Yar’Adua’s absence brought sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy to the brink of constitutional crisis and threatened to paralyze the business of government, until Jonathan was sworn in as acting leader two weeks ago.
Jonathan has since adopted the mantle of leadership, reshuffling ministers, pledging to tackle chronic power shortages and forge ahead with an amnesty in the oil-producing Niger Delta. Some politicians have said he could win support to run for president in elections due by April next year.
“The news of the president’s arrival is reportedly causing a lot of anxiety in Abuja especially among politicians, many of whom had prepared themselves for a post Yar’Adua era,” Nigerian newspaper NEXT said on its website.
State television said Yar’Adua was back but the presidency spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. One presidency official said there still was uncertainty about what the president’s return from Saudi Arabia would mean.
Information Minister Dora Akunyili had no immediate comment.
“I heard about it this morning and I am yet to be briefed,” she told Reuters.
CABINET MEETING KEY
Analysts say those close to Yar’Adua were growing concerned about Jonathan’s assertive behavior after the Senate and House of Representatives recognized him as acting head of state two weeks ago and wanted to bring the president back quickly.
“The Senate resolution was very clear. It says the acting presidency lapses once the president sets foot on the shores of Nigeria,” a government source close to Yar’Adua said.
“We now have a president and a vice president. The president can choose to delegate or carry out his functions directly.”
The cabinet, which has twice passed resolutions that there are no grounds to declare Yar’Adua unfit to govern, is due to hold a weekly meeting later on Wednesday.
Splits have emerged between Yar’Adua loyalists and ministers who feel he should step aside. Any new pronouncements after Wednesday’s meeting could be key to his political fate.
Yar’Adua arrival was shrouded in secrecy.
Two planes arrived at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport in Abuja in the early hours of Wednesday, one of them met by an ambulance which left under a heavy police escort shortly afterwards, a Reuters witness said.
Soldiers lined the main road from the airport to the city, a standard maneuver when the president is traveling.
Jonathan could continue as acting president until such time as Yar’Adua’s health recovers and he is fit enough to resume office. Should his condition be so serious as to render him incapable of holding office, he could step aside, allowing Jonathan to be sworn in as leader and name a new deputy.
Yar’Adua has been receiving treatment for pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart that can restrict normal beating, and also is known to suffer from a chronic kidney condition.
Neither the presidency, the ruling party nor the cabinet have given any details on his health since shortly after he left, fuelling speculation about the gravity of his condition.
“The state of his health is very important for the unfolding political dynamics … It’s almost impossible to keep such information secret now he is back,” said Kayode Akindele, a director at Lagos-based Greengate Strategic Partners.