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Jonathan resumes work at Aso Villa


* PDP seeks time for choice of VP
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday resumed work at the Presidential Villa, Abuja four days after he was sworn in last Thursday as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. This followed President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s death on Wednesday night.

Jonathan arrived at the office he used since May 29, 2007 as Vice President and Acting President and settled down briefly. At 11.30 a.m., he along with the National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Principal Secretary, Mike Oghiadomhe, Chaplain of Villa Chapel, Obioma Onwuzuruke, and Principal Secretary to Yar’Adua, Eddy Edevwie walked to the President’s office, using the alleyway from the Vice President’s office, passing the Villa Briefing Room and Council Chambers.

In the foyer of the President’s office was a red carpet with ropes for the visiting Gambian leader. Sources said Jonathan visited the office where he inspected the facilities. Later, other aides, who have worked with him as Vice President and Acting President, followed suit.

At 1.03 p.m., the President walked out of the front entrance of the President’s office, flanked by Gusau, Oghiadomhe, Ima Niboro (Jonathan’s spokesman), Edevwie and other aides.

Twenty-seven minutes later, the flags, which had been positioned to receive the visiting Gambian leader were removed. Reason: It is now the Gambian Vice President that would visit. But the ropes around the receiving points remained with the red carpet. And inside the President’s official residence, where Yar’Adua lived until his death, some members of staff and vehicles belonging to Julius Berger Plc, were moving equipment and containers in and out of the area.

At 1.33 p.m., Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili and Minister of Special Duties, Mr. Caleb Olubolade, walked to the President’s office. Twelve minutes after, a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that brought the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed drove in and parked at the President visitors’ parking lot. Ahmed alighted and had discussions with some protocol officers. When it was 2 O’clock, he walked into the President’s office.

The activities in the villa continued at 2.16 p.m. when Gambian Vice President, Mrs. Isatou Njie-Saidy’s convoy drove in and was received by the duo of Ahmed and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN). At 2.39 p.m., Jonathan walked back to the President’s office where the meeting with the Gambian delegation took place. At 3.15 p.m., the meeting was over. As the Gambian team was leaving, the President returned to his temporary office in the Vice President’s wing.

At 3.38 p.m., the convoy of the President left his office for Aguda House, where some public assignments were scheduled to hold in the evening.

Since last November 23 when Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia for a medical trip, the President’s office wing has been bereft of any activity. In fact, it has not hosted any visitor or event. The place was accessible only to a few office personnel. The late President’s return last February 24 did not change the situation, as Yar’Adua never entered the office till he died on May 5, 2010.

And to prepare the official residence for the new President, employees of Julius Berger, who won the maintenance contract for the Presidential Villa facilities, were seen renovating the structure yesterday.

Jonathan would move out of the Aguda House official residence of the Vice President to make way for the incoming Vice President.

And disturbed by the 19 northern states’ agitations for the vacant Vice President’s office, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has advised them to give Jonathan, the time to make his choice. The party said the President would pick a partner that would work with him to develop the country.

The Guardian learnt that the party’s leadership is worried over declarations by some PDP members over who should emerge as Vice President.

Since Jonathan took oath of office as President last Thursday, different groups have come out to speak on where the new Vice President should come from. A few days ago, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Education, Farouk Lawan, was reported to have said the North West should be allowed to produce the Vice President.

Following the intense agitations, the PDP leadership yesterday directed the chairmen of the party’s 19 northern states’ chapters to call their members to order to allow the President to choose whoever he wants to work with from the region.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, told The Guardian yesterday that considering the situation the nation had found itself, agitations would be expected but the party wants members to allow Dr. Jonathan pick a candidate of his choice.

“In a situation like this, you have a lot of jostling, but the bottom line is that people should allow the President to pick a person of his choice. It is not unusual but when the President picks his choice, everybody will fall in line. We therefore appeal to our members and Nigerians to allow the President do his job. All we need to do at this time is to give him the maximum support and co-operation so that he can move the nation forward,” he said.

Also, PDP National Legal Adviser, Olusola Oke, said the party is waiting for Jonathan for consultation over the matter. He said the PDP would give Jonathan the maximum co-operation he requires to succeed. “We are awaiting his invitation or consultation with him over the matter. But what we can assure Nigerians is that the party will give him all the support to succeed in office.”

A founding member of the party and elder statesman from Rivers State, Prince Emma Anyanwu, has appealed to persons insisting that the PDP presidential candidate for the 2011 election should come from the North to have a rethink so that Jonathan could complete the joint ticket given by PDP to him and the late Yar’Adua for eight years.

In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, Anyanwu said: “President Goodluck Jonathan’s ascension of power as the President of Nigeria following the unfortunate death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is based on being a joint holder of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket given to the late President and himself in 2007.

“The statements of our elders of northern extraction who are calling on President Jonathan not to run for 2011 are therefore not coming from the point of view of the constitution which clearly spelt out the mode of succession to the office of Presidency in Nigeria.

“President Jonathan is not breaking the rule. He is fully keeping to the spirit of our constitution by assuming the office of the President now to continue with the joint ticket given him and the late President Yar’Adua in 2007.

“Since the joint ticket is presumed to be for an eight-year tenure by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which gave it to them and since Jonathan cannot come back to serve as Vice President after ascending to the position of President due to the death of Yar’Adua, it is just and lawful for him to complete the remaining five years of the joint ticket,” he said.

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