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Goodluck Jonathan: The Doctrine of Necessity

February 13, 2010
To The Editor: The recent political decision taken by the National Assemble on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 to empower Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to serve as acting president  in order to resolve the constitutional   breach by ailing President Musa Yar’Adua for failing to transmit  a letter to the National Assembly and hand over to his deputy in line with Section 145 of the Constitution  since November 23 2009 is not only patriotic, but commendable despite their  Indecision, selfish  procrastination, slow and lackadaisical  altitude above National Interest before now. Their action has been condemned  to be illegal by some segments of the society that a mere 58 seconds duration BBC interview granted on January 12, 2010 by the president is not enough to be relied on by the Senate as a letter of vacation in line with Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution.
Section 145 reads: “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 or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.” 

  Professor of political science, Omo Omoruyi, in his recent interview in a national daily, does not believe that what the Senate and the House of representatives have done is legal or proper. “Respect the Constitution – Section 1(1), (2) (3) is very clear that the Constitution is supreme and that no one shall come to power other those provided for in the Constitution and that any law that is inconsistent with this is Void”.

The Constitution does not make provision for the Senate to act one way or the other, therefore their action amount to a Democratic Coup D’état.  In line with this argument, a former Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Farouk Aliyu Adamu, has instituted a legal action challenging the resolution of the National Assembly.

But be that as it may, when matters become expedient, protocols are set aside. For us as a nation to be able to proffer a political solution to our immediate constitutional quagmire without recourse to external assistance means we are on course because democracy develop and thrive in the face of unforeseen challenges thereby keeping anti-democratic forces at bay. The term Doctrine of Necessity means ‘that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity'. It was first applied in Pakistan On October 24, 1954, Grenada 1985 and in Nigeria February 9, 2010.

Buttressing the position why the National Assemble acted to empower Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President, Senator David Mark the Senate president said: "The doctrine of necessity requires that we do what is necessary when faced with a situation that was not contemplated by the constitution. And that is precisely what we have done today... In doing so, we have as well maintained the sanctity of our constitution as the ultimate law of the land."  The constitution never envisages a violation that will create a leadership vacuum like we have found our self since November 23, 2009. Again, these challenges   will be an opportunity for the Senate leadership to amend this critical aspect of the constitution to be in tune with present day reality.

With massive support from civil society organizations, nation's past leaders, Nigerian armed forces, the United States, European Union, African Union coupled with public opinion on the side of  the decision of the national Assembly to empower Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to serve as acting president, this is the time for Goodluck Jonathan to write his name on the marble of history by implementing programmes and policies that will affect the generality of Nigerians irrespective of the time frame in office. As he has swore-in new permanent secretaries who will operate the engine room of bureaucracy, the next line of action is to dissolve and re-constitute   the federal executive Council by injecting   fresh ideals into his administration because these crop of ministers owned their appointment and loyalty to Musa and Turai Yar’Adua and can afford to sabotaged government efforts during policies implementation geared toward   alleviating the plight of the people in order to discredit this administration.


The Seven-Point Agenda should be prioritized into Energy and power, post-amnesty programmes, restructuring of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for effective Anti-corruption crusade   and   Electoral Reform that will bring about transparency, accountability and good governance. Electoral Reforms should be tackled   with the complete overhauling of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and filling of the vacancies within the commission in the in line with a Federal High Court Judgment which ruled that INEC is not properly constituted to conduct election.


In conclusion, I pray for the speedy recovery of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and also, remind Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that power is transient and vengeance is for God. Furthermore, I will like to advise Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to be wary of political sycophants who are bent on holding to the reins of power and influence with every government   to advice and mislead him for their selfish motives and economic gains.


Finally, as the saying goes, behind every successful man is a woman. For the “Acting First Lady”, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, whom has waited patiently for this moment, given precedence and her antecedents, she is the only one that can make or mar Jonathan’s Goodluck of political asset - his huge public goodwill the way her predecessors influenced thier husbands.  Dame Patience’s brushes with the law, particularly, while her husband was the governor of Bayelsa State are widely known.


And   as a child of destiny, the circumstance in which you emerged acting president is very uncommon, sober, and reflective in your words, therefore look before you leap!  Goodluck -to-you Jonathan...!


Clifford Ogbeide

Centre For Strategic & Development Studies,

Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Nigeria

Email: [email protected]


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