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Under a civilian junta

A SIMPLE dictionary meaning of junta is “a clique (usually military) taking power in a coup d’etat”. A  coup is the acquisition of political power other than through the constitutionally prescribed rules.

When President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua refused to transmit a letter to the National Assembly informing them of his medical vacation to enable his Vice President to take over as Acting President, he created a power vacuum. Nature abhors vacuum.

Therefore, a camarilla of close Yar’ Adua associates in the Executive branch, in cahoots with overambitious and power-famished Mrs Turai Yar’ Adua, took over. They decided to hide the ailing President from everybody.

The nation and her international friends moved to compel both the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly to give effect to the relevant sections of the Constitution to enable the nation move forward but at first they started passing the buck.

But when the pressure became unbearable and it seemed that the very democratic order was at peril, the Senate championed the strange and extra-constitutional “doctrine of necessity” to  empower Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to assume the post of Acting President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It soon became obvious that as far as the faceless civilian junta or cabal was concerned, Goodluck Jonathan was still the Vice President.

Fearing that the Federal Executive Council delegation to Saudi Arabia’s return without seeing the President might lead to the invocation of Section 144 by the Council and the National Assembly, the junta hurriedly packaged Yar’ Adua and smuggled him back home in the dead of night. With him back home, those counting the number of days he spent outside the country would  stop.

Troops were moved from the elite Brigade of Guards to secure the smuggling of Yar’ Adua without the consent of the Acting President, Commander-in-Chief. And since he was brought back to his residence in Aso Villa, the Acting President, Commander-in-Chief has not been permitted to see him.

It is now clear that Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s powers as Acting President, Commander-in-Chief are limited only to the extent that the faceless junta is willing to let him go. A serious implication of this is that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is not the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

If he can be restricted by the cabal from having access to the President and areas in the Presidential Villa; and if troops could be deployed without his consent, then it means that whoever is the secret Commander-in-Chief can decline to carry out any order he gives which does not fit into the narrow interests of the cabal. Jonathan is only allowed to administer the nation but he has to be screened when he comes close to its security perimeter.

Last week Wednesday,  it was widely expected that the Federal Executive Council would possibly activate Section 144 by declaring Yar’ Adua unfit to function.

What eventually came out was an anti-climax. The Governors Forum, a day earlier, met and decided that the cabal must be allowed to keep Yar’ Adua in office as  absentee president, while Jonathan goes on with his current status of Acting President.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) announced that the presidency would remain in the North till 2015. The two leaders of the chambers of the National Assembly also made it clear that they were going to let sleeping dogs lie. The cabal had scored a stunning come-back from the brink of losing power.

The reason for this was clear. Removing Yar’ Adua from office would lead to so many people currently at the commanding heights of power also losing out because of the zoning arrangement of the ruling party. If the ministers had declared Yar’ Adua unfit to stay in power, how were they sure that Jonathan would not dissolve the cabinet and bring in new people?

If the presidency shifted to the South in mid-stride, how were the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps  as well as others who benefited from the power sharing arrangement of the PDP sure that they would not be told to step down? How was the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Vincent Ogbulafor, sure that he would keep his position?

Above all, how was anyone sure that the cabal or junta that is hiding Yar’ Adua will not panic at the prospect of his removal from power and move the tanks into Aso Villa? Their airport show was a clear enough demonstration of their desperation and determination to hold on to power till the end of this tenure.

This was obviously what the National Assembly, the FEC and other concerned interests saw and decided to concede the rest of this tenure to the cabal. The political auguries are on the side of the cabal because the North will feel more reassured of their 2010 prospects under the arrangements put in place by the cabal than giving full presidential power to Jonathan.

We are no longer living under constitutional rule. We live under the doctrine of necessity, in which the presidency is split between the cabalist forces of comatose Yar’ Adua biding for time and Goodluck Jonathan’s team.

The best we can do is to encourage Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to be firm and focused in completing the tenure that he and Yar’ Adua started together.

After all, General Murtala Mohammed started a regime and when he was killed his deputy, General Olusegun Obasanjo, completed the agenda of the regime and came out smelling of roses, at least in the nostrils of his sponsors.

With the volume of goodwill at his disposal, if he can move decisively to tackle priority needs of the nation, especially power, infrastructure and electoral reform, his future beyond 2010 will still be bright. But he must first of all brighten ours.


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