By Emmanuel Aziken &Â Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA â€”A DELEGATION ofÂ 41 eminent Nigerians led by a former President of the Senate, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and his Deputy, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, yesterday, called on President Umaru Yarâ€˜Adua to urgently transmit a letter of his incapacitation to the National Assembly to salvage the nationâ€™s democracy from danger.
The move by the eminent Nigerians came just as leaders from the South-South region of the country called on the National Assembly to pass a resolution authorizing the swearing in of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President.
The delegation of eminent Nigerians which included former governors, ministers, senators, eminent businessmen, retired military chiefs among others who made the call during a visit to the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark lamented that the country has captured global headlines for the wrong reasons ever since the advent of the Yarâ€˜Adua administration two years ago.
Senator Mark who received the delegation alongside his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, principal officers of the Senate and several other senators on his part promised the Senateâ€™s determination to rely on the constitution in approaching whatever constitutional issues are presented to the legislature. Senator Anyim who presented the groupâ€™s request also touched on the recent enlistment of Nigeria on the U.S. terror watch list, electoral reform and the situation in the Niger Delta.
He said: â€For two years now, our nation has captured global headlines for mostly the wrong reasons,â€ and cited the botched corruption investigation into the power sector by the House of Representatives among others.
Absence of the president
Noting the anxiety raised by the absence of the President from the country, he said: â€œIn the interim, what is required is a letter under the signature of Mr. President. You can agree, that neither the letter nor the signature can be obtained through protest, threat or even bringing down our democracy.
We believe, like many others do, that it is not in the best interest of this nation – or any other nation for that matter – to be without concrete authority at any time, more so in an executive presidential system of government. We also believe that the leaders of this nation and more so our elected representatives have a very serious duty to manage our national challenges to ensure national stability and democracy.â€
â€œMr. Senate President, a careful examination of Section 145 will reveal the following: That the section grants a lot of discretion to the President to transmit this notice to the National Assembly. In addition to the above, that section does not contemplate a circumstance where the President is not capable of transmitting such written declaration for reasons of health, haste or any other circumstances beyond his control.
Mr. Senate President, we want to emphasize that the present state of affairs in Nigeria has exposed the weakness of our Constitution in this regard and the most cogent step to take is to prepare its amendment with a view to preventing future occurrences. In the interim, what is required is a letter under the signature of Mr. President.
You can agree sir that neither the letter nor the signature can be obtained through protest, threat or even bringing down our democracy.
In view of the above, we recommend as follows: “That the leadership of the National Assembly should take concrete steps to uphold the Constitution with due regard to national stability and democracy;
“That, in addition to the resolutions already adopted by both chambers of the National Assembly and the court judgment in this matter, the National Assembly should come out boldly to assure the nation that the machinery they have set in motion is capable of yielding the desired results;
That the National Assembly should appeal to all those who are agitated to please down tools while the National Assembly expedite efforts to resolve the impasse. This, we believe, will calm down the tension and forestall the possibility of people taking laws into their hands; and
That every effort should be made to effect the amendment of necessary sections of the Constitution in this regard to forestall a reoccurrence in the future.â€
Mark in his response said: â€œThis Senate and indeed the National Assembly will be guided by the constitution. Whatever we do, will not go outside the constitution. Yes there are obvious problems and we admit that there are problems, and the solution must be found in the constitution itself.
What I want to appeal is for Nigerians to understand that in finding the solutions, we are concerned and worried about the unity and stability of the country,Â we do not want to do anything that will aggravate the current situation. If they exercise patients with us we will definitely find a lasting solution within the constitution itself.â€
Meanwhile, the elders and leaders from the South South zone of the country rose from a four hour meeting in Abuja with a call on members of the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, pass a resolution authorizing the swearing in of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The group which noted that their silence over the controversy surrounding President Yarâ€™Adua not handing over to Jonathan since the former left the country November 23, 2009 on medical attention, must not be taken for granted because, according to them, they felt it was a national issue that must be addressed a national way.
It said: â€œwe kept quiet for various reasons, we kept quiet over the period this thing has been happening because we believe it is a national issue, Nigerian issue, but we have decided to speak because so much have been said so far and things are also going out of hand.”
In a communiquÃ© read in Abuja, yesterday, by the forum at the residence of the elder statesman and former Federal Information Commissioner, Chief Edwin Clark, the body described those working against the emergence of Jonathan as Acting President as not only praying for the division and collapse of the country, but were merely self serving and unpatriotic, just as they accused some past governors, present governors, members of the National, Ministers, party leaders from the South South Zone of working with a cabal from other parts of the country to scuttle the constitutionalism and democracy in Nigeria.
According to them, â€œthe absence of Mr. President coupled with the inability of the Vice President to act has inflicted undue delay in the proper and effective management of the post-amnesty programme of the Federal Government for ex-militants.
This has been solely responsible for the reported restiveness in all the rehabilitation centres such that the gains of the amnesty programme are almost being lost.
â€œForum condemns in very strong terms the actions of unpatriotic Nigerians who are capitalising on the medical indisposition of President Yarâ€™ Adua to create political impasse. Forum warns that nobody is more Nigerian than another.
And no one prayed for the present medical situation of President Yarâ€™ Adua. Since the Constitution provides for the Vice President to act on behalf of Mr. President in his absence, nothing will be further from strengthening and preserving the unity and corporate survival of Nigeria than to allow the constitutionally empowered Vice President to act until such a time Mr. President is medically fit to assume his duties.â€
The group which sympathized with the family of President Yarâ€™Adua over his current health travails, stressed that it joins millions of Nigerians in praying for the quick recovery and return of Mr. President, adding that it appreciates all Nigerian patriots, including those who were fastidious in prayers in their quiet abode as well as their steadfast love and tenacity in preserving the sanctity of the constitution of Nigeria and the unity of the country.
Part of the CommuniquÃ© read, â€œthe absence of a sitting President for almost 60 days has exposed the country to international reprobation and ridicule, such that even in the most challenging situation, Nigeria has no voice to represent the country.
Some disgruntled self serving elements from the South-South region have been collaborating with a cabal which includes ministers, governors, National Assembly members, past governors, party leaders, to put the unity of this country asunder by planning to scuttle constitutionalism and democracy in the country.
â€œThe studied silence maintained by leaders of the South-South geoÂpolitical region over the vexed issue of the Vice President not acting as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on account of the unfortunate natural ill-health of President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua has never been due to any influence whatsoever from anybody no matter how highly placed as claimed in some quarters.
The attempt by a section of the Nigerian political class to scuttle the ascention of the Vice President to become an Acting President in accordance with the provisions of section 145 of the 1999 Constitution which has over-heated the polity is not only unfortunate but smacks the dignity and respect of majority of Nigerians.
â€œThe ruling of Justice Dan Abutu is a mere declaratory expression of what is contained in Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not an affirmation for the Vice President to be sworn in as the Acting President.
Constitutionalism cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency: in the present democratic dispensation where the rule of law forms part of the cardinal articles of governance, the provisions of section 145 of the 1999 Constitution which require the President to handover to the Vice President to act in the present circumstances should be enforced forthwith.
â€œThe sudden departure from the norm whereby a Vice President acts in the stead of a President who is indisposed, a contravention of the provisions of the supreme law of the land, the 1999 Constitution, would certainly further catalyse the quest for self determination by the people of the South South region.
Does anybody or group of people own Nigeria more than others, if we may ask?â€ The communiquÃ© was signed by former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe, Edo, Alabo Tonye Graham Douglas, Rivers, Professor Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu, Bayelsa; Air Comdr. Idongesit Nkanga, Akwa Ibom, Chief Ambrose Akpanika, Cross Rivers; Chief Peter Y. Biakpara, Delta, Rev. Grace Ekanem and Dr. Esther Uduehi.
Present at the meeting were Chief Edwin K. Clark, OFR, CON, Admiral Mike Akhigbe GCON (rtd), Prof. (Amb) Lawrence Ekpebu, OFR, Alabo Tonye Graham Douglass, OFR, Olorogun Felix Ibru, Chief Ephraim Faloughi-Spiff, OON, Hon. Dr. Bolere Ketebu, Chief Mrs Helen Esuene, Chief Jackson Sunny Udoh, and Sen. Fred Brume. Others were Air Comdr. Idongesit Nkangha, Sen. Chief Tari Sekibo, JP MFR; Hon. Chief Ewa Ita Henshaw, Chief Francis Doukpola, Dr. B. Adasen, Dr. M. P. Okonny, Hon. (Chief) P. Y. Biakpara, Lady Anne Yougha, Dame Dr. Esther Uduehi, Chief Dr. Ambrose Akpanika, Rev. Grace Ekanem, Dr. Mike Oberabor, Hon. Denyanbofa Dimaro, Hon. Chibudum Nwuche, Lady Ime Udom and Chief Ayakeme E. Whisky.
The full list of signatories to the statement
*Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON
*Amb (Dr.) Hassan Adamu, CON (Wakilin Adamawa)
*Chief Shuaib Oyedokun
*Major General Mohammed Magoro (rtd.), OFR, (Galadima Zuru)
*Hon. Chibudom Nwuche
*H.E./Senator Jim Nwobodo
*Hon. Justice Peter Akere (rtd.)
*H.E. Rev. Jolly Nyame
*H.E. Garba Nadama
*Rear Admiral Peter Ebeleme (rtd.)
*Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu
*Chief (Mrs.) Remi Adiukwu-Bakare
*Senator Isaiah Balat
*General Chris Garba (rtd.)
*H.E. Dr. Rabiu Kwakwanso
*Chief (Mrs.) Helen Esuene
*Alhaji Mantu Ibrahim, CFR
*Senator Walid Jibrin, OON
*Alhaji Yaro Makama
*Chief (Engr.) Charles Ugwu, OON
*General A.B. Maman, (rtd.)
*Professor Emeka Okoli
*Senator Zigo Aziz
*Barr. Danladi Ochekpe
*Lady Ime Essien Udom
*General Paul Tarfa (rtd.)
*Hajia Zainab Maina, MFR
*H.E. Amb. Adamu Aliyu, mni, (Walin Katagu)
*Hon. Austin Opara
*Alhaji A. Alhaji
*Professor Tunde Adeniran
*Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi
*Gen. Sam Teidi, (rtd.)
*Mr. Abu Shuluwa (Sema-Wan-U-Tiv)
*Chief G. Adukwu, OON
*Comrade Pascal Bafyau, mni
*Chief Mrs. Chinwe Obaji
*Hajia Hawa Kida
*Chief Innocent Anoliefo
*Alhaji Bala Abdullahi
*Captain Paul Tahal