By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi ,Assistant Editor, Abuja
There is a seeming disquiet in the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) between Ministers loyal to ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
The cause of the spat is the intense lobby for Ministries considered juicy ahead of a likely cabinet reshuffle. Some of the Ministers who have got hints of being shown the way out of the Federal Cabinet have extended the lobby to the wife of the Acting President, Patience Jonathan.
But Mrs. Jonathan is reportedly giving the Ministers, who have approached her currying for favours the cold shoulder.
The so-called juicy Ministries including that of Agriculture, Niger Delta, Petroleum Resources, Education and Power. They are believed to be up for grabs should the Jonathan decide to reshuffle the EXCOF.
Already, the Cabinet is split along three camps with those clearly in favour of invoking section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, which would pave the way for a substantive Jonathan Presidency gaining the upper hand.
Section 144 reads in part: “The President or Vice President shall cease to hold office, if (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the Executive Council of the Federation it is declared that the President or Vice President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office”, and “(b) The declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under Subsection (4) of this Section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Jonathan presently acts on behalf of his boss courtesy of a February 9 resolution of the National Assembly. He would, however, cease to occupy that office when his boss resumes whenever he returns to the country.
Amendment of Section 144 suffered a setback in the House of Representatives on Thursday when a groundswell of the chamber insisted that all powers must not be vested in the Legislature.
But some members kicked against the proposed amendment of the constitutional provision to empower the National Assembly (NASS) to determine if the President or Vice President is incapable of discharging his functions.
Such a provision, some contended, was in breach of the separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution.
Regardless, the lawmakers got support from the pro-Yar’Adua group in the EXCOF with those occupying Grade A Ministries in the vanguard of the dissent against Jonathan.
Further checks by Saturday Independent revealed that there is a realignment of forces as it was gathered that “only four Ministers are sure of either retaining their portfolios in the new Cabinet or they can choose their new posting.”
“The Foreign Affairs Minister (Ojo Maduekwe) was the last to show his loyalty, which he proved by raising the Section 144 memo in the cabinet meeting of last Wednesday,” a Presidency source said.
Ministers are practically falling over themselves to show the Acting President that they are now loyal to him, while a Presidency source said Ministries such as Power, Agriculture, Education, the FCT, Petroleum Resources and Niger Delta may soon witness changes.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may have, however, decided to play the waiting game on the decision by the EXCOF to send a six-man delegation to Saudi Arabia to check on ailing Yar’Adua, and report back on his true state of health. The decision to send the delegation was reached at an EXCOF meeting on Wednesday.
Report of the team might lead to the process that could lead to the invocation of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, which mandates the removal of the President from office if found to be medically incapacitated.
The move by the EXCOF, many believed was a prelude to the much-awaited declaration by the Federal Cabinet that the President is incapacitated, as required by the Constitution; and canvassed for by public opinion in the country, since Yar’Adua was declared ill by his Personal Physician, Salihu Banye, late last year. Two similar, but futile attempts by a delegation of the House of Representatives and leadership of the PDP, were made to Saudi Arabia all in an effort at confirming the true state of the President’s health.
Unofficial delegation by some governors to Saudi Arabia also suffered same fate. The last delegation led by Vincent Ogbulafor, PDP National Chairman, has arrived Nigeria without seeing the hospitalised President.
Checks at the party secretariat revealed that leaders have decided not to get involved in the move by the EXCOF for now, preferring to wait for the return of the team before deciding on the next line of action.
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