TVC E. The Federal Government has described the hoopla generated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly, in which he said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will coordinate the activities of the government in his absence, as a needless distraction. President Buhari, who left Abuja for London on Sunday night to attend to his health, wrote the National Assembly, in compliance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) informing it of his trip and also announcing Osinbajo as the man in charge of the nation’s affairs.
However, a section of the letter, which read:’’ While I am away, the Vice President will co-ordinate the activities of the government,’’ provoked huge debates in the polity. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, said the controversy was unnecessary.
According to him, what was valid is compliance with the relevant section of the law which he said was fulfilled. “It is a needless controversy. It is just a distraction. The operating sentence is ‘in compliance with Section 145(1),’ any other word used is not relevant,” he said. As would be expected, Lai Mohammed’s comments elicited more comments, yesterday. While some agreed with him, others kicked.
Those who agreed that the furore was unnecessary include human rights lawyer, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed; former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav; and Chief Akin Osuntokun, former Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
However, the likes of Lagos lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara; National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; and President of the Arewa Consultative Youth Forum, AYCF, Malam Shettima Usman Yerima disagreed.
Controversy unnecessary – Agbakoba In a six sentence reaction on the issue, Dr Agbakoba said: “I am concerned by the unnecessary controversy raised over the use of these words‘ While I am away, the Vice President will coordinate the activities of the government’ in the medical vacation letter transmitted by the President to the National Assembly.
I believe it is a distraction by politicians. The nomenclature used by the President to describe his Vice President does not matter. What matters to the average, long-suffering Nigerian is good governance. Will the Acting President create jobs; provide water, roads, electricity, food, etc? This is what is important.” It’s an impeachable offence – Adegboruwa However, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa disagreed, saying the “‘President appointing the VP as coordinator is an impeachable offence.”
He said the move is a constitutional crisis, since the National Assembly cannot pronounce Osinbajo as Acting President without the President’s letter and a resolution of the two chambers of the legislature. His words: “A coordinator is a person of equal status with others. So the VP cannot make appointments or sack anybody while the President is away. He cannot discipline any erring minister; he is limited in policy decisions, as a coordinator.
He has no power of control over the cabal to whom the President has handed over power, albeit illegally. “The chief of staff was recently reported to have moved vital documents away from Aso Villa In effect, Nigeria has no leader at present. The existing office of VP is no more. The constitutionally-created office of Acting President has been circumscribed by the President. The President is away on an indefinite medical trip abroad.
“The Senate lacks the power to pronounce Osinbajo as Acting President, without a written resolution of both chambers of the National Assembly, through a decision taken on the Floor of both chambers. The President cannot travel for medical check up for an indefinite period of time. “The National Assembly should reject the letter from the President. There is, therefore, a serious constitutional crisis. “Pro-government lawyers and activists, who have goaded the Buhari administration into dubious and reckless interpretations of the Constitution in the past, should be held responsible for the current crisis and all acts of impunity from Aso Villa.
“In all, the National Assembly should commence impeachment proceedings against the President for gross misconduct.” There is cause for concern – Fani-Kayode On his part, Fani-Kayode said: “Trust me when I tell you that the presidency doesn’t give a damn about constitutional provisions, the rules or the niceties. The only thing that is relevant is the interpretation that the service chiefs and the military place on the “National Coordinator” letter that was sent to the Senate. They will act on that interpretation if…and they are urged to do so by the presidency.
That is the game plan. “It is not by accident that every single security agency in Nigeria today is headed by a northern Muslim except for the Navy. And now for the first time since 1999, a northern Muslim has been appointed GOC of the all powerful and critical 1 Division which covers the North-West. Another has just been appointed to head the 81st Division, Lagos, and the 9th Mechanized Brigade, Ikeja. “Finally, all of Osinbajo’s security team have been changed except for his ADC. Most of the Yoruba have been withdrawn and he is now being guarded by only northerners.
He would have lost his ADC too but he objected strongly to that one and they left him. The man needs our support and prayers. ‘’Every Yoruba man and southerner, regardless of party affiliation, owes him and the south that much.