According to the Daily Independent and other Lagos-based newspapers, Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili has said that the extended absence of ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua is harming Nigeria. President Umaru Yar'Adua has been undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for several months. At a cabinet meeting last Wednesday, Akunyili reportedly urged the ailing president to temporarily hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Until this week's allegations against Akunyili, cabinet support for the president appeared to be unanimous.
Professor Kabiru Mato, director of the political science department at the University of Abuja, said he’s not surprised by minister Akunyili’s alleged statement because, according to him, it’s all part of politicians trying to position themselves.
“If it is true that the minister has served the council with a contrary memo, I would think that perhaps firstly the minister is not part of that unanimous council resolution of seven days earlier, or the minister was later convinced by either her inner circle or associates to disassociate herself with an earlier resolution of council,” he said.
Mato said some political forces in Nigeria were misconstruing President Yar’Adua’s absence from the country because "they desire to walk in the President’s shoes" so that they may gain access to the country’s resources.
The Nigerian cabinet has twice passed resolutions saying Mr. Yar'Adua is fit to govern despite the president's more-than-two-month stay in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Mato said Information Minister Akunyili’s reported memo does not mean that the cabinet is split.
He said Akunyili should tender her resignation if she is convinced that the president’s long absence is unconstitutional.
“It shouldn’t be seen as a split against the cabinet. I think the minister should go ahead and take the most honorable position by perhaps resigning her appointment as a minister if she’s convinced that what obtains now is unconstitutional,” Mato said.
Mato said Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister also told journalists Thursday that the cabinet was united and that it stood by its resolution that President Yar’Adua was indeed capable of continuing his mandate following his medical treatment.