By Okey Ndiribe, Asst. Political Editor
Immediate past President of NBA Olisa Agbakoba (SAN;) former Governor of Edo State John Odigie-Oyegun and factional Chairman of CNPP Mr Maxi OkwuÂ spoke on the controversy over resolutions passed by the National Assembly elevating former Vice-President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the status of Acting President
The resolutions passed by the National Assembly were more based on political expediency than constitutional law. I think it represents a good way forward to get us out of the cul-de-sac in which we were. We couldnâ€™t move forward or backward. In my view the role played by the National Assembly was in order and I donâ€™t see how a court of law would rule that it was outside the spirit of the constitution.
Although, the Constitution mentioned transmission and you may search the dictionary to get the meaning of the word transmission, electronic transmission of messages is part of the modern means of written communication.
I think that based on expediency, I donâ€™t see what else would have happened. I support the resolution.
I think that the ultimatum issued to the Federal Executive Council by the Save Nigeria Group is also in order. This is because at the end of the day, most important challenge we face is that we have an Acting President. But the question of the medical status of the President still remains unanswered. So, that is the is the question that needs to be answered.
So, if we go through the provisions of the Constitution, after the declaration the next step should be to set up a medical panel toÂ ascertain the status of health of the President. So, that I think is also inÂ order. This is because technically speaking, we canâ€™t have Jonathan as Acting President and also as Vice-President. It means he is doing two jobs; that of Acting President and Vice-President.
I donâ€™t know for how long that would last. Jonathan has already said he would work from 7a.m. to 11pm everyday including Saturday and Sunday. How can that be possible?Â What about an Acting Vice-President? AndÂ howÂ long would it take before everything is normalized? And that is because we have not resolved a simple issue like the status of health of the President. If he is not well, thenÂ he certainly cannot do the job. We need to settle that critical issue, so that we can get over it and move forward.
There are many things waiting for Dr Goodluck Jonathan to tackle including amending the Constitution to accommodateÂ electoral reforms so that if we would have elections in November 2010, a new electoral frameworkÂ which should be in line with the recommendations of the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Electoral Reforms Panel has to be in place. We need a full team so that they can tackle all theÂ issues at hand.
We also need the economy to be refloated.
The present administration of Acting President Dr Goodluck Jonathan cannot be likened to the Chief Ernest Shonekan led Interim National Government that was declared illegal by a Court and eventually sacked by the military junta led byÂ Sani Abacha in 1993. Shonekanâ€™s Government was completely illegitimate and unconstitutional.
But this government is rooted in the popular support of civil society. It is supported by the National Assembly; it is supported by all the critical elements of the state; it is a popular government.Â Unlesss Dr. Jonathan shoots himself in the foot,Â he is at the crux of history. He has got the opportunity to turn things around.
The only time this kind of situation has happened in the past was during the early days ofÂ former President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s first tenure in office; then when Murtala Muhammed became Head of State. HistoryÂ has thrown him forward and he should understand how to use it.
The Interim National Government that was headed by Chief Ernest shonekan and the present administration headed by Acting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan are not comparable. Under the Shonekan arrangement we had a contraption controlling an illegal government. It was very different. What is happening now is totally different.
We had a situation in which the public interest was being severelyÂ injured by the inability or unwillingness of a public official to do his duty. In a situation like that what then does the polity do? Do you want the public to continue to suffer?
Or do invoke the laws of necessity to solve the injury to the public arising from the inability or unwillingness of a public official to do his duty? I am not a lawyer but for me the simple straight-forward answer based on common sense, is that if you employ me to do a job for you and I refuse to do that job, or I am incapable of doing it, then the remedies are very clear. So, that is precisely what has happened in this case.
Infact, as far as I am concerned, the National Assembly refused to be bold in its approach. Let them be bold in their approach.
There are constitutional prescriptions for people who donâ€™t do what they are supposed to do. The provisions are there. But I suppose they are thinking of public good. Their action may give rise to sectional interpretations that would not be healthy for the polity. So, itâ€™s an issue of the greatest good for the Nigerian people. I donâ€™t see anybody who will say that the suffering of the people does not matter; that we must wait for ever.
The law makers have to take a second look at that constitution. This is because we have not developed to a stage where a man you employed would now say you are no longer fit. It is very difficult for a minister to declare a President who appointed him into office unfit. We are still very emotional here. We still have a very false sense of loyalty to persons rather than to institutions.
These are inhibitions in our character that this constitution fails to recognize. I hope they are proceeding to do what is needed and that is to amend the constitution. But public pressure must be put on all these institutions including the FEC to do what is needed.
We must not wait for Jonathan to do it because he is in quote â€œ the beneficiaryâ€. It is for us in the public to insist that the right thing shouldÂ be done. The court order which has directed the FEC to set up a medical panel is one of the pressures that has to be applied to achieve the ultimate goal.
The resolution of the logjam by the National Assembly came 87 days too late, but it is better late than never. Yes, following strictly, the letters of the Constitution, it is a little bit untidy, but laws are made for man and not man for law. The National Assembly especially the Senate, invoked a part of the law which we know in jurisprudence that is applicable to countries that practice common law which includes Nigeria.
The important to me is that the resolutionÂ is effective. Nigerians have generally accepted it. It is only a few extremists that are saying no.
We have to take a chance on whether the resolution by the National Assembly could declared illegal by the court or not. It is better than finding ourselves in a state of anomie where some military boys could have struck. Is that what we needed? I believe if the case through the judicial process up to the Supreme Court, there is no way the apex court of the land would declare the resolution unconstitutional.
The two week ultimatum given by the Save Nigeria Group to the Federal Executive Council to set up the medical panel that would examine the health of President Yarâ€™Adua is empty.Â They can make noise but what I think the Federal Executive Council has gone beyond that.
However, what I think now is that Yarâ€™Adua should be impeached for breaching provisions of the Constitution.Â If the Medical Panel is set up by FEC and they decide to travel to Saudi-Arabia to see President Yarâ€™Adua, they would not be even be allowed to see him. I hope you can recall that all the various groups that went there recently including delegations from the House of Representatives, Governors Forum and peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) were never allowed to see him.