By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
You cannot make much progress running backwards – common Nigerian saying.
WERE the issues at stake not serious enough to provoke constitutional crisis – and push the country to a brink again – Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, would have been winning awards from Nollywood for the imaginative stretches he is forcing on the law.
Anyone wondering why he was appointed to this position should about now be convinced that he was the right choice for a nation that never lacks foisted challenges. Whoever thought that at the verge of celebrating our 50th year as a nation considerable national space would be consumed by debates about who would swear in the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the President of the Court of Appeal?
We have all joined the debate with aplomb, forgetting the implications for a country with no chance to prove that the law (our Constitution) is an ass. What an ass we are making of ourselves?
Mr. Aondoakaa tells us that Section 145, which among other matters, dwells on the abilities of the President to hold office also states that if he is on vacation or incapacitated, the Vice President, should be sworn in as Acting President was irrelevant.
We have an Executive President, Aondoakaa says, who could operate from anywhere in the world. Some tinier voices have stated cases for the ailing President to stand for another term in 2011.
In all these, it was obvious that the Chief Law Officer of the Federation was acting on guesses. The first guess was that the President would be back soon. After 30 days, the soon no longer washed.
Next guess was that wiping up sympathy, Nigerians could obviate the long absence. The calls for prayers were well received, but waned as we waited to hear something positive. How would a country pray to the Almighty while its officials refuse to obey the laws they swore to uphold? What hypocrisy!
Always sprouting ideas to keep the country unfocused, we were told it was up to some Saudi doctors to decide what the President does next. The request for prayers had abated, the resort to sheer subterfuge, including widely publicised visits by those purportedly close to the President only left Nigerians more alienated from their President.
When we ask, â€œWhere is the President?,â€ we really mean, â€œHow ist he President?â€. After weeks of telling us he would be back â€œnext weekâ€, â€œsoonâ€, the ingenuity, and the scriptwriter in Aondoakaa have come handy. He is determined to make a comedy of the Constitution. He has a large audience, among them lawyers who would lend their support, expecting to grab the fat briefs when the courts are filled with cases on these matters.
Nobody has thought of the absurdity of the heads of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal being the defendants in cases against their appointments – in their own courts. Will the law then be the only ass?
Section 5 of the Constitution, under which Aondoakaa insists the Vice Present is the acting President is still subject to provisions of Section 145.
Every failed attempt at re-writing the Constitution makes Aondoakaa jump the next part of his multi-part comedy. We are told that they managed to get the President to sign the supplementary budget on his sick bed. Never mind we were told the President spent 90 minutes vetting the details. Would it not have been great if we saw a picture of new chapter in our constitutional development?
It is a different matter altogether swearing in leaders of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The out-going Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Legbo Kutgi should not allow himself to be scripted into this malodorous (illegal) swearing in his own successor. Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu (Supreme Court) and Justice Isa Ayo Salami (Court of Appeal) should resist this offer, tempting as it seems.
The top courts in the land should not lead in brazen unconstitutionality. There is always a solution since Aondoakaa believes in the flexibility of the Constitution and can always find an army of supporters for his twists and turns.
If we say it is constitutional for the President to sign the supplementary budget in Saudi Arabia, it is time we pressed some of the aircraft in the presidential fleet into service again.
The out-going Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, the in-coming ones and whoever should be at the ceremony to retain its constitutionality should be ferried to Saudi Arabia where the President should do the rituals and this comedy would have a happy ending.
Mr. Aondoakaa insists on being a comedian, it is our collective duty to help him end this script. Left to him, he would not realise that even a multi-part comedy must end.