Nigeria’s political elite are faced with an uneasy and strategic decision making week, as the Federal Court has issued a fourteen-day ultimatum for the nation to mandate a leader. President Umaru Yar’Adua’s two month absence has raised concerns over power vacuum in the country.
The Federal Court, responding to a law suit brought by the opposition, ruled for the cabinet to pass a resolution about whether or not the absentee president is incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
On Thursday, over 1,000 Nigerians gathered in Lagos to protest against Mr. Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence. Some carried posters reading: “Enough of the offshore president and a people’s constitution now.”
President Yar’Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for two months, receiving treatment for a heart condition; inflammation of the lining around the heart and a long-standing kidney illness.
Nigerians, according to several sources, concerned by their leader’s absence are mostly angry at the fact that he left the country without handing executive powers to his deputy, as required by the constitution.
The situation has led the Federal Court to rule that the efficiency of Mr. Yar’Adua must be resolved in 14 days. Opposition activist, Farouk Adamu Aliy, had asked for the judges to sack the president over his failing health and for failing to abide by the provisions of the constitution, but some Nigerians have lauded this 14-day ultimatum ruling as a victory for democracy.
Nonetheless, the ruling has increased tension amongst Nigeria’s northern political elites. The custom in Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party is to alternate power between north and south.
The issue is now about Vice president Goodluck Jonathan who is from the south. According to reports, some northern power-brokers are reluctant for him [Jonathan] to take over, as this would shorten the north’s “turn” in power.
Vice-president Jonathan is being refused a command of the power of patronage; being in a position to influence the outcome of the 2011 election and having a share in the North’s entitled eight (8) years of power created by virtue of the zoning/rotation arrangement in the Nigeria political schematics
This issue of Nigeria’s constitution versus zonal/tribal politics has seen the Yar’Adua-PDP presidency split into three fighting fronts: The so-called kitchen cabinet or Katsina mafia, the Governors’ forum of the party’s old and serving governors and the party stalwarts including former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Board of Trustees.
As the National Assembly faces a tough week ahead, the Kitchen Cabinet made up of the President’s wife, and other allies, continue to lead the many-pronged exertions to frustrate and prevent any notions of Acting Presidency to shorten the first four-year-term of the ailing Yar’Adua. But sources claimed that the President and his kitchen cabinet’s operatives have lost much ground in the Assembly.
On Thursday, former president Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo urged President Yar’Adua to step down if he is not fit to continue.
“If you take up a job, elected… and then your health starts to fail you and you will not able to deliver, to satisfy yourself and satisfy the people you are supposed to serve, then there is a path of honor and path of morality,” he was quoted as advising Mr. Yar’Adua.