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The numbered days of Jonathan

By Tony Momoh
Jonathan’s days are numbered, and this is where he is poised to make history, if he knows what to do with numbered days. But let us establish the fact that Jonathan’s days are numbered.  I was not responsible for numbering his days. 

His political party, the PDP was.  Did you not see their Chairman Vincent Ogbulafor say last week on television that the South had the presidency for eight years and that the North is entitled to the slot for eight years! The maximum life span of the tenure of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, is 15 months.

Although we have a president who is recuperating, the truth is that Jonathan is Acting President, not Vice President and so does not report to or take orders from the recuperating president or anyone else who may want to give such orders in his name.

Whether the president recuperates in Aso Rock or Katsina or anywhere else, we must immediately switch our attention from him.  Let him rest and be well enough to come out and write to the National Assembly that he is back from his vacation and is ready, being strong enough, to resume the performance of the functions of the office of president.

So in spite of the fact that Ogbulafor says the president is there but the Acting President is responsible for administering the affairs of state, there can only be one president and that president, in acting capacity, is Goodluck Jonathan.

The irrelevance of our recuperating president in the management of the affairs of state is, therefore, undeniable and settled.  The irrelevance of any kitchen cabinet of a non-functioning president is also settled.

So, whether Hajia Turai is pulling strings here and there and cornering a group of persons anywhere to continue to say the president is on his way back to work is a distraction.  The president will take office if he emerges from his seclusion.  But until then, Jonathan calls the shots, just as Yar’Adua did before the Acting President assumed office.

Only two institutions can change the status of Jonathan.  These are the Council of Ministers and the National  Assembly.  Both have clay legs, and this proves how weak our institutions are.  The Ministers do not want to initiate the establishment of a medical board to investigate the health status of the president; and the National  Assembly will not impeach the president for abandoning his office.

This is what Jonathan must accept – that we have two non-performing institutions that he must live with during his numbered days.  But if he looks closely at this scenario, he will discover that that is where his strength lies.  There is no acting vice president and so he remains the sole manager of the affairs of state.

Can’t you see the vast powers one man can wield, if he knows what to do?  Under sections 5(1) and 148(1) of the Constitution, he delegates functions to anyone he chooses because the executive powers of the federation rest on his shoulders.

If he does not want confrontation from the National Assembly that must approve certain appointments he may want to make, he should forget making nominations for such approvals.  This may well include what he does with the Council of Ministers.  He cannot replace them without going to the National Assembly for approval of a list he prefers.

But he can reassign them without consultation.  So if any of them does not flow along, he should be sidelined.  A whole Vice President Atiku Abubakar was sidelined by President Obasanjo.  The courts said he could not remove Abubakar but the courts could not force him to give Abubakar any work to do.

There is only one presidency and only one person can head it, the president or, in this case, the acting president.

In manoeuvring his way through his numbered days, power centres may emerge.  They are emerging.  But Jonathan will be committing suicide if he concedes more powers to them than they are entitled to.  The groups include his party and the governors.

As Acting President, he also becomes the leader of the party.  Obasanjo told us when he removed Audu Ogbe as chairman of the PDP that the President is the leader of the party.  Yar’Adua was the leader of the party before he fell ill.  Jonathan is now the leader of the party and he will be ill-advised to let the party meddle in his running a tight race within the few months he has on his hands.

That tight race is the programme that he must implement on the advice of the Advisory Council he has inaugurated.  He needs the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly to push through whatever programmes he wants in the short time he has.

No presidential memo will be shot down in Council, and any well-meaning legal backing for programmes to grow our democracy should be accommodated by the National Assembly.  So, you see, the two bodies that have chosen to be toothless bull dogs in performing their constitutional roles of doing something about an ailing president, should be useful in giving backing to programmes that will ensure the welfare and security of the citizens.

The other group that has emerged as a force is the Governors Forum.  This body has no constitutional role to play in the management of government at the centre. The only constitutional meeting place is the Council of State.

The Council of State is an advisory body and the Acting President is not even obliged to take their advice.

So the push the governors forum is exerting on Jonathan is unholy.  If Jonathan is not careful, he may be conned into spending all there is in the reserve and before we know what is happening, we will be borrowing to meet recurrent  commitments because of bloated packages for public officers.  How can a governor put about a thousand party supporters on government payroll in the name of special advisers!

There are a few things we must put behind us if Jonathan does not want his numbered days to be wasted on avoidable issues.

The deployment of troops on the arrival of the president should not be pushed too far.  Where there was no flow of information and the brigade of guards is told the president is on his way to the country, what had to be done may have been done in panic.  Even when the president came and was still in the ambulance, the president’s seat in the Council was secured to prevent the Acting President from using it.

How many of us knew, or still do know, that there can be no president where there is an acting president. And during those many days before we used unconstitutional means to install an Acting President, was the Vice  President not doing the work of president as advised by a body that purported to be the conduit for such orders?

Has the Acting President reacted to the claim by the doctor of the president that he had been sending him medical reports on the health status of the president when the one dated February 19 was, if we remember the  basic lessons on analytical reading, the only one that emerged from them since November last year  when the president left our shores!

The truth is that we have been through many experiences we did not bargain for and that is why the National Assembly initiated amendments to the sections that provide for the absence of the president and the governor.

What we are saying is that Jonathan’s days being numbered poses a challenge for him to tackle our urgent problems that ought to by now be identified by the Advisory Council headed by Gen Theophilus Danjuma.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.