Since 24 November 2009 when President Umaru Yar’Adua departed for Saudi Arabia without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly about his medical vacation, this country has embarked on an elaborate experiment with extra constitutionalism.
Usually, when a wrong step is taken without redress, one thing leads to the other and wrong-doing becomes a way of life. This is what is happening in Nigeria.
The refusal to transmit the letter should have been viewed for what it was: a gross misconduct on the part of the president, punishable by removal from office through impeachment. Since the Constitution did not make the transmission of a letter optional, the president and his handlers should have known the grave effect of neglecting to write and forward that letter. And having failed to do so, the National Assembly should have followed the next logical prescription of the constitution by commencing an impeachment process.
Rather than do this, we chose to dance around the constitution by invoking a “doctrine of necessity” to confer the position of Acting President on Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The constitution clearly spells out the grounds on which a Vice President can become an Acting President. Yet we decided not to follow it.
It is said that when men refuse to obey the law, they would soon be looking for miracles. Yar’Adua’s failure to obey the constitution has now put in him a position where his supporters have to evoke ethnic and regional emotionalisms to save him from being removed from office while he is on his sick bed.
The other aspect of the constitution that has been neglected is that of Section 144, where the Federal Executive Council of the Federation is empowered to decide if the president is capable or incapacitated to carry on his job. The constitution does not envisage the current sitaution where an obviously medically incapacitated president stays put in Aso Villa.
When pressure mounted on members of the National Assembly to follow the spirit and letters of the constitution, it became clear that some undemocratic and unpatriotic forces were standing in the way menacingly.
It was for this reason that the Governors’ Forum advised against the removal of Yar’Adua; and the Governor of Imo State, Sir Ikedi Ohakim, cautioned that information at the governors’ disposal advised that the constitution be ignored.
One dangerous consequence of this extra-constitutional misbehaviour is that we do not have a Vice President. The northern part of the country is no longer effectively represented in the executive ticket as the zoning arrangement of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, requires.
Another lurking peril is that a court could come out tomorrow and declare the emergence of Jonathan illegal and all his actions null and void. If that happens, the chaos that will set in could undermine the unity of this country.
Let us make up our mind, whether we are prepared to live completely under the constitution in accordance with the prescription of the constitution.
The constitution is the only thing that defines and binds Nigerians. We are of the conviction that, no matter how uncomfortable anybody or group might feel about it at any juncture, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must be upheld and implemented.