SIR: It should be recalled that in our statement of December 2, 2009, which was widely published and circulated not long after the absence of the President, we had urged that the path of constitutionalism be followed. We stated that in the event the President was
unable to discharge his responsibilities, the Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan should immediately be sworn in as substantive President. We are encouraged that since that statement, several groups and individuals from all walks of life lent their voice to this call.
Regrettably, that call was not heeded and the intervening period was heating up the polity. When on February 9, 2010, nearly three months after the President’s absence, the National Assembly intervened, it did so not on the basis of legality, constitutionality nor even pragmatism.
We have serious concerns about this decision which paved the way for the Vice-President to assume the functions of Acting President. While this may have temporarily defused the escalating tension in the polity, we should never contemplate sacrificing the rule of law and the provisions of the Constitution on the altar of political expediency. The action of the National Assembly has no foundation in law and violates the clearly stipulated provisions of the Constitution. It sets a dangerous precedent for the future, especially when it is said that a radio interview amounts to “transmission of a letter” and where the doctrine of necessity was so frivolously invoked. That was stretching the law and exhibited an unusual activism, even if it was a judicial ruling.
By this unconstitutional action, the National Assembly has created a Sole Administrator for the country. Having an Acting President without any defined tenure, and with no provision for a Vice-President, one person is now vested with power of the President and Vice-President. This situation goes against the spirit of the Constitution and our Presidential system of government. The reason why we have a President and a Vice-President and indeed why the Vice-President is sworn-in before the President is because in the event of the President being unable to assume office or fully discharge the functions of his office as is now the case, the Vice-President assumes the office of the President. In the current situation, should anything happen to the Acting President, which God forbids, there is a lacuna as to who acts for him.
In the final analysis, even though the President has not informed the National Assembly in WRITING of his absence, and since no impeachable offence has been laid at the doorstep of the President, the National Assembly cannot act pursuant to sections 143 or 145 of the Constitution and thereby be a key to resolving the current impasse. In order to avoid any serial violation of the Constitution, let us not shy away from the proper course of action. We are left only with the Federal Executive Council route. The Federal Executive Council, like all informed persons knew for some time that the President was not only ill, but gravely ill. Instead of them acting in accordance with Section 144 of the constitution, they again failed to rise to the patriotic challenge before them and took the easy way out by deciding to send a fact finding mission to Jeddah to ascertain the President’s condition.
This Federal Executive Council decision is a product of moral cowardice. However, it is not too late for them to summon up the required courage and instead of buying time to avoid the inevitable, decisively resolve to apply Section 144. It is up to those members who spin the falsehood of the President’s imminent return to prove that the President is or likely in the near future to be able to discharge the functions of his office.
Any further procrastination will have grave consequences for the evolution, unity and integrity of Nigeria . We cannot afford to wait for three more months of a heated polity to do the right thing. Not only should the right thing be done, it should be done now.
Alh. Dauda Birmah, OFR – Former Federal Minister,
Chief Audu Ogbe – Former Federal Minister,
Gen. John Temlong (rtd),
Col. Hamid Ali (rtd) – Former Military Governor, Kaduna State,
Hon. Farouk Adamu Aliyu – Former Member, Fed. House of Reps,
Tom Mataimaki Maiyashi – Former Commissioner, Kaduna State,
Sen. Mamman A. Dan Musa – Former Deputy Senate President,
Lawal Bawa (rtd Aig),
Clement Baiye – Former Managing Editor, New Nigerian Newspapers Ltd,
Lai Mohammed – Former Chief of Staff to Lagos State Governor,
Solomon Ewuga – Former Federal Minister,
Mohammed Haruna – Former Managing Director, New Nigerian Newspapers Ltd.,
Mohammed Bomoi – Former General Editor, Citizen Magazine,
Hon. Balarabe Wakil – Former Member, House of Representatives,
Setley Daze – Former National Commissioner, INEC,
Abba Kyari – Former Managing Director, UBA PLC.,