THE desperate battle to keep the Yar’Adua cabinet united seems to have collapsed, with a minister insisting on the transfer of power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.
Minister of Information and Communications Prof. Dora Akunyili yesterday submitted a memo to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to push ahead with her position that ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua should hand over to Dr Jonathan.
Mrs Akunyili’s position, observers said yesterday, shows that she may resign from the cabinet after the defence of the memo next Wednesday.
But Yar’Adua’s loyalists in the cabinet are believed to have planned to kill the memo. Mrs Akunyili submitted her memo yesterday to the Cabinet Secretariat in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation before coming to her office for an official function at 2pm.
A source in the SGF’s office said: “The minister personally brought the memo and we are already circulating the memo to all ministers.”
In the memo, entitled: State of the nation, Mrs Akunyili explains why Yar’Adua should write the National Assembly to enable the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to be inaugurated acting president.
She urged fellow ministers to be aware that Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy is being threatened. She said the FEC could correct Yar’Adua’s error of not handing over to Jonathan.
The memo reads: “The purpose of this memo is to seek Council’s support to help in resolving the lingering political situation in the country by passing a resolution calling Mr. President to officially hand over to the Vice-President to function as Acting President.
“Council will recall that I presented a paper titled state of the nation to council on the 3rd of February 2010 and after circulating copies to ministers (which was read and digested by all), I was advised to withdraw the paper. “In view of the seriousness of the situation, and my concern for our dear country, I’m now compelled to present it formally as a Memo to Council for consideration.
“I want to start my humble submission by stating that I am a 100% loyalist of President Yar’Adua. He appointed all of us because he trusts us and wants us to help him to run government effectively and efficiently.
“Mr. President has given all of us seated in this chamber the opportunity to serve our nation as members of this Council. I believe that in the choice of all of us, as individuals and group, Mr. President must have considered our ability to guide him aright to serve our people better, promote and protect the Constitution in line with the oath of office taken before him in this chamber by each and every one of us. President Yar’Adua is very dear to me just as he is to all of you.
“We are all aware of what has been happening in Nigeria, especially as it concerns the issue of making the Vice-President an Acting President. There have been debates for and against this.
“Some have argued that there is no vacuum and that it is ok for the Vice-President to function as Vice-President, not as Acting President pending the return and recovery of Mr. President.
“For the proponents of this theory, I want to remind them that permanent secretaries have been waiting to be sworn in for over two months now. Consequently, many ministries are without permanent secretaries, including my ministry.
“As it is today, the Vice-President cannot take any document to National Assembly. In a very desperate situation like the recent Jos crisis, the Vice-President deployed troops to Plateau, but many have openly said that he does not have the right because there cannot be two Commanders-in-Chief at a time.
“Just recently, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) opted out of the amnesty and resumed hostility. They argued that they have been kept in limbo since the President took ill and they appeared to have been abandoned since nobody could talk to them or keep the promise made to them. Our economy is once more being threatened.
“The past Chief Justice of the Federation swore in his successor for the first time in the history of our nation. The power vacuum at that level has also compounded our ‘poor image’ at the international level because of our commitments and engagements that require the presence of our President.
“Many similar situations/opportunities have existed in the past 70 days that I do not need to recount. I do not also need to repeat the uncomplimentary statements made by United States, United Kingdom and European Union (EU) concerning the current state of affairs in Nigeria.
“There has been persistent agitation by the public for members of the Federal Executive Council to do something. Nigerians expect us to rise to this challenge on behalf of our President as the leader of this administration.
“Some eminent citizens have spoken. They include former Heads of State and others who have served our nation in various capacities. The Senate has also taken a position of which we are all aware. The looming crisis in the system is over boiling. Our hard-earned democracy is being threatened by the day.
“What went wrong? We love our President but we should remember that he is not infallible. Before he left Nigeria he had a moral and constitutional obligation to officially inform the Senate and hand over the mantle of leadership to the Vice-President pending his return and recovery.
That did not happen. Yes, the mistake has been made by our boss and our brother. Mr. President is ill and did not choose to be sick. But while we continue to pray for his recovery, we should try to right the wrong.
“Some have argued that he left the country in a hurry. This argument has been punctured by the fact that he signed the Appropriation Bill for National Assembly. If he could sign the Bill, why did he not sign a letter for Vice-President to act on his behalf until he is well enough?
“We have a local proverb that says that: ‘A goat does not get strangulated by the rope used in tying it when an adult is present.’ We are all in a better position to know that the polity is overheated to a frightening level. Posterity will judge us harshly if we do not positively intervene to resolve this logjam.
“I wish to call on the Federal Executive Council to act now in the best interest of our dear President and our dear nation. We also need to save ourselves from shame because our stand is becoming very embarrassing. Mr. President has been away for over 70 days. Even if he returns tomorrow, is it not better for him to rest and recover fully before taking over from the Vice-President?
“We need to do what is morally right and constitutional for the President to officially hand over to the Vice-President to function as Acting President.
“I am not saying that President Yar’Adua should resign or condemn him for being sick. He did not choose to be sick. We will continue to pray for him but all I am saying is, let us encourage him to do the right thing so that our hard-earned democracy will not be truncated. Anybody who feels otherwise is unfair to our President (who has been preaching the rule of law), and utterly unfair to our country.
“The name of our President and all his achievements are being rubbished by this unfortunate debacle. The President and his family are also being put under undue pressure which will not help his recovery. If we fail to act now, history will not forgive us.”
As at press time, it was learnt that Mrs Akunyili may resign after defending the memo at the next FEC meeting. A source said: “The truth is that Mrs Akunyili has been under psychological trauma in the last two weeks on the state of the nation. I am close to her, I can tell you that nobody or group influenced her. She is a strong-willed and patriotic Nigerian.”
“She had at a point summoned her aides on the state of affairs and options available to the country. Initially, she contemplated resignation from the cabinet but she had a change of mind to use her position as a FEC member to prick the conscience of her colleagues in the cabinet.
“I think she felt fulfilled on Wednesday and today when she served the memo on other ministers. The reality is that she might resign soon. But she wants to defend her memo of which the outcome is predictable.”
Members of the Yar’Adua kitchen cabinet seem unmoved by the Akunyili memo. They rose yesterday from a secret meeting in Abuja to stick to the December 2, last year decision of the FEC that Yar’Adua is not incapacitated.
But some of the ministers who blocked Mrs Akunyili’s memo on Wednesday have gone behind closed doors to congratulate her, a source told The Nation.
A senior member of the cabinet said he was confounded by the double-speak of some ministers. The source said: “I was shocked how some ministers pretending to be pro-Yar’Adua, who confronted Akunyili in FEC, went behind to congratulate her again for speaking the truth.
“Some of us would have rich memoirs to write after leaving this cabinet.” Responding to a question, the source said: “In fact, after shooting down Akunyili’s paper on Wednesday, it was the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, who retrieved copies from all the ministers to avoid leakage to the public.
“Maybe Yayale took that step to give Akunyili a second chance to have a rethink. But the woman is going ahead.” It was gathered also that pro-Yar’Adua ministers plan to shoot down the memo.
“I actually think that her memo cannot go far. She is playing politics with it as a cabinet survivalist and we won’t allow her to have her way,” a source said, adding:
“We believe that our December 2 decision was right because there is no evidence before us that the President is totally incapacitated. There was no medical record before us to show that he is incapacitated.
“What if we take a decision that Yar’Adua is incapacitated and his doctors write to us that he is okay. Equity demands that we come up with clean hands.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The position of Yar’Adua’s camp is that she has no business being in the cabinet anymore. Her memo speaks of lack of faith in the present Federal Executive Council (FEC).”