By Madu Onuorah and Lawrence Njoku:
THE confusion that erupted in the Presidency over who is actually incharge was rested yesterday evening as the Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, said Dr. Goodluck Jonathan remains the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as resolved by the National Assembly.
Adeniyi had in a statement on Wednesday addressed Dr. Joanthan as Vice President.
In an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Adeniyi said: “The Acting President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan continues to run the affairs of the country until the President (Umaru Musa Yar’adua) is fit to take over. The statement is very clear that the Acting President continues to run the affairs of the nation. And that remains the situation as far as I am concerned, and as far as the President is concerned.”
Asked about the fate of Yar’Adua’s aides under the Acting Presidency of Dr. Jonathan who has his own aides, Adeniyi said: “We run One Presidency and the Acting President has already called for a meeting. And I believe the meeting will hold tomorrow (today) to brief us on how things will go and how he will run the Presidency. And everybody is included, especially those who just returned from Saudi Arabia. So, its just one Presidency and we are all under Dr. Jonathan now as the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief until the President returns to office fully.”
Adeniyi, when asked to clarify the statement on Wednesday that the Acting President wants to meet with Turai Yar’Adua, remarked: “If you ask anybody who was at the meeting, he or she will tell you that what you have there in the press is not what actually happened. I was not actually there. I was doing something in the office and before I got there, the meeting was over.
“Yes, the President has arrived. He has not seen him. He suggested that when he sees the First Lady, it is just a matter of courtesy that he will call on the First Family. He will see the First Lady and then the President.
“So, when you hear that Turai is in charge, Turai takes over, all those things are not correct. It’s been very unfair to the First Lady at the time she is nursing her husband. So, there is no such thing and you don’t expect the Acting President, Dr. Jonathan, to report to the First Lady. It is abnormal and it won’t happen.
“What the Acting President actually said was that he was going to see the First Lady and ask about the husband, that is the President, and probably see him. To me, it is a normal situation, which I believe, is the natural thing to do.”
Asked about the relationship between the President and the Acting President, he remarked: “Good, very cordial relation. I know for a fact that when the President was in Saudi Arabia, the medical report of the President was being sent to the Acting President on the instruction of the President. The last one was last Friday. Dr. Salisu, the President’s Chief Physician sent to the Acting President through the ambassador a forwarding letter. I was copied. I have a copy of the medical report on the President’s health. And if you read the letter sent by the President, he addressed Dr. Jonathan as the Acting President. I have a copy of the letter.”
Adeniyi added: “They have always had a cordial relationship. And I also know for a fact that several times in the Council when the President was presiding, he always said it that anytime he is not around, no memo should wait for him; that they (ministers) should go to the Acting President, who was then the Vice President. And also, when there was friction between ministers and minister of State, he mentioned the kind of cordial relationship he had with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan then as his Vice President. That anytime he is not around, no memo should wait for him. So, as far as I am concerned, they had a very cordial relationship.”
Meanwhile, there were indications yesterday that the planned meeting, which would have enabled Jonathan to meet with the wife of the President, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, did not hold.
This is just as the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Ima Niboro, clarified the comments attributed to him at the meeting with ministers on Wednesday on the issue.
Niboro said: “This is to clarify the comments made by the Acting President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, when he met with members of the Federal Executive Council yesterday on the return of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
“The Acting President had said that he was briefed by the President’s aides that he (President Yar’Adua) was resting after the journey, but that he (Acting President) intended to meet with the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, later in the day to say hello to the family. These remarks seem to have been widely misinterpreted in some quarters, hence this clarification.”
A source explained that the Acting President and Hajia Turai could not meet as aides sent to meet with the First Lady to arrange for the meeting came back with the information that she was unavailable for the briefing.
According to the source, “at around 7.00 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday), when the team went to the President’s residence, the First Lady was not ready to come down for any meeting. So, Jonathan’s aides went back to their boss to report the situation. It was then that the meeting was put off. What the Acting President wants to do is to welcome her back and get briefing on the President’s health from her. He also wants to show solidarity with the family and to make her understand that there is no rift between him and the Yar’Adua family. But I think people may have misinterpreted the whole thing.”
The developments came as the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) expressed concerns over what it described as “the leadership crisis into which the administration of President Yar’Adua is almost plunging Nigeria.”
The coalition of political parties also condemned the way President Yar’Adua was smuggled into the country under the cover of darkness, saying the action was a threat to the existence of the nation.
The CNPP’s reaction came as the Action Congress (AC) called for clarification on who, indeed, is in charge of the country, following several disturbing developments since the purported return of Yar’Adua on Wednesday.
It added that had the President truly recovered, Nigerians should have been given the opportunity to come out en-masse to receive him, saying that the people who were urged to pray for him should also have the chance to thank God on his behalf.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East zone has reaffirmed its total support for Acting President Jonathan, insisting that he (Jonathan) has so far displayed high level of competence and maturity in steering the ship of the nation in the absence of President Yar’Adua.
In a statement signed by the Chairman of CNPP, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe and Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, the CNPP maintained that it is now obvious with the reported return of President Yar’Adua that the confusion in the land is growing because of the series of illegalities perpetrated by all arms of government in the past three months.
The statement said the inability of the Executive Council of the Federation to meet as usual on Wednesday was the first sign that the illegalities and constitutional violation in the Presidency was coming to haunt the country.
“We begged the Executive Council to invoke Section 144, begged Yar’Adua to comply with Section 145 and urged the National Assembly to activate Section 146 of the Constitution to no avail. Today, no one is sure of what the status of Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan are.
“It is also appalling that Acting President Jonathan is yet to see President Yar’Adua but is instead waiting for the President’s wife to get details about a man who claims to have been elected by Nigerians. It is also condemnable that President Yar’Adua, through his spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, can now refer to Jonathan as Vice President when the National Assembly unanimously passed resolutions making him Acting President. We are not aware that the federal lawmakers have passed other resolutions changing this status as required by the constitution. If Yar’Adua is not up to date with these facts, he should please consult his cronies in his kitchen cabinet,” the statement added.
The group repeated its earlier calls on the Executive Council of the Federation to activate Section 144 of the Constitution by setting up a medical panel. It said: “In the alternative, the National Assembly should begin the process of removing the President since he has shown that he does not have the interest of the country at heart by holding unto power when it is now obvious that he is incapacitated. The cabinet and the National Assembly can still save Nigeria from going through the throes of crisis.”
CNPP however, wished President Yar’Adua quick recovery and expressed the hope that he would be able to devote more time to recuperating while allowing the Acting President to do his work.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the AC said while the Presidency referred to Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President in the statement in which it said he would continue to “oversee the affairs of state”, another statement issued from Jonathan’s office a few hours later referred to him as Acting President.
“The Presidency statement, signed by Olusegun Adeniyi, pointedly avoided any reference to Jonathan as Acting President. The implication could be that he is not recognised as such, and that the Presidency statement is being taken as the communication required for President Yar’Adua to return to his job.
“If that is the case, Jonathan can only carry out functions assigned to him by President Yar’Adua – meaning Nigeria is back to square one since President Yar’Adua, though back, cannot yet perform the functions of his office due to his continuing ill-health and Jonathan would have lost executive powers! Nigerians would therefore like to know whether overseeing the affairs of state is the same as wielding executive powers,” the AC said.
According to the party, other questions raised by the unannounced return of President Yar’Adua include the following: Why was Dr. Jonathan not informed of the President’s impending return? Who authorised the deployment of troops for the return? If indeed Jonathan was the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as at the time of President Yar’Adua’s return, how could the troops be deployed without his knowledge? And did the deployment of the troops without his knowledge not constitute a serious breach of national security, or can a country have two Commanders-in-Chief at the same time?
“Also, why has it become impossible for the Acting President to see the President since his return – at least as at Wednesday evening when he (Acting President) was only scheduled to meet with the First Lady? And where indeed is the President since no one has yet come out to say he or she has seen him since his reported return?”
Warning about the dangers of surreptitious and denigrating actions that could endanger the peace and stability of the country, the AC said that the President’s return should not be used to destabilise Nigeria by the same provincial cabal that held the country by the jugular while the President was away.
The party said it also joined with millions of Nigerians wishing the President a quick recovery, and congratulated him on his discharge from the hospital after three months of treatment.
It, however, said the President should endeavour to write his name in gold by not hesitating to step aside, if he realises that his state of health is too fragile to allow him shoulder the heavy burden of running the country.
“We also repeat our earlier demand that the President, as the father of the nation, should address the country on local radio and television to enable the citizens assess his state of health, which has continued to be shrouded in secrecy,” the AC said.
In a statement issued in Enugu by the PDP National Vice Chairman, South-East, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party said its decision to support Jonathan was not predicated on an individual but aimed at protecting the express provisions of the constitution and the resolution of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
He said: “The Senate and the House of Representatives passed a resolution conferring full executive powers on the Vice President to act as the president and also went ahead to state that whenever President Yar’Adua returns from his medical trip, he should also write to the National Assembly chambers informing them that he had returned and also capable of discharging his duties as the president.
“Therefore, our support for the Acting President is not predicated on an individual; it is a support for our constitution and in the interest of decency, morality and progress of our nascent democracy.”
He stated that the decision to continue to give undivided support to Jonathan was simply a follow-up to the earlier resolution of the South-East Zonal Working Committee of the party taken three weeks ago, in which it was decided by all the zonal executives that Jonathan was capable of steering the ship of the state and as such should be allowed to exercise full executive powers.
The party in the zone therefore asked all members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) from the zone, especially ministers and special advisers to the president, as well as members of the National Assembly from the zone to abide strictly by the resolution of the party in the zone, by ensuring that constitutional provisions and the resolutions of the National Assembly concerning the leadership of the country are complied with in order not to create a power vacuum.
The party enjoined the FEC and National Assembly members not to engage in any act capable of truncating the nation’s democracy and rule of law.
“Let it be known that the PDP in the South-East is totally in support of the Acting President because he has displayed high level of competence, experience and maturity in handling affairs of the country and we therefore have no doubt that he would continue to competently steer the ship of the nation in the weeks and months ahead,” the party noted.
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