Written by Mohammed S. Shehu:
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan travels to Washington tomorrow to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on his first foreign trip since he assumed presidential powers in February.
Jonathan has no officially-designated deputy and there was no announcement yesterday on who holds forte in his absence, but a source said Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mahmud Yayale Ahmed will take charge of affairs.
Yayale is the next most senior government official after Jonathan. On Tuesday, he represented the country in Washington, where he and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission agreement.
The acting president would be away till Thursday, indicating that the weekly cabinet meeting may not hold on Wednesday next week.
Jonathan’s spokesman Ima Niboro confirmed that the acting president would travel to the U.S. tomorrow. “Jonathan this Saturday will be making his first official trip outside the country since he assumed executive powers,” Niboro told Reuters news agency, adding that the acting president would return home on Thursday.
Efforts to get officials to confirm on record if Yayale would take charge in Jonathan’s absence were unsuccessful. Niboro did not answer his calls and did not reply to text messages sent to him.
Jonathan is bound for U.S. on the invitation of the American president to attend a maiden nuclear security summit organised by the U.S. government.
Reuters quoted a presidency source saying the two leaders would focus their discussions on ways to prevent global terrorism, four months after Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up a U.S. passenger jet as it neared Detroit.
Apparently in preparation for the discussions, Jonathan held a meeting yesterday with Faruk’s father Umaru Mutallab behind closed doors at the presidential villa in Abuja.
Dressed in white traditional Babban Riga, Mutallab came alone to the Presidential Villa and met with the acting president for close to an hour. But he did not speak to journalists afterwards and there was no official statement as to what they discussed.
Separately, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be meeting top Nigerian government officials in Abuja on April 11 to discuss aviation security.
The U.S. was the first major foreign power to publicly congratulate Jonathan after he assumed executive powers in February from ailing President Umaru Yar’adua, who remains too sick to govern.
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