'Nigerians will compel Yar'Adua to obey the constitution'

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper- Onyedika A

COORDINATOR of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah in this interview reacts to the raging controversy surrounding President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's absence from the country for 75 days on account of ill health without transmitting power to his vice in acting capacity as provided by the constitution, among other issues.

How would you react to the controversy surrounding President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's absence from the country for 75 days on account of ill health without transmitting power to his vice in acting capacity as provided by the constitution?

What we are seeing in the country today is not strange to some of us that know the history of Nigeria. We are backward today as a country because evil men penetrate the corridors of power and cause confusion. That is why nothing is working in the country today. The only thing we can be proud of today is that we parade the highest population of people in Africa.

The president had told Nigerians that he would rule by law; that he is an apostle of rule of law and has eventually succeeded in using it to deceive Nigerians. When he wanted to remove Ribadu from office, he said he was complying with the rule of law.

However, what has been happening in the country in the last 75 days has exposed the president as somebody who never believed and don't believe in the rule of law as he was merely deceiving Nigerians. We understand that he has been very sick and one who is that sick does not usually have a mind of his own. The country sympathises with him but if he has conscience, he is not supposed to dance to the tune of people who don't care about Nigeria because there families are abroad. However, since he has decided to join those people to cause confusion, people are now ridiculing his situation rather than synpathising with him. President Yar'Adua is wrong to be playing along with some heartless and conscienceless people because God is hearing the cry of every Nigerian in this matter.

But a recent report said the President actually transmitted a letter to the National Assembly before he left, which was truncated by some hawks in Aso Rock?

We are now saying that if he actually spoke to BBC, he should through the same medium announce to the world that the vice president should take over all the presidential powers pending his arrival from Saudi Arabia. We are not even saying that he should resign. We are saying that power should be transmitted to Jonathan in acting capacity to steer the ship of governance in the country.

For instance, when I was sick in 2008, as small as my office is, I transmitted power to my chief of staff to carry out the activities of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) pending my return. We did that so that things would continue smoothly in my absence. Now, we have a situation where an out going Chief Justice of the Federation swears in his successor instead of the president in outright breach of the country's constitution. In the Abdulmutallab saga that saw the listing of Nigeria as a terrorism-sponsoring country by the United States, the American president wanted to speak directly to his Nigerian counterpart but he was nowhere to be found. He could not talk to the vice president because he has no acting powers. These are the things that have rubbished us as a nation. We are just showcasing ourselves as a mad country before the international community.

So, President Yar'Adua should speak up even if they stopped the letter. He is supposed to know that there are characters that want to ridicule him in the eyes of the people of this country and the entire world, and therefore stop them. This development is an embarrassment to the present generation of Nigerians.

What is your take on Obasanjo's position that he should 'take the part of honour'?

I salute Obasanjo's courage to speak up on this issue. It is not everybody that would have the gut to come out and speak publicly the way Obasanjo did even though the man ascended to power through him.

Obasanjo wanted to go for a third term in office but when he saw that the campaign would disgrace him, he decided to take the path of honour. That is what he is advising President Yar'Adua; that he should not cling to power to his own detriment. So, I don't see anything wrong in Obasanjo's position.

What is happening now is similar to the anti-third term campaign. The whole nation rejected third term for Obasanjo, now the whole nation is saying that Yar'Adua should transfer power to the vice president in acting capacity.

There are views that the north may be opposed to transmitting power to Jonathan because Obasanjo might come from behind and start calling the shots?

Those that are expressing such views should examine their conscience. We have heard responsible leaders from the north like the governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, condemning the prolonged swearing in of Jonathan as acting president. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is also saying that the constitution should be respected. So, who are the northerners but for four or five persons who are working for their own selfish interests?

But would Jonathan be able to call the shots in you view?

If somebody misbehaves as acting president Nigerians would descend on him and he would go down in history as a disappointment to the nation. He knows that Nigerians would never allow him to behave like a houseboy. The moment he is sworn in as acting president, Nigerians would insist that he provides good leadership to this country.

Do you see what is happening as a threat to the relative peace in the Niger Delta region?

The political class in the south south is silent on the issue because they believe that they own the militants. 99.9 per cent of the militants in the region are political thugs, with only 0.1 per cent genuinely fighting for the welfare of the region. Meanwhile, these political thugs are all under the control of the governors.

However, concerning Jonathan's swearing in, the pressure is there including from the international community. So, the cabal in Aso Rock has no option than to abide by the constitution although we know that the same cabal is inviting the military, which will produce a northern president, to come and take over instead of Jonathan.

But take is that when the whole country said that Babangida must step aside, he left when he couldn't withstand the pressure after all the manipulations. With the rally you saw in Lagos and Abuja, nobody in Aso Rock can play the game for too long. They cannot place Yar'Adua on life support in Abuja and tell us that he is fit to rule the country. They will not succeed. When Yar'Adua recuperates, let him resume his duties as president but for now, Nigeria must move on in accordance with the constitution.

How would you react to the recent crisis in Jos crisis barely a year after a similar mayhem in the same city?

We are not surprised at the return of violence in Jos because the political will get to get to the root of the matter is not there. Those who are asking America not to list Nigeria as a terrorism-sponsoring country should re-examine their conscience. We have had the Boko Haram uprising, the Bauchi riot and now the Jos riot all in a space of one year in the northern part of the country. So, I think we should remain in the American terror -watch list.

We have called for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to negotiate on the future of the country but they refused. However, it is now clear that we are supposed to discuss on how we would continue to live together as a country. So, the SNC is the answer and until it holds, we would continue to experience this type of crisis and it is unfortunate


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