Yar’Adua’s Illness and Nigeria’s Constitution – All You Need to Know


When the President is Sick – What is Supposed to Happen?

There have been rumours, counter-rumours, allegations of ill-health, death and brain damage. One American newspaper even went so far as to claim that Yar’Adua died on December 10. If this story is true it would would place Yar’Adua in very illustrious company as one of a select band of few human beings to resurrect from the dead (Yar’Adua was interviewed by the BBC this week).

For those that actually care about what is supposed to happen in crises/presidential absences such as these, here is a little primer on Nigeria’s constitution (yes, Nigeria does have one, even though it is not always followed):

Is Yar’Adua Supposed to Formally Hand Over to his Vice-President During His Absence?

No.

To all those people haranguing Yar’Adua for not “formally handing over” to his Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, no such formal “hand over” is required. Once Yar’Adua informs the President of the Senate (David Mark) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Dimeji Bankole) that he is leaving the country on vacation or is unable to perform the functions of his office, from that moment on, his job functions automatically divest to his Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan under section 145 of the Constitution:

“145. 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.”

The trouble is that section 145 does not say what will happen if the President does NOT give the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration of his absence from the country or incapacitation. Did Yar’Adua give such a notice to Mark and Bankole? If so, Goodluck Jonathan has de facto been exercising Yar’Adua’s powers since Yar’Adua left the country last November. If he did not give the written declaration…..the situation is murky. That is why we are in the current limbo.

So Why Doesn’t Yar’Adua Just Formally Designate that the Vice-President is in Charge Till He Returns?

The President and his supporters are far too politically savvy for that. Nigeria’s ruling PDP political party operates something called “zoning”. It “zones” (i.e. allocates and rotates) its presidential candidate between different parts of the country. The PDP’s previous presidential candidate was former President Obasanjo (a Yoruba Christian from the south) who stood as PDP candidate and President for two terms of office (1999-2003 and 2003-2007). When Obasanjo’s term of office expired in 2007, the PDP zoned the presidency to the north and its candidate Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (the current President and a Fulani Muslim from the north). The expectation is that Yar’Adua will serve 2 terms of office (i.e. until 2015) before the PDP “zones” the presidency back to the south.

Northerners fear that allowing Vice-President Jonathan to stand in for Yar’Adua will eat into or truncate its “turn” in the presidency.

Can Yar’Adua Be Removed From Office Due to His Absence?

Yes – but it is VERY difficult.

Two overlapping actions are required. Firstly, two-thirds of the Federal Executive Council (Nigeria’s cabinet) must pass a resolution declaring that Yar’Adua is unfit to discharge his functions; AND

The declaration then has to be verified by a medical panel of 5 doctors (including Yar’Adua’s own doctor), confrming that the President has been PERMANENTLY incapable of discharging his functions.

Yar’Adua’s Illness and Nigeria’s Constitution – All You Need to Know

There have been rumours, counter-rumours, allegations of ill-health, death and brain damage. One American newspaper even went so far as to claim that Yar’Adua died on December 10. If this story is true it would would place Yar’Adua in very illustrious company as one of a select band of few human beings to resurrect from the dead (Yar’Adua was interviewed by the BBC this week).

For those that actually care about what is supposed to happen in crises/presidential absences such as these, here is a little primer on Nigeria’s constitution (yes, Nigeria does have one, even though it is not always followed):

When the President is Sick – What is Supposed to Happen?

Is Yar’Adua Supposed to Formally Hand Over to his Vice-President During His Absence?

No.

To all those people haranguing Yar’Adua for not “formally handing over” to his Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, no such formal “hand over” is required. Once Yar’Adua informs the President of the Senate (David Mark) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Dimeji Bankole) that he is leaving the country on vacation or is unable to perform the functions of his office, from that moment on, his job functions automatically divest to his Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan under section 145 of the Constitution:

“145. 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.”

The trouble is, section 145 does not say what will happen if the President does NOT give the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration of his absence from the country or incapacitation. Did Yar’Adua give such a notice to Mark and Bankole? If so, Goodluck Jonathan has de facto been exercising Yar’Adua’s powers since Yar’Adua left the country last November. If he did not give the written declaration…..the situation is murky. That is why we are in the current limbo.

So Why Doesn’t Yar’Adua Just Formally Designate that the Vice-President is in Charge Till He Returns?

The President and his supporters are far too politically savvy for that. Nigeria’s ruling PDP political party operates something called “zoning”. It “zones” (i.e. allocates and rotates) its presidential candidate between different parts of the country. The PDP’s previous presidential candidate was former President Obasanjo (a Yoruba Christian from the south) who stood as PDP candidate and President for two terms of office (1999-2003 and 2003-2007). When Obasanjo’s term of office expired in 2007, the PDP zoned the presidency to the north and its candidate Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (the current President and a Fulani Muslim from the north). The expectation is that Yar’Adua will serve 2 terms of office (i.e. until 2015) before the PDP “zones” the presidency back to the south.

Northerners fear that allowing Vice-President Jonathan to stand in for Yar’Adua will eat into or truncate its “turn” in the presidency.

Can Yar’Adua Be Removed From Office Due to His Absence?

Yes – but it is VERY difficult.

Two overlapping actions are required. Firstly, two-thirds of the Federal Executive Council (Nigeria’s cabinet) must pass a resolution declaring that Yar’Adua is unfit to discharge his functions; AND

The declaration then has to be verified by a medical panel of 5 doctors (including Yar’Adua’s own doctor), confrming that the President has been PERMANENTLY incapable of discharging his functions.

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18 responses

  1. I wish the president to quick recovery and we should all pray for him to get well soon God bless you all And remain bless all bye

  2. i wish to thanked
    all nigerians happy new the year of progress and i want nigerians to keep prayer to our dear country and to president thanks.

  3. i think section 145 speaks for its self

  4. We the nigerians should john hands togeuher and pray for our country nigerian and also to our president,God Bless Nigerians.

  5. The reason why power rotation in the country
    is a thing of importance is because those in the
    corridor of power see Nigeria as cake that must
    be sheared according to the 3 ethnic groups.
    Good news, God wants the minority now or never.

  6. I pray that God almighty will help nigerians by bringing back our president back to his office.

  7. Tolamise ajewole | Reply

    God will see to things in these nation and nigeria will be great

  8. if the president dies will jonathan continue to be president until the end of the test

  9. the almighty father knew his mission on nigeria quick recovery to the president! quick recovery to the nation

  10. I think section 145 speaks for itself. All the same lets join hands together & pray for our country Nigeria

  11. Frank thankGod | Reply

    Its in you mr president,the mantle of leadership,just recover an come back to your abode,we all miss you.Get well,God bless

  12. NAIM ALIYU J | Reply

    thanks to this side

  13. wishing mr presido very quick recovery. amen

  14. The problem is that there is no sure or valid source from which we can comfortably say that it is valid. The hoarding of infomation is not helping matters as we gave him the mandate to rule and if he is incappable of ruling then section 145 and section 146 of our constitution gives us a glimpse of what should be done.

  15. please i will like to know maybe there is anything called acting president in Nigeria. is there a pesonal oice o he ice pesident in Nigeria.

  16. welllll i can really say but wat i have to say is that let s not waste time in choosin anoder president looking at wat the doctors and physicians have said so far it is well known that the prssident is gone considering the type of iilness lets just wish him rest in peace

  17. hello nigerians one`s that need our beloved father late president yaradu`a to dead know he`s dead let`s see if there is anything you can do for us to make nigeria forward espicially you good luck and obasanjo the most foolishness peoples in nigeria.

  18. thanks 4 all of u.By ahmad | Reply

    i wish u best of luck in ur job

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