ï»¿ï»¿By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
In this encounter, Professor Itse Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a professor ofÂ Law and formerÂ Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of BeninÂ critically analyses the Constitutional implications of former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan assuming the role of Acting President.
What are the Constitutional implications of this development?
It is a positive development to have an Acting President. I also agree with the lawyers who are saying technically that there is no provision in the Constitution for the National Assembly just to pronounce the Vice President the Acting President. I agree with them. But that is to look at it in a very dry and technical fashion. We have a situation where we are dealing with an abnormality. Constitutions are made for reasonable and normal people to operate. But the Nigerian political elite is an abnormal political elite.
When Yarâ€™Adua was traveling abroad and it was clear that he was so incapacitated, there should have been a letter transmitted to National Assembly but his kitchen cabinet and his wife conspired to prevent this so that they themselves could continue to operate as the President in the place of Yarâ€™Adua. This was what the National Assembly was faced with.
In the circumstances, we have to be creative in order to save the country. And the creativity in what they have done is this: The Section 145 requires Yarâ€™Adua to transmit a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate.
That was not done in a formal way but he did give a broadcast in which he admitted that he was sick, he was incapable, he was not in a position to resume duty until his doctors allowed him. What the National Assembly has done and I agree with them, is a creative interpretation of that broadcast, that he has transmitted a message that he is incapacitated for now, to the National Assembly.
So, that is enough for the National Assembly to act and they have acted on it. Some Nigerians like Lai Mohammed said on TV that in law, broadcast is equivalent to writing. That was the way the issue was interpreted. Any broadcast was equivalent to writing.
In my view, the expanded and creative interpretation of that broadcast gave the National Assembly the power to do what they have done. It is my view that Jonathan is legitimately the Acting President.
What advice do you have for people who still have issues against that?
We are lawyers. We have seen the legal flaw in what has happened and if we capitalize on it and forget the political situation in the country, which was very dangerous, things might go wrong. On Tuesday, we were very busy as lawyers because as lawyers, we also have a duty to save this country from chaos.
So, I will appeal to everybody to rally round the Acting President and accept the interpretation put on the provision of Section 145 by the National Assembly. And if the illness continues indefinitely, then , we will go to the next stage, which is Section 144 where a panel would be set up for Yarâ€™Adua to be declared permanently incapacitated so that the Acting President becomes full President. That is the stage one towards curing the sickness that has held Nigeria bound for three months.
So what do you have to tell some Northern politicians who are trivializing the whole thing by playing politics of North and South with it?
It is very unfortunate but I always remind them that Jonathan Goodluck was a member of their party. PDP is one party, not two.
He ran with Yarâ€™Adua on Nigerian ticket and therefore, by the Constitution, each one of them is entitled to be President. No one is nominated as Vice President if he is not capable of being President.
So, we envisage, that under the present circumstances, the Constitution envisages that the Vice President will become President and the circumstances have arisen and so the North as true PDP men should join other Nigerians and back the Acting President in the interest of this country.
If Nigeria disintegrates, the greatest loser will be the North because they are the ones who are most dependent on the resources of the South for their own daily existence. So, it is a very risky adventure for them to create a crisis which can cause disintegration in Nigeria.