Amidst growing confusion on the true state of health of President Umaru Yar’Adua, state governors held an emergency meeting on Thursday night in Abuja ahead of today’s National Economic Council conference at the Presidential Villa.
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who was one of the 20 governors and two deputy governors in attendance, told journalists that the discussion on Thursday was a “one-agenda meeting.”
But 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.
Our correspondents reliably learnt from sources at the meeting 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 source 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.
Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki, who is the chairman of the Governor’s Forum, read a communique issued at the end of the meeting to journalists.
The statement reads, “We noted with dismay the current debate in the media on the call for the resignation of Mr. President, necessitated by a paid advert in the Leadership newspaper of Wednesday December 2, 2009 by some people who purportedly signed the advert.
“It is gratifying to note that some of the people who were purported to have signed the advert have already dissociated themselves from the advert.
“The Governors’ Forum therefore observed as follows:
“We commend the sense of leadership demonstrated by the Federal Executive Council under the Vice-President. This demonstrates that the government at the federal level is alive to its responsibilities and is being complemented by the 36 governors.
“Constitutionally, in the absence of any evidence of incapacitation on the part of the President, it is precipitate and diversionary to call for Mr. President’s resignation. It is on this basis that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum considers the call for Mr. President’s resignation a betrayal or lack of respect for the constitution and the system of government of this country.
“On the basis of the foregoing, therefore, the NGF hereby restates our firm commitment to the peace, progress and stability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We wish Mr. President quick recovery as he continues to lead our country.”
The governors did not entertain any question after the communique was read.
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 (excluding THE PUNCH) 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.
Efforts to contact Obasanjo’s Personal Assistant, Alhaji Ola Akande, to comment on the allegation by the PDP NEC members did not yield results as he neither picked his calls nor responded to text messages.
Also on Thursday, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar urged on Nigerians to pray for the recovery of the ailing President.
Abubakar, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, also urged commentators on the health of the President and the state-of-the-nation to be mindful of the integrity of the Nigerian state and “the suzerainty of God in the affairs of men, including their health.”
The former Vice-President said, “I have spoken to the family of the President. As Nigerians, we are known for our compassion and empathy for one another.
“This occasion calls for all Nigerians to bury their differences and collectively pray for the good health of President Yar’Adua and his safe return to the country.
“This period calls for great caution on the part of politicians, public affairs commentators and opinion leaders. The Nigerian people expect leadership from the political elite and this should be provided with a sense of responsibility for the integrity of the Nigerian state, the wellbeing of the citizenry and the fear of God.”