Looming incapacitation of the president on health ground
*A call for constitutional amendment
Initially, the predicament in which the incapacitation of the President in this space, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, held this nation was so painful and helpless to the extent that the Constitution of the country bore the blame of it all as the requirement to declare him incapacitated was as hard and difficult as slotting a whole camel through the eye of a needle.
No wonder the pains and the helplessness were reduced to just once beaten. The re-occurrence of this incident against the health of President Muhammadu Buhari in barely a decade without a move from any able person to mend the lacuna in the 1999 Constitution. This cannot be trivialised as a twice shy rather a million shy.
If several errors like this one are embedded in the Constitution, inadvertence of the propounders of the Constitution is excusable but no sane legislature will allow the error to linger on and on eternally. The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), Section 144 has these requirements to fulfilled before declaring the president incapacitated:
Highlights of procedure towards rendering president incapacitated on health ground
- A resolution passed by two-thirds of the Executive Council.
- Confirmation of 5 panels of medical practitioners; 4 of which was selected by the Senate president and the other 1 must be the President of the Association of physicians.
- The report of the panels must be signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of House of Representatves.
- It must be published in the official Gazette.
It is either a constitutional deficiency or legislative inefficiency for the same Constitutional lacuna to render the entire nation lost twice. It is pertinent to emphasise the fact that the moulding of Section 144 of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria is neither favourable to the President nor to the entire nation. A mere isolation of the first requirement shows procedure that two-third of executive members must first vote in favour of the incapacitation of the president is an unrealistic requirement and there can never be a time that the second requirement will be the next as the first will not be fulfilled.
The executive council are cabinet members of Mr. President and they exist mainly on the existence of the President. One-third of the Executive Council is not realistic except on death or a coup. It would be recalled that former president, Umar Musa Yar’adua lived long on machine and none of his cabinet members deemed it fit to declare him incapacitated until death came.
If president Muhammadu Buhari is actually incapable of continuing in the helms of affair, his cabinet members will definitely make it difficult at all cost for him to present his resignation as such a step will definitely affect them as ministers. This was the situation of the late Umar Musa Yar’adua. He was a man of honour and integrity, he was not desperate as to force continuity of his administration when he knew well that he could not continue.
It was just unfortunate that he was so helpless in the face of his wife and ministers that his opinion does not matter at a time he was actually willing to resign. Not even his Vice President can access him, only his close pals who will fall when he falls were allowed to have access to him. It was only death and destiny that brought in President Jonathan.
President Jonathan wouldn’t have lived to witness the end of 2015 general election if he revealed his plan to give up baton of power to President Buhari. James Orubebe would not climb the podium to showcase his foolishness before the INEC and the entire nation and his cabinet members will not become a prey to this administration if it was clear to them that Jonathan would not be rigid and desperate as they were. This is an instance of a healthy president. Imagine an unhealthy president as in this situation.
The press may continue in their act of noise making, the oppositions can proceed on their voyage of criticism and the entire citizens of this country may go on with their agitations, the constitutional requirement will not be actualised at any time except the constitution is amended to feature a realistic procedure and it will only prevent the future occurrence not the the present situation.
At this juncture, I advise Mr. President to tender his resignation while he has little strength to do so before it is too late. A good inspiration should be taken from circumstances surrounding President Umar Musa Yar’adua’s incapacitation and subsequent death. Incidentally, both of them are from Katsina State.
It is rather better for President Muhammadu Buhari to make hay while the sun shines. Secondly, it may be too late for the 8th National Assembly to amend section 144 of the constitution but I am pretty sure it is not too late for the 9th Assembly to do the needful.