We're Back, We're Back

2010-02-25
THISDAY Newspaper- George Oji


As early as 9.45am yesterday, some ministers had started arriving State House for the weekly meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF), which usually commences at 10am. State House correspondents not wanting to be outdone by their colleagues had arrived the council chambers as early as 8.30am. The photo journalists had taken vantage positions and clicked away at the ministers as they arrived.

Unlike previously when reporters followed the ministers to the council chambers and used the opportunities to interact personally with them and in some instances made personal requests from the ministers, yesterday’s case appeared slightly different as most of the reporters stayed outside to capture the individual moods of the ministers as they arrived.

For some of the known avid supporters of Yar’Adua since the political imbroglio started, it was all smiles as they sauntered to the council chambers. They radiated all smiles as they exchanged pleasantries with their colleagues, even though such smiles appeared more cosmetic and made up. For most of the pro-Jonathan camp, it was look of seriousness on their faces as they walked into the chambers.

A minor drama played out as ADC to the President, Col. Mustapha Onoyiveta, appeared from the president’s office, radiating with smiles and made to shake hands with some of the reporters. “We are back, we are back,” he said as he made his way towards the reporters.

When the photographers rushed to capture his handshake with their colleagues, he immediately made a detour, waving his hands in the air, heading towards the President’s office and pleading that he be left alone.
Shortly after, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Adamu Aliero, who arrived the meeting late, upon sighting the duo of Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President, Yusufu Tilde, and Onoyiveta made straight for their direction, beaming with smiles and jumping for joy as he hugged and congratulated them. The expression of joy and triumph was visible and unmistakable all over the minister.

Yar’Adua’s security officials had earlier positioned themselves in the council chambers directing affairs – a development that suggested that Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan might not be allowed to sit on the President’s seat if he had come for the meeting. Incidentally, the spectacle of the Vice-President being embarrassed never materialised as he did not show up.
Meanwhile, the more than two hours waiting at the council chambers for either Jonathan or Yar’Adua was tension-soaked. While the waiting lasted, the ministers met in groups and presumably discussed the event of the President’s return and its implications.

Also, as the waiting continued inside, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, busied himself shuttling between his office and that of the President, clutching a particular official file in his hands. The reporters were quick to point out that a statement was under way. This assumption was later confirmed by Adeniyi himself when it was apparent he had received the final nod to release the statement.

Elsewhere, Head of Service, Dr. Steve Oronsanye, engaged in what may be termed “diplomatic shuttle” between the council chambers and the residence of Jonathan, obviously to persuade the Acting President to come over and chair the meeting.
On one of such movements, he engaged the duo of Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili and Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, along the passage to the council chambers on a serious argument on the propriety of Jonathan coming over to chair the meeting while the two women were overheard arguing on the contrary.

As the ministers made their ways out of the chambers following the cancellation of the meeting, reporters immediately swooped on Akunyili and the following short encounter took place.

Reporters: Did you know that the President has returned to the country?
Akunyili: I heard it on CNN

Reporters: Now that the President is back, what happens to the Acting President?
Akunyili: The important thing for Nigerians is to pray for the quick recovery of the President and not worry about the Acting President.

Reporters: Does that mean that the President has not recovered fully?
Akunyili: I am not a medical doctor.

All through the day, neither Jonathan nor Yar’Adua was sighted in their offices. While Jonathan later came to the office some minutes to 2.00pm, there were no signs at all that Yar’Adua was anywhere near his office throughout the day.
Shortly as the brief meeting with the ministers ended, Jonathan immediately left his office, obviously for his residence.
There was general calm at the entire Villa yesterday, which had in the past two weeks or so begun to bustle with activities following the resolution of the Senate empowering Jonathan to act as the President and the subsequent visit of government officials and politicians to transact one business or the other.

The only activity of the day that drew people to the Villa was the botched EXCOF meeting. There was not a single sign that the President was back to the place; no visitors to welcome the President, no government officials moving to the President’s office to treat one matter or the other.

Indeed, once the EXCOF meeting was cancelled, movement towards the President’s office came to a complete halt. The only life left at the Villa was noticeable at the Acting President’s wing.






 

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