By Leke Adeseri, News Editor & Emmanuel Aziken
LAGOS â€” MEDIA stakeholders in the nation have asked President Umaru Yar’Adua to cede power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan or resign within seven days. Also yesterday, the Senate restated its stand on President Umaru Yar’adua’s prolonged absence from the country, and reaffirmed its resolution that the President should transmit a letter of his medical vacation to the National Assembly or face impeachment.
Rising from a meeting, Monday, in Lagos, the media chiefs said: ”If he fails to take this obvious constitutional step to stabilise the polity and keep undemocratic forces away from the political space, the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the President for endangering the country.”
TheÂ stakeholders, who met against the backdrop of crisis generated by the ill-health of President Yar’Adua, flayed ”the recklessness and unpatriotic politicization of the ill-health of the President and the dance towards darknessÂ by our leaders.”
According to them: ”Upon a careful review of the dangers posed to our nation by the gathering clouds in the land occasioned by disregard for the spirit of our Constitution, the stakeholders resolved as follows:
That President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua is human and susceptible to health challenges like every one else.
That President Yarâ€™Adua is no ordinary Nigerian, in any case, his health challenge is being tackled with national resources.
That President Yarâ€™Adua swore to an oath of allegiance to obey the letters and the spirit of the 1999 Constitution without fear or favour and to also promote peace and concord in Nigeria.
That the media stakeholders note the various efforts of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Kasee Aondoakaa, SAN, to secure rulership in absentsia for President Yarâ€™Adua even when the President had admitted in a BBC interview that his health challenges had temporarily incapacitated him and prevented him from performing the duties of his office.
That it is, therefore, frustrating and insulting that members of the National Assembly shall be committing very scarce public funds on a â€œgoodwill visitâ€ to the President in Saudi Arabia.
Intervention by former heads of state
The stakeholders commend the valiant intervention by former heads of state and other eminent statesmen that President Yarâ€™Adua should show regard for the spirit of our Constitution which foresaw our kind of situation.
Therefore, because President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment for more than 70 days; leaving more than 150 million Nigerians rudderless, thereby unable to perform his duties as Head of State, Chief Executive of this Federation and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and has not been seen in public since then, the stakeholders hereby demand that the President cede power to his deputy or resign within seven days.
If he fails to take this obvious constitutional step to stabilise the polity and keep undemocratic forces away from the political space, the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the President for endangering the country.”
No turning back, impeachment an option â€“ Senate
Uproar over the Senateâ€™s stand on President Umaru Yarâ€˜Aduaâ€™s prolonged absence from the country again boiled over, yesterday, with the Senate re-affirming its resolution that the President should transmit a letter of his medical vacation to the National Assembly.
In a seeming hardening of stance, the Senate equally affirmed that all options were open to it contrary to insinuations portrayed by Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, weekend, that impeachment was not an option to it. The high stake drama in the Senate was upon a point of order brought by Senator Uche Chukwumerije, PPA, Abia North, in response to the Sunday press statement by Senator Eze where he claimed that impeachment was not an option.
Yesterdayâ€™s session was preceded by a meeting of the 80-member Nigeria Interest Group, NIG, Monday night, where a response to the alleged adulteration of the Senate resolution of last Wednesday was allegedly articulated. The Senate also passed a bill to legitimize the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration.
The institution which has existed for the past 17 years without an establishing law was passed as a private memberâ€™s bill sponsored by Senator Joy Emodi, PDP, Anambra North.
Chukwumerije who introduced the issue to the Senate floor, alleged that Senator Ezeâ€™s press statement was a breach of his privilege to the extent that it was not a correct reflection of the Senateâ€™s deliberation of last Wednesday. Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, PDP, Enugu East, in a rare intervention argued against the articulation of Senate deliberations by a spokesman as he said that Senate resolutions should be allowed to speak for the body.
Introducing the matter to the Senate floor, Chukwumerije said: â€œThis publication implying that we have foreclosed all options has exposed the Senate to ridicule because Senate never discussed any options. And secondly, public view on the matter has exposed Senate to ridicule. I, as a member of the Senate, feel embarrassed, feel diminished by this disclosure.
I believe that the issue involved here is so fundamental that I will ask for a closed session for us to discuss the issue in order to avoid further damage to the image of the Senate and the psyche of most of our members.â€
Senate President, Senator David Mark who presided at the session, however, refused the request for a closed session saying that Senate closed sessions were no longer close as deliberations were often awash in the papers.
No close sessions, says Senate president
Senator Mark who affirmed that the Senate never discussed impeachment of President Yarâ€˜Adua or that of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, said: â€œI will overrule that because there is no need for us to go into any executive session on this issue for several reasons. First of all, our close sessions are not really closed session because at the end of the day everything is read verbatim.”
Senator Nnamani, a former political godfather of Senator Eze, while praising the lucidity of the spokesmanâ€™s summations of Senate deliberations contended against the role of a Senate spokesman, saying: â€œWith all due respect, I would not shy away from contributing to the issue of the Senate spokesman, Ayogu Eze. What we are practicsing is constitutional democracy.
The issue of Senate spokesperson is local and may be specific to the Nigerian democratic experiment.
â€œWhat we are practising is constitutional democracy which is synonymous with what they have in America. I have not heard of Senate spokesperson in American Senate. I believe the Senate speaks for itself. I admire the enthusiasm and the zeal that Senator Ayogu Eze is bringing on board.
But I donâ€™t think that the Senate should go back and forth. The Senate should speak through its resolutions.â€
Senator Eze, in response, affirmed that his pronouncement was articulated in a statement passed through electronic mail as he affirmed that there was no room for inflexions.
Following Senator Ezeâ€™s clarification, the Senate president denounced what he alleged as mischievous headlines alleging a plot by elements in the Senate leadership to impeach the President and Vice-President Jonathan.
Ruling that the Senate would stand by its resolution of last Wednesday, the Senate president said: â€œWith this clarification, we stand where we stand. We have made our resolution and we stand by that resolution and there should be no further debate. We are not going to go back on the resolution and there should be no further debate on the resolution. Thank you very much.â€