President Umaru Yar’Adua, who is seriously ill from pericarditis, may not return to the country for the business of governance this year. In a hurriedly summoned meeting on the true state of health of President Umaru Yar’Adua, the 36 state governors held an emergency meeting on Thursday night in Abuja ahead of today’s National Economic Council conference at the Presidential Villa.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, declared yesterday that President Umaru Yar‘Adua could well spend one year or more abroad recovering his health as there is no constitutional limitation on his absence from the country. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo comes under heavy criticism in Abuja for his alleged subtle campaign for the nomination of Governor Sule Lamido from the North-West as Vice-President.
At the end of a meeting which the Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who was one of the 20 governors and two deputy governors in attendance called a “one-agenda meeting”, the Governors in a communiqué issued at the Kwara State Government Lodge Abuja asserted that in the absence of any evidence of permanent incapacitation on the part of the President, the calls for his resignation were largely premature and an act of betrayal.
What further fuelled the belief that President Yar’Adua may not return soon to the country is his failure to return to the country on Wednesday, as earlier announced by his aides.
Another reason, it was learnt, is that most of the top officials of government, who travelled to Saudi Arabia to visit him in the hospital, could not see him, as he was said to be in intensive care and could not be moved or made to embark on a long journey in his condition.
Members of his kitchen cabinet and other power brokers are said to be strategising on the decisive action to take, as the situation suggests that the president may not be back until early next year.
The family and associates including members of the Federal Executive Council are also said to be very worried over the clamour for the resignation of the president.
In view of this, the kitchen cabinet, the PDP hierarchy, Senators, loyal governors, the Federal Executive Council, some powerful aides like Tony Anenih and defiant ministers like the AG Michael Aondoakaa are quelling the fire while insisting that Yar’adua is fit enough to govern
The communiqué which was read to newsmen by the forum’s chairman and Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki read thus:
– The Governors rose from a crucial meeting in Abuja yesterday with a commendation the sense of leadership by the federal executive council under the leadership of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan and that it demonstrates that government at the federal level is alive to its responsibility and is being complemented by the 36 Governors.
– Constitutionally in the absence of any evidence of incapacitation on the part of the President to continue to discharge his duties it is precipitated and diversionary to call for Mr. President’s resignation
It is on the basis of this that we consider the call for the President to resign as a betrayal or lack of respect for the constitution and system of government of this country.
– The Governors restated the commitment of the forum to peace, progress and stability of Nigeria.
– They wish the President a quick recovery as he continues to lead the country.
The governors did not entertain any question after the communique was read.
The governors rejected the proposal to consider Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as an Acting President in Yar’Adua’s absence in line with section 145 of the constitution.
Instead, the governors decided after about three hours to express support for Yar’Adua’s presidency, even while he is still indisposed.
Punch says that there was a sharp division among the governors when it was proposed that Jonathan be empowered to act as President in the absence of Yar’Adua.
“Some of us supported the idea but the majority opposed it on the grounds that the President was not incapacitated and unable to continue to carry out the functions of his office,” a source said.
The newspaper added that those who supported the idea that Jonathan be asked to act as President argued that the fresh revelation that the Yar’adua’s condition at the King Faisal hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had worsened since Tuesday was worrisome.
They were said to have added that Yar’Adua was not likely to return this year.
The meeting, which began around 8pm and ended at about 10.45pm on Thursday, held at the Kwara State Governor’s Lodge.
Some of the governors at the meeting included Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Mr. Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Alhaji Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe) who arrived late.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, attended the meeting ostensibly on the invitation of the governors. Adeniyi, who arrived at the venue at exactly 10.27pm, was said to have briefed the governors on the state of health of the President.
Before the governors met, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had come under heavy criticism in Abuja for his alleged subtle campaign for the nomination of a governor from the North-West as Vice-President.
The criticism came from some members of the National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party who said on Thursday it was “preposterous” for him (Obasanjo) to do so when President Umaru Yar’Adua and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan are still in power.
Some newspapers had reported that Obasanjo was at the centre of a campaign to nominate the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, as the next Vice-President if Yar’Adua was unable to continue in office.
It was reported in the newspapers that if Jonathan eventually assumed office as President, Lamido would be nominated to become his deputy.
But while addressing journalists in Abuja, Alhaji Issa Madfindi, who spoke on behalf of some select PDP NEC members said, “It is preposterous that a former President in the person of Chief Obasanjo who is also the chairman of PDP Board of Trustees would be engaging in a subtle campaign for Governor Lamido to become a Vice-President, even when President Yar’Adua is very much alive, but sick at the moment.”
Madfindi argued that Obasanjo’s alleged action did not only amount to anti-party activity, but was also capable of destabilising the PDP.
He described Obasanjo as a “spent force,” who is just being tolerated by the President.
Madfindi said, “The action of former President Obasanjo is not only anti-party, but capable of destabilising the party and the country. He is a spent force and should not be allowed to continue to meddle in the affairs of the party.
“We, the PDP NEC members, are not happy with what we hear he is doing. Why is he embarking on a succession campaign when in the first place the President is alive? He is just in a hospital trying to recover from sickness like all humans.”
He said what was expected of Obasanjo was to cooperate with Yar’Adua, whom he said had ignored calls to probe him (former President) despite evidence that he abused his office during the eight years he was in power as President.
He said, “Despite Chief Obasanjo’s shortcomings in his eight years as President, the incumbent President is still tolerating him and stopped all embarrassment which ought to have come to him in terms of probing his administration. He should not play God.
“For him to be angling for one of the governors from the North-West to become the Vice-President to Goodluck Jonathan who is currently the Vice-President is quite unfair and it is anti-party.”
The PDP NEC members also warned the former President not to test his relevance, adding that his alleged action was capable of destabilising the country.
President Umaru Yar‘Adua could well spend one year or more abroad recovering his health as there is no constitutional limitation on his absence from the country, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, declared yesterday.
Ekweremadu’s declaration came against the background of enquiries by United States officials on the health status of the President and its implication on the Nigerian nation.
Senator Ekweremadu spoke with Senate correspondents after meetings between senior Senate officials and the United States Council of Foreign Relations in Washington D.C.
The meeting was originally devoted to on-going moves to review the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, but dovetailed towards discussions on the health of Yar‘Adua.
Ekweremadu told correspondents that the American officials were assured of complete harmony in Nigeria despite the medical evacuation of the Nigerian leader to a Saudi hospital.
Meantime, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Micheal Aondoakaa (SAN), and the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), converted a valedictory session in honour of the retired president of the Appeal Court, Justice Umar Abdullahi, into a verbal battle ground over a speech accredited to the NBA President, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), which implored President Yar’Adua to resign from office in view of his failing health.
There were also knocks for the way the Federal Executive Council, FEC, and the National Assembly reacted to the call for the President to quit.
While the Action Congress (AC), described as unprincipled, self-serving and predictable the stand taken by FEC on the issue, former Presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the reaction of the Federal Government, as conveyed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, and the National Assembly to the call by some eminent Nigerians for the Yar’Adua to resign as a result of his illness was unfortunate and uncalled for.
Ekweremadu on President’s stay abroad
Asked by correspondents on how long the President could stay abroad, Senator Ekweremadu said, yesterday: “The Constitution did not make provision for how long a President can stay out of the country and then lose his job. There is no such provision in our constitution. So, if he spends one year abroad, of course, you have a Vice-President, who will be acting in his place.
“The Constitution did not say if he spends one month or one day or one week, then you lose your job, there is no such provision. But I don’t think there is anything for any person to worry about and that is why it is good to always create a system.’’
“Now, nobody is bigger than a system. So, if we have a system that is running, even if the President is not there, hopefully I am sure that things will move normally. In most of the instances I mentioned, the President was away for nearly one year.
”In fact, in the case of Lenin in the USSR, the government took a decision that he would work only for 10 minutes in a day. And, when he insisted on working beyond that period, they called the attention of his wife to the decision and said that she has to do everything to ensure that the decision is complied with, that he works for only 10 minutes. In fact, they said that they were going to get another wife for him, if she fails to ensure that that happens.
“You see, when you are talking about a mandate given to a President , you treat it with every caution. It is not a flimsy excuse to say that someone is ill, anybody can be ill, and then you say the President should resign or lose his office.
This is a collective mandate given to him by over 140 million people. So, for somebody to surrender it, something serious must have happened.”
Noting the interest of the Americans during the interaction, Ekweremadu said:
”Interestingly, the matter also came up during the discussion with the Council of Foreign Relations. They looked forward to a specific answer from me, but I took time to explain to them the issues concerning life and death in Africa. For us, life is sacrosanct and, we deal with life very respectfully.
“Beyond that, matters concerning presidential illness is something that is handled with utmost care not just in Nigeria but all over the world including America and I took time to explain to them; I gave them a brief history of Presidential ailments across the globe and how countries have been quite reluctant to ease out a sitting President on account of ill-health.
“So, Nigeria is not the first country where we have a President that is ill while in office. It has happened severally across the world and I am not aware of any of such circumstances where the President was forced to resign or pushed out of office.
“And, I took time to explain to them even in their own country how America had handled such circumstances beginning from 1919 when Dr. Woodrow Wilson took ill after the World War 1, he went to Germany and signed a treaty with Germans, when he returned he had stroke. And, for six months, he did not attend council. He was not removed. He was not replaced,” Ekweremadu said yesterday.
NBA, Aondoakaa disagree
The recent call from some quarters for the resignation of the President, yesterday, got an added piquancy, as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Micheal Aondoakaa (SAN), and the leadership of the NBA, converted a valedictory session in honour of the retired president of the Appeal Court, Justice Umar Abdullahi, into a verbal battle ground over a speech accredited to the NBA President, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), which implored President Yar’Adua to resign from office in view of his failing health.
Akeredolu, who though indisposed to attend the event which took place at the Abuja division of the appeal court, drew the ire of the AGF, when, in his speech, delivered through the Public Relations Officer of NBA, Mr Ikeheazor Akaraiwe, expressly advised Yar’Adua to throw in the towel, and voluntarily bow out of office, adding that it would not be difficult to find a successor for him in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“This country is nearer to a state of collapse and we cannot afford to be left in the whip of the rumour industry which is the most thriving sector at present.
“Nigerians deserve to know the true state of things. If our President is not capable of performing his duties anymore, it will be better for him to resign as it will not be difficult to find a successor for him as provided by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria,” the statement read.
In a swift reaction, however, the AGF, who had delivered his valedictory speech before the NBA did, wasted no time to organise an ad-hoc briefing at the same venue, where he dismissed the NBA president as a meddlesome interloper, whose words should be discountenanced.
He maintained that the views expressed in the speech accredited to the NBA was nothing but the value judgment of Akeredolu himself, stressing that the organisation never met to take such unanimous stand.
He added that the call for President Yar’Adua’s resignation was unnecessary and premature as he was quickly recovering from his ill-health.
According to the AGF: “I am not bothered by the speech ascribed to the NBA, it is nothing but the personal views of Mr Akeredolu himself as the NEC of the organisation of which I am an executive member, never met to discuss such thing.
“He is free to enjoy his freedom of expression granted to him by the constitution, but he should not also forget the constitution never made provision for a super-human president who do not fall ill at all.
“Is it not in this country also that the then President Ibrahim Babangida took ill and was flown abroad for two months, did anybody call for his removal?
“It is only those bent on scuttling the democratic process and rule of law flourishing in Nigeria that are calling for the invocation of Section 144 of the constitution, which I think is not only premature but unnecessary, considering that the health of President Yar’Adua is improving tremendously and he has never said he is incapable of carrying out his duties anymore.
“If Akeredolu has a contrary fact, let him disclose it to Nigerians instead of making wild assertions,” he added.
Among notable personalities present at the event, were Justices of the Supreme, Appeal and High courts, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole and some former governors.
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