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Anxiety as N’Assembly decides on Yar’Adua

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and John Ogiji (Minna)   |   11 January 2010   |   6:34 am  

The President’s absence which enters its 49th day today has generated heated controversy and speculations over the true state of his health, the failure to hand over to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in acting capacity and sundry matters of state.

Meanwhile, riled by the socio-political stagnation triggered by the absence of the President and the danger of the country sliding into a failed state, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka will lead a mass action to the National Assembly tomorrow.

 The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, told reporters in Minna yesterday after paying a condolence visit to the former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida over the death of his wife, Maryam that the Senate would take a decisive position on Yar’Adua tomorrow.

"I can assure Nigerians that by Tuesday the Senate will rise to the occasion. Nigerians should look out to what will happen on Tuesday," he said.

Ekweremadu pointed out that the Senate as the representative of the people could not fold its arms and allow the country to be without a President hence the decision to wade into the matter, stressing that "I can’t say this is what will happen but on Tuesday we will see where the pendulum will swing to so everybody should look out to what will happen on Tuesday."

The House of Representatives had, on Friday, also decided to debate the President’s health and absence when it resumes sitting tomorrow.

Jonathan had last Wednesday met with governors under the aegis of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at Aguda House, his official residence in Abuja.

No official statement was issued by either representatives of the Vice President or the governors on the thrust of the meeting. And no participant at the meeting was willing to go into details on what the governors discussed with Dr. Jonathan.

Only the Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also the chairman of the Governors Forum volunteered the terse statement: "The meeting went very well."

Last Tuesday night, the PDP governors met to review the current situation in the country.

The Guardian had exclusively reported that the governors who met then were and still are divided, just as the members of the Federal Executive Council are on how to move the nation forward in the light of Yar’Adua’s condition.

In the vacuum created by the president’s condition however, two persons are widely known to have gained influence especially because, according to sources, they are the ones who actually see Yar’Adua apart from his wife.

These two men are his chief security officer, a certain Yusuf Tilde and his aide-de-camp, Colonel Mustapha Onoedieva who hails from Delta State.

A source told The Guardian, "we may not have in these men, Sani Abacha’s Al-Mustapha but they come very close in the circumstances given that whatever they say is all everybody hangs on to."

Among the governors, a group, led by a young governor from the Middle Belt, believing Nigeria’s and the Yar’Adua’s purpose would even be better served with Jonathan being allowed to act.

To him and a few who share his view the move would bring tension down, douse the fear of uncertainty and give the nation a sense of direction.

But as The Guardian learnt, he is enjoying very little support from his colleagues, seemingly caged by the hawks around Yar’Adua.

These hawks, including some ministers, advisers and members of presidential personal staff, are unelected appointees known to be close to the President are not interested in the idea of Jonathan acting even when confronted with the reality of Yar’Adua’s prolonged incapacitation.

Their line, a veiled blackmail, it is said is: you are either with the President or not: a line which may have turned some of the governors, even those who met Jonathan last week.

According to The Guardian’s source, last Tuesday night meeting of the PDP governors, a panic convention on the dire state of the nation was attended by almost all the PDP governors.

A group reflecting a cross section of political and civil society leaders, mainly outside the ruling PDP, including its former national chairman, Audu Ogbe, has called for Yar’Adua’s resignation.

The 56 signatories also recommend that the Vice President Jonathan take over, immediately, to serve out the term of Yar’Adua.

Their signed statement states in part: "As President Yar’Adua’s compatriots and part of his larger Nigerian family, we sympathise with him and believe that his health should be given priority attention. At the same time, the need to provide effective governance for this nation of over 150 million people cannot be compromised…Indeed, the constitution has rightly envisaged the situation in which the country has found itself. In any event, we are of the view that the president should immediately and unconditionally hand over to the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to complete the current term of office, and conduct the next general elections on the basis of the report of the Electoral Reform Committee headed by Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais."

On the issue of those who insist Yar’Adua’s mandate restricts the presidency for two terms to the northern section of Nigeria, the group argued that the "conventions and devices such as rotation, are strictly non-constitutional and any attempt to becloud issues by mixing political party administrative devices would be unhelpful in the situation we find ourselves."

The group cited "several loopholes in his presidential service delivery," which they insist have not served Nigeria well. For example, the signatories mentioned the recent 2009 "United Nations General Assembly for which a private audience had been arranged between him Yar’Adua and President Obama for high-level discussions of issues mutually beneficial to Nigeria and the U.S. because he was in Saudi Arabia to ‘open a university’ which was a dummy sold to cover up his treatments."

Among the notables are former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari, presidential candidates, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Olu Falae and Prof. Pat Utomi; former Military Governor of Kaduna State Col Abubakar Umar (rtd); former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; former presidential aspirants, Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd) and several others.

They added that the president had breached constitutional procedures in the way "his health condition has necessitated several medical trips abroad (and for which) he has not transmitted to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he was proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office as required by Section 145 of the Constitution."

Some political leaders from the North, especially Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, have however cautioned against demanding Yar’Adua’s resignation. Sources close to Vice President Jonathan have dismissed earlier reports that some unnamed, influential persons were putting pressure on him to resign amidst the President’s ill-health as a guarantee for a northerner to continue as president.

On the threatened relationship between Nigeria and the United State (U.S.) over an attempt by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab to bomb an airline last month, the Senate leader advised Nigeria to exercise caution over the matter.

"We need to re-assess our position and engage diplomatic caution over the matter rather than engaging in a war of words because U.S. is an important ally to Nigeria," he said.

Speaking on the late former first lady, he described her as not only a pillar of support for her husband but an architect of consensus-building among women.

The Senator stated that the late Mrs. Babangida was a detribalised woman who through her non-governmental organisation, bettered the lot of rural women, adding that her death was not only a loss to her immediate family but to the entire country.

Former First Lady, Maryam Abacha and the former Minister of Information, Frank Nweke (Jnr.) were among the sympathisers at the residence of the former President yesterday to pay their condolences.

Saying that the National Assembly had become docile while the country had remained stagnant as well as drifting into anarchy, the Soyinka’s group that includes professionals, religious organisations, politicians and opposition party elements, said it was no longer satisfied with the political development in the country.

The Save Nigeria Group (SNG), which held an extensive meeting in Lagos last Thursday where it reviewed the state of the nation since the absence of Yar’Adua, expressed dismay at the dangerous slide of the country’s democracy, which according to it had resulted in several constitutional breaches.

It expressed dismay that deception by Federal Government officials, Governor’s Forum and National Assembly over the development had resulted in quasi-dictatorship, stressing that the group’s desire was to save the constitution of the country by making the National Assembly live up to its responsibilities.

A chieftain of the group and National Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Osita Okechukwu who disclosed this to reporters in Enugu at the weekend, said that the group would not fold her arms while the President continued to violate sections of the constitution which he swore to uphold.

He said that the action of President Yar’Adua in refusing to hand over to his deputy in acting capacity pending his return was in clear breach of section 145 of the constitution, which had also adversely affected the country.

His word: "By Tuesday, it will be the 50th day that the whereabout of our President has remained unknown and along the line, the nation has suffered a lot of reverses. And we said we are going to the National Assembly as an elective organ with the power to make enquiries. We feel that the National Assembly owes direct allegiance to the Nigerian people since they were elected by the Nigerian people to represent the various constituencies and senatorial districts in the Nigerian federation.

"That being the case, we said we better go to the National Assembly since the President has serially violated section 145 and has up till today failed to avail himself of that section of the constitution, which we regard as centre of gravity to the extent that section 144 talks about the Federal Executive Council in liaison with the National Assembly ask for a medical panel to be set up. Section 145 said that whenever the President is going on vacation or indisposed, that he should transmit a letter to the National Assembly to inform them which makes his Vice President to start acting pending the time of his return. But the President has failed to do so severally. This is not the first time he has failed to do this, violating the same constitution he swore to uphold."



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