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Yar’Adua: Will new FEC invoke Section 144 ?

By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
Before Acting President Goodluck Jonathan eventually dissolved the divided house that was the Executive Council of the Federation, he inherited, there had been sustained pressure on him to do so.

The initial unwillingness on the Acting President to act was out of realisation that ailing President Umoru Yar’Adua might make a surprise return to his seat. For one who had found himself in a similar situation in the past, he had every reason to be cautious.

As then deputy governor of Bayelsa State; Jonathan, had at the behest of then President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed the headship of the state following his boss, former governor Dipreye Alameisingba’s absence from the country. The latter, at that time, was facing extradition in the United Kingdom. U.K. But Alameisingha’s surprise return to Yenagoa Government House combined elements of intrigues in classical drama.

It was this consciousness and possibility of a repeat unsavoury experience that held Jonathan back. However, buoyed by counter forces outside Aso rock cabal, Jonathan decided to brave the odds. His first major move to affirm his authority after the National Assembly empowered him to act as president was appointment of 26-man Presidential Advisory Committee headed by one time Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd).

Others are former education minister and constitutional lawyer, Prof Ben Nwabueze, former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Ambassador G.B. Prewere and Prof Bartholomew Nnaji. Others are  Mr. Basil Omiyi; Alhaji M. D. Yusufu, Mallam Muhammed Hayatuddeen; Justice Alfa Belgore; Hon. Chibudom Nwuche; Dr. Bamanga Tukur; Alhaji Ismaila Isa; Prof. Shehu Said Sarinwata,  Dr. Simon C. Okolo, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; Mr. Fola Adeola; Mallam Abubakar Gimba; Mr. Kase Lawal; Mrs. Mobola Johnson; Hajiya Halita Aliyu; Alhaji Magaji Danbatta; Prof. B. G. Bajoga; Dr. Sally Bolujoko; Mrs. Mariam Uwais, Chief Kanu Agabi..

Next was the unexpected sack of Major-General Sarki Muktar as National Security Adviser, NSA and his replacement with Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gasau. Gusau, a former presidential aspirant was NSA to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999-2006.Before his second coming, the security czar was one of those in serious contention for vice president slot in event of Jonathan becoming a substantive president. The brusque return of Yar’Adua in February 24 under cover of darkness from Saudi Arabia hospital however altered that calculation.

Following the removal of Muktar, the views in Aso Rock hallow chamber was that anybody could be sacked.

Before that, members of the Executive Council of the Federation popularly referred to as Federal Executive Council FEC had been polarised along geo-political divide and uncertainty surrounding YarÁdua’s health. Prior to Yar’Ádua’s return, FEC had been under intense public condemnation to declare YarÁdua unfit to continue in office. When FEC members however decided to send a delegation to Saudi, it appeared it was in deference to public opinion.

A seeming comic relief was however introduced to a serious business when the then foreign affairs minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe said the mission to Saudi was to thank the Saudi monarch for hosting YarÁdua. But unknown to FEC members, Yar’Adua was to be flown in in the early hours of the following morning. Yar’Ádua’s unusual return further widened an existing crack in the cabinet. The matter got to a head when former information minister Prof Dora Akunyili denied knowledge of the goings- on in the presidency and accused a cabal of holding the nation hostage. At this, dis
solution of FEC became inevitable. When Jonathan did that penultimate week, not a few Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief on what they considered a good riddance.

Jonathan’s deal with Govs

Before Senate resolution which made Jonathan Acting President was effected, a deal of sort was struck with state governors.  Some of the governors who were opposed to the move were reassured that it would not be inimical to their interests. Specifically, Bayelsa State Governor Timpre Sylva, who demurred because of his frosty relationship with Jonathan was convinced that he (Jonathan) would not go for his jugular when he became Acting President. The party leadership and the PDP governors were crucial in securing the NASS resolution of Dr. Jonathan’s Acting Presidency, They also quickly followed it up by setting the limits to that position; President Yar’Adua remains untouched, the presidency remains in the North in 2011, and Dr Jonathan cannot contest that election,

Chairman of Governors’ Forum,  Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State did a yeoman’s job in this regard. Speaker of the House of Representatives , Hon. Dimeji Bankole also played a vital role on the issue. After Yar’Adua’s return, the governors struck another deal with the Acting President against the backdrop of calls in some quarters to declare Yar’Ádua unfit to continue in office. This time around, it was to the effect that Yar’Ádua, despite uncertainty surrounding his health, should be allowed to remain as President while Jonathan continues to run the presidency in acting capacity. Ruling People’s Democratic Party PDP was also involved in the whole arrangement.

Indications that nothing  was sacrosanct about the deal emerged when PDP said it was not consulted before the cabinet was dissolved. Also, some governors have been kicking on choices of ministers, alleging that they were not consulted before nominations were made.

Specifically, the governors who are said to have an axe to grind with the Acting President accused him of trying to please everybody and  nominating their political enemies for ministerial appointments.

Governors whom Vanguard learnt were dissatisfied with the Acting President  included those of Kogi, Kebbi, Bauchi ,Niger , Kaduna and Imo states.

According to a dependable source who pleaded anonymity, such action by the Acting President had made the North to see him (Jonathan) as working against its interest.

“The impression of the North is that the Acting President is confused  because it appears he wants to satisfy everyone”said the source.

“The Acting President is trying to please Obasanjo, Babangida, Danjuma, Mark, and Bankole all at once, and this is creating a lot of problem for him.”

According to an advertorial by a body that calls itself  New Generation Group, titled, Open Letter to PDP Governors, “The leadership of the PDP and the forum of PDP governors were the  key elements of President Yar’Adua’s political infrastructure . Their crime is their consistent loyalty to the ailing President and the decisions and resolutions they reached regarding that Presidency and the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket to the North in the 2011 election cycle.”

Analysts are of the view that Jonathan’s decision not to consult some of the governors and the party leadership  might be deliberate.

According to one of the analysts, it may be difficult for the in-coming cabinet to do what it has to do if most of the members were nominated by governors who are still loyal to Yar’ Ádua. Another watcher of Aso Rock power game argued that having enough political enemies of the governors in the new cabinet would be a major distraction to them (governors).  It may also be a way of neutralising their  emerging role as the country’s new power brokers.

What fate awaits YarÁdua?

Since Obasanjo publicly called on Yar’Ádua to resign if he could no longer continue in office on health ground many similar calls have been made by other interest groups. Even if Obasanjo was roundly criticised for imposing Yar’Ádua on the nation only to turn around and ask him to resign on health ground, the pronouncement, nonetheless was a big moral blow on ailing YarÁdua’s presidency.

According to S.144 of the “(1) The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold

offtce, if –

(a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is

declared that the President or Vice-president is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and

(b) the declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,

(2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in opinion the President or V ice-President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable! of discharging’the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed! by the President of the Senate.


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