By Ochereome Nnanna
I HAVE never been in the habit of blaming political appointees for acts of omission and commission in government. I am a firm believer that as the buck stops on the table of the chief executive officer, and since he hires and fires these appointees, he must answer for any fault of his regime as well as ultimately take the encomiums for its achievements.
The gross misconduct bordering on national sabotage perpetrated by Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, the Presidentâ€™s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters illustrates the way in which the President of the countryâ€™s patriotic intentions are often undermined by his appointees.
Before we proceed further, let us consult an exclusive story published on the front page of THISDAY Newspapers in its Monday, December 7, 2009 issueÂ entitled: â€œHow Abba-Aji Scuttled Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s Vacation Letterâ€.
This story cannot be dismissed as just another newspaper speculation because THISDAY wrote with an authoritative tone, more so as it virtually has a reporter inside the Presidency in the person of Mr Olusegun Adeniyi.
Its Publisher, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, is what you could call a stakeholder in the Presidency.
The newspaper disclosed that the President had actually, in line with the demands of Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) written letters to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives informing them of his medical trip to Saudi Arabia. But the transmission process was fouled by Abba-Aji.
The story has it that on the way to delivering the letters the presidential adviser opened the envelopes and read their contents. How uncouth! When he found what they were all about, he went back to the President and advised him against it because according to him, it had some â€œlegal and politicalâ€ implications.
Quoting the paper now: â€œHe told the President that on a closer look at the provision of Section 145 it would require the permission of the National Assembly for him to resume.
â€œHis opinion was that his return to his desk was not automatic and would depend on the National Assembly. Abba-Aji was said to be wary of the â€œuncertaintyâ€ about what the Senate President would do. He reportedly said that with Mark in power, it might be very difficult for the President to be allowed to resume his duties after vacationâ€.
The paper further said the President then referred the letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa to examine it in the light of the relevant provisions of the Constitution. That was where the letter vanished into thin air. By then, the President was already on the way to the airport from where he called Vice
President Goodluck Jonathan to take charge as Acting President as he had instructed one of his aides, David Edevbie, to pass all files to him â€œwithout exceptionâ€.
If Abba-Aji had obeyed the President and completed the constitutional demands, the National Assembly would have taken note of the fact that the Presidentâ€™s temporary absence had not created a vacuum in the Executive Branch. They would relate normally with Vice President Jonathan until the President returned to his duty post.
If this had happened, the unhealthy political heat occasioned by perception that the Presidentâ€™s absence has halted activities in the Presidency would not have arisen. The sectional political scavengers who threatened to kill the Vice President unless he resigns if Yarâ€™Adua dies might not have arisen because these professional busybodies are mere opportunistic jackals.
There is nothing in Section 145 or any other Section of our Constitution that even faintly implies that the National Assembly has any say over the issue of the President excusing himself from his duty post and his resumption. There is nothing in our Constitution which will put the Senate President â€œin powerâ€ when the President of the country is officially away from work.
It is the Vice President that acts for him until he returns. The Senate President will only take over temporarily in the event that both the President and Vice President, for whatever reasons, are absent at the same time.
To the best of our knowledge, Jonathan was in Abuja , ready and able to stand until his principal was back to the country. So, where did Abba-Aji get this cock-and-bull?
Abba-Aji obviously is among ethnic hawks that are afraid that should Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s medical trip meet with a tragic outcome Jonathan should be prevented from assuming power.
In fact, he did not want to take chances with Senate President David Mark because should they carry out their threat to administer the â€œMKO pillâ€ on Jonathan if Yarâ€™ Adua goes, this ‘Middle Belter’ and power speculator even during the days of the military in politics might not be trusted to relinquish power to another Northerner.
Abba-Ajiâ€™s fear that unforeseen circumstances might take away his job and shift power away from his ethnic zone of the country made him to concoct a lie that does not exist in our Constitution.
It is people like these that have done everything in their power to prevent Nigeria from moving forward whenever they perceive that the progress of the country would not favour the selfish interests of the political elite from their part of the country. He has exhibited June 12 annulment mentality.
President Yarâ€™ Adua must be applauded for doing the right thing by handing over power temporarily to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and informing the National Assembly accordingly.
It is just a pity that his health problem leaves him unable to take full charge of things and drive away the Abba-Ajis from government to allow Nigeria to make progress. We pray he recovers soonest.