By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
HOW much power does an Acting President have? Acting President Goodluck Jonathan answered that question,
yesterday, amid speculations that he could not perform the duties of the President, for reasons power mongers have conjured outside theÂ Constitution.
The political logjam began last November 23, when the President slipped out of the country in the dead of night for medical attention in Saudi Arabia and lasted until Wednesday, February 24, when again another operation in darkness delivered President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua back to the country. That he is yet to make a public appearance, or issue a statement made many believe that Dr. Jonathan counted for little.
All types of calculations had been made. There was an immediate crisis with the Presidentâ€™ arrival stalling that dayâ€™s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting where some thought that Section 144 of the Constitution would be effected.
That Section gives FEC the powers to pronounce the President incapacitated, a preliminary step to the National Assembly impeaching him if the report of a medical panel confirmed his state.
Two other FEC meetings had been put off for reasons that were either related to the inability of the Acting President to see the President or the Acting Presidentâ€™s engagements, as was the case last week.
Division along lines of loyalty
Finally, Dr. Jonathan did what some had been asking him to do – dissolve the FEC – which had been divided along lines of loyalty to either the President or the Acting President since he assumed that office on February 9. Some members of the cabinet have been outrightly rebellious. There had been speculations that some had resigned, but their letters were rejected.
When the Acting President moved Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, the former Minister of Justice to Minister of Special Duties, and followed that up with the replacement of the National Security Adviser, he was becoming visible and picking his strides.
A major argument of those who wanted the cabinet, shaken or taken out was that with the Acting President, coming from the South South zone, some of the political mathematics that resulted in some portfolios going to certain parts of the country with Yarâ€™Adua in the saddle, had changed. It made political sense too that the portfolios were reviewed.
More importantly, loyalty is an issue on several platforms. There are some who had led Dr. Jonathan through the tricky paths of the Presidency. They think it is their turn to be â€œcarried along.â€ Others also believe that some of the Ministers in the past cabinet were lethargic, and deserved to have been thrown out long ago.
A combination of these factors resulted in yesterdayâ€™s decision that borrowed again from the speech of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council, Lt.Gen Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who demanded action from the Acting President.
Danjuma at the inauguration of the Council, a collection of elderly people, with high net worth political accounts, asked the Acting President to act decisively.
â€œNow that you have been invested with the needed authority, the nation expects you to proceed quickly to effect the needed transformation. This is the right time for you to act – now when you can act quickly and aggressively, now when society can be trusted to be as generous as to credit you with your successes and to excuse your errors,â€ Gen Danjuma said at the Councilâ€™s inauguration.
â€œBecause the times are extra-ordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but extra-ordinary. Unless you take those measures quickly, the goodwill which you now enjoy may be lost. Fortunately, you have the required courage and vision. What you did not have in the past was the authority.
â€œThis is a decisive moment in our history. At such moments, God always ensures that a nation possesses significant personalities who are to act as His agents for change. You, Mr. Acting President, are the significant personality that God has chosen at this time to take your place at the front in the struggle to save our country,â€ Gen Danjuma said.
Dr. Jonathan has done the easiest part. The harder aspect is getting replacements that would make a difference for good in the way the country runs. It is unexpected that he would sweep everyone away, for this would be politically incorrect, but he has a great opportunity to ignore most of the political jobbers who would want to replace this cast with one worse than the departing lot.
There is a lot that the Acting President can do, if he puts his politics to it. Anyone in doubt should ask the sacked Ministers.