Wednesday, February 10, 2010

There are new updates on this situation as Yar'Adua has returned to Nigeria. Please read Nigeria's President Yar'Adua Returns? after reading the article below.

After an absence of 79 days and an ensuing leadership vacuum that resulted in court cases, protests and confusion, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been declared acting president of Nigeria. It took separate motions from both bodies of the National Assembly to convey executive power upon Jonathan. For over 2 months, Yar'Adua's absence raised constitutional questions about how a Vice President can assume the executive power and functions of the president. Section 145 of the Constitution was interpreted by many to require the President to issue a letter to the National Assembly asserting intent to temporarily transfer power. However, a court recently ruled that the President is not obligated to formally inform the National Assembly of prolonged absences thus, making the transfer of power automatic when he is away. But, this ruling did not dampen concerns about Jonathan's ability to act as President and Jonathan himself played it safe.

Goodluck Jonathan: Nigeria's vice president takes power
FEBRUARY 9, 2010
That was until February 9, 2010 when all of Nigeria's 36 state governors met with the Vice President and informed him of their decision to have him as the acting president. The governors then met with the Senate in a meeting that resulted in that body voting to make Jonathan the acting president. The House of Representatives also passed a similar motion and these legislative acts seem to have brought to an end the political uncertainty over who steers the national ship. February 9th could possibly go down in history as a day when democratic political measures where used to take Nigeria one step further down the path to becoming a true democratic nation. The new acting President himself reacted in a nationally televised speech saying, "by the grace of God, we have once again succeeded in moving our country forward."

Jonathan wasted no time assuming Presidential functions as he met with officials from the European Investment Bank, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and announced that the federal government is creating a disaster response plan. In another action that potentially highlighted his leadership style, the acting president locked out 2 Ministers that arrived late for a meeting. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, and the Minister of Power, Lawal Babalola, arrived 15 and 20 minutes late for a meeting with Jonathan and were not allowed in by security officers at the entrance to the conference room.

Nigerians from all sectors have been clamoring for the President to relinquish executive powers since he is currently recovering from treatment. From labor unions, Nigerian newspapers & media organizations, the Minister of Information and even the man who handpicked Yar'Adua to become President - former president Olusegun Obasanjo. The growing calls for a peaceful transfer of executive functions became too much for legislators to ignore, particularly the Senate which previously claimed its "hands were tied." This act of declaring Jonathan as acting President flies in the face of a recent 'promise' made by Presidential adviser Mohammed Abba-Aji that a formal letter will be forthcoming by the end of the second week of February. Consequently, this decision to not wait for a letter or further action can be interpreted as a loss of confidence in the President.

Jonathan's new role as acting President also flies in the face of what has been deemed 'an understanding' that Presidential power will vacillate between the south and north of Nigeria. Yar'Adua's possible inability to serve out his term raised concerns amongst many Norther elites who were reluctant to see Jonathan, a southerner, become President and hence, cut short the North's bite at the proverbial Presidential apple. In fact, the Northern Union previously warned that the "stability of [the] country ... hinged [on] power rotation between the North and the South." This writer raised the fact that such an understanding was not in the constitution and not necessarily in the immediate interest of the Nigerian people. Thankfully, it seems that the nation's governors, senators and representatives agree that holding the nation hostage simply to satisfy an unconstitutional understanding was foolhardy and a danger to Nigerian democracy. Yet, the Northern Union's threat, coupled with the recently rejected Al Qaeda offer to train Northern Muslims to fight against Nigerian Christians reinforces that the tribal concerns raised by Jonathan's appointment cannot be taken lightly. As such, there remains a possibility, no matter how small, that pro-Yar'Adua supporters could choose to challenge the legislative act. Hopefully, such a challenge will take place via legal and not violent means as experienced in Jos in January. And, Yar'Adua's handlers will publicly discourage any challenge of the people's will for the sake of the nation. Those aggrieved by the National Assembly's decision should look to, of all places, Anambra state for some guidance. If the players in the just-concluded Anambra gubernatorial polls can accept the election results that a court declared illegal, and even the government has admitted had irregularities , then hopefully they can acquiesce to the act of the joint legislative bodies.

There remains the issue of a corruption scandal involving Jonathan's wife, Patience Jonathan who was investigated for her involvement in the illegal movement of $13.5 million. As Jonathan now wields executive power, he has the means to tacitly or bluntly ensure that nothing ever comes of the corruption scandal involving his wife. Considering that Jonathan had to be pressured to reveal his assets, unlike Yar'Adua who willingly did so, there is a cloud of suspicion on the now-acting President with regard to corruption, a problem that has plagued Nigeria for far too long. Plus, considering the outcome of the James Ibori case which resulted in accusations that the nation's anti-corruption body 'bungled the case on purpose', and many who have been fingered (at home and abroad) as corrupt are yet to face justice, it is not a stretch to worry that a scandal tied to Jonathan will simply disappear.

Nigeria is trying to finetune a democratic style specially for herself. The prolonged absence of President Yar'Adua exposed holes in the constitution regarding the temporary transfer of executive power, but on February 9th, the National Assembly decided to bring an end to the confusion on that matter. It remains to be seen whether this legislative act will trigger a backlash on tribal grounds and what kind of acting President Jonathan will be. There are additional unknowns, such as when will the President return, if at all? And, if he does, will he gain back control of the country and how? Or, will Jonathan act as President until the next Presidential election in 2011 and will he run for President? The political vacuum experienced by Nigeria over the last few months must come to an end to instill confidence in the people and possibly enable various sectors of the country to operate as they should. Hopefully that will be the case with Goodluck Jonathan as acting President. It will be a shame if someone with the name 'Goodluck' brings anything but that to the Nigerian people.

UPDATE: A question from reader and fellow Nigerian blogger, Nneoma, has prompted a closer look at the Constitution. Reacting to this article, Nneoma asked "who then assumes the vice-presidency?"

Well, it appears that the declaration of Jonathan as acting President might be illegal, no matter how temporary it is. Nigeria's Constitution does not provide for an acting President/transfer of power to the V.P. under the circumstances that just occurred. Hence, the Constitution also does not provide for the selection of an acting V.P. This writer's reading of the relevant sections of the Constitution (§143-146) reveals that even if §145 is the basis for the declaration (so claimed by the Senate and relying on the BBC interview), the Constitution does not offer a means to pick an acting V.P.

A post is forthcoming on the only ways that an acting V.P. can be selected.

From the Archives:
- Is Yar'Adua Brain Damaged or Not?
- Nigeria's President Absent During Crisis
- Yar'Adua Health, Resignation & Nigerian Cost
- More Yar'Adua Health Uncertainty
- Yar'Adua Health, Resignation & Nigerian Cost
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health

15 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

NneomaMD said...

Thanks for the timely post on the issue. So, who then assumes the vice-presidency...I heard that that issue was being hotly contested by Yar'adua's err, "kitchen cabinet" while he was MIA.
Also, I wonder if Akunyili's recent letter (or memo) propelled this process?

Beauty said...

War is stupid, but while we are a failing state, we must stand firm and continue to inform that our best is not good enough....But now, most Nigerians are hypocrites, they see somebody doing something wrong, they laugh with him, they celebrate him, he doesn’t know that he is doing something wrong. - Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola.

Shadenonconform said...

An interesting question that nneoma raised. who will assume the position of the vice-presidency?

It will be interesting to watch how the corruption scandal Patience Jonathan is being investigated for will play out.

Yesterday Wole Soyinka was interviewed by Amanpour on CNN and he said that the Senate's decision to hand over power to Goodluck is one that may make or break Nigeria depending on how it all plays out.

Hopefully the Senate's decision will steer the country in a positive direction and Goodluck surrounds himself with people who have the country's best interest in mind..not sycophants who only care about their personal glory and pockets...

N.I.M.M.O said...

Cunny man die; Cunny man bury am.

A political resolution but a resolution all the same. Seemingly acceptable to all concerned at least to the Nigerian populace who have been at the receiving end of all the logjams. Now, what next? The next few weeks will determine. Think Aondoakaa will simply turn over? Wait and see.

@Nneoma: What's wrong with having an Acting Vice President? Remember, anything can happen to our Acting President; he may need to go on vacation himself, he may suddenly develop kidney and liver problems, he may drink tea and die, he may be impeached ..... who steps in then?

This is Nigeria; GOD's own Country.

CodLiverOil said...

Not too sure if Johnathan's assumption of the presidency is technically within the constitution.

I fail to see why the vice-president taking over, should trigger violence in certain geo-political zones (is the presidency to remain vacant until the president decides to return?). But with such local elites, anything is possible.

I agree with Beauty, the state that Nigeria is in is perilous. This is a time for bold steps from the leadership, which I don't see any political leader on the horizon preparing to undertake.

The guy (Johnathan) is already tarnished, when he almost ran for the shadows when asked about his wealth. You have pointed out the recent allegations concerning his wife.

Yes, that quote from Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, is so true. People like to smile and fete those in power, while pretending that all is well. The time is fast approaching where this pretence will no longer wash.

What will acting President Johnathan do about the fact that the only major source of revenue will dry up in 30 years?

(I commented as ocj). Will he rise to the challenge, or just warm the (presidential) seat. Will he collect "his due" and slip into obscurity (along with his wife) when he is satisfied he has taken his cut of the national cake and leave those who are left to sort out the mess, he inherited?

Or, will he put in place the foundations for a strong economy, promote less reliance from non-oil producing states on government revenue.

I am more inclined to say he will go for the former (ie taking the money and running), I hope he disproves this assertion, but we will see. If I'm sceptical it's because of the behaviour of our political class/leaders.

Anonymous said...

Good write-up as usual. Whilst I acknowledge the Country is seemingly on a verge, I still commend this step to have GJ as acting president as it seems that the ruling class are beginning to understand that Nigerians are very slowly but very slowly stripping them of their authoritarian power. Its a small steps but clearly for now, small steps will take us to our promised land.

N.I.M.M.O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N.I.M.M.O said...

On the 'acting Veepee' issue, I think the Constitution is silent on it because there would be no need to have one.

I believe it is taken for granted that the Senate President is next in line should anything happen to the 'acting President'.

Now, this presents its own confounding scenarios.

Word is already out that the Senate President deliberately refused to allow the impeachment of the president a la s.143 so that he would be in line to assume the Presidency if anything happens to Goodie Jo.

Some say it is to protect Goodie Jo but others say it is a self-serving move pointing to David Mark's antecedents as an ambitious army officer who was once penciled down to become Head of State.

The Turai clique had insisted on the Veepee slot all along and giving it to them would have been dangerous. Anything can happen.

As it is though, if they take out Goodie Jo, David Mark will step in and I don't think they want that ....

What if David Mark takes out Goodie Jo? Dogs have been known to eat dogs.


@ N.I.M.M.O.: Actually the Constitution is very specific on how the Senate president becomes Vice President. It is very clear that §145 (the basis upon which Jonathan was made acting President) does not apply. Hence, you are most likely right in stating that "the Constitution is silent on it because there would be no need to have one". But let's hope your cynicism doesn't pan out - someone takes aim at Goodluck Jonathan - that would only create more tension and Constitutional wahala.

Thank so much for adding to the discussion. This situation is very intriguing...

webround said...

We shouldn't be wondering about who will be the 'Acting Vice President' cos there is no need for one. In the simplest terms, the vice president is discharging his duties as the VP in addition [temporarily]to the duties of the President. You only need to start talking about a VP if Jonathan assumes the position of President i.e. he is no longer acting.

Also, granted that the power vacumn has now been filled but another question then is - was this done legally? It looks like the Assembly used this as a ploy to avoid the use of the impeachment framework. Standard reply from most people is - you do not take legal actions based on stuff reported in the news until you officially receive notice to the effect. This is the reason why you can hear on the news about a judgment that was delivered but till the parties are formally served, they can not implement the judgment. As such it is curious that the National Assembly is relying on a 'purported' interview when there has been no verification of who gave the interview

Anonymous said...

VP position is another concern while there's already so much at stake. It's getting pretty intense and I hope Jonathan makes the right decisions and takes the right moves.

N.I.M.M.O said...

@SSD: You're right. It doesn't really apply here but then can an Acting President be impeached?

Does that imply, even remotely, that the substantive President has been impeached since the actions of the Acting President were on behalf of the President?

So what happens if the Acting President is impeached and substantive President has not resurrected? Does the Presidency revert back to substantive? Or the Senate President?

Don't mind me o. Some of us are just trying to be a step ahead of the Nigerian politicians with all these mind games so that we will not be surprised when it happens.

We live in interesting times here and personally, I don't think anything is below the Nigerian politician.

Subverting the Constitution is their favorite pastime.

Mrs Sweetwater said...

I just want to know whether they've built the official hat closet yet ? and how about the official mad hatter ??? (wink*wink) so do we have a date for him to officially take over the sash ? and where is yardy ? please tell me he is not resting up after transplant in india. Oh God !
last nite the liberians accused nigeria of funneling heroin in and destroying their country. Oh Lawd.

forgive me I know I am sounding like Obasanjo.

Oh Lawddd-OOOOOO !

Anya Posh said...

My (acting) President is from the Niger Delta! Whaddup Yenagoa?! Whaddup Uyo?! Whaddup Port-Harcourt?! Whaddup Calabar?! & I throw-wey salute to all the remaining states of Niger Delta Republic!!!

P.S-Sydelle honey, I quoted your blog in a literature review section of my thesis...more power to you babes!

Anonymous said...

if we want to move Nigeria forward it's all going to come from us.The country we build today we remain forever for our children, no amount of wealth we acquiered will last forever.MOST NIGERIAN POLITICIANs ARE LACK OF WISDOM.

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