Is Jonathan Still Ag President?

2010-02-25
THISDAY Newspaper- Funso Muraina, Davidson Iriekpen and Imam Imam


President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s return to the country is generating fresh tension with regard to the status of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
While the statement from the Presidency referred to Jonathan as Vice-President, some Nigerians say he is still the Acting President.

President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said Jonathan remains the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces until Yar’Adua informs the National Assembly that he is back and fit enough to discharge the functions of his office.
Akeredolu said until Yar’Adua is physically seen, Nigerians should not believe that he has returned and is strong enough to remain President.

“Jonathan remains the Acting president. Nothing has changed. Since he has been away for more than 90 days, his return should be a media event. Jonathan remains the Commander-in-Chief,” said Akeredolu.
He said that there is no reason why the President should be brought into the country in darkness without any public notice to clear speculations about his condition.

“They brought him under the cover of darkness and the report we heard from BBC and AIT was that all lights at the airport were switched off,” said Akeredolu.
“We ask, what is the reason for that? We also gathered that an air ambulance conveyed somebody and we are also informed that an ambulance was also at the tarmac to also convey the person. Discussion on this matter should await his physical presence to ascertain that he is back. He has not communicated to anybody to say that he has returned.

“We can only talk about his purported return. We have appealed the judgment of the high court. The only way the matter in court will be of no moment is when it is confirmed that the President is back to his office discharging the functions of his office. His return should be a media event. He should come out and address the country.
“I am sure the Senate and the House of Representatives will insist on having a letter intimating them that he is back. The question I will ask people is, did anybody see him? Journalists were not allowed to see him.

“Nobody can say that he has seen him. We are not like Thomas, doubting his return, but we will not believe that he is back until we see him,” he declared.
Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), said the fact that President Yar’Adua has returned to the country was not enough to conclude that he is fit and strong to rule, adding that until he is well and strong, he should continue to rest and take care of his health.

Akinjide argued that the President should address the country and let people see and listen to him.
“Don’t forget that nobody saw him when he came back. We read that he was brought back with an air ambulance and driven out of the airport by an ambulance. So if he is fit and well, he should address the nation let people see him. The fact that he is back is not enough to say that he is well and fit to return to his position,” the former AGF said.

Also, former President of the NBA, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) submitted that while Nigerians are happy that the President has returned to the country, one key issue that should be examined is his fitness to rule.
He submitted that if it is to be ascertained that he is fit to rule, the National Assembly which passed a resolution making Jonathan the Acting President should be notified.

Also reacting, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said the hasty return of President Yar'Adua to the country in the wee hours of yesterday when it is clear that he has not fully recovered, is to create an atmosphere that will make it impossible for Jonathan to effectively take charge of the affairs of state while a cabal continues to run the country by proxy.
Keyamo stated that while Nigerians wish the president quick recovery, his return does not put an end to the call for him to resign or be removed due to his health condition.

Keyamo contended that the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) has already declared Yar'Adua incapacitated by adopting the resolution of the National Assembly which made Jonathan the Acting President.
But in the view of Mr. Festus Okoye, Yar'Adua does not have to transmit a written declaration to the National Assembly in order to resume as President since he never wrote any letter while leaving the country.

According to him, the matter has to be debated in the National Assembly before a definite decision could be taken. He said: "The implication as at today is that we have a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on ground, exercising presidential powers, who never proceeded on vacation and who never told anybody that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office.
"In addition, the country has an Acting President imposed on the nation by the National Assembly under the doctrine of necessity. And before Vice-President Good-luck Jonathan became Acting President under the doctrine, the matter was debated by the National Assembly. In the same way, Yar'Adua’s return has to be debated in the federal legislature before he resumes office,” Okoye argued.

According to him, the nation is being faced with this challenge because section 145 was not complied with.
In his own opinion, former Solicitor General of Kaduna State Aliyu Umaru backed Okoye.
He said Section 145 is very clear on how an Acting President should emerge. Umaru said what is happening shows that the ruling party has lost control. He advised the President’s men to subjugate personal interest to higher national interest.
He added that they should learn lessons from what happened in Niger Republic.
It is not certain how the issue would be resolved. But the days ahead promises to be interesting. Surely Nigeria’s demcoracy is being tested.


 

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