Monday, 18 January 2010

Idiots! Am Still Your President: Between President Yar’Adua And The Rest Of Us

The beauty of democracy lies in accountability. The elected officials are accountable to the people. They cannot do anything even things they like doing without telling the electorates. The meaning is that they have to exercise utmost precaution in both their public and private actions and utterances. In fact they do not have a private life. Elected officials by the act of being elected automatically forfeited their right to privacy and private life to the nation and they cannot do anything to stop this part of their life from being under public scrutiny at all times especially by the press.

Privacy and private lives are antithetical to holding public offices. If elected officials cherish their privacy a lot, they have one option and that option is relinquishing their public office and reverting to their private lives. This way they could be able to lay claim to the right to privacy and private life as well as having a ground to sue for invasion of privacy. The argument is very clear; stand for public office and you lose your privacy and private life.

It is because of this that the electorates have the right to know at all point in time the actions of their elected officials including their privacy and private life, their whereabouts and in fact everything about them. They are entitled to know everything and should be concerned about their previous and everyday lives including convictions, qualifications, extra-marital affairs and whatever on the face of the earth you can think of. The electorates have the right to know and this right is not negotiable. It is the core of the right to democracy and it is inherent in human nature and therefore inalienable. Therefore no public official has the privilege to claim the right to privacy and private life or to lay claim to any form of compensation for the invasion of their private lives. By electing to serve, they also elected to have their dirty linens watched in the public.

This lost of the right to their private lives and privacy also extends to their immediate family, extended family, business acquaintances and in fact any form of relationship they exercise and the reason is because a country cannot afford to be led by people of questionable characters or people whose families and acquaintances could bring public opprobrium and disrepute to the country. The implication of this statement is that elected officials are supposed to be men and women of good behaviour, outstanding character, unblemished record, sound wisdom, strong judgement, impeccable integrity and not just any tout or thug from the bus stop. That does not actually stop there; these people should also be ready to surrender their privacy to the nation and cannot do anything and I mean anything even the minute ones without informing the electorates. Like in the famous Meerkat television commercial the electorates have the right to know, simple!

The reason for writing this is because of what is happening at the moment in Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate, appalling and disgusting that one man could have the gut to treat about 145 million Nigerians like idiots and yet be allowed to go scot free. That could never happen elsewhere even in tiny Africa countries. I am therefore flabbergasted that Nigeria, a country very rich in human resources could allow this to happen to her. Where has the giant in us gone to? Are we now so stupid that we are lacking in wise men and women?

It all began on November 23, 2009. The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Shehu Umaru Musa Yar'Adua just woke up, collected his belongings and left for Saudi Arabia on a medical treatment. Nobody was informed about the plan, not even the House of Assembly or the media. He just abandoned his duty and absconded. While leaving he refused to formally handover to his vice as the Acting President. He vehemently refused to do this due to his love and lust for power, personal aggrandisement, ego and the desire to cling to power till he drops dead. This is the president of the most populous black nation on earth. His action is unprecedented and a sign that this man has no respect for the electorates, the constitution and even the democracy. He has got no regard for Nigeria and does not consider her sacred enough to tell Nigerians that he is not only leaving the country but would also not be handing over to his vice as stipulated by the constitution. This would later create a big problem for the nation especially in the judiciary sector.

The action of the president should have warranted the immediate initiation of impeachment process by the National Assembly but the cowards refused to do anything preferring to justify his actions. If that is painful, how about the fact that the president of Nigeria had the effrontery to leave the shores of Nigeria to seek for medical attention abroad? Does that mean that he does not have faith in the healthcare system of his own country? Unfortunately no one sees the argument from that angle. The National Assembly who is supposed to initiate the impeachment process against him for that affront added insult to injury by asking Nigerians to pray for him. These are people who were ab initio never told of the whereabouts and the problem of the president they elected. An insult beyond comparison! They were denied the basic right to know about the whereabouts and conditions of the president they elected and yet asked to pray for him. Well some people prayed and I wonder what they were asking God.

The whereabouts was a closely guarded secret until pressures from here and there and yonder including a judicial threat made the powers to be to reveal that he is in Saudi Arabia on medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment. Three days later, a grapevine had it that he suffers from Pericarditis. Inflammation of the pericardium is called pericarditis The pericardium is a thin layer of specialized tissue that covers the outer surfaces of the heart. This tissue helps to anchor the heart in place, prevents excessive movement of the heart in the chest when body position changes, protects the heart from infections and tumours that develop in and may spread from nearby tissues, and may help keep the heart from enlarging. Pericarditis frequently causes a characteristic chest pain that usually compels one to seek medical attention. There are many causes of pericarditis, including infection, kidney failure, metastatic disease, some medications and radiation therapy. Recent viral infection often precedes pericarditis in young, otherwise healthy patients. In idiopathic pericarditis, no clear cause is determined.

The president is also allegedly suffering from kidney complication, skin infections and probably others they do not want us to know. His life and presidency is completely shrouded in secrecy that is unprecedented in the history of democracy and this country. This leaves all of us wondering if that was actually what we bargained for! We want democracy by all means but obviously not this type of democracy. As the conclave-like drama was going on, one sane Nigerian and a foremost activist and lawyer, Femi Falana initiated a suit against the Federal Executive Council asking the Abuja Federal High Court to declare the actions of the Council in the absence of the president illegal, null and void and of no effect. He also sought for an order of mandatory injunction compelling President Yar’Adua to send a written declaration to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives stating that he has proceeded on medical leave and therefore empowers the vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, to discharge the functions of the president as the acting president of Nigeria.

Mr. Falana, in his suit stated that despite the assurance of the federal government that the vice president is ‘in charge’ the exercise of any of the functions or duties of the president by the vice president is illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever unless the office is properly transmitted to him. The Federal Executive Council comprises the president, the vice president and all ministers. The council meets weekly to take decisions that determine the direction of domestic policies of the government and to award contracts. According to the 1999 constitution, the president presides over the council. The president did not officially hand over to his vice before he disappeared and since the disappearance, the vice president had held about four FEC meetings, where several decisions had been taken, including the award of contracts running into billions of naira. It is the validity of these decisions that Mr. Falana is asking the Federal High Court to quash.

In the midst of that suit, a new Chief Justice for Nigeria was sworn in on December 30, 2009. By the stipulations of the Nigerian constitution, the swearing in of Aloysius Katsina-Alu as the new Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court is illegal, as only the president has the power to take his oath of office. The ceremony was presided over by the outgoing Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, who retired on 31 December, 2009. The constitution made it clear that the chief justice can only be sworn in by the president meaning that the legality of the swearing in exercise is questionable, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect. This claim was denied by the outgoing Chief Justice who posited that law had long been in existence to allow chief justices to swear in their successors.

Meanwhile, in the Abuja Federal High Court, common sense finally prevailed when the presiding judge ruled that the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan should commence exercising the full powers of the president pending the return of Yar'Adua. Justice Daniel Abutu, observed that Yar'Adua did not transmit any letter to the National Assembly informing it that his deputy should begin to exercise his duties pending his return from Saudi Arabia, where he is receiving medical treatment. As a result of that negligence he therefore ordered the enthronement of Jonathan Goodluck as the Acting President. What a Goodluck for Goodluck!

The order seems to have finally put to rest the controversy. Justice Abutu declared that the vice president could become the acting president but could only carry out the functions of the president in his absence, which he has been doing and should continue to do as enshrined in section 5 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

Few days later after this judicial pronouncement, precisely on January 12, 2010, President Yar’Adua in a blatant disregard for Nigerians and the Nigerian media connived with his northern brothers at the Hausa Service of the BBC to air a telephone interview where he claimed that he is getting better and would soon return home to resume his duties. I find the whole drama very absurd and I have many reasons for that. In the first place why would Yar’Adua choose the Hausa Service of BBC for the interview and not other services like the English service? The conclusion is that some cabals in the north are working tirelessly to ensure that this impunity being perpetrated by Yar’Adua continues and that is why it was very easy for them to use the Hausa Service to achieve this aim. The BBC World Service Trust has therefore a responsibility to initiate an investigation to find out how Yar’Adua and his cohorts were able to manipulate the Hausa Service to air the interview. Something is definitely wrong somewhere and BBC Hausa Service knows that.

Besides why did the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic Nigeria abandoned his own media in preference for the foreign media. What happened to the Nigeria Television Authority, Radio Nigeria, Voice of Nigeria and even the News Agency of Nigeria? Nigerians should begin to ask questions because the implication is that this man who abandoned the Nigerian healthcare sector to receive medical attention abroad and on top of that chose to grant an interview to a foreign media instead of his own media does not have any iota of faith in his own country and that is the reason why he should be forced to resign.

I do sympathise with President Yar’Adua and his health condition but the fact is that I do not see why he should hide under his sickness to flagrantly disrespect Nigerians. He has an obligation to resign and take good care of himself since it is obvious by his actions that he is no more physically and morally fit to lead this country. He is sick and the best thing for him to do would be to resign. He has a responsibility towards himself and that responsibility involves taking adequate care of himself healthwise. It is obvious that there is no way he could combine his fragile health with the business of presiding over Nigeria. He is incompetent, clueless, egoistic, proud, not in touch with Nigerians and therefore should resign so that the nation could move forward.

Nigeria is made up of about 145 million people and Yar’Adua cannot be more important than all of us. He is a minute figure in this ocean of people. He should therefore leave the scene now that the ovation is still high so that the nation could move forward. It is an act of wickedness, irresponsibility, lack of love for the nation, pride and lack of patriotism for Yar’Adua to think that he could preside over Nigeria from a hospital in Saudi Arabia. That is not acceptable. He is not the only person who could preside over Nigeria. We have many other Nigerians who could do the job and even do it better. He should therefore step aside and stop being a cog in the wheel of progress of this country.

Nigeria and Nigerians have been going through a lot of hard times and the idea that Yar’Adua should be a new addition to the problems we have already is what we do not want at this point in time. His insatiable appetite and lust for power is making him to overlook the basic thing which is to take a good care of himself. He is simply not capable at this point in time and therefore should resign. Yar’Adua is obviously what we do not want right now. His actions are deplorable, reflect African leaders’ mentality and remind me of the conversation between Banzai and Scar in the Walt Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. What a coincidence that the cartoon was set in Africa. In the cartoon Scar was so full of pride and himself that he thought that he is the only one suitable to be a king and each time Banzai euphemistically confronts him with the fact that he may not after all be suitable for the position, he would burst out ‘Idiots!..I will be your king!

That is exactly what Yar’Adua is telling Nigerians today. He is telling us that we are idiots and whether we like it or not, he would still be there and that we should better get over it. Good talk but maybe it is time for Nigerians to remind him and his other myopic, clueless and brainless cohorts that we deserve the best.

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