BY TONY AILEMEN:
Conflicting signals emerged yesterday, indicating that the presidency appears to be in a quandary in the aftermath of yesterday’s dramatic re-appearance of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after three months of treatment in Saudi Arabia.
The president who suddenly left last November 23, returned unannounced in an air ambulance in the wee-hours, accompanied by another plane bearing his large entourage, including the ministers that were delegated to see him in Saudi Arabia.
The first sign of confusion was the shelving yesterday of the scheduled meeting of the president’s cabinet, which Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has been chairing in the president’s absence.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, who announced the postponement at about 12.15 pm while addressing ministers and other participants at the Council Chambers said:
“I am directed by the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to inform you that the Council meeting has been postponed. Accordingly, we are to go back to our offices.’’
Ahmed announced that a special meeting with the Acting President with all ministers in attendance was being convened at 2 pm at the Conference Hall, and that attendance was mandatory.
Our correspondent observed that by 9.30 a.m, almost all the ministers, including those delegated to visit President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia, were seated for the (weekly) meeting, awaiting the arrival of either the President or the Acting President.
Yar’Adua’s prolonged stay in Saudi Arabia led to the National Assembly’s resolution empowering Jonathan as Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
A presidency source said cabinet meeting was shelved to watch the next move of Yar’Adua who is said to be convalescing at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
As the high drama in the presidency played out, President Yar’Adua announced through his special assistant on media, Mr. Adeniyi, that his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan would continue to attend to affairs of state till he was fully recuperated to resume office.
Meanwhile, the ministers converged later at 2pm in the vice president’s conference room where Jonathan informed them that the President has returned to the country.
Giving details of what transpired at the meeting with Jonathan, Information and Communication minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, told journalists at the State House that Jonathan informed them that the president was back and that he (Jonathan) would be meeting with the first lady, later, to be briefed on the state of health of the president.
She also quoted Jonathan as saying that he has been briefed by some aides to the president, indicating that he has not been able to see his boss.
“He invited us for a meeting in his meeting room at 2pm and when we came he told us that the president has returned and that he has been briefed by the aides of Mr. President and that he hopes to see the wife of the president this evening and that when we meet next week, we will be briefed on the outcome of the Saudi trip by the members of council. And that when he is eventually briefed by our president he will call us again,” he said.
Answering reporters’ question’s, however, Akunyili said she heard news of the president’s return on Cable News Network (CNN), confirming insinuations that most of the ministers were kept in the dark about his return.
In his statement, Adeniyi said the president is grateful to Nigerians for their prayers and concern for his health announcing however that his health has “greatly improved.”
He quoted the president as being thankful to Jonathan for effectively piloting affairs of the country in his absence while asking him to continue until he is fully recuperated.
The statement read in part: “President Yar’Adua wishes to express his profound gratitude to all Nigerians for their prayers for his recovery, their exceptional generosity of spirit and their appreciation of the fact that all mortals are subject to the vagaries of ill-health.
“President Yar’Adua is grateful to the Vice president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for competently overseeing the affairs of state in his absence.
“The President also wishes to thank the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the entire membership of the National Assembly, the Governors’ Forum, the Judiciary, the Armed Forces and other security agencies, former heads of state and other eminent Nigerians for their roles in maintaining order and stability during his absence.”
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