President Yar’adua in Jeddah; latest developments

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua (file photo)

The president has had a chronic kidney condition for at least 10 years

Anxiety continues to mount over the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigerian Tribune reports that ambitious politicians have begun to strategise to position themselves or their cronies to become the vice-president, thereby placing them at a vantage position to pick the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket in 2011.


In spite of official assurances that President Umaru Yar’Adua is responding to treatment in a Saudi Arabian hospital and will return soon to the country, The contest for control, Tribune says is among the groups of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the incumbent, President Yar’Adua, the Nothern establishment and those loyal to the Senate President David Mark.

As anxiety continues, the Federal Government on Monday called for more prayers for the No.1 citizen who is undergoing treatment for acute pericarditis at the King Faisal hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

In a statement by the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, the Federal government pleaded that Yar’Adua’s family and the nation needed prayers in these “trying times.”

President Yar’Adua has been suffering from kidney and heart related problem and has been in and out of hospitals at home and abroad in the last 10 years or more.
Worse still is the revelation, last week, by his physicians that he also has acute pericarditis, which is currently being treated at King Faisal Hospital in Saudi Arabia.

The Chief Physician to the President, Dr. Salisu Banye, had explained in a statement made available to journalists last Thursday that the tests conducted on Yar’Adua at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, confirmed the ailment.

He had claimed, without an indication of when he might return, that the President was responding well to treatment at the hospital.

Feelers from the hospital, however, have revealed that all may not be well with the health of the Nigerian president, and sources said that he is at the intensive care unit, where he comes in and out of coma.

His condition, it was learnt, may have really degenerated, as very close relatives have been unable to see him at the hospital.

Last week, a rumour had been widespread that Yar’Adua had died in the Saudi Arabian hospital. Before then, there had also been concern about the ability of the President to perform the functions of his office in view of his frail health.

This development prompted key government officials to speak on Yar’Adua’s health, a departure from the past when his visits to hospitals were shrouded in secrecy .

Before Akunyili’s statement, the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, had also on Monday called on Nigerians to pray for Yar’Adua’s quick recovery.

Mark, who cautioned against speculations on the health of the President, said that facts available to him indicated that Yar’Adua was responding to treatment.

Anxiety had heightened in some public offices in Abuja, including ministries, as workers discussed in hushed tones, who was in control in Aso Rock in the absence of Yar’Adua.

A top public officer who craved anonymity said, “We are not comfortable with the development in the polity due to the president’s ill-health. Right now, we don’t know who is incharge since Mr. President did not explicit direct anyone to be in charge. What this means is confusion in government.”

Nigerian Tribune says the succession struggle is being fuelled, because some of those who followed the president to Saudi Arabia for the treatment of the acute heart problem have returned with reports that are not too pleasant.
It was gathered that various power blocks and camps have been holding meetings permutating on what may be the solution in the face of any eventuality.

Most of the groups, except one, appear to appreciate the constitutional provisions which favour the vice-president, in this case, Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-South, taking over, if anything happens to the president.

The Obasanjo group, it was learnt, favours the Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, becoming vice-president for the remaining 15 months, after which the calculations may favour his getting the presidential ticket in 2011.

The Yar’Adua group, it was reliably gathered, is strategising along the same line, but would rather support Bauchi State governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda, who is also a son-in-law to the president, as vice-president to Jonathan.

The far north establishment wants the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed, to be deputy to Jonathan till 2011, when they hope he (Yayale) will clinch the ticket for presidency.

Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki and his Bauchi State, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, had on Saturday in company with some key members of Yar’Adua’s cabinet travelled to Jeddah to see the President.

A source in the Kwara State Government House said on Monday that Saraki was expected back in Nigeria on Monday (yesterday).

“I can confirm to you that his Excellency would definitely return today (yesterday), but what I cannot affirm is whether he is coming back from the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah in company with his brother governor (Yuguda) or alone,” he said.

Section 145 of the 1999 constitution provides that the President must transmits to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration of his vacation or inability to perform his functions.

When asked by one of our correspondents if the President wrote the National Assembly, the spokesman of the Senate, Mr. Ayogu Eze, said “Is he supposed to write? I am not aware. I need to cross check.”

On his part, the Special Adviser (Media and Public Affair) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ebomhiana Musa, said, Yar’Adua did not forward such letter to his boss, Mr. Dimeji Bankole.

He said, “I am not aware that he wrote any letter to the speaker. I have been with the speaker; it is not to my knowledge at all that he (Yar’Adua) wrote him a letter.

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), has described as “immoral,” calls for the resignation of the President.

Aondoakaa, in an interview with journalists in Makurdi, Benue State, on Sunday, argued that there was nothing in the constitution that said public office holders should not fall sick.

Aondoakaa, who specifically referred to a comment by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), on Yar’Adua’s health, urged Nigerians to pray for the President.

He said, “The call is in bad faith because the spokesman of Mr. President gave a graphic medical account of the President from his personal physician.

“The NBA president should resign first because while other Nigerians are praying for his (Yar‘Adua‘s) quick recovery, he is thinking differently and that is immoral?

“There is nothing in the constitution that says somebody holding public office should not fall sick?”, he said.

Aondoakaa also spoke on the allocation of N148bn to the Ministry of Works and other forms of direct intervention in the Niger Delta, saying they would bring about massive infrastructural development in the country.

He said that plans to equip the Police in the next four years would bring about peace in the country.

On the tussle between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the venue for the presentation of the 2010 budget, the minister said that since the House had taken the matter to court, it should be decided by the courts.

He also said the litany of court cases on the scheduled governorship election in Anambra in February 2010 would not derail the conduct of the elections.

The minister restated the commitment of the Yar‘Adua administration to electoral reforms and the conduct of credible elections in the country.


Some lawmakers, it was gathered, believe it could be dangerous to leave Vice-President Jonathan in the saddle till 2011, hence the alleged pressure on him to resign.

The calculation, it was learnt, is that, if he resigns, the Senate President, David Mark, will take over and, as a northerner, may also be interested in becoming the president in 2011.

For the Jonathan group, however, they are working on consolidating their position, which the 1999 Nigerian Constitution has strengthened, that Dr. Jonathan steps into office as president in the event of the incumbent president’s inability to continue in office by reasons stated in the constitution.


However, against perceived surreptitious moves by politicians, especially within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to position themselves to succeed ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, the party has warned that they stand no chance of becoming president, as no vacancy exists in the presidency.

It has also accused the opposition parties of raising tension by allegedly sensationalising President Yar’Adua’s presence in Saudi Arabia for medical attention, even as it noted that the president was responding to treatment and would soon return to the country to “continue the good work he is doing.”

A statement issued, on Monday, by the national leadership of the party and signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, advised “those working themselves into frenzy on the basis of an illusionary vacancy in the presidency to calm down and pray for the peace and stability of the country, rather than dissipate energy on a wild goose chase.”

It said that it was “utterly unacceptable that instead of demonstrating selflessness and patriotism in moments like this, some politicians are engaged in creating undue and banal sophistry in the name of an imaginary succession crisis in Nigeria.” 

Following reports that there was pressure on Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to resign, the statement further said that the PDP was not involved in the speculated attempt to get anyone to resign from his position as there was no ground for it.

It said emphatically that “for the avoidance of doubt, the PDP wishes to state categorically that the party is not in any way involved in, neither is it contemplating any move to persuade or force any office holder to resign his or her office under whatever guise, as it is being erroneously insinuated in some sections of the media.