Day One of President's return to Aso Rock

THE SUN Newspaper- Lucky Nwankwere

It was a mixture of uncertainty, tension and celebration in Aso Rock yesterday following the sudden return to the country of President Umaru Yar’Adua who was away in Saudi Arabia for 90 days on health ground.

Many of the workers who had arrived the seat of power quite early in the day were not certain that the news of the president’s return was not just another of the many rumours that they had come to associate the issue of the president’s hospitalization and planned return to the country.

Anxiety took a better part of many people who were eager to see how the issue of who is in charge, following the recognition by the National Assembly of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the acting president would be handled.

Will the president pull a surprise and appear at yesterday’s weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting? Will Jonathan step aside as acting president and vacate the president’s seat for him (Yar’Adua)? Will the two leaders embrace themselves to show to all that all is still well between them? There were many questions begging for answers.
Inside the council chambers, one of President Yar’Adua’s body guards had taken position behind the president’s seat, a clear indication that none other than its original owner would be allowed to use it.
To prove that yesterday was not an ordinary day, most of the ministers arrived and were seated at the council chambers venue of the FEC meeting. At 9.48 am, the Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe arrived and instead of alighting from his car, surveyed the place and was driven off again. He returned almost immediately after.

At 9.53 am, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) as well as the aide-de-camp (ADC) to the president, Alhaji Yusuf Tilde and Col. Mustapha Oniveta, both of whom had been away in Saudi Arabia with their boss in the last three months arrived. With their presence, every trace of doubt about the president’s return was removed.
As photographers surged towards the two security chiefs to record their arrival, the CSO grabbed the ADC by his hand and they turned and disappeared towards the president’s office where they exchanged pleasantries with the president’s loyalists.

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Alero Adamu, arrived at 10.09 am and made to head towards the council chambers to join his colleagues, but sighted the CSO and ADC and walked up to them. With the three was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Alhaji Inuwa Baba. Aliero conferred with them and joined his colleagues.

Inside the council chambers where the ministers were seated, there was pin-drop silence as they waited for a meeting that would not hold. There was no sign of either the president or the acting president. Nobody, not even the ministers had an idea of what was happening. All waited.
At this point, it had became clear to virtually everyone that all was not well. The CSO and ADC to the president were making frantic moves to reach out to Acting President Jonathan to be at the meeting and preside.

At 11.07 am, the Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsaye and Alhaji Inuwa Baba were sent as emissaries to go and persuade Jonathan to take his place at the meeting and flag it open. They went and came back. Still there was no sign of both the president and the acting president.
Unable to get the meeting started, the CSO and ADC at about 11. 16am drove out of the villa and stayed away for some 22 minutes before returning. By this time, some of the ministers had become agitated. No one was making any excuses as to what was happening.

Two or three of the ministers occasionally stepped out of the chambers to make telephone calls and returned. There was anxiety. As confusion gained ground, all manner of rumours were bandied. In the midst of the confusion, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, who was in the six-man team to Saudi Arabia arrived the council chambers at exactly 12.11pm and announced to his colleagues that the meeting had been called off on the order of the acting president.
He said Jonathan had convened a meeting for 2pm in his conference room which was mandatory to all ministers. The meeting dispersed as ministers headed to their respective offices with many of them discussing in low tone about the development.

At 2pm, the ministers again converged at the acting president’s conference room for the scheduled meeting. The meeting lasted barely five minutes. While some of the ministers filed out of the room and headed straight to their vehicles, others went upstairs to further confer with Jonathan.
At 2.13pm, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, briefed the State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the meat of which was that the acting president was yet to see the president. He would be meeting later in the day with the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua from whom he expected to get full briefing about the president’s health condition.

At 2.39pm, chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by the National Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, arrived to see the acting president. They left not quite long after.
At 3.47 pm, the Chairman of the Governors Forum and governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, showed up to see Jonathan. Both met briefly and Saraki departed the villa.


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