Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yar’adua’s Men List No-go Areas For Jonathan

A cabal, believed to be loyal to recuperating President Umaru Yar’Adua, has drawn a list of ‘no-go areas’ for the Vice President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who seems almost certain to be the most clourful bride in the current power game in the country. The Nation learnt that the pro-Yar’Adua group is confronted with the emerging reality that if Yar’Adua could not continue to lead the country on health grounds, Jonathan may emerge as the personality that will run the affairs of the state, at least for some time to come.

The source hinted that the group is insisting that the Vice President must not tamper with certain key portfolio which the group currently controls. The sectors, the source hinted, include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Petroleum, the Ministry of Internal Affairs which controls and determines the mechanism of state security and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. ‘It’s almost certain that VP Jonathan will emerge as the acting President. There is the need to protect the interests of this powerful group. These three sectors are believed to be the country’s most critical sectors. Anyone who controls these positions has the country in the pocket,’ the source claimed. As at press time, it was unclear how the group loyal to the Vice President will deal with the new challenge posed by the influential group.

Our correspondent learnt that the cabal is using the ‘no-go-areas’ as a negotiating weapon in the bid to protect its political bloc and sustain a strong foundation within the frame work of the emerging power equation in the country. The source said that with President YarA’dua recuperating, the group knows it is currently negotiating from the position of strength. It was learnt yesterday that the Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Aondoakaa is supporting the position that the VP can act as the President in spite of the seeming contracdictions associated with the Federal High Court judgment.

However yesterday, in an unrelated development, the Vice President Jonathan opened up on the state of the nation warning that some highly placed individuals are bent on pulling down the adminstration.

He also cautioned Nigerians to beware of ‘mischief makers’ bent on causing disaffection in the country. He said this set of people are bent on bringing the current adminstration to its knees by all means, whether fair or foul. He said the sponsors of this ‘false and wicked campaign’ are well known to the Federal Government, and in due time, they will be exposed and brought to book. Meanwhile, there were indications yesterday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is now split along two sharply divided camps: those who support President Umaru Yar’Adua to remain in power in spite of his ill health and those rooting for Vice-President Jonathan to take over power on the grounds of the President’s dwindling health.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that although members of the FEC have been presenting a fasle facade to Nigerians that all is well, there is a deep division in the cabinet on whether the VP should be acting President or not.

In a statement signed on Saturday by the Senior Special Adviser to the VP, Mr Ima Niboro, the Vice President said it was obvious there is an on-going effort by some well placed individuals, within and outside the administration, to take maximum advantage of the unfortunate situation that Mr. President, through no fault of his, has found himself health wise, to cause deep-rooted disaffection.

The Vice President said the Presidency is aware that "these same people are sponsoring ridiculous stories in the media to the effect that the VP has already prepared a list of ministers and top executives of key parastatals to dismiss from the administration. ‘There is no need to state that these are obvious lies. The VP uses this occasion to state that key officers of government that are on top of their jobs need not harbour such fears. But those who, rather than focus on delivering this administration’s mandate to the Nigerian people, prefer to cause acrimony and disunity in order to advance personal aggrandisement have every reason to fear."

He denied reports that the VP has refused to act upon the Justice Dan Abutu ruling of Wednesday, 13

th January, 2010, to the effect that he can assume the duties of Mr. President in his absence in line with section 5(1) of the 1999 constitution, because he is awaiting a directive from the First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar’ Adua.

The VP stated further ‘This report is entirely false. The VP wants to state clearly that the last time he spoke with the First Lady was on Tuesday, January 5

th, after he spoke with the president. Indeed, it was the First Lady that called back shortly after to exchange warm pleasantries with the Vice President.

There is no doubt that those who packaged the report are only attempting to paint non-existent pictures to the Nigerian public in the effort to create mischievous scenarios of indecisivesness on the part of the VP. If we may ask, what was the crucial significance of the Abutu judgement that went over and beyond the subsisting scenario of the VP holding forth in the absence of the president? What therefore would form the directive basis for desperately seeking Mr. President’s point of view in the light of that ruling?

The VP wondered what crucial functions of the president he has declined to take upon himself since the Wednesday ruling. He said barely 48 hours after the decision, the VP led the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Federation and the service chiefs, to take the salute at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day."

However, The Nation learnt that some members of the cabinet are unhappy with Yar’Adua’s cronies who believe that there is no basis for the inauguration of an acting President.

It was gathered that some Ministers have been begrudging the affected loyalists of Yar’Adua as the brains behind the decision of the FEC not to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution to declare the President as incapable of performing his duties.

Sources claim that Yar’Adua’s supporters that have incurred the wrath of their colleagues and some godfathers in Jonathan’s camp are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa(SAN), the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Mr. Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi; the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Abba Sayyad Ruma; the Minister of Finance, Dr, Mansur Muhtar; the Minister of Power, Dr. Rilwan Babalola; the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwan Lukman; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sir Ufot Ekaette;, the Minister of FCT, Senator Adamu Aliero; and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe.

Others who are considered as serving as backbone to the foot-soldiers are the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri; the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Mr. Dikko Abdullahi; the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo.

The camp divide of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, and the Director-General of the State Security Service, Mr. Afakirya Gadzama could not be ascertained as at press time.

Although some party bigwigs wanted the removal of these foot-soldiers, it was gathered that the Vice-President has been battling to keep the cabinet united.

A source said: "Interestingly while we are all engaging in cold war, the VP has been doing a yeoman’s job to keep the cabinet as one."

A Minister, who spoke in confidence with The Nation yesterday, said: "We are divided along Yar’Adua and Jonathan camps. Some Ministers are not happy with the conduct of Yar’Adua’s foot-soldiers in the cabinet and they want them sacked.

"The position of the Yar’Adua’s loyalists is that the President should not be betrayed at this critical period that he is attending to his health. That is why they are determined to fight to the finish and prevent Jonathan from being acting President.

"Apart from Yar’Adua’s loyalists in the cabinet, some ministers have always wanted Jonathan to be inaugurated. But they cannot come out openly to say so. Rather they give their support to the VP behind the curtains, a few others in the cabinet are just praying that the problem should be over.

"Among the Ministers, however, only the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe does not mince words that he is solidly behind the VP who nominated him into the cabinet.

"The Yar’Adua Group is uncomfortable with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, who is said to be lobbying to emerge as the next VP if Jonathan becomes acting President.

"Already, Yayale has relocated his office to Aguda House within the precinct of the Presidential Villa.

"All I can tell you is that the battle line is drawn between Yar’Adua’s boys and Jonathan loyalists in and out of the cabinet."

Beside the division over acting Presidency, it was also learnt that there is a crisis of confidence between the SGF and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsaye.

A source added: "Since the introduction of tenure policy by the Head of Service, there has been a wedge in the relationship between him and the SGF.

"They only manage to greet each other when they have cause to interact at all. Yayale sees Oronsaye as rubbishing some his achievements in office as the Head of Service."

But the division in the cabinet, occasioned by Yar’Adua and Jonathan camps, has led to a series of meetings in the last 72 hours.

While a group of South-South leaders met secretly on Thursday night on the political situation in the country and last Wednesday’s judgement by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Dan Abutu, the Yar’Adua loyalists also met on Friday morning to strategise on how to consolidate their grip on power.

A highly-placed source added: "Many caucuses within the party, have taken judicious notice of the fact that some of these foot-soldiers do not want the VP to act for the President.

"The Yar’Adua Group in FEC is saying that there is already a judgement in place which cannot be changed overnight by any group.

"The pro-Jonathan camp felt the major impediment to the emergence of the VP as acting President is the current judgement of Justice Abutu. The camp has decided to give full backing to ensure that a counter-judgement is secured from another Federal High Court.

"But a major challenge is the fact that we are likely to have two conflicting judgements going by the seriousness with which Falana is pursuing his matter.

"The ‘war’ has shifted to the court while both camps are pretending that all is well in government circle. The position of Yar’Adua’s Group is that they cannot trust the VP because he might be hijacked by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s group which is speculated to be seeking revenge for some ‘sins’ committed by the President and some of his men."

Investigation revealed that the likelihood of conflicting judgements has made some cabinet members and PDP chieftains to woo the Attorney-General of the Federation, Aondoakaa, with an assurance of retaining his office.

But it was learnt that Aondoakaa, who is a die-hard Yar’Adua’s hatchet man, has refused to cooperate with any other group.

The source said: "To reach out to Aondoakaa, the Governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, and some of his close friends were contacted. But Suswam could not do much because the governor is a loyalist of Yar’Adua like his bosom friend, Aondoakaa. Suswam said he is prepared to take the risk to remain with Yar’Adua.

"Why some of these people are targeting Aondoakaa is because his advice or decision is necessary and vital when there are conflicting judgements from courts of coordinated jurisdictions. The SGF may choose or recommend which of the judgements to honour."

The Vice President has appealed to Nigerians to ignore what it called ‘divisive strategies of those who do not wish the present administration well and are anxious to bring the government to its knees by all means, whether fair or foul. He said he remains eternally grateful to ‘fellow compatriots who have continued to demonstrate unflinching solidarity to the nation in spite of these difficult times.’ He also extends warm acknowledgments to the ‘vast majority of patriots and citizens’ who continue to pray for the restoration of Mr. President’s health and his safe return to Nigeria.

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