Aguda House venue of the governors’ meeting with the Acting President, making calls, looking tired and trying to get an idea of the outcome of the meeting. The Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Hassan Lawal left after some time, without the crowd that usually accompany him. After the Council meeting, he accompanied other ministers to the media briefing room, something he had not done this year.

In the meantime, Jonathan is said to be set to strengthen Nigeria’s Economic Team with the inclusion of notable economic experts on the team.

A source told The Guardian last night that among those slated to be added to galvanise the present economic management team are renowned public commentator, Pat Utomi, Alhaji Isa Jubril (formerly of Afribank) and the current Lagos State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Nwabueze.

The source noted that “one of the many strategies to be undertaken by the administration is to bring hope and succour to the Nigerian people who in the past three years are disillusioned.”

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