In a Democracy, Words Matter and Letters Matter. Elected Representatives in the Executive and Legislative Arms of Government hold offices on behalf of the Citizens and Constitution of the Country. In the same vein, Appointees into the Judicial Arm of Government and other agencies of Government are appointed on behalf of the citizens,and such Appointees are to function on behalf of the Citizens and the Constitution of the Country. Understanding, Accepting and Internalising these Principles is the Foundation of the Rule of Law.
The letter of President Buhari to the National Assembly on his medical vacation is not out of his wish or pleasure, rather, it is a compulsory Constitutional Requirement in line with section 145 of the Constituion of Nigeria.
The moral implication of the letter exposes the character of a man who is unwilling to accept the reality. To be sick is not the fault of Mr President. He is human,and any human or any living thing, animals and plants can have health challenges. President Buhari in this circumstance requires the understanding, sympathy, prayers, good wishes and support of Nigerians. To write a letter to the National Assembly, suggesting the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo as Co-ordinating Vice-President in his absence, is a reflection of a President who is unwilling to accept the reality and have no value or respect for his immediate subordinate and Nigerians. The intention and words of the letter lack morality.
The Constitutional implication of the letter is obvious. The office of the Predident of Nigeria is not a personal property or inheritance of President Buhari. He is President of Nigeria by the choice of Nigerians, and on behalf of Nigerians and the Constitution of Nigeria.
The letter was not written out of his personal wish or respect for the National Assembly. The letter is mandatory requirement of the Constitution.Section 145 of the Constitution of Nigeria is clear on the matter, and it thus stipulates that, “whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation, the functions of the President shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President”.
I have read and listened to the comments of many people. As expected, some people have said the words of the letter don’t matter. Usually, it is the opinion of those who think loyalty to the ruling party or the way to seek favour from government is to support what ever they are doing irrespective of the moral and constitutional implications.
Some Nigerians have short memory,or they are deliberately interested in the falsification of our history. Section 145 is not an original provision of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution. It is a provision that came into our Constitution by the amendment that was introduced by the 7th National Assembly under the leadership of Senator David Mark.
The controversies that followed the long absence of late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the lucana that was created in the administration of Nigeria because of the refusal of Yar’Adua cabals to allow the then vice-president Jonathan Goodluck to function lead to the motion of “The doctrine of necessity”. It is the doctrine of necessity that metamorphosed into section 145 in the amended version of the Nigeria Constitution. The origin and the aim of section 145 of our constitution is to give all powers of the President to the Vice-President as acting President in the absence of the President. This section 145 is equally significant for the stability and survival of Democracy in Nigeria. To call the Vice-President any other name order than acting President as stated in section 145 of Nigeria Constitution in the absence of the President is laced with mischief and a violation of the Constitution of Nigeria.
You cant call the USA President Prime-Minister, and say it does not matter. You can’t address the Prime-Minister of UK as President and say it means the same thing. Similarly, you can’t address Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as co-ordinating Vice-President of Nigeria in the absence of President Buhari and you say it does not matter. Words matter and Letters matter in any Democratic country.