By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Chesa Chesa, Francis Onoiribholo, Rafiu Ajakaye and Grace Omoshaba:
Aso Rock clarified on Thursday that President Umaru Yar’Adua has acknowledged Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in recent correspondence.
Presidential Spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, affirmed that “the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief that is, Jonathan, continues to run the affairs of the country until (Yar’Adua) is fit to take over.
“The statement (issued earlier on Wednesday) 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.”
On what then happens to him and other Yar’Adua aides, Adeniyi said: “We run one Presidency and the Acting President has already called for a meeting.
“I believe the meeting will hold tomorrow (today) to brief us on how things will go and how he will run the Presidency. Everybody is included, especially those who just returned from Saudi Arabia.
“So, it is just one presidency and we are all under (Jonathan) now as the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief until (Yar’Adua) returns to office fully.”
Adeniyi stressed that Jonathan is not taking orders from Yar’Adua’s wife, Turai, and she is not in charge of the government as reported in the press.
“Yes, (Yar’Adua) has arrived and he (Jonathan) has not seen him. When he suggested that he would see (Turai) it is just a matter of courtesy that he would call on the First Family, he would see the First Lady and then the President.
“When you hear that Turai is in charge or Turai takes over, all those things are not correct. It has been very unfair to the First Lady at the time she is nursing her husband. There is no such thing, and you don’t expect the Acting President to report to the First Lady, it is abnormal and it won’t happen.
“What (Jonathan) actually said is that he was going to see (Turai) and ask about (Yar’Adua) and probably see him. To me, in a normal situation, which I believe it is, that is the natural thing to do.”
Adeniyi added that the relationship between Yar’Adua and Jonathan remains very cordial, and Yar’Adua has regularly given Jonathan his medical report as well as the green light to handle government business in his absence.
“I know that when (Yar’Adua) was in Saudi Arabia, his medical report was being sent to (Jonathan) on the instruction of the President. The last one was last Friday when Salisu, the President’s Chief Physician, sent to (Jonathan) through the Ambassador a forwarding letter.
“I was copied, I have a copy of the medical report on (Yar’Adua’s) health, (which) he addressed to Jonathan as the Acting President.
“They have always had a cordial relationship, and I also know that several times in the Council (Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF) when (Yar’Adua) was presiding he always said that anytime he is not around no memo should wait for him, that memos should go to the Acting President – then the Vice President – and also whenever there is friction between Ministers and Ministers of State. “
Even with that, however, Jonathan on Thursday made three unsuccessful attempts to see Yar’Adua.
He told Yar’Adua’s aides that he would like to meet him in person during the office hours, but was repeatedly rebuffed.
A Presidency source narrated that Jonathan “called the Aide-de-Camp and the Chief Security Officer on three different occasions and he received the same answer: The President is not ready.”
Jonathan was for the better part of the day locked in a meeting with top government functionaries perceived to still be in his corner.
He was expected to make the last attempt to see Yar’Adua by 8:30 p.m., and should he fail again, “he has decided to shift to the next line of action,” a source said.
It was the sort of intrigue that made Senate President David Mark on Thursday to call on the political class to put the country first and not advance sectional or personal interests.
Mark was reacting officially for the first time to Yar’Adua’s hurried returned to the country under the cover of darkness on Wednesday, after three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia without cure for his heart condition.
Yar’Adua has not been seen in public since his return.
In a veiled reference to a clique which has hijacked the reins of Presidential power since Wednesday, Mark insisted that Nigeria is too big for one individual, and the country needs genuine loyalty from those in the corridors of power at this difficult period.
A statement he issued through his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, on the celebration of Eid-el-Maulud urged Nigerians to dwell on the positive attributes that bind them together as a people, devoid of sentiments and unhealthy rivalries.
“The trying times Nigeria is passing through call for genuine patriotism, loyalty to our fatherland and upholding the sanctity of brotherhood,” he said.
He urged the political class to demonstrate full loyalty and allegiance to the Nigerian State “because no one or group interest should be allowed to over ride the interest of the nation.
He also implored Muslims to emulate the virtue of Prophet Mohammed by being their brothers’ keeper at all times.
“This period of uncertainty calls for prayers and expression of genuine love to one another irrespective of different religious or political leanings.
“I appreciate the concerns of all Nigerians at this moment of our history. I am aware of the various challenges, but I am convinced that this situation will be resolved in the best interest of the nation.
“What we need now is maturity of purpose and political will to see things from the perspective of a Nigerian State, and not sectional or individual interest.”
But, in its take, the Action Congress (AC) demanded clarification on who is in charge of the country, following “several disturbing developments” since Yar’Adua’s return.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, noted in a statement that while Aso Rock referred to Jonathan on Wednesday as the Vice President who 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 (on Wednesday), signed by Adeniyi, pointedly avoided any reference to Jonathan as Acting President. The implication could be that he is not recognised as such, and that the statement is being taken as the communication required for Yar’Adua to return to his job.
“If that is the case, Jonathan can only carry out functions assigned to him by Yar’Adua – meaning that Nigeria is back to square one since 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,’’ Mohammed stressed.
The AC joined other Nigerians in wishing Yar’Adua a quick recovery, and congratulated him on his discharge from the hospital after three months of treatment.
It, however, urged him to “write his name in gold” by stepping aside if he realises that his health is too fragile to allow him to shoulder the burden of running Nigeria.
“We also repeat our earlier demand that (Yar’Adua), as the father of the nation, should address the country on local radio and television to enable the citizens assess his health, which has continued to be shrouded in secrecy.”
Former Edo State Governor, John Oyegun, a member of the Board of Trustees of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), reacted in Benin by noting that, “I find it really incredible because some people are just playing games, first, with the fate of (Yar’Adua) himself, obviously a sick man.
“But even worse, with the fate of this country, because what they have done is to re-introduce instability into the body polity of this nation. We have reached the stage of impeachable offence.”
Oyegun stressed that the leadership issue must be resolved one way or another, as the time for “pussy-footing is over, the time for considering a sick person is over, the time of even thinking of what will the Northerners think or any group think is over.
“Let us find out, for once, if this country is here to remain as one, let them do what is necessary at this stage, that is, stating clearly how (Yar’Adua) arrived in an air ambulance and was conveyed from the Abuja Airport in another ambulance – and God knows the pre-condition in which he arrived Abuja.
“If a President arrives in his country in that condition, then it is certainly clear that he is unfit to continue to manage the affairs of a nation like Nigeria. Let them do something now, and I hope that the prediction by the United States that Nigeria would cease to be one country in 2015 does not come true.”
Oyegun urged the National Assembly (NASS), the Governors’ Forum, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rise to the threat posed to the stability of the nation.
He urged them to put aside sentiments, personal gains, “and even the interest of Yar’Adua himself.”
Former United Action for Democracy (UAD) Convener, Abiodun Aremu, dismissed as sheer power play and diversionary the tension generated by the return of Yar’Adua, urging Nigerians to demand absolute respect for their socio-economic and political rights.
He accused the NASS of shirking its responsibilities in the face of a crisis capable of tearing the country apart, accusing the elite of cashing in on the weakness of the masses to revolt and sack the “failed government.”
Aremu also condemned the reception Nigeria accorded former U.S. President George Bush, whom he accused of killing millions of Iraqis and Afghans in the global war on terror and of initiating aggressive campaigns in Sudan and Somalia.
He spoke at an event commemorating the Black History Month, hosted by the Amilcar Cabral Ideological School in Lagos, and attended by old and young cadres of Nigeria’s revolutionary movement, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Labour.
The Black History Month was first commemorated in 1926 to reflect on the travails of African-Americans and their struggles for liberation, following centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade – and segregation that lasted up till the late 1960s.
“As far as we are concerned the crisis in Nigeria today is about power play which has nothing to do with the destiny of ordinary man on the street,” Aremu said, adding that the concern of the common man should be how to liberate the country from the shackles of global capitalism, which he believes is the basis of mass suffering worldwide.
“In our country today, the current discourse is the return of Yar’Adua to the country after 93 days on sickbed in Saudi Arabia.
“Ordinarily, this is a non-issue in a society ripe for fundamental changes. Whether Yar’Adua is healthy or not and whether Jonathan acts or not, the real issue ought to be: routing out all the agents of capitalist exploitation so that such distraction can be avoided in future.
“We should be in a position to sack the (NASS) and the Presidency with a mass uprising directed at reconstructing the Nigerian State to work for Nigerians.
“We should be prepared to end capitalist exploitation by any means necessary and possible – either through mass uprising, working class power, or revolutionary armed violence.”
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