A security source in Abuja told Saharareporters that the sudden and sneaky return of Umaru Yar’Adua to Nigeria in the early hours of this morning was “Turai’s attempt at a coup d’etat.” Our investigations reveal that the latest dramatic twist in the Yar’Adua saga was long in coming. Saharareporters had reported persistently that Turai Yar’Adua and her husband’s core political associates and so-called “kitchen cabinet” were afraid of permanently losing power, and the longer Yar’Adua remained sick, the more obvious that reality became.
The key plotters of Yar’Adua’s audacious midnight “return” to Abuja, as earlier reported by Saharareporters, are Hajia Turai; James Ibori, the former Delta State Governor; Tanimu Kurfi, Yar’Adua’s Chief Economic Adviser; Adamu Aliero, the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory; and Gen. Sarki Mukhtar (rtd), the National Security Adviser.
The kitchen cabinet’s plot to bring in a still bed-ridden Yar’Adua was dictated by their desire to salvage several of their big economic deals they felt would be threatened by “Acting President” Goodluck Joanthan. Tanimu Kurfi and his team are in the thick of plans to award oil block allocations to the Chinese government and to sign a huge gas deal with Russia. Turai and members of the kitchen cabinet stand to receive lucrative pay-offs from the two deals. But they feared that the deals might collapse after Jonathan indicated he wanted to stop work on oil allocation deals.
While Yar’adua was away in a Jeddah hospital, the hawks around him succeeded in forging his “signature” on a supplementary Appropriation Bill and also succeeded in pushing through oil-lifting contracts in December 2009. But they feared that, without Yar’Adua’s presence in Nigeria, their other deals in the pipeline could be thwarted.
Although Yar’adua’s return was facilitated by members of the kitchen cabinet, facts are now emerging as to how the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, was co-opted into the deal. Our sources indicate that Dambazau last night ordered the deployment of two battalions in Abuja without clearing with Jonathan, the acting president. A diplomatic source from an EU nation told Saharareporters, “The ability of the army chief to move troops without the knowledge or approval of the acting president raises serious security questions.”
Our sources indicated that Dambazau is deeply implicated in improper financial deals that made it easy for the Yar’adua hawks to enlist him in their plans. According to a petition shown to Saharareporters, the COAS, through the Ministry of Defense, had awarded “peacekeeping” contracts worth N9 billion to fictitious companies reportedly owned by James Ibori, an Israeli arms supplier, Alon Neiken (the owner of Megaplaza in Lagos) and Dambazau. Sources told Saharareporters that Dambazau has a stake in four of the companies that received the jumbo “peacekeeping” contracts. The companies involved in the scandalous contracts are HIS Nigeria, Nurit International, Yommy Logistics, Mass International, Arsenal International and M-2 International, were reportedly involved in the scandalous contract.
Yar’Adua’s core loyalists from the office of the National Security Agency confronted Dambazau with the petition, which had been submitted to the EFCC and copied to the NSA last Monday. “The team basically blackmailed Dambazau with their knowledge of the peacekeeping contracts,” said a source. Dambazau, a Lieutenant General in the Nigerian Army, reportedly objected to earlier calls to take over power and fought back initially. But he soon gave in and started taking orders from Yar’Adua’s ADC, Mustapha Onoedieva, an army infantry colonel, to deploy troops without question. We have determined that, in addition to Goodluck Jonathan, neither the Director General of State Security Services nor the Inspector-General of Police knew what was going on.
Since Yar’Adua’s return to Nigeria this morning, members of the kitchen cabinet have engaged in several maneuvers to move their agenda forward. Part of their gambit was a plan to dissolve the cabinet today. “That plan was shelved because they knew it would be impossible without Yar’Adua putting up a physical appearance to explain himself to the nation or approach the Nigerian Senate to approve a list of new ministers,” said a source aware of the moves.
Saharareporters had reported that Yar’Adua’s return would mean his “going to sleep” upon arrival while his minions figure out what to do about him. That situation has not necessarily changed, given all the trouble Team Turai has taken to ensure nobody sees the feeble, bed-bound Yar’adua in the foreseeable future – if anyone ever does. The residence where Yar’adua lies comatose has been medically fortified and secured by Nigerian soldiers and access is highly restricted. Our sources said several medical doctors imported from Saudi Arabia would manage Yar’adua’s so-called “recuperation”. There is no timeline for how long this would last, but several sources told us that it would be as long as the associates can get away with holding the farce in place. “They have enough cash to buy noisy legislators and will also be using threats of assassinations to silence those who speak out for Yar’adua’s impeachment,” said one of the sources.
Meanwhile, Saharareporters has learned that the sudden return of Yar’Adua was as a result of the decision of the Saudi authorities to minimize the diplomatic pressure that his indefinite stay in the Kingdom was inflicting on them.
Also, Yar’Adua’s wife chose to move him out of Jeddah yesterday because some of the Ministers visiting the kingdom were insisting on seeing him, going through the Saudi government.
Sources in Abuja and Saudi Arabia told Saharareporters that Turai had contacted the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, and persuaded him to delay the trip and to re-route the six-ministers to Riyadh first. This delay enabled her to move quickly to evacuate her still gravely sick husband out of Jeddah, the sources said.
Maduekwe’s bizarre change of plan and his puzzling statement that the cabinet team was not on a medical mission was a script handed to him by Turai, said our sources. Maduekwe’s changed itinerary was contrary to the original plan of the Federal Executive Council for the six-man team first to visit Yar’Adua in Jeddah, and then make a “Thank You” visit to the King of Saudi Arabia before returning home. Playing his part in Turai’s script, Maduekwe connived with aviation officials at the Presidency to delay the trip by one day. By the next day and to the utter shock of the other cabinet ministers who took the decision to send the team to Saudi Arabia, Maduekwe had unilaterally changed both the mission of the team and its itinerary.
Meanwhile, the time Maduekwe had bought for Team Turai was being taken advantage of. Thus, by the time the FEC delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia, Turai had succeeded in packaging Yar’Adua into an air ambulance and left for Abuja. The Ministers—besides Maduekwe—were shocked, and found themselves scampering back to Nigeria early this morning.
Yar’Adua’s arrival was a dramatic display of desperation and power-grab by his wife and 10 other acolytes who have vowed never to allow Goodluck Jonathan to be President even for one day. Their plan is to use Yar’Adua’s “presence” as a trump card to ensure that Jonathan’s tenure does not gain any traction, and it has not escaped Nigerians that this morning’s statement by the presidency did not once refer to Jonathan in his acting capacity. An e-mail heralding Yar’Adua’s return, which was sent by Turai and partly written in Hausa to his foot soldiers, shows that she was having difficulties reaching some of them. This is probably because she had announced to them that her ticket to power and privilege, Yar’Adua, would be back in 10 days, but she was six days early.
Several sources in Abuja have told Saharareporters that the game has changed and that Turai’s next maneuver is to fully take charge of the government. That situation seems confirmed by Jonathan’s announcement that he would meet with her this evening. Our sources also say that she is on a mission of vengeance and her co-kitchen cabinet members are no longer hiding their confidence and pre-eminence. And to demonstrate their confidence, the former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, is expected back in Abuja today or tomorrow from self-exile, according to a source in the government.
Saharareporters heard from several sources who noted that tension was high amongst government ministers as rumors circulated that their replacement would occur in a matter of weeks if not days.
Meanwhile, no one has seen or heard from Yar’Adua officially since his secretive return early this morning except the snippet of controlled information passed on to diplomats claiming that Yar’Adua was only resting because of the long flight and another group claiming that they saw him walk into the ambulance or descend from the air ambulance by himself.
The National Assembly is keeping mum as to how to interpret Yar’Adua’s return in view of their resolutions installing Jonathan as Acting President. But a highly-placed lawmaker told Saharareporters that Yar’adua’s return early today was to disrupt the Wednesday FEC meeting that might have declared him incapacitated if he had remained absent.
Several diplomatic and government sources told us that tensions remain high in Abuja, especially among politicians and government officials, with anxiety about the prospects of a coup in the air. Some opposition elements, including Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, were meeting in Lagos and Abuja to assess the “uncertain and dangerous developments,” in the words of a diplomat.
But an official of a militant group in the Niger Delta told Saharareporters that a military coup could be too expensive for Nigeria. In separate interviews, the spokesman of Niger Delta militants and the leader of Ohaneze, an Igbo group, told Saharareporters today that the notion of a united Nigeria may die if the Yar’adua camp engineers a coup to hold on to power.