FRANTIC efforts are on to mend the cracks in the cabinet following the row ignited by the President’s health.

Members of the President’s kitchen cabinet faced an unusual pressure at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, no thanks to what a source described as their perceived stand against Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs Godsday Orubebe reportedly stirred the hornet’s nest at the Council’s meeting.

The outcome of the meeting is said to have widened the cracks within the cabinet, splitting it along North-South divide.

Orubebe, who is seen as the point man of the Acting President, reportedly alleged that some Ministers from the North, especially “members of the kitchen cabinet”, had been meeting to take a stand against Jonathan’s acting presidency.

But Orubebe had hardly levelled the allegation when a woman minister from the North also claimed that some southern ministers had been meeting in the Acting President’s office.

A cabinet source said: “The revelation of alleged plot against the Acting President put much pressure on members of the kitchen cabinet at the FEC meeting. It was as if they were on trial.

“When Orubebe alleged that northern ministers had been meeting, the National Security Adviser, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, joined issues with him.

“Mukhtar said he had never attended any meeting of ministers from the North and he was not in the picture of any. He asked Orubebe to be forthcoming on the allegation.

“Mukhtar said he does not know the residence of any minister let alone meeting with a group of ministers from the North.

“The Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, also absolved himself of involvement in any conspiracy against the Acting President.

“Tanimu claimed that at the time the said meeting of Northern ministers purportedly took place, he was in Kaduna.

“The Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Abba Sayyad Ruma, also said he did not attend the controversial meeting as he was on his beat throughout last week.

“The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Adamu Aliero, cautioned against inflaming sectional interest.

“Most ministers asked Orubebe to provide details of the meeting, time and place. But the minister later said that he picked up the news from Saharareporters.

“When the issue degenerated, the Acting President rose to douse the tension and asked all cabinet members to eschew ethnic agitation.

“Jonathan pleaded with FEC members to see the challenge posed by the absence of the President as a collective problem, which should be tackled as a united family.”

Findings yesterday revealed that some ministers felt slighted by the allegation.

A cabinet source said: “The polarisation in the cabinet has deepened, with the way some ministers were put on the spot at the FEC meeting.

“Were it not for the statesmanship of the Acting President, the situation would have been out of control.”

The opposition Action Congress (AC) has challenged Jonathan to unmask those he accused of engaging in a campaign of calumny against him, if indeed the campaign is real.

In a statement in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the call became necessary because the Acting President claimed in a statement issued by his spokesman that “we know those behind the publications (in the media against Jonathan).”

The statement reads: “Our stand is that since such people are known, their identities must be revealed to all Nigerians so they can be checkmated. We say this because governments have always resorted to this kind of blanket statement to point fingers at the opposition, cow them and then abridge their constitutional right of freedom of expression. We hope that statement is not a sign of things to come; we hope it does not signal an ominous beginning.

“We want to give Acting President Jonathan the benefit of the doubt by believing that he is not crying wolf where there is none, and that he is not about to lead Nigeria down the path of dictatorship and intolerance.”

The party said it suspected that the shadowy group being referred to in the statement must be those “taking refuge under the tattered umbrella of the badly-splintered PDP”.

It added: “The PDP is the custodian of folks who have access to limitless, ill-gotten resources which they have not used for the public good but to feather their nests.

“We in the opposition have never hidden our identity and have never failed to make constructive criticism and patriotic interventions when necessary, even when reactionary elements have been uncomfortable with such interventions,” AC said.

The party restated its position that the resolution making Jonathan Acting President was in “clear breach of the constitution, albeit an expedient and timely political intervention.”

The AC said: “We are aware that this stand was not popular when we spearheaded it, but we are vindicated that many discerning Nigerians have now gravitated towards it. The party still maintains its position that the only way to cure this breach of the constitution is by (1) Amending Section 145 of the constitution or (2) By the Federal Executive Council invoking Section 144 of the constitution.

“And in order to avoid a recurrence of this situation, there must be a wholesale amendment of Sections 144, 145, 189 and 190.”

Also yesterday, it was learnt that the National Working Committee of the PDP received report of its delegation to the President in Saudi Arabia.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The delegation told us that they had no access to the President in King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah.

“Their report affected the morale of the NWC members because they felt the party leadership ought to be in the forefront of defending the medical trip of Yar’Adua.

“As it is now, since the party leadership has no information on the health of the President, we have to relate with all stakeholders to arrive at a consensus to move the nation forward”.

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