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Give us a break, Mr President

To his immediate family, there is no gainsaying the fact that the President is still Umaru Musa Yar’adua, husband of Turai and daddy of his…

To his immediate family, there is no gainsaying the fact that the President is still Umaru Musa Yar’adua, husband of Turai and daddy of his children. Someone needs to tell him that on the day he agreed to be a presidential candidate, supposedly won an election and was sworn in as president, he became the adoptive father of every citizen of this country, including those who will be born in the duration of his mandate. To that effect, anything that stops him from personally exercising his mandate affects every household. There is hardly a home in this country where the name Yar’Adua is not mentioned daily for good or bad. Nigerians in large numbers enlisted themselves on his recovery prayer chain because his admittance of frailty is something that touches their own mortality.

The prospect of their president being in a vegetative state, unable to discharge his official functions except by proxy exposes the vulnerability of every citizen. Nigerians have learnt the hard way, the essence of the use of active words by framers of the constitution. At no time did the stark reality of the fragility of the glue cementing them together become more apparent than in the past months of his absence. The essence of the need for him to have been mandated instead of encouraged to transmit a common letter to parliament has dawn on us more than ever. That the National Assembly is as much in the dark on the state of mental and physical health of the president as any ordinary Nigerian is a functional lacuna which has given birth to the illegal doctrine of necessity.

Necessity became for the assembly the mother of invention, only that the invention in this matter does not serve its purpose. This places Goodluck Jonathan in a straightjacket. As acting president with no constitutional legality there are unanswered questions which could tip over a nation on the precipice. He juggled ministerial positions, but can he remove a service chief? Can he deploy troops? Would the army obey his orders? Such questions have never been asked in the operation of the 1999 Constitution until now, but they became imperative all because Yar’Adua is sick. It dawns that they are questions that ought to have been asked when parliament was transcribing tapes of questionable authenticity to be used as basis for serious national decision.

President Yar’adua’s sneaky return has truly tested the ropes exposing the dilemma of having more than one supposed king in a country, except that this is not a monarchy. It places all government functionaries in a dilemma. Who is in charge and who do they obey, an acting president they can see or one allegedly acting on proxy? The insultive political statement that Olusegun Adeniyi tried to rationalise on Thursday night is the flame on the head of an explosive. Mishandled, it could tear this nation apart and make us all a casualty of history. The power game between Jonathan and Yar’adua’s aides is a grand insult to our collective psyche. Under any circumstance, political or moral, it is unthinkable that the president’s wife would brief the acting president, even if he is referred to as vice. That is reducing Nigeria to a kitchen republic and Jonathan to the status of a houseboy. It is an insult which no historical political antecedent and must never be cited as a precedent. Before now, Jonathan and Yar’Adua had a joint ticket; their wives have no official constitutional recognition or function.

If Mr. President is well enough to fly home but not strong enough to address us his citizens, he should think Nigeria and go to Katsina and rest until he is either fit enough to exercise his full presidential functions or should have remained in hospital albeit at our expense and save the polity. In the alternative, he could resign. The presidency has existed before Yar’Adua and come what may, will continue even after him. Presidential powers for a country like Nigeria are too sensitive to be exercised by unelected proxies, especially those of a kitchen cabinet whose goals are unknown. Yar’Adua loses nothing if he returns home. By law, Nigeria continues to take care of him and would remain grateful to him. If he continues to play hide and seek with power as he is ostensibly doing, Nigeria will not forget him, neither will history absolve him. He has taken Nigeria for a ride for too long and should please take a deserved rest and let us live!

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