By JideÂ Ajani, Deputy editor
It was never expected to get to this point.Â But it has. When on the morning of Monday, November 23, 2009,
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was flown out of Nigeria for medical attention in Saudi Arabia, his handlers in the
presidency envisaged a problem.Â Sunday Vanguard confirmed from a senator of the 2003-2007 set that indeed,
there was a letter already prepared and signed by President Yarâ€™Adua on transfer of power.
A source close to the Presidential Liaison on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba-Aji, said the
non-transmission of the letter may have been borne out of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s inability to pass the instruction at the
time of his departure.
Enter the hawks
It was between the time of flying Yarâ€™Adua out of the country, and the expected transmission of the letter to the leadership of the National Assembly, that the hawks in Aso Rock Presidential Villa took over.
However, by the fourth week of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s absence, when it was beginning to attain an embarrassing height, even the hawks came to terms with the ridicule they had made of President Yarâ€™Adua who was just beginning to recover in far away Saudi Arabia.
The same Abba-Aji was to tell Nigerians on Thursday that President Yarâ€™Adua would handover to his deputy.
That was 24 hours after Information Minister, Dora Akunyili, hit the hawks by their bumper at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting with a memo requesting that the right thing be done by President Yarâ€™Adua.
Her memo, dripping with praises of President Yarâ€™Adua hit the bullâ€™s eye by insisting, proverbially, that â€œa goat does not get strangulated by the rope used in tying it when an adult is presentâ€.
â€œThe name of our President and all his achievements are being rubbished by this unfortunate debacle.Â The President and his family are also being put under undue pressure which will not help his recovery.Â If we fail to act now, history will not forgive us.Â I rest my caseâ€, she said.
Despite Akunyiliâ€™s passionate plea to members of FEC, she was turned down.Â The hawks including Agriculture Minister Dr. Abba Ruma; Justice Minister, Chief Michael Aondoakaa; the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Tanimu Yakubu, see in Akunyiliâ€™s memo pure grandstanding. One of the henchmen in Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s camp told Sunday Vanguard that â€œwhat she has simply done is to, in an anticipatory manner, wade off any possible inquisition into her activities either as a minister or while serving at the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration, NAFDAC.Â When the President returns and any inquisition is to be carried out, Nigerians would say it is because she spoke out.Â On the other hand, she will be seen as a hero.Â This is Nigeria.Â People love playing games.Â But wait and seeâ€, the source said.
But Sunday Vanguard learnt that once the opposition elements in the country got information in December that President Yarâ€™Adua was, as a source put it, â€œin a really bad shapeâ€, they went to town.
Their first approach was the launch of the G-54, a group of politicians and professionals, largely of the Action Congress, AC, stock.Â Their campaign was that President Yarâ€™Adua should resign.Â And whereas some of those on the list of membership and signatories to the demand came out denying, many of them have since joined other groups to call for a quick resolution of what has become the Yarâ€™Adua impasse.
Since that late December episode, many more eminent Nigerians have joined the call for either the resignation of President Yarâ€™Adua, or a call on the National Assembly to institute proceedings for a possible impeachment of the president. There was the group of 41 eminent Nigerians led by Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.Â The kernel of the Anyim groupâ€™s push, was seemingly holistic.Â Dwelling more on general malaise in the country and zeroing-in on the Yarâ€™Adua health issue, the former Senate President urged the National Assembly to engage a constitution amendment mode with a view to blocking the lacuna in Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution. Anyim told Senate President David Mark during the groupâ€™s visit to the National Assembly: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 democracyâ€.
The leaders of the South South have also added their voice to the call for something positive to happen.Â In a statement signed by former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe, the group insisted that â€œThe studied silence maintained by leaders of the South-South geo-political 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 ascension 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 Nigeriansâ€.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the man largely accused for imposing Yarâ€™Adua on Nigerians also came out in what some still perceive as a curious move to demand for the hand-over to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.
Then came former presidents and chief justices of the country led by General Yakubu Gowon.Â They made the same call for a handover as quickly as possible.
Even the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, added its voice in the call for the constitutional thing to be done.
At a time when even the ACF was calling for a respect of the constitution by President Yarâ€™Adua, the five governors of Nigeriaâ€™s South East geo-political zone came out saying President Yarâ€™Adua has not breached the constitution in any way.
And on Thursday, governors of the 19 northern states have sided with their Igbo brothers in unison, saying President Yarâ€™Adua does not need to transmit any letter of handover, only for the Governors Forum comprising the 36 state governors to declare on Sunday that Jonathan should be made acting President.
Curiously, the hawks in Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s camp continue to assail the sensibilities of Nigerians on a weekly basis with tales of his possible and imminent return to the country.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that truly, in relative and comparative terms, President Yarâ€™Adua is recovering.Â The flip-side to that assurance is how well is the recovery?
Sunday Vanguard gathered that apart from the rigours and stress which would accompany Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s flight from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Nigeria, making public the physical state of the President would be nothing but a public relations fiasco and, therefore, the last thing the hawks want to do now is make him available.
Prof. Akunyiliâ€™s explosive memo seems to have changed the political equilibrium.
Within 24 hours of its release, the Presidential Liaison on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba-Aji said the President would now hand over to his deputy, while the media reported that the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor would be leaving for Saudi Arabia, today, for the purpose of convincing the President to sign a letter for the National Assembly to transfer power to Jonathan. Besides, the Governors Forum backed the proposal for the Vice President to assume office as President in acting capacity.
In a communique at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja, the governors resolved to: â€œmeet the leadership of the National Assembly with a view to urging them to pass a resolution to formally recognize the Vice President as the acting president in the interest of the nation.â€ They urged the NASS to pass a resolution to that effect next week.
â€œThe Forum calls on all arms of governments to continue to give full and total support to the acting president until the president returns in the interest of our dear and beloved country,â€ they said. The governors met with Jonathan in his office after issuing the communique, presidency sources said. â€œWe now agreed to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly to urge them to pass a resolution recognising the vice president as the acting president of the nation,â€ Forum leader Bukola Saraki, who is governor of central Kwara State, told journalists after the meeting. â€œWe unanimously resolved that all arms of government should support the vice president to discharge his duties as acting president of the country,â€ Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio also told reporters. â€œHe (Jonathan) was happy with the decision of the governors,â€ he added.
Interestingly, there are those who have not added their voice to the unfolding impasse. Whereas some of those calling for an immediate handover simply are merely expectant of a new sphere of influence which would lead to bountiful prosperity in the Nigerian context, there are those whose calls are genuine.
Take, for instance, Chief Anthony Anenih, immediate past Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, BOT.Â Not one given to flippancy, Sunday Vanguardâ€™s attempt to feel his pulse on the on-going impasse was abortive.Â But it was gathered that the reason why the man called Mr. Fix It has maintained his silence is â€œbecause he believes that some of the people talking on either side are merely playing to the gallery.Â The Chief is not carried away by what is going on. When he would speak, he would speak the truth and would not care what anybody would sayâ€, Sunday Vanguard was told by a source close to him.
For now, the pressure continues to mount. Will President Yarâ€™Adua survive this storm.
G-54: Call for resignation: the list
Adamu Maina Waziri
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
Adamu Farouk Aliyu
Bashir Idrs Nadabo
Saint George Eke
â€œIt is also common knowledge that the incapacity of the president has affected the implementation of the nationâ€™s budget because he was unable to coordinate the management of the national economy and to preside over the Federal Executive Council in a diligent manner. Finally, the current condition of the President has created a dangerous situation whereby no one is in charge of the affairs of the state contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
â€œAs responsible and concerned individuals from every part of Nigeria, we call on President Umaru to resignâ€.
Those rooting for Jonathan to act as President
â€¢Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
â€¢ANYIMâ€™s Eminent Nigerians Group
â€¢Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON
â€¢Amb Hassan Adamu, CON (Wakilin Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Adamawa)
â€¢Chief Shuaib Oyedokun
â€¢Major General Mohammed Magoro Â Â Â Â Â Â (rtd.),OFR, (Galadima Zuru)
â€¢Hon. Chibudom Nwuche
â€¢H.E. Senator Jim Nwobodo
â€¢Hon. Justice Peter Akere (rtd.)
â€¢H.E. Rev. Jolly Nyame
â€¢H.E. Garba Nadama
â€¢Rear Admiral Peter Ebeleme (rtd.)
â€¢Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu
â€¢Chief (Mrs.) Remi Adiukwu-Bakare
â€¢Senator Isaiah Balat
â€¢General Chris Garba (rtd.)
â€¢ Dr. Rabiu Kwakwanso
â€¢Chief (Mrs.) Helen Esuene
â€¢Alhaji Mantu Ibrahim, CFR
â€¢Senator Walid Jibrin, OON
â€¢Alhaji Yaro Makama
â€¢Chief (Engr.) Charles Ugwu,
â€¢General A.B. Maman, (rtd.)
â€¢Professor Emeka Okoli
â€¢Senator Zigo Aziz
â€¢Barr. Danladi Ochekpe
â€¢Lady Ime Essien Udom
â€¢General Paul Tarfa (rtd.)
â€¢Hajia Zainab Maina, MFR
â€¢H.E. Amb. Adamu Aliyu,
â€¢Hon. Austin Opara
â€¢Alhaji A. Alhaji
â€¢Professor Tunde Adeniran
â€¢Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi
â€¢Gen. Sam Teidi, (rtd.)
â€¢Mr. Abu Shuluwa (Sema-Wan-U-Tiv)
â€¢Chief G. Adukwu, OON
â€¢Comrade Pascal Bafyau, mni
â€¢Chief Mrs. Chinwe Obaji
â€¢Hajia Hawa Kida
â€¢Chief Innocent Anoliefo
â€¢Alhaji Bala Abdullahi
â€¢Captain Paul Tahal
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.Â That the leadership of the National Assembly should take concrete steps to uphold the Constitution with due regard to national stability and democracy;
â€¢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; â€¢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
â€¢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€
SOUTH SOUTH LEADERS
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.
Chief Edwin K. Clark, OFR, CON
Prof. (Amb) Lawrence Ekpebu, OFR,
Olorogun Felix Ibru
Chief Ephraim Faloughi-Spiff, OON,
Hon. Dr. Bolere Ketebu
Chief Mrs Helen Esuene
Chief Jackson Sunny Udoh
Sen. Fred Brume
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
Dr. Mike Oberabor
Hon. Denyanbofa Dimaro
Hon. Chibudum Nwuche
Lady Ime Udom
Chief Ayakeme E. Whisky.
â€œThe absence of a sitting President for almost 60 (Now 76) 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 geo-political 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 ascension 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 Nigeriansâ€.
Eminent Elders Group
Former Head of State, General YakubuÂ Gowon (rtd)
Former President Shehu Shagari
Chief Ernest Shonekan, Head, ING
Former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme
Former Chief Justices of the Federation,Â Â Hon. Justice Mohammed Uwais
Justice Alfa Belgore
Justice Idris Kutigi
Former Army Chief Lt. Gen. TheophilusÂ Â Danjuma
Former PDP Chairman, Chief Solomon Lar
Former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark
Former Minister, Mallam Adamu Ciroma
Former Minister of Information Prof. JerryÂ Â Gana
Former Permanent Secretary, Alhaji AhmedÂ Joda
Senator Jonathan Zwingina, the facilitator
â€œFor well over eight weeks now, our President has been ill and out of the country. This illness and long absence from the country is causing serious concern not only to Nigerian citizens but all those who do business with Nigeria and have the well being of the country at heart.
â€œIt is for the reason that I called the meeting of some of our former Presidents and Heads of State, former Chief Justices of Nigeria and elder statesmen today.
â€œFollowing a critical review of the general political situation of the country in the recent past, but more especially since the illness of the President and his prolonged absence, it was decided to address this letter to your Excellency, the Vice President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
â€œResolution of the issue of Acting President pending the return of the President. It is important to resolve this issue by inviting the President to formally issue the necessary communication that will enable the Vice President to be Acting President in accordance with section 145 of the 1999 Constitution as soon as possible.
* Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa
Agriculture minister, Abba Ruma
Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Tanimu Yakubu
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai
Prince VincentÂ Ogbulafor
Ahmad Sani Yerima
Maina Maiâ€™d Lawan
Sahabi Alhaji Yau
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan