By Okey Ndiribe Assistant Political Editor
Who do you think is really in charge now that President Yarâ€™Adua could not satisfy the constitutional requirement of writing to the National Assembly before travelling to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment?
The Vice-President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is in-charge. The issue of the President not writing to the National Assembly has been raised and this is not the first timeÂ Yarâ€™Adua has doneÂ this kind of thing. If you remember what is happening now is similar to what happened sometime ago when former Secretary to the Government of the Federation ( SGF) Alhaji Babagana Kingibe was accused of attempting to seize power.
I think what Yarâ€™Adua has done is a deliberate and calculated attempt to sideline Jonathan.. For instance why was it that it was a Special Adviser that had to take the budget to the National Assembly? I donâ€™t know why a Special Adviser should hijack the job of the Vice-President. The Vice- President is a stand- in for the President if and when the President is not available.
There are two circumstances provided for in the Constitution. One of them is theÂ physical incapacitation of the President which has to be determined by a Medical Board under section 144; the second is travelling out of the country which requires that the President should write to the National Assembly.
Despite all these provisions, Jonathan remains like a spare tyre. It is just like in the United states where people have said that there is really no job description for the Vice-President except that he presides over the Senate. In Nigeria he has no job and acts at the instance and prompting of the President.
Another thing is that the character of the Vice-President is such that he is un-obtrusive and self-effacing. He doesnâ€™t come out as a strong personality; andÂ because of his character they are sidelining himÂ andÂ taking him for granted. He seems to be comfortable in that situation.
I have said so because a more assertive person would have exerted his authority. As the number two, he functions when number one is not available. The way they are behaving is like they are grudgingly tolerating him.
What do you think would happen if Yarâ€™Adua slips into a coma and Nigeria is invaded by another countryÂ say Cameroon? Would Jonathan have the legal instrument to order the armed forces to repel such an attack?
If there is a formal transfer of power to Jonathan, he would be the Acting Commander -in-Chief. Right now there is an incipient crisis concerning the manner in which Cameroon has treated Nigerians in the Bakassi Peninsula and there has been nobody to give a firm directive as to how to countermand the antics of Cameroon.
The Commonwealth Heads of State Conference just ended in Trinidad and Tobago; I donâ€™t think Nigeria was adequately represented. It is just like last October when Nigeria was not effectively represented at the General Assembly of the United Nations.
In another week there would be the Copenhagen Conference on climate change and there is need for our President to be there to canvass the African position. The sense of drift that Nigeria is experiencingÂ now is dysfunctional and counter-productive for the nation as a country with the largest population in Africa.