President Yar’adua Sick Watch; Update, Day 31

Yar’adua; praying for his recovery: Yar'adua; praying for his recovery31 days after he was taken to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah; no one is sure of the exact state of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

In fact, the hide-and- seek game over the state of his health continues with top Federal Government officials preferring that Nigerians be silent over the all-important issue for which virtually no information is released, has done nothing but suggest to many Nigerians that President Umaru Yar’adua may be dead. Many suspect that the power brokers are hiding the news pending the time they are properly situated to take over power over the head of the vice-president, Jonathan Goodluck.

 Very worrisome, however, is the fact that since Yar’Adua left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia, none of his cabinet members had spoken with him. Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and the President’s in-law and Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, who went to Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Governors’ Forum, came back without a clear picture of the situation with the nation’s number one citizen.

Nevertheless, the Federal Government, yesterday, declared that God was answering the prayers of Nigerians for the quick recovery of their President, saying that “he is responding to treatment and that is true.”

In their Christmas messages, The Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor called on Nigerians not to relent in prayers for the quick recovery of President Umaru Yar’Adua but to intensify their prayers.

Earlier plans by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for the President to address cabinet members and the nation via video conference from the Middle-East,” was aborted without explanation.

With a major constitutional crisis looming over the swearing-in of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in seven days’ time, learnt that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua may anytime from now transmit a letter to the National Assembly over his medical leave in order to enable Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to act as the President of the Federation.

Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution says: “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.”

The failure of Yar’Adua to write to the National Assembly has created a lot of legal hurdles for key decisions, including assent to the 2009 Supplementary Budget and the swearing-in of the new CJN, Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu, who will take over from Justice Idris Kutigi, who will retire from the Supreme Court on December 31 on attainment of the 70 years statutory age.

The House of Representatives had earlier declared that if the president of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua fails to live up to his constitutional duties due to ill health, the House would not hesitate to explore the various allowances provided by the law.

No other time could be more auspicious than next week!

If the President is not back by the time Kutigi retires and the VP is not properly given authority to act, that would create legitimacy problems since the Oaths Act is very clear that it is the President that swears in the CJN.

“Without the VP assuming the constitutional authority as stated in Section 145, he cannot swear in the new CJN without courting legal battles. Some lawyers may head for court to declare the swearing-in unconstitutional.” With the looming crisis, it is now clear to Aso Rock insiders that a letter to the National Assembly is inevitable and the President’s inner circle is considering all options.

Informed sources say the President is not in a state of mind to take any decision as he tries to recuperate from his medical condition after a lengthy treatment.

To fill the seeming vacancy created by the President’s prolonged absence, On Monday the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Mike Aondoakaa, was reported to have directed the VP to take over.

But he denied the report. Aondoakaa said in a statement: “I as the number one law officer of the Federation do not have such powers to direct the Vice-President to take over.

“The relevant section of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vests the powers to appoint or replace the President of the Federation on the National Assembly.”

He said the Chief Justice of the Federation, the President of the Court of Appeal or any judicial officer could only function in that capacity after taking their oath of office as stipulated in section 290 of the Constitution. Aondoakaa said it became necessary to make the clarification following the misconceptions.

ThisDay Newspapers report that former heads of state have scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss the current political situation in the country arising from the President’s medical condition, which has kept him out of the country since November 23.

The meeting, which may hold in Abuja, will be attended by Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who was head of state between 1966 and 1975, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, civilian president between 1979 and 1983, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled as military head of state from 1976 to 1979 and as civilian president from 1999 to 2007, and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who ruled the country from 1998 to 1999.

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and General Ibrahim Babangida are expected to be part of the meeting. Babangida, who ruled from 1985 to 1993, is currently in the United States following the ill-health of his wife, Maryam.

The former heads of state, who are members of the National Council of State – an advisory body which meetings are usually convened by the President – are set to look at the issues surrounding the President’s failure to write a letter to the National Assembly to inform them of his absence from office, a situation that has not allowed Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to assume the role of Acting President in line with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution.

After the meeting, THISDAY learnt, the former heads of state will hold a meeting with Jonathan to offer him counsel and inform him of their position on the issues occasioned by the current situation in Aso Rock.

Buhari has already made his position public – that the constitution must be followed in case of any eventuality.  

Some citizens have gone to court over President Umaru Yar’adua’s absence, which has led to some unresolved issues, including giving assent to the 2009 Supplementary Budget. Three Nigerians are in court over his absence.

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) confirmed last night that the government was ready to respond to all issues raised by the applicants.

The aggrieved Nigerians are a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, a former Minority Leader in the House of Representatives from Jigawa State, Alhaji Farouk Adamu Aliyu, and the Chairman of the Jigawa State Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mallam Sani Hussaini Garun.

Falana is seeking the constitutional interpretation of the President’s absence. The others are urging the Federal High Court in Abuja to declare Yar’Adua incapacitated.

The two applicants from Jigawa prayed the court to direct the Federal Executive Council to invoke the provisions of Section 149 of the 1999 Constitution to end the “stalemate” brought about by the ill-health of the President.

The three suits reportedly upset the Presidency, which is worried by the constitutional implications. The cabinet, relations and associates of the President were jolted by the legal dimension being added to his ill-health.

According to reports, there were consultations on Wednesday night between the Presidency and some select members of the kitchen cabinet. The Attorney General and the Solicitor General have confirmed that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation will coordinate the legal team.

The Nation says: “There has been a flurry of consultations in the last 48 hours and the Presidency is assembling its legal team. These suits touch on the continued existence of the President in power; we cannot take things for granted. They also border on the legitimacy of this government.

“In fact, relations and associates of the President have shown keen interest in the suits. Without a proper legal representation, any ruling from any of the court could create more constitutional crises.

“We also do not want a return to the era of June 12 when we had conflicting rulings from the court.”


In 1993, pro-democracy activists went to court to declare the Interim governemnt, then headed by Earnest Shonekan, illegal….forgeting that the googled one is lurking in the background….They thus gave Sani Abacha the perfect excuse to intervene…the rest is history…

The House of Representatives declared that if the president of Nigeria , Umaru Musa Yar’Adua fails to live up to his constitutional duties due to ill health, the House would not hesitate to explore the various allowances provided by the law.

The House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Eseme Eyiboh while responding to questions from newsmen on what action would be taken if the president is still not in good health and not in office to sign the 08 supplementary budget, stated that when the situation arose, the issue would be handled accordingly by the parliament based on the provisions of the law.

That time is here!

It is unfortunate that Olusegun Adeniyi, Presidential Adviser on Media, a consummate professional, despite well-meaning entreaties has so far failed to do the right thing: lift the pall of uncertainty and unhealthy rumour in the country.

The truth is that the health of the president affects all of us and in the modern world, there can be no hiding information from citizens. For too long the minders of the president operated as if they were dealing with citizens who did not know better in such matters and in their folly, they lost opportunity to win empathy for the president.

Even under Babangida, Nigerians were kept informed when he entered hospital for an operation.

The Country should not be allowed to drift.

On November 28th, 2009, The Punch carried a report of alleged “Northern cabals” attempting to force Vice President Jonathan Goodluck to resign his position in order to ensure that if the worst happened, power would somehow remain in the North!

Various groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), have declared that the constitution must be followed in the event of a vacancy in the office of president, meaning the Vice-President should be sworn in.

But the Northern Union, led by Dr. Olusola Saraki said recently that constitutionalism should be sacrificed for political expediency – suggesting that a Northerner should be allowed to complete Yar’adua’s tenure since a Southerner (Obasanjo) had ruled for eight years in line with the power rotation arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Since then there have been all manners of reactions across board. A Joint Revolutionary Council represented by a certain Cynthia White, threatened that the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta Region would secede from Nigeria, if Goodluck was forced to resign.

Meanwhile the continuing absence of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua is slowing down the economy. There is no central authority as Ministers have defied the order by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan barring them from travelling this festive period. The VP who handed down the directive said this was to ensure the smooth running of government.

The continuing fuel scarcity has made for a dull festive period.

Our findings show that the market capitalisation of the listed equities, which closed at N5.117tn on November 23, 2009, the day the president, left the country, closed at N4.917tn as at Wednesday December 23, 2009.

Similarly, the NSE All-Share Index closed on Wednesday at 20, 528.82, representing a fall from 21,508.59 recorded on November 23, 2009.

Budget watchers say the inability of the president to sign the N353 billion supplementary budgets into law will drastically slow down all projects and severe expenditures to ministries and government agencies.  The supplementary budget will carry the nation up to March. Analysts say by January most ongoing projects would have been stopped.

Yar’adua’s absence could jeopardise foreign direct investment because foreign investors may not want to bring their money into Nigeria owing to political uncertainty. The oil giants, Chevron Nigeria Limited and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), among others, said the president’s illness may affect their effort to renew their Oil Mining Leases (OMLs), which will soon expire.

Nigeria; beware the ides of December 31!