By Vincent Ikuomola:
The President does not seem set to resume work, it emerged yesterday.
He has directed Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to “continue to oversee the affairs of state” as he recuperates, presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said.
Members had gathered at the Council Chambers for the meeting when Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mallam Yayale Ahmed told them that it had been postponed at Jonathan’s instance.
Jonathan told the ministers that he would see them after meeting with Mrs Yar’Adua and the six-man fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia.
After the postponement of the meeting, the SGF asked the ministers to report at Jonathan’s conference room for a special meeting at 2.p.m.
Before the postponement, it was not clear who between President Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan.
The ministers appeared disturbed over the development. None of them has seen the President since his return yesterday from Saudi Arabia after a 93-day stay.
The usual exchange of banters was minimal while the waiting game lasted. For the first time, many ministers were glued to their seats.
One of Jonathan’s aides walked in and went to the Minister of Information and Communications, Mrs Dora Akunyili. After chatting with her for about five minutes, the aide then approached the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mrs Dizeani Allison-Maduekwe. While the aide was discussing with her, Mrs Akunyili left the Council Chamber for the office. She was later joined by Mrs Allison-Maduekwe.
Barely two minutes after their return to the Council Chamber, the SGF walked in to postpone the meeting.
The ministers thereafter left for their offices and regrouped for the special meeting in Jonathan’s office.
The 15 minutes meeting was well attended. At the end of the meeting, it was obvious all was not well.
At the meeting, Jonathan, according to Mrs Akunyili, told the ministers that he received news of the President’s return through his aides and that he would be meeting with the First Lady in the evening.
“He invited us for a meeting in his meeting room at 2pm and when we came he told us that the President has returned. He has been briefed by the aides of Mr. President and that he hopes to see the wife of the President this evening and that when we meet next week, we will be briefed on the outcome of the Saudi trip by the delegation. And that when he is eventually briefed by our President he will call us again,” Mrs Akunyili told reporters at the end of the meeting.
In a statement signed by Adeniyi on the President’s return, he thanked Nigerians for their prayers for his principal, adding that Jonathan would continue to steer the ship of state while the President “fully recuperates”.
The statement reads: “After being discharged by the team of medical experts overseeing his treatment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua returned to the Presidential Villa, Abuja early this morning.
“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.
“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.
“President Yar’Adua wishes to re-assure all Nigerians 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.”
Jonathan is yet to see President Yar’Adua – more than 12 hours after Yar’Adua arrival in Abuja.
Also, none of the 42 ministers has seen the President, who was away in Saudi Arabia for 93 days on medical grounds.
Investigations by The Nation revealed that the delay in seeing the President by Jonathan accounted for the non-holding of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.
A highly placed source said: “Since the President has returned, the Acting President felt it was honourable to defer to him instead of convening the FEC meeting.”
Another source said: “We learnt that it was the SGF Yayale Ahmed that advised Jonathan against the constitutional implication of going ahead to preside over the FEC meeting when the President is around.
“In deference to Yayale, the Acting President accepted the advice. He also asked Ministers to refer all issues to the President since he is back in the country.”
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