Politics Nigeria — January 28, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Mr. President, you are wrong

I may currently not reside in Nigeria, but I got mega love for her. I have watched in dismay and horror at the present calamity taking place Nigeria. I am referring to the current demise of leadership vacuum threatening to snuff political life out of the West African oil-rich nation.

Unlike most calamities in the world, this one is man-made, and rests squarely at the foot of the President, Umaru Yar’Adua. By refusing to transmit a letter to the Nigerian Senate President and Speaker of the House, prior to his departure to Saudi Arabia November 23, 2009 for medical reasons, he (Yar’Adua) acted in a manner not expected of the President of a country. Had he done the right thing by transmitting the much-talked-about letter, it would have paved way for the vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to act as president in his absence. The current international embarrassment could have been avoided.

I don’t want to get into the constitutional lacuna which provided the threshold for the president’s unacceptable behavior. I will leave that to constitutional lawyers to massage upon. Instead, I am more interested in the character of a man who throws his country on the bus for reasons not clear to me. Indeed, the majority of Nigerians are befuddled and can’t make sense of the President’s refusal to be in compliance with the constitution that he swore an oath to defend. Some may argue that he may not have foreseen that his trip out of Nigeria would take as long as it has. Well, how about when his Saudi doctors informed him that his sojourn there would take longer than he supposedly thought it would, why did he not do the right thing expected of him by transmitting the letter? The president’s refusal, hitherto, to pave way for the vice president to act in his absence as president and Commander-in-chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria constitutes a critical lapse in judgment. Nigeria does not deserve this.

It’s my understanding that the Nigerian democratic system of government was fashioned after the United States’. If that was so, why did the president not borrow a leaf from two American presidents who, in recent time, voluntarily transferred power to their vice presidents when they had the need to do so? For example, prior to undergoing colon surgery on July 13, 1985, President Ronald Reagan transmitted a letter to the United States Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, declaring that he was incapacitated. George H.W Bush (who was vice president) acted as President from 11:28 a.m. that day until Reagan transmitted a second letter (at 7:22 p.m.) advising that he was resuming the powers and duties of the office. That was the first time it happened in U.S history.

17 years later the second of the voluntary power transfer occurred. This time it happened on the watch of President George W. Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush. Prior to undergoing a colonoscopy procedure on the morning of June 29, 2002, President George W. Bush (the son, also known as Bush 41 to differentiate his presidency from his father’s) transmitted a letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, declaring his incapacity. Dick Cheney (who was the vice president) acted as President from 7:09 a.m. that day until Bush 41 transmitted a second letter at 9:24 a.m. advising that he was resuming the powers and duties of the office.

Did you notice the time in question for the two voluntary transfers? The first transfer lasted from 11:28 a. m to 7:22 p. m. for a total of eight hours and six minutes. The second transfer lasted from 7:09 a.m to 9:24 a.m for a total of 2 hours and fifteen minutes. None of the two transfers lasted a day and yet the two presidents voluntarily handed power over to their respective vice presidents. Reagan and Bush 41 put their country first and did not play any game by trying to exploit a lacuna in the U.S constitution.

Even the section of the U.S constitution that addresses the issue of power handover is not 100% mischief-proof. The U.S founding fathers who drafted the constitution must have worked on the assumption that both the president and the vice are honorable men or women and would act in good faith and not exploit any weak section of the constitution for selfish purpose.

President Yar’Adua and his political operatives must learn from this exemplary conduct by Reagan and Bush 41. There is a reason why the president of a country is called the no. 1 citizen. President Yar’Adua, you are Nigeria’s no. 1 citizen, and by virtue of that you are also a role model for Nigerians. Therefore, you are expected to lead by example and put the country first. The slogan is “country first”, not “self first”. To whom much is given, much is expected.

I am not sure of any cogent reason why the president would not trust that Dr. Jonathan is capable of carrying out the duties of an acting president. Dr. Jonathan has a terminal degree, and consequently an intellectual. Further, he had served as deputy governor and governor before becoming vice president. Thus far, based on his previous jobs in public service, he has a track record of supreme loyalty to his bosses, both current and predecessors.

Mr. President, the entire nation of Nigeria is waiting. Right this wrong.

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