Written by AbdulFatah Olajide, Mohammed Shehu & Muideen Olaniyi:
Much anticipated moves at today’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to initiate a process under Section 144 of the Constitution to oust ailing President Umaru Yar’adua were stopped in their tracks last night by the 36 state governors. They declared that the status quo in the Presidency must be maintained. Also yesterday, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it will retain its power rotation arrangement in next year’s general elections and produce its presidential candidate from the North. Its national chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said this in Abuja last night. He spoke soon after he emerged from a meeting that the members of the PDP National Working Committee held with state governors at the Kwara Lodge.
In a separate meeting held at the State House with PDP national officers, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan pledged to stop today’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council from moving to invoke Section 144 of the Constitution to declare ailing President Umaru Yar’adua permanently incapacitated from holding his exalted office.
Ogbulafor told reporters that the resolution to respect the zoning formula was the position of the party and the entire 28 PDP governors ahead of the governors’ meeting with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan last night.
He said, “One of the issues we discussed with the governors has to do with the zoning of the presidency and I think the South has the presidency for 8 years and it is proper to allow the North to have the Presidency for 8 years and it was a consensus.”
Daily Trust learnt that the decision to retain the party’s presidential ticket in the North was one of three key decisions arrived at the meeting between governors and PDP leaders. Other decisions were that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should consolidate his position as Acting President and continue to discharge his presidential powers in an unfettered manner. PDP also decided to immediately commence preparations for next year’s elections. The third decision was that the party and the Federal Government it controls would call to order those public officials who have heated up the polity through bellicose public statements with respect to ailing President Umaru Yar’adua’s health situation.
A source at the meeting said it was decided that since Dr. Jonathan has all the presidential powers in his hands, he should proceed to exercise them, and that if there are any obstacles standing in his way, they would be removed. The meeting was silent on the fate of Yar’adua, but our sources said the clear implication of this decision was that the President should be allowed to continue his recuperation while Dr. Jonathan runs the country.
The PDP bosses also decided that in the light of on-going electoral efforts at the National Assembly and the possibility that the 2011 elections could be held earlier than expected, the ruling party should not be caught off-guard. They therefore decided to soon roll out a program for the party’s primary elections for all elective offices. In order to remove what they saw as the biggest issue in their way, sources said, the party bosses decided to retain the presidential ticket in the North.
Daily Trust also learnt that the meeting exhaustively discussed what it said was heating up the polity by some public officials, a thinly veiled reference to Information and Communications Minister Professor Dora Akunyili. The meeting condemned her bellicose utterances and was assured that Acting President Jonathan was also embarrassed by the numerous radio, television and press interviews she granted in the past week, assailing what she called “a cabal” around Yar’adua.
Earlier, the 36 state governors under the umbrella of the governors’ forum met at the same venue. The outcome of that was not made public but it was a prelude to their meeting with Jonathan.
When asked whether he has seen Yar’adua since his return from Saudi Arabia, Ogbulafor said, “No, he just came back about a week ago and I don’t have to be in a hurry to see the President. Acting President is doing extremely very well, he is not an ambitious man and he realizes that the President has just come and he is giving him time to recuperate and get well and he will see him at the appropriate time.”
While the meeting of the PDP Governors and NWC members was going on, some ministers were waiting in one of the guest rooms at the Kwara State Governor’s Lodge, venue of the meeting. The ministers include Dr. Rilwanu Lukuman, Dr. Mansur Muktar, Minister of State for Power Nuhu Wya and Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumugobia.
After the governors’ meeting, journalists were expecting a briefing, but Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao Akala, who came out second after Governor of Borno State, shouted, “No communiqué, no communiqué.”
But the Chairman of the Governors Forum and Governor of Kwara State Dr. Bukola Saraki said the governors will brief reporters after a meeting with the Acting President at the Villa last night. That meeting was slated to begin at 8: 00pm, but it began two hours after that.
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