By conferring on the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan the status of Acting President the National Assembly seems to have bowed to public pressure. Transferring presidential power to Goodluck Jonathan is the right thing to do. But the manner in which the National Assembly invoked Section 145 has not completely resolved the constitutional crisis. The federal legislators merely created a constitutional fiction to redress constitutional violation by President Yar’adua and members of his Kitchen Cabinet.
While the legal and Constitutional basis of the decision to empower the Vice President are inherently flawed, the fact remains that Nigeria has taken a step back from the abyss by the legislators’ decision and the consequent assumption of Acting President by Mr. Jonathan. But the fear remains that this fiction may fail unless reinforced with reality of Section 144 of the Constitution.
As a group dedicated to the institutionalization of good governance at all levels, 3G believes that the only way to truly resolve the crisis surrounding the Presidency is for the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) under Acting President Jonathan to as a matter of urgency and national importance, determine the exact whereabouts of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua as well as his exact state of health.
3G believes that the absence of President Yar’adua from the country for nearly three months without passing through the established procedure as provided in the laws of Nigeria is a clear breach of the Constitution that should not by simply brushed aside. It is a critical breach of security for a President of a country to be supposedly holed up in a hospital in Saudi Arabia without top government officials, including the Vice President and security chiefs, knowing his whereabouts. It is also disheartening that a resolution of the Senate to President Yar’adua to send to it a letter of vacation received no response and the Senate did not bother to inquire whether the resolution was delivered to the sick President.
If the President Yar’adua is incapacitated and therefore unable to send a written memo as required by the Constitution, then it raises serious questions about criminality and duplicity that demand answers. For instance, who signed the supplementary budget? Who has been authorizing presidential decisions in the name of President Yar’adua for 78 days? Have the security Chiefs made efforts to ascertain the state of President Yar’adua? And who took the decision to not only keep the nation in the dark, but also embarked on a campaign of falsehood to misinform the public? These questions require urgent answers if our democracy is to survive and grow.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Good Governance Group hereby calls on the National Assembly pursuant to its oversight power under Section 88 of the Constitution and the Executive Council of the Federal under Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently:
(1) Establish the exact whereabouts of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and determine the exact status of his health;
(2) Identify the different persons behind the decision to transfer the President abroad and the various roles they may have played in misinforming the public;
(3) In the event that President Yar’adua is considered medically unfit or incapable of carrying out the functions of President, to declare him so and swear in Acting President Jonathan sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief.
In the meantime, the Good Governance Group calls on the Acting President to recognize this moment as a transformative moment and redeem the promises of electoral reform and war against corruption which President Yar’adua thoroughly compromised. The Good Governance Group offers the Acting President a hand of fellowship at this defining moment to move fast and unwaveringly towards comprehensive and genuine electoral reform that will ensure that Nigerians have a real opportunity to effect genuine and democratic change of leadership at all levels of government in 2011.
The Good Governance Group will continue to mobilise Nigerians to demand democratic accountability and constitutional governance at all times.
The struggle continues.
Salihu M. Lukman
Group Organizing Secretary