Leadership in Nigeria: the way forward

No doubt Nigeria is a great nation. The peculiarities in her existence gives credence to this, a survivor of a deadly civil war, most populous black nation, over 250 distinctly diverse ethnic groups, rich mineral resources base and a people of unique entrepreneurial spirit, found in every country in the world. A Harvard professor need not debate the genius of this people, so let a child be silent.  The irony always lies in its leadership. The truth is often shrouded in personal opinions, a direct stimulation from prospective gain, having no bearing on a possible utilitarian aspiration.

 It’s no more news that President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has struggled with sickness since his inception as President of Nigeria, and has been flown abroad numerous times for ‘check ups’, as opposed to ‘treatment’ for the ailment. The difference has been drawn by steady  loyalist. ‘Check ups’ may create the impression that he is healthy but needs to stay healthy, ‘treatment’ may suggest he is sick, but needs to be treated to get well. Whatever the case in the last few month, it is obvious Mr. President has been sick and is been treated. His loyalist may in a hurry conclude, this challenge has not affected the effective discharge of his duties in any capacity, and that he is dutifully instructing his executive members from his sick bed on pressing matters of the nation. The BBC report for Africa insightfully stated that the president has “had a chronic kidney condition for at least 10 years. He has been unable to perform a number of official duties because of recurring health problems. President Yar’Adua has twice been flown to Germany for emergency treatment and it is the second time he has visited hospitals in Saudi Arabia. He has refused to say exactly what condition he suffers from, and has repeatedly said in interviews that his life is ‘in the hands of God'”.  Of interest recently, is the report by the Nigerian Guardian on the vice President Goodluck Jonathan recently assuring Nigerians that President Umar Yar’Adua who is currently receiving treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a heart condition, is doing fine and responding well to treatment. As stated in a letter from the president’s chief physician, Dr Salisu Banye, presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, disclosed that Yar’Adua had been hospitalised for acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart which can restrict normal beating of the heart”.

Honestly, President Yar’ Adua has demonstrated great love for this country by the sacrifice he has shown in volunteering to serve despite his failing health, but if he stretches this commitment more than this, it may be interpreted to mean his joining the conclave of most African leaders that cleave on to power, even at the promise of death or the conspicuous ruin of a hard earned reputation. It is comparable to the misplaced love of a father accompanying his son to his marital bed, because he loves him very much. It transcends love to taboo. The line between misplaced love and common sense is slim, but you can tell the difference when you see it. He has the option of allowing loyal distracters forcefully lead him on; or honourably admitting his frailty and tow the path of Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Quit when the ovation is loudest. All he needs to do is tell Nigerians he longs to serve them, but he is restrained by health factors, and how it is a better choice to step aside in the interest of the nation. If none of these option seems appealing to Mr. President, his spirit may be shocked if Nigerians, his people, jubilate at his death as an act of divine intervention. From beyond the lines of the living, he would weep profusely at the ingratitude of his people, a people he ‘lost his life for’. But, come to think of it, how true? And whose fault is it? Rumours exists that the first lady is actively behind her husband’s political willingness to continue,  it may not have substance but the defense of  it’s been far from the truth does not hold water either.  What would you expect from a faithful wife? However, it is great wisdom for her to gather her husband home in peace. If she loses him, the world continues. This must be her thought pattern. A family home first lady is better the title of a widower. If ones’ husband is sick, pushing him on to undertake a further complicated task may be assisted suicide.

Is it that Nigerians have no right to forcefully remove a President who insists he is perfect in his human anatomy configurations when it’s obvious he is handicapped? The real question is who takes the first step?  It is a deadly assignment for any Legislative member to raise a ‘wounding’ motion, reason being that he stands the risk of his political ambitions being prematurely thwarted by his party, if the part favours the President ‘sick rule’. Does it mean all senators are in political career trepidation and protectionism? But what will a motion really do? Maybe the motion will force the executive council to take a decisive action.  The reluctance of the senate may have political undertone.  “It seems too that the senate is sick”, in my candid opinion, this is an answer in a hurry. Their powers collectively ends in Section 143 of the 1999 constitution, which requires a notice of allegation in writing signed by not less than two third of the National Assembly  stating the President is guilty for gross misconduct, presented to the Senate president, followed by subsequent procedures for his removal. The current crisis is different. This issue relates to health, not gross misconduct. Impeachment does not arise. By the dictates of the constitution, the hands of the Senate is tied in this instance. The ball this time around must roll from the executive cabinet with verification from a medical panel. All the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representative do is sign a notice to be publish in the gazette.  Section 144(1)(a)(b)  of the Constitution clearly says a President shall cease to hold office if by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is declared that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and the declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And as a consequential action they sign a notice to be published in the gazette.Subsection 4, however gives the Senate President a line of duty. The subsection states- “the medical panel to which this section relates shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and shall comprise five medical practitioners in Nigeria, one of whom shall be the personal physician of the holder of the office concerned; and  four other medical practitioners who have, in the opinion of the President of the Senate, attained a high degree of eminence in the field of medicine relative to the nature of the examination to be conducted in accordance with the foregoing provisions.”  

Who is to act first, in executing the positive plot of removing the president?  The Senate President, or the Executive cabinet? The Executive must take the lead. This is because the constitution requires that the duty of the medical panel is to ‘certify’ the two third decision of the executive council of the federation. This is the impasse. The medical panel in accordance with Section 144(2) is to ‘certify’ in its report that in its opinion the President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation. For the President to be removed it must be satisfied that he is ‘permanently incapable’ of discharging the functions of his office, Section 144 subsection 2. Not ‘temporary incapable’. How ‘permanent’ should the incapacity be? Would absence from office for a couple of weeks suffice? Must it come to a point that Mr. President is devoid of mobility, speech and hearing? It’s a matter for the court to decide. I consider the mind of the court may be drawn to that which restrains the President from doing the day to day task in the interest of a nation, as permanent incapability. A year must not be spent in the sick bed for it to have attained such a nature, lest we risk the life of the nation. The court is most likely to look beyond a literal interpretation. The spirit of the constitution must be consulted. No nation would allow her Head of State stay on the sick bed for months, and not consider it permanent incapability, simply because he nurses hope of recovery. It is not because people are not caring, but because the affairs of the nation are far important. For every time a leader fails to implement a policy the life of people are on the line, millions of people for that matter.

As clear as the law is in the constitution, it is thickly woven with emotional impossibilities. First, which executive council wants to fire its boss? What if the positive plot fails or Mr. President recovers from the ailment, won’t they lose their job? Won’t the Vice President be called a traitor if the action fails, no matter how good it seems? The president’s physician is one of the medical panel members. Is he willing to indict his boss and submit a report stating that the man that employed him is sick? It is at this stage the spirit of Patriotism must be revealed. Patriotism to the nation or  patriotism to our bellies, with the future and wellbeing of a 150 million Nigerians at stake. It is hard, we must admit. It is at this point the President himself must come in, he must be willing to relinquish power and let the system flow, lest he attracts a shameful exit certainly. I submit, if it is still obvious that the sick is still willing to foist his will, then priority should take its course. Priority respectfully should be his removal, concertedly.

The Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, has been careful on this from the start, why lose patience now? Let the President decide from his sick bed if he must ‘love’ Nigerians the way he does, by force, and more willing to give half baked service. If it is obvious he is unwilling to leave, time will unite Nigerians to determine his fate. Then the executive, legislature, even the political party will know the time has come. Now is the time. The President has seemingly shown good qualities, but he has not been at his best, if the truth must be told. The temptation is too deep for the Vice president alone to inspire. It must be a collective action, not a collective passivity. It’s more political and tribal than it looks. The nation could boil for a sick man. Wisdom is required to tread these paths. The National Assembly could stir up a motion calling for the Executive council to pass a resolution on the President, then the medical panel as nominated by the senate president give an authentic verification, which is duly signed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representative. After all this maybe we can breathe down and say we are ready for nation building. Mr. President will have nothing to lose, his visions will be pursued.


 The Constitution is still the grundnorm. I have read concerns of the eventuality of a political confusion, with regards to the political zoning system. The constitution is above the ‘PDP’ constitution, in the event of a removed President, it is clear the Vice President takes over as President, and the Senate President as Vice President. The issue of conducting elections after 3 months is an ignorant submission. It is only applicable if the Senate President assumes office as President, Section146 (2).

Let what needs to be done, be done; the nation should get better, no matter whose ox is gored. The nation should be first on the list, in terms of priority.