Wednesday, December 2, 2009



NATION Correspondent
Dakar, Senegal
December 1 2009

The hospitalisation for the second time of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua’s in Saudi Arabia is heightening aspirations for his succession culminating in serious pressure by the opposition on the country’s incumbent Vice president Goodluck Jonathan to resign.

But media sources quoting the Nigerian presidency on Monday say neither President Yar’Adua who is admitted at the King Faisal specialist hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, nor his VP would resign.

President Yar’Adua is being treated of acute pericarditis which is described as inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. This is the second time the president is being treated after he was hospitalised for the same ailment in a German hospital nearly three years ago.

Local media reports said Monday, that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan is becoming increasingly careful to avoid sending wrong signals regarding the present health challenges of the President and announced on Thursday that he had spoken with Yar’Adua twice over the past 48 hours.

On Monday, the Office of the Vice President dismissed a report suggesting that pressure by the opposition would force Jonathan to resign.
Ima Niboro, Senior Special Assistant, media and communications to the VP, said the publication which made the resignation claim “failed to state clearly who or what body was bringing this pressure to bear, but went ahead to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians, including the vice president himself, by suggesting that Dr Jonathan is to be made to sign an undated letter of resignation...” which can become binding in the event that the president is unable to continue in office.

“That this is a wild and quite insulting claim requires no further elaboration. Certainly, the general public can discountenance such drivel,” the Vanguard newspaper quoted the VP’s spokesman.

The paper quoted sources in Aso Rock, which is the Presidential Villa, saying that “there is a need for every precaution to be taken now as some mischief makers are bent on reading meanings into anything the vice president does, just as they would read meanings to anything the vice president does not do.

“You will agree with me that events in the last 96 hours have been such that some mischief-makers have been churning out mis-information to serve their own diabolical instinct. It was because of the way some people were carrying-on which forced the Presidency to come clear on the health status of President Yar’Adua,” the sources said.

According to the current Nigerian constitution, the Vice President will perform the functions of the President in the absence of the latter. But the 1999 Constitution states expressly how such a role can be performed in the absence of the sitting president.

Acting president

Sections 145 and 146 state: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”

Furthermore section 146 (1) states that the Vice President shall hold the office of President if the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or the removal of the President from office for any other reason in accordance with section 143 of this Constitution.

The Vanguard reported that in a chat with the publicity secretary of the Action Congress, AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, “the assumption was made clear.

While Mohammed was full of prayers to God for Yar’Adua’s good health, he pointed out the assumption that a vice president would automatically discharge the functions of the President once the latter is on vacation or temporarily incapacitated.”

Anxiety over health

According to him, this assumption is based on false premise.

“It is only when the president has written a letter to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, as stated in Section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that the vice president can perform the functions of the president temporarily,” he said.

In most cases, he said, such a letter is never really written, as may be the case in this instance.

“This would be a cost too grave for the country to bear and this is, perhaps one of the areas where those attempting to amend the Constitution should focus on because there is need for transparency in whatever we do”, he said.

The paper said Nigerians at home and abroad are still gripped by anxiety over the health of the President despite assurances by the Vice President and presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi that he was okay and was responding to treatment.