The nation newspaper(Friday, February 12, 2010)
ACTING PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN
•Though imperfect, the present arrangement affords Nigeria an opportunity
With a dose of politics and a pinch of legality, Nigeria appears saved from a great fall. But it took 79 days of unlawful conduct by a democratically elected President and his cohorts before the National Assembly could find a way out of the crisis. While we are relieved, that at last a political solution has been found for a contrived constitutional problem, we urge the political class to never again lead us down such an alley. We acknowledge that the process leading to the resolution of the crisis was imperfect, but we ask, should we sacrifice our democracy as the protagonists of this crisis appear hell bent on? We think we shouldn’t. History would be challenged to understand how President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became an abuser of the rule of law, instead of its apostle in that tragedy of his needless abuse of power. But here we are with an acting President, Goodluck Ebere Jonathan, the Vice President to President Yar’Adua. Twice he had been lucky to ride to pre-eminence through a deft hand of circumstances beyond his control. First, from the position of deputy governor of Bayelsa State, he became the governor; and now again an acting President, despite efforts to stop him. We join Nigerians to congratulate him, and urge him to also bring some good luck to the country. He must hit the ground running, because our dear country is bleeding from bad governance. His inaugural speech captured the essential emergencies confronting our country, and he cannot afford to foot-drag in finding solutions to them. The foremost step is to resist to play politics or allow himself become a stooge for any group. Finding solution to the Niger Delta crisis and the power problem should be among his main priorities. He must unhinge Nigeria from these two perennial crises. First, the gains of the amnesty process towards the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis must be sustained. The Presidency must move in to fulfill all the promises made in the wake of the amnesty programme, while dealing speedily with the remaining pockets of malcontent. In the same vein, he must know that Nigerians are suffering from the lingering electricity problem, which has now become compounded by the scarcity of fuel, diesel and kerosene. If he is not aware, let him know that Nigerians are tired of hearing reasons behind these failures, and are only interested in solutions. The next most fundamental problem he must confront should be the electoral reform. There is the urgent need to set the process of giving life to the Justice Uwais report. Happily, the attorney-general of the federation who led the onslaught against the patriotic performance of the committee has been relieved of his responsibility; it is time to do the right thing by sending a comprehensive bill comprising all their recommendations to the National Assembly for passage into law. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs also to be reconstituted, in all its ramifications. We sincerely believe that our country may be too stretched to survive another round of political hari-kari that a disputed 2011 election would thrust on her. It is not clear if Jonathan will contest the 2011 election, but he can set himself the task of conducting a free and fair election, at least until President Yar’Adua returns if his health allows him. This he can do by remaining non-partisan in his conducts. By also setting credible examples, he can help the political class to obey and respect the constitution. The circumstances of his emergence should teach him a lesson or two as to the dubious tendency of our politicians. He saw that they would exploit the laws whenever they can, and bend it if they can’t. Mr. Jonathan can insist sincerely to observe the rule of law, empower the anti-corruption agencies to enforce the laws of the land and ensure that nobody is allowed to be above the law. He must also realise that so many well-meaning Nigerians believe that his emergence was the product of illegality. While pursuing his new responsibilities, he must allow the unfettered discretion of the court in the matter, for any person or group willing to test the law. He must also seek to support the ailing President, by providing him the best medical access possible as the President of the country, without jeopardising the sensibilities of his immediate family. The recent grand abuse of the clear intents of the constitution should also guide the acting President, and more importantly, the National Assembly, to know that there is the urgent need to proceed to amend the several incongruous sections of our constitution. We can- not as a nation continue to live a lie, that while the constitution says we are a federation, yet, many of its provisions are unitary in nature. As we have always argued, the sub-national abilities of the constituent nation-states that make up Nigeria must be unleashed for the kind of progress that we envision by the 20- 2020 programme of action. Once again we salute the perennial inventiveness that has seen Nigeria through this crisis. That obviously is what has come to be regarded as the Nigerian spirit of resilience. But we urge that we cannot as a nation hinge our progress on such a tenuous ladder. Such foolhardiness could lead to a major catastrophe. As is clearly evident, many of the countries that are our contemporaries at independence have left us far behind in all the indices of human development. Such is the result of the patch work that we have in place of statesmanship. Finally, we urge the civil society to be on guard; the acting President should not be allowed to dig in as his predecessors did, before they continue to take the country for a ride. The only respite Mr. Jonathan should have is one founded on taking head-on sincerely, the challenges of governing our country properly.
By the nation reporter