President Muhammadu Buhari

NIGERIA’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has spent more than 90 days in London over ill-health after transmitting notice of vacation, in compliance to Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, to the National Assembly. Accordingly, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo stepped into the shoes on acting capacity. So far, the acting President has demonstrated his intellects and capabilities with outstanding results; breaking barriers, spearheading economic policies, penetrating hitherto no go-areas especially parleying with the Niger-Delta militants, avengers, among others.

To ascertain the health condition of the President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Senate President alongside Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and the acting President respectively visited Buhari at the London Hospital for a first-hand information. Shortly, afterwards, a delegation of his ruling party; All Progressive Congress, APC joined the train, and finally, governors-delegates from the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP concluded the exercise. From their respective reports, without a doubt, President Buhari is recuperating speedily and willing to resume duties as soon as possible. Incidentally, his high hopes of leaving the shores of United Kingdom remains at the mercies of his physicians.

On account of the prolonged vacation, some either by omission or commission infuriatingly demanded for Buhari’s resignation twisting Section 146 CFRN. They flimsily argued that the vacation is tantamount to vacancy in the office of the President, and again, opined that prolonged ailment amounts to permanent incapacity. Unfortunately, that’s blunders, misconception of the laws.  The provisions aren’t ambiguous. There are detailed procedures to arrive at permanent incapacity. Nevertheless, the controversy coincidentally pointed out a salient lacuna in the constitution that a president or governors, presently can embark on indefinite vacation without violating any laws by mere transmission to the appropriate quarters.

However, the three months dateline relied upon by the protesters is only indicated in Section 146(2) supra, and exclusively applicable in a situation offices of the President and Vice President are concurrently vacant by circumstances listed in Section 146 (1) CFRN. In such a scenario, the Senate President shall temporarily hold the office of the President not exceeding 90 days for a presidential election.  It is therefore imperative to note that Buhari at the moment, impliedly stepped-aside as President of Nigeria which resulted to the office of the acting President now in existence. Thus, Buhari is constitutionally not liable. Until he retransmits his resumption to the National Assembly, he lacks powers to even perform the duties of Nigeria’s President despite active pecuniary entitlements. The acting President is presently in full control of governance and constitutionally empowered to exercise all the functions designated for the President. If not the amiable relationship between the duo, Professor Osinbajo is not under any constitutional duty to relay his decisions to the President talk less of seeking approval. In fact, any documents assented to by the acting president stand in same position as if the substantive president signed them until retransmission takes effect.

The self-indulgent protests and worries would have been meaningful if directed to any unfriendly policies. Admittedly, protests and criticisms are democratic norms, and commonplace desiderata in civilized societies for checkmating excesses in government. Nonetheless, the gang-protesters be it politically-sponsored or otherwise would have earned sizeable accolades had they demonstrated against issues of premium values rather than hullabaloos over ailing fellow citizen-president. Perhaps, against foreign medical trips for all public officeholders. Ditto if targeted at monumental aberrations in the polity, for example, the jumbo allowances in the National Assembly at the detriment of the travailing masses. The protests would have also made sense if directed at some recent court judgments on corruption cases which surprisingly, hastily discharged and acquitted privileged citizens arraigned for looting billions of local and foreign currencies while poor citizens arraigned for stealing as little as a goat, petty and even necessaries are convicted; languishing in various prisons across the nation. Some on awaiting trial lists for years.

Obviously, criticisms are conventionally anchored on principles. A situation where people embark on meaningless protests out of naivety or pecuniary interests is unfortunate. As reported, a notable artiste collapsed allegedly on account of tear-gas from the Police. What a misadventure and misappropriation of time! A public officeholder including occupant of the office of the President, who duly obtained authorization to proceed on vacation is irrefutably free to be off-duty post, and therefore not liable to any official matters. The finest offer citizens owe President Buhari presently is prayers and encouragements. All issues pertaining to governance of the country at the moment are on Prof Osinbajo’s shoulders. Interestingly, the learned professor is evidently up and doing, and performs energetically. This should be the consolations to Nigerians; that the acting president splendidly bridged the gap. Osinbajo also earned a distinction by prioritizing national interests; concentrating on the enormous challenges facing the nation instead of playing politics with detractors as most politicians would have done if in his shoes. This remarkably speaks volume of his credibility, maturity and patriotism.

Overall, Buhari cannot be Nigeria’s President eternally but his citizenship is beyond lifetime. Thus, to accord him reverences at least as a fellow citizen is vital. How many have asked any head of organization to resign on account of medical vacation? Certainly, if it becomes inevitable to continue in office on account of ill-health which we don’t expect, opportunity to throw in towel will present itself naturally. But for now, for affection sake, inspiring remarks for his quick recovery is the suitable offer to him. Regrettably, the protesters unconsciously portrayed the nation before the international community as brutal, senseless and callous people. Politics is essentially distinct from nuisance, animosity and personal attacks, but policies and issues-based. President Buhari is just an individual. In other words, the position he occupies belongs to his party, APC and resignation cannot still transfer his mandate to another political party except by another election. Until then, live and let live!

Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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