Sunday, December 24, 2006

Atiku’s Self-Inflicted Coup de Grace

The Atiku adoption by AC and at least ten other political parties as their presidential candidate in the April 2007 general elections and his eventual expulsion from the PDP and a declaration of the vacancy of the Vice Presidency by President Obasanjo has finally brought the Obasanjo/Atiku feud to a crescendo. Citing the 1999 constitution as its locus, the PDP National Executive Committee made the demand of Obasanjo yesterday to appoint a new VP to replace Atiku. Let’s examine Section 142 of the Nigerian constitution, on which the Atiku replacement is being hitched, as quoted below: -

“142. (1) In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the office of President who nominated him as such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid.
(2) The provisions of this Part of this Chapter relating to qualification for election, tenure of office, disqualification, declaration of assets and liabilities and oaths of President shall apply in relation to the office of Vice-President as if references to President were references to Vice-President.”

The full text of the entire 1999 constitution may be downloaded at the following link: - for your thorough perusal. It appears that this section quoted above provides for the conditions for election to office and is silent on what would entail in the event that a serving Vice President cross carpets. Going further to read sections 143 and 144 of the 1999 constitution, which provide for the removal of the Vice president, there is also no reference to what happens in the event that a serving VP defects to another party, or the role of his political party in the removal of the VP. It however lays down a process where at least 1/3 of the members of the National Assembly would have to submit in writing to the President of the Senate, allegations of gross misconduct (with specific details) against the VP and the subsequent institution of a seven-man investigative panel by the Chief Justice of the Federation
to probe the allegation sequent upon a motion passed by at least 2/3 majority of both houses of the National Assembly. The findings of this seven-man investigative panel would form the basis of impeachment.

It should not be difficult for the Obasanjo controlled PDP, which controls majority of both houses of Assembly to achieve the impeachment of Atiku, should it degenerate into a long drawn out constitutional battle. Putting the antecedents in perspective, this is probably what will happen. Atiku is highly unlikely to resign, given that he is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and would lose the immunity protection conferred on him according to section 308 of the 1999 constitution by virtue of his position as VP. The New Year would probably find Atiku sojourning abroad to wait out his imminent impeachment. Should the PDP controlled house succeed in impeaching Atiku, we can be sure of him electing not to return to Nigeria, automatically abandoning his presidential ambition, in a bid to escape arraignment by the EFCC for the gross acts of fraud of which he is being accused. Atiku has finally dealt himself the coup de grace. As it stands now, the Atiku presidential candidacy is a lame duck, nothing more than wishful thinking and self-delusion by members of AC and the ten or so other parties that have nominated the embattled VP to bear their flag.

If Atiku does decide to return home, it would most likely be upon securing a court injunction against his putative removal by President Obasanjo. Again, the battle will be shifted to the floors of the House of Assembly and Senate, where both men will bring out the biggest guns yet in their respective arsenals. In the end, it is more likely that President Obasanjo will prevail, sequent upon which Atiku would most likely disappear in the manner of Dariye so as to escape prosecution by the EFCC. It is hoped that this business would pass swiftly and cleanly (even though I have strong doubts) so as not to distract from other salient issues in the Nigerian polity.

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