Presidential outlawry – The Nation

Taking official documents to a president on medical vacation, when an acting president is in place, is nothing but lawlessness

The news, that some sitting ministers in the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency smuggled official files to him on his sick bed in London, was both depressing and enchanting.

Depressing, because it was clear administrative outlawry, by high officials of state, sworn to upholding the Constitution. When an acting president is in place, the president takes full leave of his work. If a sick president could cope with the physical, mental and psychological rigour of work, a medical vacation, paid for in full from the public till, would not have been necessary. Also, the constitutional provision for an acting president would have been redundant.

But also enchanting, because both President Buhari and Acting President Yemi Osinbajo played the game strictly by the rules; and by sheer mutual grace.

The president did very well by referring the erring ministers back to Prof. Osinbajo. He was reported to have literarily snapped at them that Acting President Osinbajo was in charge; and everything must pass through him.

This is a big one for the president as a systems person, as a fair mind and as a stickler for constitutional processes. A much more self-worshipping or mischievous persona, always angling for cheap personal attention and adoration, would easily have obliged the ministerial outlaws, and just, in a fit of hubris, condemn his lawful and legitimate tenure to nothing but presidential outlawry.

The acting president too deserves praise by taking the needless provocation in his easy strides. Indeed, the his reaction was a classical example of raising your logic instead of raising your voice.

But again, that would not have been effective were the president to have conspired in that futile bid to undermine his deputy, and subvert the Constitution. If that had been, who knows what further outrages would have naturally followed, and what needless crises that could have brewed?

It is a thing of cheer that both the president and his deputy are on the same page in the concept of the Presidency. They have demonstrated it is a system, that runs a process; and not a personality or ego thing, that grounds that same process. In this democratic process, they have also demonstrated the imperative of good faith.

Many governors, virtual gods in their states, and to who the deputy governors are nothing but contemptuous constitutional aberrations, have a lot to learn from Nigeria’s first two citizens.

But even with the stellar example by the presidential pair, many of the ministers would still appear willfully but merrily at sea with this simple concept — that the Presidency is not a one-man show. Even if the president is not exactly “the first among equals”, as the Prime Minister is in the British parliamentary democracy, he is clearly the head of an institution, whose whole is far greater than the president in isolation.

That clearly was lost on the duo of Ita Enang, a former senator and special adviser to the president on National Assembly matters and Garba Shehu, senior journalist and senior special assistant to the president on media, in their comments on the budget.

Senator Enang first announced, with glee, that the budget, then just passed by the National Assembly, would be sent to London for presidential assent. But when he was assailed by the scandal of his utterance, he later recanted that Acting President Osinbajo would sign, since, “he was the president now here”.  Must he utter the absolutely unnecessary, given all his experience in public office, not the least as a former senator?

When the document was about to be signed, Mr. Shehu also announced, with no less glee, that Prof. Osinbajo would sign the document, simply because the president had asked him to do so. Even if that were so, must Shehu blab about it, in the most indelicate of manners? Again, that was absolutely needless.

Both Enang and Shehu would appear grandstanding for attention, from their principal over the seas, when it was more noble to stay mute. But that is only the symptom. The real disease would appear to be honest ignorance about presidentialism as a concept; and why the Constitution insists on a vice-president being on the same joint ticket as the president.

Even the media, at times champions of crass sensationalism, contribute to this haughty ignorance, by referring to the vice president or deputy governor as “spare tyre”, in the most dismissive and cynical of forms. Even if the vice president or deputy governor were indeed a “spare tyre”, is any auto complete without a spare tyre?

These ingrained biases and cynicisms manifest themselves in actions such as these ministers’, when they know the due process to follow.

It is good, however, that the presidential duo have handled the matter with extreme grace every Nigerian should be proud of; and which bodes well for deepening our democratic institutions.

It is high time everyone built on that grace and refinement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Check Also

Buhari still playing games with NNPC – Punch

A new plan by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to seek funding from the capital ...