By George Oji:
The confusion over who really is in charge after the sudden return of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after 93 days of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia seems to have been cleared.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan remains the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for as long as President Yar’Adua is indisposed, the Presidency said last night in what seemed a volte-face.
The Presidency also said the Acting President received copies of Yar’Adua’s medical report while he was away in Saudi Arabia and that indeed the last dispatch was sent to Jonathan last Friday.
An official statement by the President’s Special Adviser Media and Publicity Olusegun Adeniyi two days ago had pointedly referred to Jonathan as Vice-President, though he would “continue to oversee the affairs of the state.”
That reference to Jonathan as Vice-President had raised controversy in many quarters.
But Adeniyi in a special broadcast on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) last night said as far as President Ya’Adua is concerned Jonathan would preside as Acting President until he (Yar’Adua) is fit to take over the reins of government.
“The acting President and Commander-in-Chief, that is Dr. (Goodluck) Jonathan, continues to run the affairs of the country until the President 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,” Adeniyi said.
Information and Communications Minister Dora Akunyili also said yesterday in an interview with Reuters that “Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President, is in charge.
“There is no way he can go back to Vice-President without going through the process that made him acting president.”
The National Assembly had in separate resolutions by the Senate and House of Representatives last February 9, 2010 made Jonathan Acting President.
The status of Acting President is critical because what it means is that Jonathan can sign legislation and dissolve cabinet if he wishes.
While insisting that the relationship between both leaders is “very cordial”, Adeniyi said President Yar’Adua had not only referred to Jonathan as Acting President in his correspondences with him (Jonathan), but had duly kept him well informed of his medical state while he was away in Saudi Arabia for treatment.
“I know for a fact that when the President was in Saudi Arabia, 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 (Banya), the President’s Chief Physician sent to the Acting President through the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia 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 said.
Adeniyi said Yar’Adua and Jonathan enjoy a cordial relationship.
“They (Yar’Adua and Jonathan) 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 that anytime he is not around no memo should wait for him; that they should go to the Acting President then the VP. Also when there was friction between ministers and ministers of state, he (Yar’Adua) mentioned the kind of cordial relationship he had with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan then as his Vice-President: that anytime he is not around (that) no memo should wait for him. So, as far as I am concerned, they had a very cordial relationship,” he said.
He said that there were no divisions in the Presidency as is being speculated in some quarters and that Jonathan is in charge and will today hold a meeting with all the aides in the Presidency.
“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. Everybody is included, especially those who just returned from Saudi Arabia. So it’s 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,” he said.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity denied that the First Lady, Turai Musa Yar’Adua, was in charge of the running of government as is being suggested in some quarters.
He said that Jonathan’s desire to see Turai was merely an act of courtesy to the First Lady and the First Family.
“If you ask anybody who was at the meeting he or she will tell you that what you have 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 (Jonathan) has not seen him. He suggested that when he sees the First Lady it’s just a matter of courtesy that he will call on the First Family. He will see the First Lady and then the President.
“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. There is no such thing and you don’t expect Acting President, Dr. Jonathan, to report to the First Lady; it is abnormal and it won’t happen,” he said.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of the constitutional uncertainty occasioned by Yar’Adua’s trip abroad without transferring power to his deputy, the Senate had voted on Wednesday to amend Section 145, setting 14 days as time limit within which a President or Governor on vacation must transmit a letter to the National or state assembly as the case may be, otherwise his the Vice-President or Deputy Governor takes over automatically until such public officer transmits another letter that he is back in office.
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