Jonathan moves into President's office

THE PUNCH Newspaper

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday officially resumed work at his new office at the Presidential wing of Aso Rock Villa in Abuja.

He was inaugurated as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 6, a day after the death of former President, Umaru Yar’Adua.

Jonathan reported at his former office at the Vice-Presidential wing of the Villa about 11.20am on Monday and held a brief meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.

Shortly after the meeting, he walked down the Presidential wing of the Villa in company with his Principal Secretary, Chief Mike Oghiadome, other aides, Ahmed, and the Chaplain of Aso Villa Chapel, Ven. Obioma Onwuzurumba.

At the Presidential wing, Onwuzurumba offered prayers to God before Jonathan officially occupied the Presidential seat at about 12.20pm.

Jonathan and his team spent about 30 minutes in his new office, during which some of the late Yar’Adua’s aides, including Mr. David Edevbie (Principal Secretary to the late former President), arrived to brief him on some undisclosed issues.

At about 12.51 pm, some of the President’s aides, including Oghiadome, and his spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, emerged from President’s office, in company with Ahmed, Onwuzurumba and Edevbie.

Ten minutes after, Edevbie, Niboro and Oghiadome, returned to the President’s office. Edevbie was observed clutching some files.

Jonathan left the President’s office at about 1. 03pm and returned to his old office in the vice-president’s wing.

The President came back to his new office at 2.38pm to receive the visiting Gambian Vice-President, Dr. Aisatou Saidey.

Saidey was on a condolence and solidarity visit on behalf of the Government and people of Gambia.

The President later moved to his “temporary” residence in the Aguda House, where he received more visitors. Aguda House is the official residence of the Vice-President

He had continued to receive visitors there even after he was inaugurated on May 6.

One of our correspondents observed that Jonathan was still using his old Aide-de-Camp, a police officer. Protocol stipulates that the President and Commander-in-Chief is entitled to a military ADC.

It was gathered that Jonathan may, in the interim, move into the First Lady’s wing in the Presidential Villa, pending the conclusion of renovation works in the President’s residence.

Staff of Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, the firm that maintains the Villa, were seen cleaning, repainting, changing furniture, and carrying out sundry repairs in the apartment.

A source in the company said that renovation works in the First Lady’s wing commenced on Saturday and lasted till Monday.

He said the President gave Julius Berger three days to conclude the renovation in order to enable him move in before the appointment of a new Vice-President.

The source explained that it was not unusual for a President to initially reside in the First Lady’s wing before fully moving into his house in the Villa.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did the same when he arrived in Aso Rock in 1999.

Meanwhile, the North-West caucus in the House of Representatives on Monday, advised the President to pick his deputy from the zone.

The group gave the need to balance the power equation in the country and fairness as the reasons for its advice.

It argued that since the late Yar‘Adua was from the North-West, “it is only fair that a person from the North-West be selected to fill the vacant position of the Vice-President.”

The group insisted that anything to the contrary would not only be rejected by the zone but also that the ”step will definitely not be in the strategic interest of Mr. President.”

The group is making the demand amidst speculations that former Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, and the National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusua (retd), are among frontline candidates from the zone being propped up for the job.

The lawmakers, who addressed a news conference at the National Assembly in Abuja, claimed that the current scheming for the slot of the vice-president was unnecessary as Jonathan ought to have compensated the zone by picking a candidate from the North-West.

The chairman of the caucus, Alhaji Bashir Adamu-Kazaure, who read the text of the group‘s position, said, ”The current intense scheming to upstage the North-West in the race for the vice-president is unfair, unjust, condemnable and portends grave danger for the unity of the North in particular and Nigeria in general, moreso this will endanger the geopolitical power equation in the country.

“The North-West should be considered for the position of vice-president. Anything to the contrary will amount to shutting out the North-West from the centres of power in Nigeria.”

The Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Mr. Farouk Lawan; the Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Mr. Bala Ibn Na‘Allah; the Chairman of the Committee on Millennium Development Goals, Mrs. Saudatu Sani; and several other members of the caucus attended the briefing.

When journalists reminded the group that the zone the vice-president came from was irrelevant so long as he could perform his duties, the lawmakers replied that if the North-West did not get the slot, it could affect the unity of the country.

Lawan, who answered the question, observed that the zoning of political offices had become a convention in Nigeria since 1999 and should be adhered to.

Lawan said ordinarily, where the President or vice-president hailed from was irrelevant so long as he was prepared to work for the interest of Nigerians.

“However, we should assign positions to reflect fairness, balance and justice,” he added.

But the group which stated that it had not identified any particular candidate yet, clarified that its concern was that the person should come from the North-West.

Responding to a question on whether the caucus would endorse a candidate from Southern Kaduna for instance or any minority area in the North-West, Lawan replied, ”I believe that a candidate from the North-West, any part of North-West, will be acceptable to this group.”


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