nerPostTitle">BETWEEN SPINNING AND A GLORIOUS EXIT Written by Prince General Mar 1, 2010

Between spinning and a glorious exit
By Tunde Thompson
Monday , March 01 , 2010

It has now become obvious that top spinners are not to be found only in the noble game of cricket. They are traceable, also, in governance. That was confirmed last Tuesday in media reports in which the Minister of External Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, said something unusual about the real motive of the Ministers' mission to the modern courts of Saudi Arabia.

It may well be that the world's political spinners developed their skills because they desperately wished to be different from other persons in their political milieux, where they operated as ministers, political party officials, strategists or consultants.

Whatever the situation, they invariably offer new angles to even old public affairs developments with their fresh - even if usually controversial - perspectives on issues in the public domain. So, last Tuesday, Chief Maduekwe - never a man to be found verbally or editorially unready - left one aghast when he said the five Ministers and Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, were going to Saudi Arabia to thank the Saudi authorities for kindly accommodating our president while on treatment for at least 90 days in that country.

Instead of answering a question on whether or not the ministerial delegation would meet President Yar'Adua on his sick – bed, he chose to answer thus: 'We will be expressing our deep appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia for the excellent and generous attention both the government and people of Saudi have given to our President, who, importantly has been away almost three months now for medical treatment. We need to be on the record to thank the King for that, and that is enough reason for a strong team from the government to go.'

Now, when it is recalled that what the people wanted to hear through the media reporters was that, as previously announced, the five ministers and the SGF would, unfailingly, see President Yar'Adua at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah.

The spinners in politics therefore are somehow two or more steps ahead of the public while responding to questions or issues. Why did the Foreign Minister not simply say the team would see the President, knowing that the challenge of tackling the power vacuum problem depended largely on the President's health situation reports, expected from the delegation, on return to Abuja?

And by Monday, when the team left, nobody had known that its members would not even meet the President, neither in Riyadh, nor Jeddah, or anywhere else in Saudi Arabia, for that matter.

The jig-saw puzzle entailed by that decision not to comment on seeing Mr. President, was solved by Wednesday morning, when the country woke up to learn from the alert media what happened at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in the night of Tuesday, February 24: The indisposed man had reportedly arrived by 1.46 a.m. on Wednesday, and been conveyed in an ambulance to 'Aso Rock', Abuja,apparently on transit to Katsina.

Therefore, Chief Maduekwe was ironically correct in choosing to evade the question on whether or not the ministerial team would visit the president on his sick – bed. He would have looked foolish and the country been ridiculed, if he had said 'yes', only for them to arrive there and be told Mr. President had been moved to Abuja.

One can therefore say that people in high places find it difficult to tell the plain truth all the time; to avoid embarrassment later;they probably often decide that it is better to totally refrain from commenting on any fluid situation – or on any development – the circumstances of which may well be altered, any time.

Perhaps Chief Maduekwe will now tell the country whether or not he already knew by Monday, when the delegation was leaving Abuja, that its members - and notably himself - did not express the expected anxiety about meeting President Yar'Adua at his Saudi hospital, because he himself already knew Yar'Adua would have left for Abuja, by Tuesday night.

One of the expectations of any open, democratic society is that transparency will be one of the hallmarks of national life. This word is now being popularized by a business organisation in its promotion, and is described thus: ' In whatever language, transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. When we are transparent, we gain the confidence of everyone around us.'Did the secrecy of the past three months inspire any such confidence?

As mentioned in last week's column, it is a great pity that the president's ill-health had been shrouded in so much secrecy that the continued existence of the whole democratic order set up in 1999, had become unduly threatened. Now that the President is back home, it is hoped that nobody close to him will attempt to indirectly and deviously preside over Nigeria's affairs, contrary to what the National Assembly proclaimed on a 'doctrine of necessity'ground - that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan become Acting President until further notice. That is, obviously, until President Yar'Adua recovers from his illness.

It is rather unfortunate that the constitution did not think about the health qualifications of candidates for public offices, or determine the nature and duration of an illness for any prominent office-holder like the president,which can make him or her unfit to continue to serve.

Some matters definitely arise from all these recent developments: .

Can the Executive Council of the Federation succeed in passing a resolution 'by two-thirds majority of all the members' and declare the President 'incapable of discharging the functions of his office',as in Section 144 ,of the 1999 constitution,on grounds of permanent incapacity of the President or Vice-President?

Will the Senate President ever set up a medical panel on the President's health cundition?

Finally, how soon may action be taken on Section 144(2) of the constitution, which states: 'Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the President or Vice – President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,shall be published in the official gazette of the Government of the Federation…'

Those who smuggled President Yar'Adua into Abuja about 2 a.m. last Wednesday, must have had their reasons for so doing, but they have to be mindful of the need for peace and political stability in the country. They need to understand that the constitution does not provide for the exercise of Presidential powers through proxies, now that we have an Acting President, in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

The indiscipline and disrespect for constitutional dictates when the locus of presidential powers was undefined until the National Assembly's recent proclamation, can only continue to the detriment of political stability and peaceful co-existence in the country. That temptation must be resisted by all means.

It is really painful to say anything harsh about President Yar'Adua, knowing he kept thinking things would get better first in his German medical centres, and then in Saudi hospitals, wherever located.

Now that he is back home, it is advisable for him to be advised to take a bow from the more stressful position of President than that of Governor. Although this country does to owe anybody a living, the fact is that as President between 2007 and 2011 (even if only for six months), he has earned his place in. History and will be amply honoured. Why must the country keep paying for service not rendered, as some would say, since his days as Governor in Katsina State?

Let the National Assembly verify from their counterparts in the American Congress, how much fitness is expected of their presidents, and we will all then realise that only the best and fittest men and women can move Nigeria forward. If we take the business of governance seriously enough here, as elsewhere, it means the lingering belief that propping up the ailing President, instead of allowing him to take a deserved rest, is not the best policy. It is more glorious for him to resign on ill-health grounds than to be impeached, honestly.