Friday, December 18, 2009

Democracy made in Nigeria: Government vide Email and Facsimile by an incommunicado and Sick President

“The President can exercise his powers through the vice-president and
ministers while on his sick bed and that is what he has been doing. For example,
the Chief Justice of Nigeria wrote a letter to the President and copied me that
he would be retiring on December 31, that the President of the Court of Appeal
has just retired and that their replacements have not been screened by the
Senate. I sent the letter to the Principal Secretary to the President who
transmitted same to the President who approved it and sent it back to me.”

- Nigeria Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael
Aondoakaa (SAN)

If the above quote beggars believe, be comforted that you are not alone. I bet many observers of Nigeria stunted political growth could not have imagined the latest meme from Aso rock. For the first time we have a sick president, who is purportedly ruling Nigeria vide email and facsimile from a hospital bed in Saudi Arabia. For weeks, President Umaru Yar'Adua has been hospitalized at King Faisal Intensive Care and Research Centre, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for what staffers say is a serious heart condition. With no clear successor, Nigeria is roiled by uncertainty and many of Nigeria prominent citizens have called for his resignation.

Curiously, Nigeria primarily law officer, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, came out with the above shocker and then went further to enthused as follows: “The powers of the President are not exercised territorially. Yar’Adua can exercise his powers anywhere in the world, on the plane, at the meeting of the United Nations or even on his sick bed, as long as he is not incapacitated by the sickness.” While this statement may be an accurate restatement of the letters of the laws, at least as it relates to the exercise of the powers of president of Nigeria, this is not the applicable, given the current scenario.

We know for a fact, that when the president of Nigeria travels to the United Nations, or anywhere outside the shores of Nigeria it is for a short duration of time certain and we not only see him exercise the powers of presidency when he represents Nigeria, he manifestly do so vide public appearances when he meets with other head of state and sign binding treaties on behalf of Nigeria. Most of these events are well covered by the press, local and international and Nigerian of all hue could clearly see the president in action.

It is also interesting that Mr. Aondoakaa, clearly left open the answer to the questions most Nigerian wants the presidency to answer and that is: Is the president of Nigeria “incapacitated by the sickness” he is suffering from? How can Nigerian confirm the bare assertions of the president aide that the president is ail and hearty without any proof whatsoever in the form of doctor’s report and photographs of the president working from his hospital bed.

Nigeria’s current constitution mirrored in large part, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the two constitutions required that the president by a letter addressed to the National Assembly is required to inform the senate president of his intent to proceed on vacation, at which point the vice president shall act on behalf of the president.

What we have going on now in Aso rock is an amorphous arrangement where the president’s physical and health condition is only known to his private secretary and retinue of “hangers on.” The latter in turn tells the country that the president is healthy and that he is exercising his presidential powers on a sick bed in far away Saudi Arabia.

How can anyone prove to Nigerians that the letter transmitted to the president at Saudi Arabia was read by him? How are we sure that the subsequent response by the “president” was not the work of some private secretary at the hospital? How can anyone confirm that the president was of a sound mind when he responded to the said letter, given the very serious ailment the president suffers from?

In an open and transparent democracy the president health or indeed any other government official are never shrouded in secrecy. Everything is done in the open. We know for a fact that this is not the first time the president had had to visit the Emergency Room of Hospital. During the presidential election campaign, I recalled vividly, the efforts by the staff of the then presidential candidate, and now president Yar’Adua to reach the media with the information that he is alive. I know a colleague who was even allowed to place calls directly to Yar’adua at his hospital bed and who talked directly with the president to clear up the issue of his health. It was clear then that they needed the people’s vote to at least claim some legitimacy with the electoral perfidy they later performed on the Nigeria people. And now that they are in Aso rock the Nigerian people do not deserve to know who is ruling them? This to me is the message being sent by the ruling People’s Democratic party to Nigerians of all hue.

To demonstrate the stupidity of the current state of events, even militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta, whom Yar'Adua brought into peace talks only weeks ago, now worry they have no "good faith partner" to negotiate an end to attacks that have cut into Nigeria's oil-dependent economy. The president health is of a great concern to all Nigerians and should not be micro-managed by “leeches and sycophants” who are hell bent on using a “comatose” president to further their destructive agenda on Nigeria.

Already the rumor mill is bustling with tall tales of the shenanigans going on in the corridors of power. Some of which may or may not be grounded in reality, but as long as the president health remains an issue available only to an exclusive preserve of PDP top echelons, Nigerians should not keep quiet. We should continue to ask for answers and demand that the “junta” in government follows the rule of law and the constitution no matter how abase their conduct may be.

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