Jonathan Goodluck: Beware this poisoned chalice!

Avoid this poisoned chaliceA poisoned chalice is something that seems good at first (a beautiful cup filled with delectable wine) but after the person accepts the cup and drinks from it he or she discovers that it is poisoned. 

Michael Aondoakaa, the Federal Attorney General and Justice Minister on Monday wrote to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to function as President, in place of Umaru Yar’Adua, who was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment exactly a month today. He advised Jonathan in the letter to sign the N353.6 billion 2009 supplementary budget the National Assembly (NASS) passed on November 23, the day Yar’Adua left the country.

This belated proclamation by the AG Aondoakaa is suspicious. Why?


Aondoakaa was quoted recently as saying that, the President can rule the country from any part of the globe that he doesn’t necessarily need to be in Nigeria to be the president. Why has he suddenly turned around to ask the Vice President to sign a bill meant for the President’s signature when the V.P. is not the Acting President? What has changed in Aondoakaa’s legal eyes?

Remember some had earlier argued that the VP must resign to balance a mysterious North-South equation; Others say the VP must not act as president; still others suspect a coup d’etat is in the making with a rumour making the rounds that the upper echelon of the armed forces have been meeting secretly!

Whatever is cooking, Jonathan must not sign supplementary budget if he is not properly designated as Acting President. It is illegal. He must not give them any excuse to strike. Jonathan must not sign supplementary budget if he is not properly designated as Acting President. It is illegal. This is one of the acts that only the president could do and Jonathan could not act as at president except by virtue of S.145.  

There are only two ways the V.P can act and assume the mantle of leadership and these are either by the president transmitting a letter to that effect to the legislative heads of the National Assembly or by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, initiating the process by virtue of the president’s incapacitation.

Aondoakaa, The first lady Turai Yar’adua and the Federal Executive Council have always insisted that Yar’Adua is recuperating and getting better. They should take the budget to Yar’adua in Saudi Arabia for him to sign?

The VP should not be misled by selfish individuals who only care about themselves. The truth is that VP Jonathan cannot assume the responsibilities of Mr President without the process envisaged by the constitution.

The law is clear:

145. Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.

But how is AG Andoakaa’s proposition to VP Goodluck a poisoned chalice?

As already noted, the poison chalice is a term used when something first perceived as being very good and helpful, ends up being very bad.

This has strong similarities to the “white elephant tactic”.  However, the difference lies in the objective of the tactician and the awareness of the target.  In the case of the “poisoned chalice” the objective is the swift and covert destruction of an opponent while with the “White Elephant” it is to create a burden that ultimately exhausts the opponent – but is one they cannot refuse.  In short, they are aware that they are being targeted but are powerless to prevent it.  One tactic is swift; the other lengthy. (see

Thus, it is either the AG is setting the VP up to do an act that will consume him, or he believes that the VP is not up to the job of president, and so goads him on to assume a mantle that will wear him down.

A further reference to this tactical concept comes (allegedly) from Saint Benedict of Nursia (born in Nursia Italy c. 480 – died c. 547) a founder of Christian monastic communities.  The idea was referred to in one of his exorcisms, found on the Saint Benedict Medal:

“Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!”

(Begone Satan. Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!).

How does it work?  The principles are simple:

First select a target, Disguise the mission as something the target will wish to do for whatever reasons motivate them. Allow (manipulate) the target to accept a “mission” that is certain to cause the target to fail (or destroy themselves)

As soon as the target has accepted the “doomed” mission work to increase the penalty associated with failure, Overtly support the mission, Covertly undermine the mission, Wait until the target fails, Make the failure as public as possible.

This tactic works well on ambitious and “greedy” people that see the rewards first and consider the consequences of failure last.

An interesting addition to the history of the term, “Poisoned Chalice” is the book by the same name written by Jeffrey Freedman. What matters to the tactician is that the victims drank willingly because they believed they were accepting something good (salvation) but were in fact being murdered.

My question is this: whose interest is being championed by Aondoakaa?

Jonathan Goodluck should be wary of Aondoakaa’s illegal advice and very alert to the possibility of being given something to do that may be destined to lead to his fall. 

Aondoakaa had argued last week that Jonathan and any Minister can act on behalf of Yar’Adua, relying on Section 5 of the Constitution which confers on the President Powers to delegate authority. 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was still insisting by last Sunday that there is no succession plan either for Yar’Adua or Jonathan, and it was not known at press time what the party makes of the latest development.

Aondoakaa predicated his action on the invocation of Section 5 of the Constitution, which he says overrides Section 145 in the event that Yar’Adua did not transmit a formal letter about his absence to the NASS.

Perhaps Michael Aondoakaa is positioning himself to benefit from a delegated authority from the President to act as the nation’s president at this time of uncalled-for crisis or he is misinterpreting Section 5 of the Constitution which confers on the President powers to delegate authority by saying that Yar’Adua does not need to communicate to the legislature if he is incapacitated in order to allow Jonathan to function as President. 

Whilst the S. 5 of the Constitution is talking about a president in active service in Abuja, who, for one reason or the other, may not be disposed to personally attend an event within or without Nigeria, in which case he may delegate his authority to either the VP and/or a minister to act on his behalf, Mr. Aondoakaa is wrongly, selfishly and corruptly applying that section of the Constitution on this occasion.

The situation at hand is that of a president, who has gone on vacation for a good reason (in the case of Yar’Adua, for medical reasons), and he is not actively carrying out his duties in Abuja as should ordinarily be the case. Therefore, in this case there is nothing like delegating power to a minister, only section 145 of the Constitution should apply.

Not surprisingly, House members are unhappy with the statement by Aondoakaa that Yar’Adua does not need to communicate to the legislature if he is incapacitated in order to allow Jonathan to act on his behalf. 

Section 145 of the Constitution mandates the President to communicate to the NASS in the event that he is incapacitated to discharge his duties, or he is proceeding on leave. 

House Ethics and Privileges Committee Deputy Chairman, John Kalipa (PDP, Rivers), argued on Sunday that it will be a misinterpretation of the law if Aondoakaa claims that it is not obligatory for Yar’Adua to write the NASS before his Deputy could be empowered to act on his behalf. 

“The Vice President cannot, as it is now, command the Armed Forces or ask the nation to go to war if there is need to do so. He (Jonathan) is not the Commander in Chief, and cannot claim to be. These are some of the limitations he has. The Constitution must be followed to the letter,” insisted Kalipa, a lawyer. 

The acting Chairman of the House Privatisation and Commercialisation Committee, Abass Braimah (PDP, Edo), also urged Aondoakaa to allow the Constitution to guide his actions. 

“What does he take us for? They must always put the face of the Constitution in all that they do. Those in government should always protect the law and do the right thing at all times,” he stressed. 

There are certain Constitutional steps to follow, and they must be followed, Braimah added, as regards the Vice President’s duties and actions in the absence of the President.

“We will not condone any form of illegality, misinterpretation of the law, and any form of flagrant disregard for Constitutionality.”

The A.G should stop misinterpreting the constitution and misguiding innocent citizens thereby corrupting their minds, but advice the House or the FEC to the right thing.

If anything, this news item confirms the suspicion that Yar’Adua has remained in coma since they evacuated him from the Villa month ago and According to some sources, the Nigerian President has not spoken to anyone in the last 27 days due to the debilitating effects of his illness and is not in a position to come back to Nigeria soon.

The bottom-line is this::
1). Yar’Adua should temporarily hand over to Jonathan, to act on his behalf by causing  letter to be transmitted to the National Assembly to that effect in accordance with the Constitution.
2). Jonathan should be immediately sworn-in in the event the president becomes incapacitated  and can no longer physically and mentally perform the duties of his office, in accordance with the Constitution.
3). Until either of the above takes place, Jonathan should NOT make the mistake of signing the approved budget as that would be illegal and could lead him to taking the poisoned chalice.