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Yar’Adua: So long

By Kunle Oyatomi
Today, it is exactly 40 days since President Umaru Yar’Adua left Nigeria hurriedly for Saudi Arabia on health grounds, and the people of this country have no idea whatsoever what the President’s condition is like. There is so much confusion as to what is actually happening that one is beginning to be apprehensive about the motive behind the current confusion, which, without a doubt appears to have been contrived by those in power.

When the Federal Executive Council passed a resolution some two weeks ago confirming that the president is in good health, and therefore can govern, the whole country had thought that it would be a matter of days before Mr. President would resume at his duty post in Aso Rock. But the man is still absent!!

What’s really going on? Why is anybody or group of people afraid to let a constitutionally identified individual act on behalf of this president, temporarily, until he is well enough to be at his duty post? Why is the FEC so timid over doing what’s right in the present circumstances?

Why is the Attorney General of the Federation unusually frautic and making unrestrained statements, sometimes below the level of legal intelligence expected of him, about the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Really what is it that these power manipulators are trying to do with the country? Could it be that all of these confusing situations are being stage-managed simply to ensure that political power continues to be exercised by a section of the country regardless of the law?

The crisis of Yar’Adua’s health is having far deeper negative impression on Nigerians than the ruling politicians may think, (that is if they are thinking about Nigerians at all). For one thing, it is polarising Nigerians along geographic divide, although this may not be apparent within the privileged elites.

Tempers are beginning to flare up, and the deep distrust of the sixties and seventies are beginning to resurface with really dangerous dimension. It is not probable that the fraudulently motivated brinksmanship which the FEC and the AGF are riding can win, because daily the lie becomes ever so obvious that this is a self-serving constitutional misadventure that can hurt the political atmosphere significantly. So why are these people doing this to our fragile democracy? Is it because they want to abort it?

Already, Bar and Bench split

The crisis created by the refusal of FEC and the AGF to do the right thing in respect of the President’s absence from his duty post is now resonating negatively between the bar and the bench, with the former already stating categorically that the administration of oath of office on the new Chief Justice by a sitting Chief Justice is illegal.

A couple of days ago the out-going CJ of the Federation dramatically broke with the constitutional tradition of swearing-in a new Chief Justice of the Federation by the head of state or president of the country, when at the twilight of his own tenure the last CJ practically swore-in a new Chief Justice, a practice constitutionally unknown to this country!!

And he did so when there was a sitting president-in-absentia, who all functionaries of government claim to be well enough to govern, and had only days before purportedly signed into law the 2009 supplementary budget!!

The whole judiciary is in crisis because the bar appears to be positioning itself to challenge this abnormality and patently strange “tradition” where a sitting president “alive and well” does not swear-in a new Chief Justice, even as provided for by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but that duty was instead performed by an outgoing Chief Justice, while he was still in office!!

The AGF, who wants Nigerians to believe that he also has the powers to give interpretation to provisions of the constitution, has based his action on the oaths of office act of 1963, to substitute the president with the Chief Justice in the performance of this function. What the AGF appears to have forgotten is that if Mr. President (as he continues to argue) can govern from anywhere outside Nigeria — as they purportedly made him to do in respect of signing the 2009 supplementary budget — why should they deprive Yar’Adua from doing the same with swearing-in the CJ?

Did it not occur to the AGF that this action alone portrays the whole cabinet and himself in less than dignified light? Afterall, where is evidence (at least a television footage) that Yar’Adua actually signed that document? One would have thought that with all his “brilliance” the AGF should have known that these contradictory actions compromised his and the FEC’s integrity. Or should we understand the CJ’s action as part of a plot to undermine Mr. President’s authority? Afterall we are told that he is well enough to govern!!

For them to continue to think that the country is at peace and well governed is self deceit sustained by selfish interest, not the national interest. The year 2010 may not have a place for such shenanigan.

What’s about This June 12th

In 1993, crisis broke out after a national election on June 12th that reversed a problematic trend in Nigeria, and brought a southern politician — M.K.O. Abiola — to power. Quickly, those who had appropriated power to themselves as of divine right had the election aborted. The crisis lasted for six good years before we finally found a solution. But alas! June 12th is not peculiar to Nigeria.

On the same date this year, Iran also went to the polls and the result of that election has created great unrest in the middle eastern Islamic state. The supporters of the proclaimed losers of the Iranian June 12 election has been on the streets insisting that their candidate actually won the election, not the man proclaimed winner. While Nigerian government at the time lacked the courage to proclaim a winner or loser, they simply went ahead to annul the June 12th 1993 election.

Notwithstanding whether annulled or declared, the picture that is emerging is that June 12th is not a good day for electoral fraud. We tried it in Nigeria, it was tragic, bloody and extremely destabilsing. The Iranians apparently didn’t have it in their thought that June 12th is a bad day to rig election.

They are now suffering the effect even with greater impact of destabilisation. Perhaps the world had better learn fast that when it comes to fixing election dates, everyone should “beware of the ides” of June 12th — especially those who want to rig. It could really get bloody on June 12 as Nigeria and Iran had had the ill-fortune to experience.


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