By Uchenna Awom and Golu Timothy:

In an act of incredible desperation, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, like a thief in the night returned to the country in the earlier hours of today.

The Air-ambulance that brought ailing Yar’Adua touched down at exactly 1.45 am, stopped at the runway and evacuated the ailing president into a waiting white ambulance with a red stripe.

Ten minutes later, the presidential plane carrying family members of Yar’Adua also landed.

His return was very much like in the manner he left the country, unannounced.

The surprise move, LEADERSHIP gathered was to neutralise what is widely perceived to be a decisive meeting today by a divided Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) to finally end the long-drawn Yar’Adua saga and facilitate the full constitutional conferment of presidential powers on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

His return was shrowded in so much secrecy that Jonathan was kept in the dark.

“As at 1.15 pm the acting president was not officially informed about the arrival of Yar’Adua,” a senior presidential staff told LEADERSHIP this morning.

The EXCOF had sent a six-man delegation, on Monday, to Saudi Arabia to assess the president’s exact health condition, a move that is expected to precede conclusive action to resolve what represented an incipient constitutional succession crisis.

But LEADERSHIP gathered that when the ministerial delegation, unaware of Yar’Adua’s travel plans, got to Riyadh, enroute to Jeddah, a 90-minute flight, they learnt that the president was already airborne and heading to Nigeria. Reacting to this information, the delegation promptly turned back to start their home-bound journey. Their plane was expected to arrive by 5.00am.

The ministerial team comprised Ojo Maduekwe (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Rilwanu Lukman (Minister of Petroleum Resources), Adetokumbo Kayode (Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice), Abba Sayyadi Ruma (Minister of Agriculture), Yayale Ahmed (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) and Babatunde Osotimehin (Minister of Health).

However it is not certain if Yar’Adua will be conscious enough to preside over today’s crucial EXCOF meeting, even if he meets the constitutional requirement of communicating to the National Assembly on his return from medical vacation.

It could be recalled that NASS hinged its recent empowerment of Goodluck Jonathan as acting president on the BBC interview granted by Yar’Adua on January 12.

Indications of Yar’Adua’s imminent return began to manifest yesterday when heavy-duty medical equipment, mainly consisting of life support facilities were off-loaded into the residence of the president.

Sketchy reports available to LEADERSHIP indicate that Yar’Adua was loaded aboard the aircraft which took off from the Jeddah International Airport, by 8pm Nigerian time. Ahead of Yar’Adua’s secret reentry into Nigeria today, Leadership gathered that medical equipment were surreptitiously moved into Aso Rock. Soldiers from the Brigade of Guards early this morning cordored off the Presidential Wing of the Airport, thereby preventing journalists from going near the arrival hall. The Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Adamu Aliero, was the first minister to arrive at the airport at 1.15am to receive his boss.

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