Abba-Ruma leads Yar'Adua group in negotiations with Jonathan

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Sola Adebayo and Olamilekan Lartey

Indications emerged on Sunday that ministers loyal to ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, had begun negotiation with the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on how to be integrated into the new order in the Presidency.

A reliable source in the Presidency told our correspondent on Sunday that the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Sayyadi Abba-Ruma, was leading the pro-Yar’Adua elements in the discussion with Jonathan on the way forward, in view of the worsening health condition of their principal.

Our correspondent learnt that the Chief Economic Adviser to Yar’Adua, Dr. Tanimu Yakubu, is also a member of the team.

It was gathered that the pro-Yar’Adua elements initiated the meeting because they believed it would be difficult for Yar’Adua to return to office due to his deteriorating health condition.

Investigation by our correspondent showed that the team was raised by the President’s wife, Turai, as it was becoming apparent that it would be difficult to sustain Yar’Adua’s presidency. This is in the light of widespread calls from within and outside the country that the President should either resign or be impeached on account of his protracted illness.

Our source in the Presidency disclosed that the discussion, which commenced on Thursday in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, centred principally on how the “Yar’Adua political family” would be brought on board on the Jonathan presidency and to provide soft landing for core loyalists of the President.

It was gathered that the team urged Jonathan to allow Yar’Adua’s loyalists to produce the Vice-President and retain members of his kitchen cabinet at strategic ministries in the event of a cabinet reshuffle by the Acting President.

Our correspondent learnt that the group loyal to Yar’Adua was apprehensive about their political future in the emerging political scenario in the presidency.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said the pro-Yar’Adua elements had nursed the fears that Jonathan might not be comfortable with them in the new order because of their loyalty to the President.

Specifically, the team pleaded with Jonathan to guarantee and sustain the political and business interests of Yar’Adua’s family in the likelihood of his confirmation as president.

It was also learnt that the Ruma-led team also brought a message of felicitation from a former governor of the South-South, who had been widely reported to be opposed to calls to make Jonathan Acting President.

Our source, who is one of the close aides of Jonathan, quoted the Acting President as saying that everybody had already been brought on board in the new dispensation.

He said Jonathan assured them that nobody would be persecuted on account of his/her role in the succession crisis in the Presidency.

The source added, “Negotiation commenced last Thursday between the loyalists of President Umaru Yar’Adua and the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on the way forward for the country in the wake of the protracted illness of the President. The team was led by the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sayyadi Abba-Ruma, and the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Taminu Yakubu, was also present.

“The meeting was initiated by those loyal to President Yar’Adua because it is now clear to them that it would be difficult for Yar’Adua to continue as president.

“The Ruma-led group requested that the pro-Yar’Adua group be allowed to produce the Vice-President whenever the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, emerges as substantive president, and that some key ministers from Yar’Adua’s clique be retained in order to serve the interests of Yar’Adua’s family. The group also urged the acting president to forgive a South-South governor, who spearheaded moves to scuttle his emergence as acting president.

“The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, did not talk for long. He (Jonathan) merely thanked them for their interest in the wellbeing of the country. He also told them that all appointees of President Umaru Yar’Adua had already been brought on board. The acting president added that there was nothing personal in all that had been happening and that nobody had offended him personally,” added the source in the Presidency, who craved anonymity.

The spokesman of the Acting President, Mr. Ima Niboro, could not be reached for his reaction to the report as he neither picked calls to his cell phone nor replied text messages sent to him.

The SMS reads, “Good day. I have been calling to confirm a report of a meeting between your boss, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and ministers loyal to President Umaru Yar’Adua, on the way forward for the country. We learnt that the group raised by the First Lady, Turai, was led by the minister of Agriculture, Abba-Ruma. The meeting commenced on Thursday. Please give further details.”

Also, Abba-Ruma and Yakubu could not be reached on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Government said on Sunday that the absence of Governor Timipre Sylva from the meeting of the South-South Governors Forum in Benin had nothing to do with his relationship with the Acting President.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Doifie Ola, said Sylva’s absence from the meeting was a non-issue as it had nothing to do with the Acting President since the governors did not meet with Jonathan.

“It’s not an issue at all that the governor was not at the meeting with his brother governors. Let’s not see that as a sign of anything,” Ola said.

Ola said in an interview that there was a cordial relationship between the Sylva and Jonathan.

Sylva succeeded Jonathan as governor of Bayelsa State.

There had been speculations in some circles that Sylva’s absence at the meeting, where the South-South governors pledged their support to Jonathan, was a confirmation of the frosty relationship between the two.

Sylva was the only South-South governor that did not attend the meeting.

Governors present at the meeting were Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State; Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom; Liyel Imoke, Cross River; Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta; and Adams Oshiomhole, Edo.


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