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Power as an intoxicant : The Nigerian example

By Douglas Anele

The word ‘intoxicant’ means an intoxicating agent. It is derived from the verb ‘intoxicate,’ which stands for “ to make drunk: to excite to enthusiasm or madness; to elate excessively.”

A lot has happened since ailing President Umar Musa Yar’Adua left the country for medical treatment about three months ago. The utterances and behaviours of some of his ministers and supporters demonstrate once again the intoxicating potentials of political power.

Some of us who argued that the President should have handed over power to the VP before going to Saudi Arabia for medical reasons forgot the possibility that Mr. President might have been so ill that he could not transmit any letter to anybody or group, and may still be incapacitated since then to do what the constitution stipulated.

I hope he recovers and resigns from the presidency in order to take proper care of himself. Since Yar’Adua’s absence, some prominent members of the ruling elite have behaved like a collection of carpetbaggers who are solely motivated by childish egoism and avarice. Take the simple matter of members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) acting in accordance with the provisions of Section 144(1) of the 1999 constitution, for example.

Because there was no  impeachment notice against the  President  for abandoning his duty post in the National Assembly, and Mr. President did not transmit a letter to the federal legislature  stating that he was going on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to perform his duties, as demanded by Section 145, the FEC should have acted in accordance with Section 144(1).

More specifically, after about two months when it was apparent that Mr. President was not coming back anytime soon, and the leadership uncertainty was already affecting the country adversely, members of the FEC ought to have declared that Yar’Adua was too sick to continue as President, and the National Assembly would conclude the process of appointing Goodluck Jonathan Acting-President.

But, as I have argued elsewhere, the FEC  is dominated by unpatriotic agbata ekee politicians who are primarily interested in retaining their jobs and in accumulating wealth. The ministers are more concerned with what they are benefiting now, and will benefit in future, from Yar’Adua as President. Therefore, they want to be seen as loyal to the President, even if the price of such grotesque loyalty may be continued stagnation and rudderlessness.

The quarrel between the former Attorney-General  and  Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa and Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, on the right action to take about the prolonged absence of the President is a manifestation of the intoxicating nature of political office in Nigeria.

I have on several occasions suggested that Aondoakaa should be relieved of his position as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice because, based on several media reports that his actions and pronouncements regarding the prosecution of high-profile former top political office holders constituted a serious obstacle to  concrete actualisation of the anti-corruption stance of President Yar’Adua.

Aondoakaa’s assertion that the President can rule the country from anywhere portrays him as a mere legalistic-minded  AG who does not understand, and is unconcerned about, the negative effects of absentee leadership on different aspects of our national ilfe. Regarding the disagreement between him and Akunyili, the former AG went too far by insinuating that the former DG of NAFDAC must have done something untoward when she held that position, contrary to her worldwide reputation as an incorruptible and courageous fighter of fake drugs.

Aondoakaa’s  letter (mis)interpreting  his  earlier  tendentious  comments  on Akunyili, in my view, is a cowardly afterthought, an admission that he made a mistake by trying to tarnish the solid reputation Akunyili made for herself while in NAFDAC, for which she almost lost her life. In displaying such arrogant disdain for facts to prove his “loyalty” to the sick President, Aondoakaa behaved like a typical oti mkpu who is willing to curse his own mother in order to massage the ego of his master.

On the other hand, he is probably correct in suggesting that Akunyili was playing to the gallery by writing the controversial memo to the FEC at the time she did. Remember, Akunyili was very exultant shortly after Yar’Adua was declared “winner” of the 2007 presidential elections when she declared that “ the lord has done it.” By that singular theological statement, she actually invoked divine support for the President.  Also, the information minister was part of the FEC that consistently informed Nigerians that Yar’Adua was getting better and that the council was solidly behind the ailing President.

Therefore, it would appear that Akunyili is grandstanding by writing her memo. According to a newspaper report, the minister, in response to a question on what motivated the letter to her colleagues, said “Let’s just say I got tired of the whole thing. It just got too much for my mind. I could no longer live with myself. I was not sleeping well. I was depressed. My husband thought it was malaria but I knew it was not…I simply knew  I could not continue to live a lie.” TO BE CONTINUED.


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