Umaru Yar`adua: Away From Duty !

Listen to article

Since my last article entitled “On Yar'Adua's incapacitation, the constitution, and a dream” a lot has happened, including the banal and sensible. I must say clearly what the issues are. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the nation, Mr.

Michael Aondoakaa was reported as saying that those who had called on Yar'Adua to resign due to his frequent medical pilgrimage abroad and severe ill health were “immoral.” He went on to say that there was nothing in the constitution that said the “president should not fall sick.” It irks the senses that a Minister of Justice could be so disingenuous. It would surprise me to no end if the Minister genuinely does not know that the Nigerian people are not blaming President Yar'Adua for reportedly falling sick. We all know that the Nigerian constitution does not forbid the president to fall sick. But this is what we know; and the Minister ought to share in this open knowledge. The Nigerian constitution states clearly what the president ought to do, should do, and must do when he must be absent from duty, in order that there be no vacuum created in leadership.

Section 145 is clear that the president ought to send a written declaration to the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives accordingly, upon which the Vice-president would be constitutionally recognized as Acting President and enter fully upon the duties of President of the federation with full powers. Until another written communication is received by the leadership of the national assembly to the effect that the president is ready to resume his duties as President of the federation, the Vice-President is recognized constitutionally and functionally as Acting President with all executive powers, and as commander-in-chief. This provision ensures that the business of state is not compromised in any way because of a preventable vacuum in leadership. I should expect Mr. Aondoakaa to have given the necessary counsel to Mr. President in the interest of the nation rather than say and imply what intelligent Nigerians are not saying.

The spokesman of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ayogu Eze said he was not sure that the Nigerian constitution required a written declaration by the president to the national assembly that he could not perform his presidential duties. He promised to check the issue. I am appalled that a senator and spokesman for the Nigerian senate could display such plain ignorance about so important a matter as devolution of power. It is a testament to the quality of people that Nigerians have in public office, who don't take seriously their offices for which they receive outrageous remuneration and yet hardly prepare themselves for their responsibilities.

On Thursday December 3, 2009, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu made some outrageous statements about President Yar'Adua's health and the resultant leadership crisis in Nigeria. He said, “The constitution did not make provision for how long a president could stay out of the country and then he would lose his job. There is no such provision in our constitution.

“So, if he spends one year abroad, of course you have a vice-president who will be acting in his place. The constitution did not say if he spends one month or one day or one week, then he would lose his job.

“There is no such provision. But I don't think there is anything for anybody to worry about; and that is why it is good to always create a system.

“Now nobody is bigger than a system. So if we have a system that is running, even if the President is not there, hopefully I am sure that things will move normally.”

Senator Ekweremadu needs to be responded to and told how he is not doing his job:

1. He says that if the president should spend one year abroad, “of course you have a vice-president who will be acting in his place.” Have Senator Ekweremadu and his colleagues been officially informed by President Yar'Adua of his absence from duty in accordance to section 145? Is the senator aware that there is a constitutional provision that must be satisfied before the Vice-President starts “acting” in the place of the president? If he (unlike his colleague, Senator Eze) knows about this provision (Section 145), have its provisions been satisfied to the best knowledge of Senator Ekweremadu? The fact of the matter is that if due process is followed and presidential powers devolve to the Vice-President, the president could as well spend the whole of his term abroad, especially if he has not exhibited credible competence before in the office of president. What patriotic Nigerians are concerned about is this vacuum in leadership which President Yar'Adua's unconstitutional absence has caused. It is unconstitutional because the Nigerian people have not been officially communicated via a written declaration as required by the constitution. Consequently, I make bold to assert that President Yar'Adua has absconded from duty without notice. 2. Senator Ekweremadu says, “But I don't think there is anything for anybody to worry about; and that is why it is good to always create a system. Now, nobody is bigger than a system. So, if we have a system that is running, even if the President is not there, hopefully I am sure that things will move normally.”

I must say that we have a system. What we lack are faithful people to operate that system. Senator Ekweremadu and his colleagues are incompetent and unfaithful, and so the system has been allowed to collapse. We have a constitution (as imperfect as it appears) which has clearly laid down procedures in matters such as I am writing about. If the system were allowed to work by Senator Ekweremadu, Senator David Mark and co, we would not be in this mess. If in the next two weeks (from now that I write), the nation continues to be held hostage, I fear for Nigeria. Mark my words!

President Yar'Adua's Adviser on National Assembly matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji was alleged to have “scuttled” President Yar'Adua's attempt to send a written declaration to the National Assembly before he left for medical pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The senator's office wasted no time in refuting the allegation. Whether the newspaper which reported this stands by its story or not, to me, it is just a distraction. Has President Yar'Adua made any such efforts before in the past; or has he, since we started writing about this constitutional breach, written (another) letter? We too often seek to extricate rulers from their acts of incompetence, neglect, or both and place the blame on “bad advisers.” Maybe we have unlearned and people of endemic poor judgment in positions of authority. The buck stops at President Yar'Adua's desk. He is not a child not to know simple presidential responsibilities and obligations.

There have been calls by some pretentiously pious people for Nigerians to “pray” for President Yar'Adua while some government officials announced to whoever cared to listen that President Yar'Adua “is hale and hearty.” If a blind man tells me he can see, I wouldn't worry to “pray” for him; his blindness should remain who denies it, hides it, or deceives people about it. For weeks, some religious people have been “praying” for Yar'Adua's good health. Yet, there is no sign of recovery. I must state as clearly as I can that until President Yar'Adua formally informs us his employers that he is away on sick leave I consider him to have absconded from duty. When he and his loyalists do the right thing, then people that think like me will start beseeching God for tender mercies on behalf of our dear president. I am so disappointed that we pretend to be building a system, and when we are called to show it by deeds rather than words, we start committing acts of poor subterfuge.

I sought for him in Aso Rock; he was not there. I asked about him at the Apo quarters; they said they did not know. Are you not my watchmen, to monitor his movement? “Well, there is no cause for alarm; just pray for him”, they answered. But how should I not worry when you keep drumming in my ears the prayer mantra? The captain has gone. But where has he gone? Some say he is in Jeddah; others say he may be ferried to another continent. But has the captain made preparation for a substitute captain? “He trusts no captain but himself”, they told me. But what becomes of the ship on high sea? As faintly as it can be, I heard the voice speak, “If the ship will sink, let it sink. The ship or my life; which is more important? More prayers for me; more prayers for me.” But who prays for the nation, looted and raped? Who spares a thought for my land, scared by misrule and corruption? To your tents, O people. The nation trembles; the familiar music soon plays. Who loves to dance to the tune, let him prepare. But those who hate the tune must speak up and act out now, before the Abuja gang forces it.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is the President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( and Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria. Email: [email protected]

| Article source