Anxiety, confusion in Aso Rock as FEC meeting is postponed

THE SUN Newspaper- Lucky Nwankwere

Confusion reigned supreme at the Presidential Villa yesterday as ministers waited for over two hours for the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to commence to no avail.
Neither the returnee President Umaru Yar’Adua nor Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was on hand to preside at the meeting.

The ministers, most of whom were seated in the council chambers, venue of the meeting much earlier than usual, sat in silence as they waited for a meeting that would not hold. It was no doubt one of the most quiet sessions of the present federal cabinet since its inception.

The usual jokes and exchange of banters among the ministers which usually characterized such gathering were completely absent as many of the members chose to remain silent, not talking to anyone and not being talked to.

While the ministers waited patiently and quietly inside the chambers, the newsmen and security operatives gathered outside the chambers engaged in their own waiting game. The arrival in the country of the ailing president earlier in the day dominated discussion by all around.
The sudden appearance at 9.53 am of 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 aroused the attention of all.

The duo appeared ready for work, fuelling speculations that President Yar’Adua might likely preside at the meeting. This was buttressed by the fact that the security operative guarding the president’s seat inside came from the president’s side and not one of the acting president’s men.

As photographers and cameramen surged forward to take their photographs, the CSO grabbed the hand of the ADC and they ran towards the office of the president to avoid the newsmen.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Adamu Aliero, arrived at 10.09am and headed straight to where the trio of CSO, ADC and the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Special Duties, Alhaji Inuwa Baba, were engaged in a discussion. He conferred with them before joining his colleagues in the council chambers.

As signs began to emerge that all was not well, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsaye and Inuwa Baba headed towards the acting president’s wing of the villa perhaps on a mission to persuade him to come and take his place at the meeting.
Unable to make any headway, the CSO and the ADC drove out of the villa and stayed away for some 22 minutes. The movement of ministers in and outside the council chambers became suspicious as many of them worked their phones.

Words filtered in that Acting President Jonathan had refused to be part of the meeting because of the suspicion that he might be humiliated by the president’s men who would demand that he steps down as soon as the president appeared. With the atmosphere becoming increasingly uneasy, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, who was one of the six-man team that travelled to Saudi Arabia arrived the council chambers at exactly 12.11pm and proceeded to make his announcement.

“Honourable ministers, ladies and gentlemen; the acting president has directed that we should announce that this council meeting be postponed. Accordingly, we are to go back to our offices, but a special meeting with the acting president and with all ministers in attendance is being convened at 2pm in the acting president’s conference room. Of course, attendance is mandatory. Thank you and God bless.”
With that, the ministers dispersed to return at 2pm for the scheduled meeting with the acting president.
Asked if she was aware of the president’s return, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, said “yes, I heard it from CNN.”
On who was in charge, she said the issue was that all Nigerians should continue to pray for the health of the president.


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