Confusion in Aso Rock
* Jonathan says 'ship of state on course'
* Acting President yet to see President
* FEC meeting cancelled
From Madu Onuorah, Abuja
AMIDST widespread doubts, fears and misgivings over the purported return yesterday of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to Nigeria, in the dead night, indications are that, at best, the country may have only graduated from absentee Presidency to a phantom alternative.
Over 16 hours after the President's alleged return, not even the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, had set eyes on him. As at press time yesterday, Jonathan was reported to be making efforts to see Yar'Adua's wife Turai, as part of the process of seeing his boss.
In fact, the weekly Federal Executive (FEC) meeting was cancelled yesterday, purportedly at the instance of the Acting President, obviously because of the non-appearance of President Yar'Adua to chair the meeting.
Another meeting was then fixed for 2.00 p.m. with Acting President Jonathan. After a wait of about two hours by minister and others, some of whom had arrived by 9.40 am, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) Alhaji Yayale Ahmed arrived the council chamber at 12.10 to announce the cancellation.
After the 2.00 p.m. meeting which lasted a few minutes, Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, told journalists: "He (Dr Jonathan) invited us for a meeting in his meeting room at 2pm. And when we came, he told us that the President has returned, that he has been briefed by the aides of Mr President (Umaru Musa Yar'Adua) and that he hopes to see the wife of the President this evening (Wednesday), and that when we meet next week, we will be briefed on the outcome of the Saudi trip by the members of council. And that when he is eventually briefed by our President he will call us again."
But Acting President yesterday assured Nigerians that "the ship of state is on course."
The Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Ima Niboro, quoted Jonathan as saying at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that he appreciates the prayers of Nigerians both for President Yar'Adua and the nation.
According to Niboro: "He (Jonathan) thanked Nigerians for their prayers both for the President and for the nation. He said that the President's return is a pointer to the fact that the prayers of Nigerians are working.
"The Acting President called on Nigerians to continue to earnestly strive for the well-being of the nation, noting that "it is at times like this that all patriots must rise to the occasion, and place the interest of the country above every other consideration."
"According to him, Nigeria is still battling with the pains of development and progress; therefore all hands must be on deck to ensure that the integrity of the nation is maintained at all times.
"Jonathan urged Nigerians to continue to work for peace, security and stability, stating that "we have only one country that we can call our own; we must therefore single-mindedly pursue our national interest at all times."
However, the situation in the Villa was confusing as some officials of the Presidency were already fanning out messages to journalists that since President Yar'Adua was back in the country, Jonathan immediately reverted back to his former position of Vice President. In fact, the statement released by the Presidency on the President's return addressed Jonathan as "Vice President."
Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Olusegun Adeniyi, had said in a statement in Abuja that President Yar'Adua would continue his recuperation in Nigeria.
But he stated that "while the President completes his recuperation," President Goodluck Jonathan, whom the statement addressed as "Vice President Jonathan, "will continue to oversee the affairs of state."
The statement thanked "Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for competently overseeing the affairs of state in his absence."