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Now, jesters at helm of affairs

By Kunle Oyatomi
What on paper looks so simple to do, in respect of the President’s health and governance of Nigeria has assumed a proportion greater than a herculean task for otherwise intelligent politicians  of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, the PDP.

It is a great pity that with the passing of every day that the president has been hospitalised ,these politicians give the impression that there is no crisis, when in fact the nation is adrift and heading for the rocks.

To all intent and purposes, these men and women in power are playing poker with not just the president’s health, but also the constitution of the land. They wouldn’t be bothered that the country is at risk so long as they can hold on to power and office.

It is this passiveness of the power of state for their selfish, and sectional interest which appear to inhibit their human, intellectual and political faculties for decision making on this rather straightforward and simple question of what to do when the president is sick, as Yar’Adua unfortunately is at the moment.

One of the most ridiculous positions on this matter came from two high officials of government only a couple of days ago. The Attorney-General of the Federation M.K. Aondoakaa (a SAN for that matter) was reported to have said that “only Yar’Adua can decide if he is fit to govern”!!

Sorry, that’s nonsense. The proper professional or professionals who can determine whether or not a person is medically fit to carry on the job of a president are the doctors who are treating him.

That the doctors are still keeping our president in hospital (possibly holding him for intensive observation), is an unspoken declaration that Mr President, in their informed professional judgement, is not yet physically (and possibly mentally) fit to resume work as president.

They know better than the attorney-general that if they released him when he is not strong enough, they will be held accountable should anything untoward  happened thereafter. It is the reason they are keeping him in hospital. For the Chief law officer of the federation to say that only the president can determine whether he is fit or not to govern is unfortunate.

Secondly, to say that the president can govern while on his sick bed is a crisis of honesty. Some people would say it is a very dishonest statement to make.

Mr Attorney-General of the federation should be in a position to know that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  did not contemplate, by any section whatsoever, that a sick person should  become president and rule the country from his hospital bed in far away Saudi  Arabia, or even at the national hospital in Abuja.

What the constitution did recognise is that the possibility exists that a president can become sick in the course of the discharge of his duty. When this occurs, the president is expected to notify the senate that as a result of his “temporary” illness, he is handing over power to his vice pending his recovery.

But when the president is unable to do that owing perhaps to the sudden-ness of the illness, the Federal Executive Council should meet to proclaim the president momentarily incapable of performing his function, and ask the Senate President to constitute a medical panel to ascertain  if the president is actually impaired. If the panel’s verdict is positive, then the VP take over.

Very simple process which has now been turned into a game of  poker by the ruling political class. And the people who should know are turning the whole thing into such bizzare pun, that one wonders if they can be trusted with power ever again in this country, because in spite of their profession they seem incapable of giving intelligent interpretation to sections 143-145 of the 1979 constitution.

But of all the jesters who have been speaking on this  subject to the effect that sick or not, and absent from his duty post on not, Mr President can govern Nigeria as long as he himself thinks he can; the most damning noises are coming from Senator Mohammed Abba Aji, a special adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters.

He wants Nigerians to keep their cool because being absent from his duty post for long spells of time is not a strange experience for Yar’Adua who has once been away for as long as six  months, (without handing over power to his deputy, apparently), from his duty post as govenror of Katsina State and then returned not only to continue as governor but to run for and complete a second term. So what is the big deal of him being sick now and absent from his duty post?

According to Abba Aji, “Yar’Adua is a man with many lives. He will come back and complete  his first term, and he will recontest.

So, read my lips, he will come back a very healthy  person and he will carry on with his work, complete his tenure and he will contest for a second term.”

Did I hear somebody say what arrogance of ignorance? It is pathetic. Aji has no thought for Nigeria and Nigerians.

All that concerns him is that Mr President is in power, will not give it up for a moment (even at any cost) and would return at his pleasure to continue governing, and do so for a second term no matter what national and peoples’ interest is gored!! If a senator allows himself to think in this limited way, then one wonders what kind of advice he would be giving to Mr President?

Not much that is of any real value; and to say the least, it  further diminishes the quality of political thinking that is going on in Abuja currently.

From what these two officials of government have said so far, it will take only a court pronouncement on this matter to get politicians to do what they have to do.

Although the constitution demands that they should make a declaration on the health of the president for the senate president to constitute a medical panel to determine the actual status of Yar’Adua’s health, members of the Federal Executive Council, for purely partisan and political reasons, are refusing to do their job. This refusal is interpreted by the lay man as irresponsible.

Besides, Mr President of the Senate himself is not behaving as someone who would comply even if the FEC makes a declaration. Instead of protecting the constitution which he swore to defend, the Senate President is rather asking the nation to pray fervently for a man who Andoakaa says is healthy enough to govern from hospital!!

What kind of a nation is this, and what kind of people are at the helm of  its affairs?
The ruling party and its politicians are creating a crisis out of a non-issue simply because of the lust and obsession for power.

It is not too late to do the right thing. But if the politician fail, and this matter drags un-necessarily, then we might need the judiciary to intervene.


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