Prince Philip, the Duke Edinburgh, passed on to eternal glory on Friday, April 9, 2021 at a blessed age of 99. He would have celebrated the centenary anniversary of his birth in June this year.
When Buckingham Palace broke the news to the world, world leaders reacted sorrowfully. They sent their condolences to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the British government, and the people. The global leaders, including the Commonwealth of Great Britain, sent their condolence messages from their countries, right from their government houses. This is normal and perfect.
However, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, unlike other world leaders sent his condolence message from London in a hospital bed. This was the person who won his election on the propaganda of a “messiah”. A God sent who has come to save his people and wipe away their tears after long years of misrule by the past leaders of the country. He boasted and was believed at both home and abroad to revive the country, its economy, hospitals, healthcare, security, democracy, infrastructure, and all national institutions.
Soon after his first inauguration in May 2015, he jetted out to London for a medical checkup. He spent more than twenty-five percent of his first term in a London hospital. There were many national demonstrations and protests against his long stay in the hospital. He did not bulge neither did his aides tell the nation the cause of his long hospitalization. His frequent and long medial holidays abroad gave rise to the rumors that he had died and was secretly buried in Saudi Arabia. That the person in Aso Rock, the country’s government house, is not the real Buhari but an impostor. Careless joke!
The situation was so ugly that some world media outlets, especially those in the United States, ran satirical programs on Nigeria and its president. The country that had its president in the hospital! The country that was ruled from a hospital bed!
In democratic and progressive countries, the health of the political leaders is taken seriously. It features prominently during political campaigns. The candidates are drilled on the state of their health to know whether the candidate is healthy for the office he/she is interested in. The president is not bigger than the country but the country revolves around him. This is due process and the rule of law. If the president is sick, the country is sick.
The country’s challenges have become worse since the inception of his government almost seven years ago and they are not likely to improve soon due to his leadership style. No aspect of national life has fared well. The whole world knows about insecurity in the country but it is not the only problem. Mass migration to Europe is still taking place. Healthcare system is worse than what he inherited. Democracy has depreciated. Freedom of speech and press freedom are not encouraged by the government. Fair election has been smashed. Industrial action is frequent and ubiquitous, especially by the university teachers.
This is why it is constitutional everywhere that the president should transfer power to his deputy if per chance he is going to the hospital. This too, is common sense, rule of law, and due process. Some countries stipulate the number of hours or days he can be in the hospital. This article is so important that no constitution has room for suspense or speculation. To keep the country in waiting for too long. No country tolerates that because it is toying with the destiny of the entire country. This forecloses the notion of an acting president without a timeframe. Nobody elects an acting president.
Proper interpretation and implementation of this article is very important for the peace and unity of any country. Nonetheless, observance of this article in a country that is governed on ethnic and religious sentiments like Nigeria is different.
It is the tribe of the president, his religious leaders, traditional rulers, family, and political party that will determine whether the country will know the ailment that afflicts their president. The cause of his medical leave has been kept secret even before his election. Although the citizens want to know and are eagerly asking questions.
It is the same group that has the “right” to determine whether power will be transferred to the vice president or not. What is written in the constitution is for the constitution! They can trample on it and nothing will happen. They can change its meaning and give it any interpretation that suits their ulterior motive. After all, the president is bigger than the country. He owns every institution that exists in it – the military, police, judiciary, electoral body, the legislature provided his party is the majority in the house, the so-called anti graph agencies, and so on.
This creates a scenario of tug of war and a fierce battle of unpatriotic words and ideas, particularly when the president’s deputy is of a different faith and tribe. It has brought about zoning option to the presidency. This inclusive idea is to satisfy every tribe in the country and give it a sense of belonging. It sacrifices merit and enthrones mediocrity. It trickles down to the state and local government.
Nonetheless, it has not solved the problem of segregation and tribal isolation. Tribes are still marginalized because they are seen as threats to the national unity. The situation is hardly different at the state and local government levels.
It is a quality leadership that is based on transparency and accountability, rule of law, and due process that will forge national harmony and bury the idea of rotational presidency. Rotational presidency did not bring good result wherever it was tried. It’s an idea borne out of political frustration and those who inherited it are most often not better than those whose leadership style necessitated the unwholesome idea.
John Magufuli, president of Tanzania died last month and within hours, his deputy, a woman and a Muslim, Samia Suluhu, was sworn in to continue their regime. That’s the civilized way to do it. It’s in the constitution. There should be no political crisis or civil war because the incumbent dies in office. Who said the incumbent cannot die in office. He/she can. And there is a provision in the constitution to deal with the issue whenever it happens.
Nigeria, the giant of Africa, should learn from Tanzania.