Time to go, prominent Nigerians tell Yar’Adua
While Nigeria continues to be in the dark on the true status of President Umaru Yar'Adua's health conditions, pressure is mounting on him to resign and hand over power to the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan.
A group of 56 prominent Nigerians from diverse backgrounds, but mostly politicians and civil society activists, said in a strongly worded statement released to the media in Lagos and Abuja yesterday that Mr. Yar'Adua's failing health has created a dangerous situation whereby no one is in charge of the affairs of the state.
Northern voices weigh in
Nineteen notable voices, representing each of the northern states, also weighed in through an advertised statement yesterday, saying “in the event that the president is unable to continue in office, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan should immediately be sworn in as president as provided by Section 144 of the constitution.”
The statement that has a past national chairman of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Audu Ogbe, as a signatory said the leaders were reacting to claims that subtle pressures are being mounted around the vice president that he should also resign.
“Conventions and devices as rotation are strictly non-constitutional and any attempt to becloud issues by mixing political party administrative devices would be unhelpful in the situation we find ourselves,” the nineteen northern leaders said.
The situation in Jeddah
From Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the president remains in intensive care, authoritative sources told NEXT that no one has been allowed to see Mr. Yar'Adua, except his wife, since Saturday. He is also believed to be unconscious, though the source could not say whether it is classified as a coma. Curiously, no administration official is willing to speak on the situation but NEXT gathered that under the best scenario, Mr. Yar'Adua will still require about a month of recuperation before traveling.
The prolonged absence of the president, without a constitutional hand-over to his vice president, has been the subject of debate among concerned political leaders across the parties, who believe this has left a dangerous vacuum in the leadership of the country.
Group of 56
Listing a series of important national and international assignments he has failed to attend, the Group of 56 said this has caused what they called “several loopholes in his presidential service delivery”. Among the assignments are: “the United Nations General Assembly for which a private audience had been arranged between him and President Obama for high level discussions of issues mutually beneficial to Nigeria and the United States because he was in Saudi Arabia to 'open a university' which was a dummy sold to cover up his treatments.”
NEXT sources claimed that members of the president's family and some of his aides have suggested that he should be brought back to Nigeria, along with the medical staff treating him. But doctors are said to have counselled against it.
However, speaking strongly against the move for the president to resign, Itse Sagay, a professor of law, who is also cited as a signatory to the statement of the Group of 56, told NEXT that the basis for securing his support had nothing to do with the president's health but on the alleged threat and pressure on the vice-president to resign.
According to him, “any other thing here is fraudulently including my name and I am strongly against the view that he be forced to resign because the constitution has a clear view to tackle that part of the agreement.
“I am certainly not of the view that he should resign. He is the best judge of his own health and that is insensitive at this point.” Mr. Sagay said.
Two civil society activists, Sam Amadi and Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, who were listed on the Group of 56, also reacted sharply in a statement, saying “as a matter of our personal ethics” they are not privy to the call for Yar'Adua's resignation.
“We are seeing this statement for the first time here. No one has previously or at all consulted (with) either or both of us on any of the aspects of this statement including but not limited to its context, content, tone, positions, or timing. While we are not afraid to take positions, we are also unable to sign up to positions – such as this – that purport to or actively take our views for granted.”
The case against the president
The Group of 56, which parades a list of heavyweight politicians, including the former Senate president, Ken Nnamani; former speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari; and former presidential candidate, Olu Falae; insists that the president has breached constitutional procedures in the way “his health condition has necessitated several medical trips abroad (and for which) he has not transmitted to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he was proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office as required by Section 145 of the Constitution.”
Incapacity to continue in office
The group also asked President Yar'Adua, “to immediately choose the honourable option of either: resigning his office immediately, or if he is confident of his true physical condition, request the Federal Executive Council to pass a resolution pursuant to Section 144 (1) of the Constitution to the effect that the President appears incapable of discharging the functions of his office.”
It, however, faulted how the president's incapacity has affected the full implementation of the 2009 budget because he has been unable to coordinate the management of the national economy and to preside over the Federal Executive Council in a diligent manner.
“In the circumstance, Ministers have routinely flouted the orders of the President and engaged in infighting as a direct result of the vacuum in leadership. This was recently embarrassingly exposed to the world with the series of conflicting public statements credited to the Attorney General and the Chairperson of the EFCC. This was also exposed further when the president disavowed knowledge of a memo to all foreign missions purportedly on his instructions. Furthermore, till date, ministers continue to flout the public instruction of the president that ministers who presented memos at the FEC should stay behind to brief the media,” the group states.