Nigerians in U.S. seek end to vacuum in presidency

Similarly, a legal luminary, Sebastine T. Hon (SAN) said the Attorney General of the Federation’s assertion that the president can rule the country from anywhere is tantamount to reducing the office of the president to personal property of an individual.

David-West told The Guardian that the northern hegemony would work assiduously to thwart the Vice President’s emergence as president should Yar’Adua be unable to continue in office.

The former minister however expressed dismay over the refusal of the Vice President to resign from office following President Yar’Adua’s alleged continual breach of the 1999 Constitution, which authorises him to notify the National Assembly that he was going to be absent for a while, and that his deputy should act.

“He (Yar’Adua) has held the country hostage. Jonathan will not be allowed to be president. The North is more powerful. The south is disunited. Jonathan cannot be a good president, he is too weak. You can see all Yar’Adua has done to him without him resigning.

“Yar’Adua ought to have written to the National Assembly that he was leaving the country for medical reasons, but he never did. Why didn’t Jonathan resign and cause a constitutional crisis and we will be forced to respect the constitution.”

David-West said he is opposed to the views being canvassed by some Nigerians that they have a right to know the health status of the president. He argued that it is a moral and not legal obligation for Yar’Adua to tell Nigerians of his health condition.

He pointed out that while the President can stay in Saudi Arabia and dissolve the Federal Executive Council, he, however, lacks the power to govern the country from abroad as allegedly postulated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) recently.

The U.S.-based Nigerians are operating in different groups, but two groups are in the forefront one led by the Chairman of U.S.-PRONACO, Dr. Baba Adam, and the other by a Washington DC-based university teacher and public commentator, Prof. Bolaji Aluko.

Aluko, who had recently issued a statement showing how two U.S. presidents had transferred power to their deputies in times of medical inabilities, has now mobilised hundreds of Nigerians mostly from U.S., Europe and Canada, but also from Nigeria to sign a petition on the matter.

Specifically, Aluko started an Internet-based petition drive asking Nigerians at home and abroad to support a law suit earlier filed by Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, on the failure of the President to properly and legally transfer power to the Vice President and the constitutional implications. The suit filed in an Abuja Federal Court is seeking an orderly transfer of power through the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Earlier this week, President Yar’Adua’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji declared that the president did not send any letter to the National Assembly transferring power or requesting a medical vacation.

According to the petition on petitiononline.com, Nigerians at home and abroad who signed the petition, expressed their “support and wish to be joined in Mr. Femi Falana’s Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/732/09 of December 15, 2009 against the Attorney-General of Nigeria.”

According to the petitioners, numbering close to 300 in less than a week since the Internet campaign started: ” We wish President Yar’Adua speedy recovery from his current poor health condition being treated in Saudi Arabia – and without trying to pre-empt the ruling of the courts – we firmly believe that Nigeria deserves full constitutional governance at this time, and therefore requires orderly transfer of full powers to an “Acting President without further delay under action from the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly.”

The other group led by Dr. Baba Adam is considering an open letter to the President and his wife, Turai Yar’ Adua, to ensure a transfer of power urgently.

Hon, yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State said that despite the president’s failure to notify the National Assembly, Section 146(1) gives the Vice President the right to assume the office of the president under circumstances stipulated there.

He pointed out that the Vice President was elected by the Nigerian electorate, hence cannot hold office at the behest or mercy of the president. He further added that an unconstitutional result would be achieved if he is rendered lame duck or functional only as it pleases the president.

“Suffice to say that with or without the written declaration, where, by the condition of his health, the president cannot write the declaration, the Vice President shall still assume the role of Acting President, for there to be no vacuum,” Hon said.



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