Friday, February 26, 2010

Two weeks after the National Assembly created a remedy for Nigeria's constitutional crisis, and 3 months since his departure, President Yar'Adua returned from Saudi Arabia. His return has created growing uncertainty in the nation as the President is yet to meet with the Acting President or be seen in public. Despite this, the main question on every Nigerian's mind is why did Yar'Adua choose now to return to the country after spending 3 months abroad? There are likely various reasons for this choice but some key factors spelling the significantly diminished political capital of Yar'Adua and his supporters could be a main reason.

Source: Reuters
During his absence, the Senate and House of Representatives, with the support of state governors and a diverse group of Nigerians, issued separate motions declaring Vice President Jonathan the acting President. The move was well received by many but its legality was soon questioned. The issue of legality fueled a push for the amendment of certain sections of the Constitution, a review that was previously stalled for over a year.

The section used to make Jonathan the Acting President, Section 145, reads as follows,
"Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President."
Being that it puts no time limit on when the "written declaration" should be presented to the National Assembly, the Senate amended Section 145 to now require a 14 day limit within which time the President must communicate his absence to formally transfer executive power. It is left for the parliaments of Nigeria's 36 states to approve the amendment for it to become official. Section 109 was equally amended to place the same requirement on state governors.

The new language in the amended Section 145 is as follows,
"(1) Whenever the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the effect, and until he transits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President."
It also now includes another sub-section which provides instructions to the legislature if the President fails to honor the 14 day time limit -
"(2) In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section within 14 days, the National Assembly shall by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly mandate the Vice-President to perform the functions of the office of the President, as Acting President until the President transmits a letter to the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is now available to resume his functions of the office of the President."
Considering the rhetoric on the legality of the declaration of Jonathan as acting President, it is a good thing that the legislature took the necessary steps to change the Constitution and provide future guidance. However, questions remain, such as why a 14 day time limit was selected over a 5 or 7 day time limit. Under no circumstance is it suitable for the leader of any nation to disappear for any amount of time. To do so is to shirk one's constitutional responsibilities, something that a nation like Nigeria cannot afford. Nigeria is fortunate that during Yar'Adua's 3 month absence, it slugged through the constitutional and political issues it faced and somehow made it out with less uncertainty than before. But, to assume that such will be the case if for some reason the nation were to face a similar challenge is dangerous. It is a risk that could lead to future insecurity not excluding military intervention.

Nigeria has been plagued with fraudulent elections in recent years that have called in question the validity of several governorships and even the Presidential election results. In fact immediately after his swearing in, Yar'Adua promised a review of the Act and created a committee to review the electoral process. The 22-man Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) made various recommendations, some of which Yar'Adua promised to review and possibly implement.

However, during his absence, a joint committee of Senate and House of Representatives members chose to make a crucial change to the Electoral Act. Specifically, the legislative committee plans to adopt the ERC's recommendation that would require elections be held between 120 and 240 days before the end of a Presidential term. This and other changes will be adopted at a meeting to take place on February 25th, 2010. That means that Presidential elections, originally scheduled for 2011, could take place by November 2010, not giving a sick and absent potential incumbent enough time to organize. Plus, the fact that the Vice President is the current Acting President serves to add more confusion and doubt as to whether Yar'Adua would seek a second term. Yar'Adua's handlers probably thought it best for him to return immediately in the midst of all the political changes so that his 'presence' could have a deterring impact.

Throughout Nigeria's constitutional crisis, the U.S. appeared to be watching the situation very closely. On the very day Jonathan was declared acting President, he met with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson. The U.S. made pronouncements praising Nigeria for its "democratic handover", and when Yar'Adua returned, the U.S. immediately expressed its concerns that his return would create instability. And, now, there are reports that Yar'Adua's return from Saudi Arabia was prompted by U.S. interference. According to Nigeria's Leadership newspaper, American authorities counseled their Saudi allies on the "major international and diplomatic problems" that could stem from their prevention of top Nigerian government officials from having access to Yar'Adua while there.

If this allegation is true, and Saudi Arabia "released" Yar'Adua, it supports the widely held view that he returned to die in Nigeria. Saudi Arabia would not want to compound their prevention of Nigerian officials from meeting with Yar'Adua with the possible death of a foreign leader within their borders. Still, it remains to be seen whether or not the U.S. played some role, big or small, in Yar'Adua's return.

The constitutional amendment by the Senators took place after Yar'Adua had returned to Nigeria. This fact, coupled with the upcoming Electoral Act reform surely influenced the decision for Yar'Adua to return to Nigeria, in what has been deemed a hasty fashion. These factors highlight what can only be considered a lack of political capital and clout by Yar'Adua and his allies to stall or prevent these changes. This reality, coupled with the National Assembly ignoring a 'promise' that a formal letter was forthcoming from the President to empower Jonathan, can be interpreted as a loss of confidence in the President.

Whatever condition Yar'Adua is presently in, the fact that he is yet to be seen or heard from directly is a complication for Nigeria's political landscape. Political elites that have seemingly dismissed the president and possible foreign interference made it crucial for a return. Not to mention an oil-peace hanging in the balance, Northern elites concerned about their political control, supporters concerned about their fortunes tied to a sick/dead/dying President, The stakes are incredibly high. Yar'Adua's return has increased the political tensions and even a pronouncement by a spokesperson that Jonathan was to remain Acting President only raised more eyebrows when the Acting President was referred to as the Vice President. Ultimately it is upon Nigerians to find a solution to the uncertainties.

Hattip to pdbraide for the benefit of a conversation.

From the Archives:
- Nigeria's President Yar'Adua Returns?
- Constitutionality Of The Acting President
- Goodluck Jonathan Is Nigeria's Acting President
- 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

16 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

plastiQ said...

Hmmm. Sighs* And the populace (150 million) strong sits, too scared, too DUMBfounded to react. We now worship these demon politicians and their money.

Nigeria: weak people, sick nation.

Anya Posh said...

hmmm...na wa. The amendment took to long to happen. What were they really waiting for? Nigeria is too small to be having these kinds of conspiracies. I'm quite bored now. If he's terminally ill then he should say it. How can there be no public image of the president for 3 months?! In this day & age where camera phones dey yanfu-yanfu; nobody could snap our guy & share on the internet? E don tire me!

Shadenonconform said...

Ditto plastiQ's comments. It's so troubling and maddening that we are allowing useless "politicians" destroy this country for our generation and future generations. I don't even know what else to say..I mean... The situation sef don tire me...

Beauty said...

"Lisa: Congratulations, Bart! You get to go back to the fourth grade!" Isn´t it about time the military trend continues in W. Africa? After all, Niger Republic is only next door. 1st came Obasanjo´s 3rd term fiasco, a fraudulent Yar'Adua election, and now, this very dangerous game. I just wonder the type of control they teach in Sandhurst these days.

Anonymous said...

So we honestly believe that Yar'Adua is in Nigeria? Some major Doctors in Saudi claims that if indeed he has been moved, he would have needed something like a Boeing 777 to get down to Nigeria. I sound like a Conspiracy theorist, but if the guy has landed in Nigeria, who has seen him?

Saheed said...

interesting...how do you think this will play out over the next few months?

RE-Entrepod said...

Dear Sister I'm curious as to the equipment that he has to utilize to keep himself going ?

as I know naija is not big on medical equipment, and hospital care is usually rudimentary; which is why he went to saudi for care initially, right ?

also he would need around the clock nursing care and doctors to monitor his heart if this is indeed the case.

who is paying for all this extra care and as well, how does his health picture impact the state of the health of the country's politics?

I am very worried that this could signal a whole new round of youtube wahala in the parliment and again we'll be guests on the us johnny carson show.

could you imagine the introductions -

"and now live from Abuja, it's the Nigerian President ____________

yes we will all fill in the name of the person who will appear that day or shall we just call him the Ghost President ?

I kind of like that. infact it sounds rather infamous, "Ghost President". spookin ya ass from the top.

CodLiverOil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CodLiverOil said...

I will say this. He was turfed out of Saudi, due to America, telling them (the Saudis) that they don't want President Yar'Adua dying in Saudi Arabia. With that he was kicked out of Saudi with a flying ambulance for good measure.


America didn't have to issue an ultimatum, or threaten sanctions. Saudi Arabia wasn't such a good friend of Nigeria, just a quiet word to the Saudis and Nigeria's president is ejected shortly afterwards (jettisoned like unwanted cargo).


I hope people will draw at least one good lesson.

It is not good to disregard your own people in favour of someone else, especially when this regard is not reciprocated. Witness the denial of numerous delegations sent to Saudi (yes, Turai may have had a decisive hand, but it was ultimately the responsibility of the Saudi authorities), the disregard of the Nigerian constitution by the President in his conduct. The high esteem Northern Muslims view Saudi, and their (Saudi) disrespect of them and to Nigerians in general.

I wont' even go into implications that a nation of 140 million can't care for it's own president (or should I say the president spurned the nation's healthcare system). Compare that with Israel a nation of 6 million and their provision of care of Ariel Sharon (yes, Israel is developed), or even Cuba (a developing nation, that has been under US sanctions for over 30 years) of no more than 15 million people, Castro stayed home and is recovering, in his own time.

I think at least these are lessons that people can draw from this.

If Yar'Adua had stayed at home he would have avoided some of the ridicule he has attracted to himself and the presidency.

When we learn to respect ourselves, others will begin to respect us.

Don Thieme said...

While the issue has been totally mishandled by Mr. Yar'Adua and his team, all Nigerians should nonetheless show him the respect which is accorded the office which he holds. From all indications, both the president and the acting president (vice president Goodluck Jonathan) have the best interests of the country and her people in mind. If a transfer of power is to take place, it needs to be a legitimate one which respects the will of the Nigerian people.


@ Don Thieme: "From all indications, both the president and the acting president (vice president Goodluck Jonathan) have the best interests of the country and her people in mind"

Are you sure? I have to mention that if the country and the people's interests were truly paramount, Yar'Adua would have 'spoken' directly. Or his doctor or even wife (all be it she is being bashed, but I care not to join in on that) would have informed the people about the President's condition. At least, let the V.P. and heads of the National Assembly see him and then give the people a report. Or does the country not have a right to know what is happening or has happened to their President?

I agree the President should be afforded the respect of a President. Nigerians do nothing best than give respect to elders and those in positions of power, arguably a reason why we face some of the trouble we are in now, but that's for another day.

However, we cannot ignore Codliver's very important suggestion that Yar'Adua's missteps have weakened the Presidency. That is an issue I have called attention to more than once - that this President not take steps to diminish the significance of his office because the future consequences will last long after he is no longer a factor. And, even you acknowledge that "the issue has been totally mishandled by Mr. Yar'Adua and his team..."

Besides, people questioned his ability to lead and perform before he went to Saudi Arabia for 3 months. It is only understandable that his absence, the lack of transparency, a flouting of expected constitutional requirements and the resulting crisis would cause many to have little patience to afford this President continuous deference or respect. Even you would have to understand that.

And today, some are comparing the release of Obama's medical records to the continuing lack of information on the Nigerian President. Personally, I feel like I am watching a Nollywood film with far too many parts for my liking. The uncertainty is getting old, and if left to fester, something will happen. I just hope it won't create more problems than we already have to deal with.

Nevertheless, thanks to you Don Thieme and everyone else for taking time from your busy schedules to read and engage in discussion here. I truly appreciate the ability to read your thoughts and learn from you all.

Dami said...

a little off but for some strange reason instead of working lol i was thinking, isnt Turai doing what a wife is supposed to do- standing firmly by her man!! in the westerner democratic context or as our media would like us to believe this woman is pulling on the strings- a woman who has no roles by the constitution yet able to defend and protect her man--till they the yardies get all pensions, future contracts, sign on fees due them ebfore they exit the big house, in the nigerian context she is very brave o after all she is not the one stopping the NA from impeaching the president :)


@ Dami: assuming the rumors are correct, your suggestion is on point. I'm with you all the way on that one. Its an excellent point. Thanks so much for sharing and good to see you resurface =)

Sherri said...

do you really believe he's back in the country?

Anonymous said...

Nigeria with so many problems. I want to believe we are a special breed of very patient people. Extremely patient. We are comfortable with the situation if not we would all stop talking and start acting. To me, its quite a miracle, we had no military intervention at all or is it possible to say that both military and our civilian top politicians have cooked Nigeria's fate for all their personal interest whatever it maybe selfish or not Or Everyone has finally condemned Military intervention. Whatever it maybe I sincerely feel sorry for the death of one Man whose life might have been prolonged had he not burdened himself with Nigeria's affairs knowing of his weakness...I think we also need a constitutional amendment as to Presidential appointment that ANY SICK PERSON WHATEVER WITH EVIDENCE OR ANTICIPATED PROLONGED ILLNESS SHOULD BE TOTALLY ILLEGIBLE FOR ANY KIND OF POLITICAL APPOINTMENT SEAT IN NIGERIA. i pray we stop talking gibberish and nonsense and about the lacuna's of the law and start acting sense as leaders and as a people.

Chin Implant Side Effects said...

So what's the gist? Who is going to be the new Nigerian VP? Will the North and South jostle for that position?

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