Aso Rock: After 40 days and 40 nights -By Nzeribe Ihekwaba

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An old saying among lawyers suggests that the law does not concern itself with drivel. An axiomatic restatement is that "de minimis non curat praetor", or that the ranking (government) official does not concern herself with trifles. Frequently in the temple of justice, the De Minimis exemption is invoked in shutting the door of relief to charlatans bent on frivolous pursuits, or persons that are only interested in the wanton abuse of process, notwithstanding their locus standi. But that may not be the case with persons that are presently incensed by the alleged paralysis at the seat of power, and by extension, the other arms of government at all tiers. The average Nigerian is obviously concerned at the high-stakes poker game prevailing at the nation's conclave of power, the Three-Arms Zone. The reality is reflected in the dearth of "cogent and verifiable" information concerning the identity of the gladiators presently piloting the ship of state. In the midst of all these, there is the feeble protestation trailing the black eye of the moment, and how to cleanse the nation's shame courtesy of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Several persons guided by sundry reasons have belatedly taken the gauntlet by consenting to seek constitutional reliefs. Some have now to gone to courts of competent jurisdiction, others to the court of public opinion, whilst the vocal rear-guards have resorted to partisan self-help. These amalgams of disparate interests and partisan logic that are now in vogue, ostensibly as political fashion dictates, must ensure altruistic resolution of the partisan impasse. They must focus on the fate, the needs and the future of the ultimate sovereign, the citizen. It used to be that persons were implored to hope for a better future with the promise that several projects to alleviate the citizen's plight were in the pipeline. When will hope translate into reality in addressing the needs of the "common man" in our local homes? When will hope resolve the apparent lack of equity in the subsisting social contract? Since November 23, 2009 the Republic had been suckered into an insensible dilemma, at least in the eyes of the "common man". That was the day President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua reportedly left to seek medical succour at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Ever since that historic expedition, life in Aso Rock has literally not been the same again. It has been everyone to himself and God for us all.

The Sun newspaper of January 4, 2010 reported that the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan alluded to conditions at the seat of power while at the Abuja Central Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God during its New Year's Day Thanksgiving service. He was said to have explained matter-of-factly: "When the dawn is coming, the night gets darker." And that it is only God who "is in charge and that nobody, no human being is in charge." That is pretty strong a confession to come from one perceived by many to dwell in the bowels of state power! Unless the confessing VP knows something about the proverbial cat with nine lives, it must be ceaselessly traumatic today to wear the partisan garb of Vice President for him. One will not be surprised, if truth be told, that the scalpel-wielding Bayelsa politician is not rehearsing daily appropriate response to an imminent night of long knives. Only time will tell.

In the Tribune newspaper of January 5, 2010, an unidentified source was quoted as suggesting that high-stakes partisan maneuvers are now the rule in that fortress of power. The report characterised the alleged cloak and dagger style thus: "In the daytime, members of the kitchen cabinet are assuring us all that the President will soon return, but at night, they have been visiting top Northerners and influential Nigerians on how they would produce the next vice-president". Obviously, governance is now served on a platter of speculative whodunit.

Perhaps we now have to wait on the Abuja Federal High Court regarding law suits questioning the presidential absence. The Daily Trust newspaper of January 6, 2010 reported that the Nigeria Bar Association is insisting that the President cedes power, albeit temporarily, to his VP through the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The second suit by a Lagos attorney, Mr. Femi Falana, is insisting, among other reliefs, that all FEC decisions made during Yar'Adua's absence cannot pass constitutional muster. The third suit by erstwhile lawmaker, Farouk Adamu Aliyu and his co-litigant, Sani Hussani Garun Gabbas implores a determination of the aforesaid presidential absence as constituting a permanent incapacitation as contemplated by the Nigerian constitution. It would have been an interesting scenario and outcome if not for the underdeveloped nature of the Nigerian state and its institutions. Again, time will tell.

As if we have now crossed the Rubicon, several newspapers including ThisDay in its edition of January 6, 2010 reported the surprising presidential telephone calls from Jeddah to different directions of the Three Arms Zone the previous day. The news was that the President is alive and well into full recovery and plans to return to full time duties soon. That is a piece of good news. The import is that once there is hope there is life! And many stakeholders must now thank their stars that their proverbial palm kernel they were roasting has not been lost in that Arabian fire. The fullness of time will reveal if this is so.

Hitherto, several historical events of profound implications have crested after marking their 40th anniversary. The jury is still out whether anyone was expecting this one to yield a different outcome now that we are past the proverbial 40th mark. We are still waiting for the time of revelation. As we expect the final stage of this unfolding drama, one that is being unfurled on the back of the proverbial Nigerian "common man" one expects henchmen of the power brokers to insist on a De Minimis exemption for their man.

With the so-called political parties professing manifestoes of unclear agenda, it continues to be a daunting task unraveling the genuine defenders of the "common man". In all these, and regrettably though, none of the establishment men, the so-called "prominent Nigerians", stakeholders, shakers and movers of the Nigerian nation, the prayer warriors, the self-styled evil genius, or even the questionably styled "founder of modern Nigeria" has risen in defence of the constitution. As the wind passes, the polity continues to witness an absurdity in partisanship with the parties and their registers changing every day as if there is a pre-arranged schedule of membership swap among them. Surely, where ignorance is bliss, as the other fellow suggested, perhaps it is still folly to be wise in expecting a paradigm shift.

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