Yar’Adua: Senators Indecisive

Nigerian senators again today declined to take a position today on whether ailing Nigerian leader, Umaru Yar’adua should handover to his deputy, Vice president Goodluck Jonathan. News reports this morning foreshadowing what may happen at the senate today were punctured when the minority leader, Senator Ma’aji Lawal drew attention to one of the newspaper reports, saying it did not reflect the position of the house.

The report had spoken of schism in the senate.

But the Senate president, David Mark debunked the story saying the senate is united. And that on Yar’adua, they will only do things that are pro-constitution.

Earlier before the plenary session, the senators had held a closed session with David Mark and there are indications that they must have forged a consensus on what should be done. David Mark did not however indicate what the consensus was when he spoke with journalists today.

President Musa Yar’Adua left Nigeria on 23 November for treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, without formally handing over power to his vice president, thereby creating a power vacuum.

His absence for the 57th day has stalled government activities and created a lot of indecision in government. Most vital issues are waiting for Yar’Adua. And Nigerians are complaining.

The Senate had earlier chickened out during its sitting last Tuesday and yesterday when the Senate leadership claimed that the upper chamber lacked the constitutional power to force ailing President Yar’Adua to hand over power to Vice President Jonathan.

As at yesterday, various reports said majority of the senators were rooting for a decisive move by their chambers to resolve the issue on power handover to Jonathan.

The senators collecting their signatures are said to be miffed at the manner Senate President David Mark handled the last motion on the health of the president.

“With 73 senators signing a document, it means that anything could happen,” the source said.

The Senate, yesterday, suspended further action on the fate of President Umaru Yar’Adua till today when it is expected to take a briefing from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, on the President’s health.

Should SGF fail to convince the Senate at the closed-door session, it is expected that it would then formally write the President next Tuesday on his non-adherence of Section 145 of the constitution which requires him to transfer presidential powers in the face of his unavailability.

The Senate’s resolution reached at a two-hour closed door session was upon pressures mounted by Senators seeking to compel the ailing President to temporarily handover power to his deputy, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.

Meanwhile, the group of senators agitating for the transfer of presidential powers, who, at a Monday night meeting, christened themselves as the National Interest Group, NIG, have  resolved to sheath their sword until tomorrow when the SGF would brief the Senate.

NIG, led by Senator Bala Mohammed from Bauchi State, also yesterday decided to defer a briefing scheduled for today where they were expected to formally unveil their agenda.

Senators at the closed- door session resolved that they would then take a course of action based on the briefing given by the SGF.

Ahmed is being invited in his capacity as the secretary of the Federal Executive Council and the keeper of government records who should know the state of health of the President.

In a move to take the wind off the sail of the agitating senators, some senators claimed that they had been informed by some presidential aides that the President would be returning tomorrow.

The decision by NIG whose members according to insiders had swelled to 58 as at Monday night, were weighing their options on how the Senate leadership would sway the issue.

“We will wait for Thursday when the SGF comes and we will move from there, but I can assure you the agenda is still on course,” a leader of the group told Vanguard yesterday.

Briefing newsmen at the end of the day’s session, Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, said:

“I want to let you know that we are discussing with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Thursday.

”Whatever the Senate will do on the matter of the health of Mr. President and his absence will come up as a result of what the SGF is able to tell us or is unable to tell us.

”And, everything will wait until we have heard from him. We are not contemplating any issue one way or the other because we don’t know what he is coming with. We don’t know the information available to him.

“He would be able to answer the question that is agitating the minds of our constituents and our own minds too.

”After our meeting with him on Thursday, we will evaluate his presentation and, if there are further legislative actions to take, we will base that action on what happens on Thursday.”

VP, PDP leaders in secret talks

Meanwhile, the national leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday met behind closed doors with Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, over undisclosed issues.

Details of the meeting could not be ascertained as at press time as none of those who attended refused to speak to the press.

The composition of the team that visited Jonathan gave strong indications that issues discussed at the meeting might not be unconnected with the state of health of President Umaru Yar’Adua and the raging debate over the handing over of power to Jonathan.

Those at the meeting were Senate President David Mark, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, Speaker, House of Representatives; Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President; Alhaji Usman Nafada, Deputy Speaker; Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governor of Kwara State and Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF; Mr. Mike Aondoakaa, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, Chairman of PDP.