Goodluck: Acting v. Substantive

The upheaval surrounding the dramatic midnight return of Umaru Yar’Adua from Jeddah to Abuja in an air ambulance is gradually fizzling out without some of the more Tsunami like outcomes that were expected but tensions are still high. With the failure, omission or inability of Umaru Yar’Adua to make a public appearance or grant a media interview it has finally dawned on Nigerians that he is indeed incapacitated and this has spawned large scale calls for the Executive Council of the Federation to declare him incapacitated. 

This will supposedly jump start the process that will ultimately result in Umaru Yar’Adua’s removal as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Senate of the National Assembly, which will be a first in our checkered but eventful history. 

The most significant outcome of such a step would be Goodluck Jonathan becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a new Vice President selected from among the ranks of those who have been jostling publicly and in private for that position with an eye on the Presidency inMay 2011.  

While most civil society organizations and the international community will welcome such a development the Peoples Democratic Party and the Governors Forum are for different reasons opposed to Umaru Yar’Adua being removed as President and would rather Goodluck Jonathan remainActing President. 

For the Peoples Democratic Party, Goodluck Jonathan becoming substantive President would derail its Power Rotation principle, its code of honor for sharing the resources of the commonwealth, which alternates that powerful office between the so called North and South. 

The Governors Forum is opposed to a Goodluck Jonathan Presidency for selfish reasons as many in their ranks from the so called North and South divide are targeting becoming President in 2011 and 2015 and putting him in the driving seat is a death sentence on their ambitions. 

Of course I need not mention that those who believe for a miraculous recovery for Umaru Yar’Adua are also opposed to Goodluck Jonathan becoming the substantive President of Nigeria knowing that such a move will be a death blow to their waning influence in the corridors of power. 

Although I was one of those who endorsed the release of a statement by one of the civil society organizations calling on the Executive Council of the Federation to formally commence the process of declaring Umaru Yar’Adua incapacitated, I have doubts whether this is in the best interest of Nigerians. 

Before you start calling for my head or wondering if I have been ‘settled’ by those who stand to gain from the present state of affairs, you may want to hear me out on why it might be in the best interest of ordinary Nigerians that Goodluck Jonathan remains an Acting President. 

A man who does not have long to live does not have the luxury of thinking long thoughts as his mind is uncluttered and he is focused only on doing the most important things since time becomes his enemy, and this is really is the most significant thing about Goodluck Jonathan acting as President. 

Since he has a short time to act as President and with the possibility that Umaru Yar’Adua may miraculously overcome the multiple ailments that currently afflict him and assume the Presidency bringing Turai Yar’Adua back to her role of dominance, then Goodluck Jonathan has his agenda set out. 

That agenda is to focus on the needs of Nigerians and to do his utmost best to apply the resources of the commonwealth towards addressing those needs within the time available to him and set a standard for performance as President of the most populous black nation on earth.

The needs of Nigerians are so basic that it is shameful that in a world where some are aiming to have passenger flights to outer space, Nigerians are still crying out for electricity, pipe borne water, good roads, good public education and health care, mass transport system, public housing, and security. 

We are still plagued by Niger Delta crises, religious intolerance, rabid ethnicity, inability to conduct free and fair elections, widening gulf between the rich and the poor, all exacerbated by deep rooted poverty that has elevated the brazen pursuit and capturing of money as the object of life inNigeria. 

As Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan has the executive powers of the President at his disposal to begin addressing the multiple challenges that have for decades confronted and overwhelmed Nigerians and turned this great nation into an object of ridicule in the comity of nations as an example of a rich nation with poor people. 

So it is good that Umaru and Turai are next door to Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential Villa and that he goes to bed every night knowing that he might wake up as Vice President, and that even when he wakes up as Acting President that he is surrounded by those who remain blindly loyal to Umaru Yar’Adua. 

It will be good if Goodluck Jonathan can facilitate the conduct of elections from which he will not be a direct beneficiary so that even if the Peoples Democratic Party holds on to the Power Rotation principle and decides to appoint candidates as is their pattern, voters can exercise their right and choose who they want. 

It is good that the Peoples Democratic Party has declared that Goodluck Jonathan is not eligible to contest on its platform for the President of Nigeria in April 2011 so that means he does not need to waste time kowtowing to the leaders of his party and even attempting to satisfy their insatiable needs. 

It is good that the Governors Forum have told Goodluck Jonathan that they are not comfortable with him becoming President of Nigeria as this makes it evident to him that he is more a person of destiny who fate has trust on the highest office in the land despite the reservations of the Governors. 

Finally it is good that only ordinary Nigerians have positive expectations regarding the Goodluck Jonathan era because they stand to gain more from the effective exercise of the Presidential powers, as Nigerians never forget those who do them a good turn.


Kingsley Omose

“We must be the change we want to see in the world.”  – Mahatma Gandhi