Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, known professionally as Fela Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, or simply Fela, a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political nonconformist who during his days, was often addressed as one of Africa’s most challenging and charismatic music performers. In one of his discographies, Unknown Soldier, he expressed the tricky nature of the Nigerian government and her language usage. The Abeokuta born musician, in that song, portrayed a typical portrait of political actors acting with categorical impunity and often taking on Nigerians without any considerations.
There has been a lot of avoidable controversial and needless contentious statements on the choice of words in the president’s letter to the National Assembly for his medical vacation. Political pundits and analysts have argued whether or not the president was right in the use of National Coordinator in place of Acting President classifying that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo appears as president during his time of medical absence for the fourth time in quick succession.
Within this short time of his absence from office, the social media has not rested, as our broadcasting studios too have had a reasonable number of government and private personnel debating in support or in contradiction of the title saga. But what stands out is that in whatever way one looks at it, something ominous may be in the burning furnace. What it is, Nigerians do not have an idea.
However, Shola Oyeyipo, a political correspondent and Journalist with THISDAY Newspaper, explains in his article on “Acting President or Coordinator of Govt’s Activities”, that it is possible the shift in nomenclature was a deliberate one. It is correctly correct to say that the description of Osinbajo as Coordinator rather than Acting President is deliberate and depicts a careful strategy to sabotage the constitution. Logical findings have it too that the Cabals within the presidency are making numerous plans should Buhari make it till 2019. How true is this? The future will definitely unfold it. But if it is deliberate, then there is truly something fishing in the deadliest of political oceans.
It is a truism that the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria is responsible for ensuring the effective coordination and monitoring of the implementation of government policies and programmes for the overall development of Nigeria, as some would say. Yes, that is a given! Now the President of the country has come out to call his deputy a Coordinator of National Affairs in his stead and we are here making mountains out of the molehills. I think the primary duty of the President is nothing more than to coordinate the activities of government. If the president does not coordinate the activities of government, who does? Why the debate?
Surprisingly too, is the pandemonium that arose within the Senate over the formation of the tittle of our Vice President as a Coordinator, which I think was sensibly and cleverly quashed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. I am sure Nigerians, the National Assembly inclusive, were expecting President Buhari to just call Osinbajo an Acting President of Nigeria, as he did before, rather than call him a Coordinator of National Affairs. We should not be quick to forget too that president Buhari received praises for handing over governmental power to his deputy when he travelled hitherto. I know that the worry of Nigerians is, the paradigm constitutional shift from Acting President to National Coordinator. I do not think this should not be an issue, since president Buhari wrote to the Senate President within the ambiance of section 145 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution in his letter.
The fact that the President described Osinbajo as a Coordinator of Activities of Government is inconsequential and of no importance. This is because all powers vested in the President as Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces as stipulated in section 130 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, have been transferred to his deputy. In that light, Professor Yemi Osinbajo remains the Acting President irrespective of what the president wrote in his letter to the Senate. I think the present guide as to governmental issues in this country is our constitution.
Nonetheless, in the words of Wole Olanipekun, a Nigerian Lawyer and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, there was actually no need to commence a question section on the letter of the President to the Senate on his indefinite absence from office. I think what should preoccupy the minds of Nigerians is the fact that a letter was transferred in accordance with the requirements on the Nigerian Constitution, which makes Osinbajo an Acting President.
As a nation, we must learn to focus our attention on what is important to national building and overlook inconsequentialities that can lead to the division of Nigeria. The change in the title of Osinbajo is not an issue, because it is just a matter of terminology and nothing more. Our president and his second-in-command are enjoying a pleasing and nice rapport and we are on the other side hitting our heads together over no issue.
We must avoid falling into the traps and cons of the Cabals within the presidency who might have conscripted this in a bid to creating confusion in the country. Let us not put all our attention on travail issues, we can just simply see it as one of those government magics.
I have read about different one-sided reactions of opposition political party members. I am not saying immediate reactions are not needful, but we need to be polite in our use of words. Prof Yemi Osinbajo is not an errand boy, for Christ’s sake. I am sure that Nigerians have not forgotten that Yemi Osinbajo is a learned professor of law and knows how to interpret the law. The law and its implementation are not new to him. He is definitely not a person to intimidate on any issue that has to do with the constitution or its application. We should, however, know that he is not ignorant of his role and position as a vice president. I think the only time he can be said not to be an Acting President is when he resigns from his office as the Vice President, which I do not see coming.
We should be very much aware of what the politicians would be trying to do with the interpretation of the letter sent by the president to the Senate. This is not a political issue but a national issue. We need to see it in that light and not a narrow-minded point of view. The political bigwigs can continue to bring out their innumerable nuances, but our concern in this matter should be that Osinbajo addresses the challenges of hunger and starvation, dollar exchange rate, awful road networks, terrorism and insurgency, even the high rate of unemployment in the country, while we wish our beloved president a great period of medicals and subsequently recuperation.
In all of this, I strongly put the blame on the president of Nigeria for giving Nigerians the opportunity to deliberate on a preventable topic like this. It is really treacherous to have called the Vice President a Coordinator of National Affairs, if truth be told. On the other hand, to have also presumed that Nigerians will not be asking questions is like holding on to a mirage. Reason been that, Nigerians are too smart to be fooled. Though, the president might have his reasons that are not known to us. Besides, the president is aware that Osinbajo is a proficient hand as it pertains to the governing and coordinating of governmental affairs in our country, Nigeria.
It is true that stories like this make the Nigeria political system fascinating. Still, avoiding it would have been better for the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians. The description of Osinbajo as Coordinator of National Affairs is a desecration of the office of the president and a complete defilement to the sanctity of the presidency in its entirety. It is like robbing the presidency of its very identity.
Now, the question that this whole issue brings to the fore is, when president Buhari returns from his medical vacation, would he be called a National Coordinator as against calling him the President of Nigeria? Or, is he trying to include National Coordinator to the tittles of the president in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution? Nigerians are waiting!
Fr. Akowe John-Duke ‘Selime is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria.