Yar’adua Sick Watch Update: Day 84

“The president is seriously emaciated”

Ailing President Yar'aduaNigeria’s ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua spends his 84th day in the royal hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia today. Meanwhile members of his family, including his two daughters married to Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and Governor Alhaji Usman Dakingari of Kebbi State have joined their mother, Turai, in Saudi Arabia to pray feverishly for a miracle that will allow their breadwinner to recover from his present debilitating illness.

In this hope for a miracle, gathered that the family’s marabout has been summoned to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a round the clock prayers for Yar’Adua, who, sources said, has lost weight tremendously and still in the intensive care unit at the King Faisal Hospital.

“The president is seriously emaciated”, a source said.

According to sources close to the hospital, President Yar’adua’s weight has shrunk to 38kg from the 45kg that he weighed before he was flown to Saudi Arabia on 23 November.

Meanwhile, five members of the House of Representatives who went to Saudi Arabia last week had returned to Abuja, mission unaccomplished. The team saw only the First Lady, Turai. They were led by Alhaji Baba Shehu Agie, the Deputy Majority Leader, who led the team. Others are Alhaji Mohammed Ndume (Minority Leader), Patrick Ikhariale, Jubril Adamu and Fatai Moruf.

Also the delegation of governors that left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia last Wednesday is on its way back to Nigeria, having failed to meet with Yar’Adua.

The pro-Yar’Adua politicians that went to Saudi Arabia include Governors Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina, the president’s home state), Isa Yuguda,  president’s son-in-law (Bauchi) and Alhaji Usman Dakingari, Governor of Kebbi State, another son-in-law of Yar’Adua. The trio left Nigeria last Thursday and arrived in Jeddah on Friday. 

They are expected to return to Nigeria today via London after four days of fruitlessly trying to see the ailing Yar’Adua

Similarly, a top-level People’s Democratic Party (PDP) delegation led by its chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, and included Dr Haliru Bello Mohammed, Deputy National Chairman; and Alhaji Kawu Baraje, Deputy National Secretary arrived in the kingdom has also failed to meet with Yar’Adua. 

The inability of the delegations of the PDP, Governors and the House of Representatives delegation to see Yar’Adua appears to confirm the terrible state of his health.

According to reports, no Nigerian, beyond Yar’Adua’s wife and two aides, is able to see Yar’adua in Saudi Arabia.  Therefore earlier claims by the Speaker, the Senate president and current “Acting President” Jonathan that Yar’Adua spoke with them were false.

Back home, pressure has continued to mount on the Federal Executive Council to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution and declare President Umaru Yar’adua incapacitated.

As it becomes obvious that Yar’adua is in no capacity to communicate, let alone run the country after he was abruptly evacuated from Nigeria on November 23, 2009, more Ministers are now gearing up to support declaring Yar’adua incapacitated through the instrument of the FEC. 

Should they declare Yar’Adua incapacitated, the way for Jonathan to assume full responsibility as the “President” and complete Yar’Adua’s tenure would be cleared.

The conference of Nigeria Political Parties, the Save Nigeria Group and a former Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Alhaji Farouk Adamu on Sunday said the activation of section 144 of the constitution was the only acceptable intervention that could provide a lasting solution to the current constitutional crisis.

But die-hard members that make up the rump of Yar’adua’s inner cabinet plans for a final bastion of resistance against new plans to declare Umaru Yar’Adua “incapacitated”.

 The group include:

    Sayyad Abba Rumma, Minister for Agriculture,

    Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, the Chief Economic Adviser to Yar’Adua,;

    Adamu Aliero, Minister for the Federal Capital Territory;

    Major General Sarki Muktar, the National Security Adviser;

    Hajia Aishatu Dukku, Minister of State, Education;

    Ambassador A. Kazaure Oguche, the recently named minister for Labour; and

    Alhaji Aliyu Ikra Bilbis Minister of State, Information and Communication. 

Other non-ministerial members of the group include James Ibori, the former Governor of Delta State. 

Michael Aondoakaa, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who was re-assigned by Jonathan last Tuesday is reportedly putting some distance between himself and his former allies.

Nigerians’ anxiety over the country’s rudderlessness in the past 84 days may have thawed with the empowering of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan by both chambers of the National Assembly to assume the responsibility of Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces in the absence of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, but it may also have opened a new vista of controversy as to the legality or otherwise of the lawmakers’ action, considering the express provisions of Sections 144 and 145 of the 1999 Constitution.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was empowered by the National Assembly to take charge as Acting President, so that at least the country can move on as Nigeria’s ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua continues his over two months Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL).

But an ending to the long-drawn controversy and debate regarding the true state of health and administrative capabilities of Yar’adua appears not to be in the horizon.

Yar’Adua’s long absence from the country led to a vacuum in the leadership which was filled last Tuesday when the National Assembly passed a motion empowering Vice President Jonathan as acting president.

This action of the National Assembly is now being challenged by a former minority leader in the House of Representatives, Mr. Farouk Aliyu Adamu and an Abuja based lawyer, Ataguba Aboje. Both are asking the court to declare the motion passed by the National Assembly recognising Jonathan as acting president, null and void.

They said since Yar’Adua was not declared incapacitated by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), as demanded by Section 144 of the 1999 constitution, nor did he transmit a letter to the National Assembly of his intention to seek medical treatment abroad which would have automatically made Jonathan the acting president, as directed by Section 145 of the Constitution, the Vice President cannot be elevated to the position of an acting president.

Also, activists of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Prof. Wole Soyinka, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly and others have called on the Federal Executive Council to immediately invoke Section 144 of the nation’s constitution to remove President Yar’Adua from office so that Jonathan can be declared full president.

Soyinka and others at the end of their meeting in Lagos said: “It had become imperative that a logical and constitutional process of installing Jonathan as President with a Vice- President must commence immediately with the Executive Council of the Federation passing a resolution declaring Yar’Adua incapacitated in compliance with Section 144 of the constitution.

“We insist that the session where the resolution would be taken must be beamed live on National Television.”

The activists argued that the invocation of Section 144 would not only permanently resolve the logjam but would restore the esteem of Nigerians which had been badly damaged by all sort of lies which the criminal cabal had fed them within the last 84 days on the health of the President “as we press for the prosecution of all those involved in the forging of the signature of the President on the supplementary budget.”

“Failure by the Executive Council of the Federation to carry out this demand by its next two sittings (17 and 24, February, 2010) will attract the wrath of Nigerians and SNG and its allies will storm Abuja in a big way to insist on doing the right thing to save our country from the snare of the cabal programming Nigeria for avoidable disaster.”

Soyinka and his group stated that SNG’s protest marches in Abuja, Lagos, London, and New York were motivated by the need to restore the dignity of Nigeria and its people through a constitutional resolution of the power hijack by a cabal which “kidnapped a sick man who is incapable of knowing what is going on and acting in his name to subvert the will of the people and orderliness in our Country, and not just an anyhow pronouncement of Dr. Jonathan as an ‘’Acting President.”

“The pronouncement by the National Assembly making Dr. Jonathan “Acting President” by a strange interpretation of a questionable BBC interview as a substitute for the written declaration the President ought to have made before leaving the country, amounts to rigging and a manipulation of Section 145 of the Constitution.

“Only the unwary will not see through the booby trap in having an “Acting President’’ who is not sworn in by those who got an outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria to swear in his successor,” they said.

According to them, ”while we want Dr. Jonathan to assume full Presidential powers, his natural right by the constitution, we reject the extra constitutional invocation of the “doctrine of necessity,’’ which is a dangerous precedent that could become handy to execute an unpopular agenda against the people in the future.”

“Apart from placing one man and his kidnappers above the Nation, Nigeria has once again been presented with a Shonekan who was kicked out unceremoniously by General Sanni Abacha after a court declared the contraption he headed illegal in 1993. We are not ready to go that route anymore,” they warned.

Others at the meeting are Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), Mr. ‘Yinka Odumakin, Hon. Uche Onyeogocha and Mallam Salihu Lukman.

Meanwhile another Politician from Bayelsa State has instituted a court action today praying to the court to declare Jonathan Goodluck the substantive president in view of Yar’adua’s disappearance.

Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution regarding the matter, reads: “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 crux of the matter here is the legality of the National Assembly’s interpretation equating the less than one minute British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview with a man presumed to be Yar’Adua with a letter constitutionally required transmitting power from an incumbent President to a Vice President.

Meanwhile, in reaction to unending debate over the legality of their action, both chambers of the National Assembly continue to put up spirited defence of their decision.

Senate President David Mark has assured that members were guided by patriotism, wisdom and collective national interest, as well as the spirit and letters of the constitution and the desire to sustain democracy in the country in arriving at the decision.

“The last 78 days (as at last Tuesday) have been very challenging to us as a nation. We have come under intense pressure, stress and pain,” he said.

“However, we have examined all the options available to us and today rightly concluded that it is necessary to take the stand and allow the country to move forward.”

The intendment and spirit of the constitution, as far as section 145 is concerned, is that the legislature should have foolproof and irrefutable evidence that Mr. President is going on vacation, or is otherwise incapable, in the interim, of discharging the functions of his office.

“A rigid and inflexible interpretation will not only stifle the spirit and intendment of the constitution, but will also affront the doctrine of necessity. The doctrine of necessity requires that we do what is necessary when faced with a situation that was not contemplated by the constitution. That is precisely what we have done today.

“In doing so, we have as well maintained the sanctity of our constitution as the ultimate law of the land.

“Viewed from the ordinary reading of section 145, the Senate came to the conclusion that the President, through his declaration, transmitted worldwide on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), has furnished the parliament with irrefutable proof that he is on medical vacation in Saudi Arabia and thereby complied with the provisions of the section.”

He added that Yar’Adua would automatically resume office as President and Commander-in-Chief once he was well enough, returned to the country and informed the parliament, pursuant to section 145.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu insisted during the week that the act of the chamber was constitutional, going by Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution.

In the same vein, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, said the House acted in response to the yawning of Nigerians.

Bankole said: “What we did was based on the wishes of the Nigerian people… to make sure that we gave a political solution to the problem of the Nigerian state.

“We never really believed that there was a vacuum. In any case, we needed to make sure that we reassured the people that there was no vacuum and we did that successfully.”

According to him: “We believe that the step we took was within the confines of the constitution, which we all swore to defend. We did not go outside the constitution to find a solution. We believe that what we did was to apply current trends in science and technology in resolving a constitutional challenge.

“We believe that we are right and we did the correct thing, because Section 145, which we looked at, talked about transmission of a written notice to the Speaker and Senate President and we believe that in this age of technology, writing has taken a new dimension, because we have texts and we have e-mail and all amounts to writing.

“What we simply did was that the President satisfied Section 145 when he spoke to the rest of the world, including all of us, and it was transcribed in BBC and contained in BBC website.

“So, as far as we are concerned, Section 145 has been fully complied with. We want to assure our party that we are law-abiding people; that we are lawmakers and we will never go outside our constitution, because we swore to defend that particular constitution.”

Also today Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Governor of Kwara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum sought to debunk allegations that that the Governors only resolved to urge the leadership of the National Assembly to formally recognize the Vice President as the Acting President after a promise to release $3 billion to the Governors from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

In a statement he said that the governors unanimously agreed to urge our distinguished Senators and honourable members of the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to enable the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan formally take position as the Acting President.

“This decision, which was taken solely in the interest of the nation and the desire to protect our emerging democracy closely aligns  with suggestions earlier made  by leading statesmen, activists, and other opinion leaders, in resolving the difficult situation. Given the turn of events in the last two months in our country, Governors believed that the position we took was the most practicable in the circumstances and we are delighted to note the wave of relief that has swept through the country since that action was taken. It is therefore, most unfortunate for a newspaper to undermine the significance of this moment in our history by attributing it to pecuniary benefits”.

He concluded: “Our decision did not have to be negotiated or induced. In taking that decision, every one of us rose above party, personal or sectional interest to achieve a consensus on Nigeria. As State Governors, we are proud of the role we have played in resolving this situation, which has been hailed across the world as yet another testimony that our democracy has come of age and that we Nigerians have the capacity to resolve our political problems peacefully and constitutionally”.

Evidently, the action and outcome of it of the National Assembly might as well not be the end of the saga, but a step towards a resolution of it. Having taking this action, the next steps would be either for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to muster the courage to set up a Board of Medical Enquiry to ascertain the President’s capability to continue in office or for Yar’Adua himself (if he is able) to tender a letter of resignation formally to the National Assembly before the maximum of 90 days, for which he could be on AWOL, or face impeachment from office from thence for violating the constitution.

The extra-legal mandate handed to Jonathan to act as president is a dangerous precedent that could be taken advantage of by an over-ambitious National Assembly to oust a sitting president in the future. The legislature is not at all empowered to give itself magisterial powers to declare the Vice President an Acting President.

The latest development has also highlighted the imperfection of the 1999 Constitution, which gives room for so many loopholes, leading to this invocation of a doctrine of necessity to pass a questionable resolution that is unknown to our laws.

Now that Jonathan has become Acting President, he must first work hand in hand with the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly to correct the mistakes of his ascendancy to the office of Acting President, in line with the dictates of the constitution.

The task before him is truly daunting.