Nigeria cabinet team leaving for Saudi to visit ailing Yar’adua

Members of the Nigeria Federal  Nigerian Executive Council is about now travelling to Saudi Arabia for an update on the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua, Foreign Affairs Minister Ojo Maduekwe said. Nigeria’s cabinet last Wednesday rejected a motion to declare Yar’Adua, who has been in hospital in Jeddah since November 23, unfit to govern, deciding instead to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia for an update on his health.

Yar’Adua would have ceased to hold office had the motion to declare him incapacitated been supported by a two-thirds majority and a medical panel confirmed the verdict. 

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who assumed presidential powers two weeks ago, would then be sworn in as full head of state, under the terms of the constitution. 

“We have gotten our visas and obtained all the required clearance that we need, so we are leaving (for) Saudi this evening,” Maduekwe, who is a member of the delegation told reporters in the capital Abuja.

The team lead by the health minister it to gauge Yar’Adua’s condition and report to the cabinet.

“We are not staying long, we will come back immediately after seeing Mr President and (the) Saudi king,” Maduekwe said. 

At least three other delegations that have been to Saudi Arabia to visit Yar’Adua came back without seeing him. 

Ministers have remained divided over whether Yar’Adua should be removed from office to allow Jonathan, who is the substantive vice president, to be sworn in as head of state. 

The cabinet, made of ministers picked by Yar’Adua, has twice passed unanimous resolutions stating there are no grounds to declare him unfit to govern. But no minister has publicly said they have spoken to or seen Yar’Adua for weeks. 

The 58-year-old leader has been receiving treatment for pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart that can restrict normal beating, but is also known to suffer from a chronic kidney condition. 

Neither the presidency, the ruling party nor the cabinet has given any details on his health since shortly after he left, fuelling speculation about his true condition and leading many Nigerians to believe he will never return to office.