No news is good news; or so it is commonly thought. But no news or incomplete news about our president’s actual state of health or his extended absence from the nation is not good news as far as Nigerians are concerned. No news or incomplete news in this regard has given rise to a thousand speculations, none of which are positive. Is the president undertaking the lesser hajj or is he undergoing major surgery? Is it one or the other, or more of one and less of the other, or is it a bit of both in equal measure? Someone needs to let the nation know, and needs to do so fairly quickly.
If he is performing a religious function in Moslem holy lands, then he needs to speed up his prayers and return to his secular function of administering Nigeria. If he is undergoing a medical procedure, then we wish it is successful and offer our supplication for his speedy return to robust health. But at the same time, we ask the question of him, in the context of his health, whether he still feels up to the stressful task of governing Nigeria. Nigerians deserves an answer to this question.
But while he ponders this question in Arab lands, we need to know who is in charge of the nation while he is away. The answer to this ought to be a no-brainer, since we have a vice-president in place, and the assumption is that it is he, in the absence of his principal who should be running the shop. But since we have not seen or heard much from or of him, particularly in the context of dispelling doubts about the president’s health or his actual purpose for being away at this time, one wonders if indeed he is in charge.
And in wondering whether he is in charge or not, one also wonders whether he is up to the task of stepping up to the top job, should the president decide that he has had enough, and wants to relinquish his position in order to focus his attention on restoring his health. On wonders further, in the face of the complexities of Nigerian politics, whether the vice-president even has the ambition to climb up the remaining rung to the top of the executive ladder?
If he does have the ambition, then he has a remarkable way of concealing it. And if he doesn’t have such ambitions, then he is probably a smarter man than he is given credit for; one who would much rather remain in second spot enjoying all the perks and having none of the responsibilities and suffering none of the abuse that goes with the top job. In any case, Dr. Goodluck has demonstrated, throughout his political career, an adeptness for being non-threatening to those above him, hence his spectacular rise in Nigerian positional politics.
But as far as Nigeria’s political power brokers and kingmakers are concerned, this may be the time to ponder, plot, and perfect their political game strategies in respect of who occupies the top job going forward. Such considerations will of necessity encompass some or all of the following scenarios.
1. Prop up the current president and allow him to finish his term;
2. ‘Encourage’ the current president to step down and put the vice-president in his place, but only as a ceremonial president, whilst appointing a powerful candidate from the core north as vice-president to run the show;
3. Look to the Supreme Court to nullify the results of the last presidential election on the basis of wide-spread irregularities and call for new elections;
4. Look to the Supreme Court to declare one of the other candidates as the rightful winner of the election, thereby giving the nation a new president.
Looking briefly at the above scenarios, each one presents its own difficulties. The first scenario preserves the status quo promising us more of the same with prolonged periods of governmental inertia, which the nation can ill-afford at the present time. Nigeria now, more than ever needs proactive and purposeful leadership to correct its many wrongs.
The second scenario, in which the vice-president steps up in style and title, but not in substance, superficially lends itself to constitutional adherence and political continuity; but in actual fact, will only serve to highlight perceptions and the reality of unfair northern dominance/superiority of Nigerian politics. And this will only heighten and breed resentment and mistrust amongst the different people groups.
The third and fourth scenarios are wholly dependent upon the Supreme Court’s thinking and actions. And one cannot intuit the thinking of the Supreme Court, nor in matter of fact should one be able to. Whatever, the Supreme Court decides to do as the court of last resort; it will no doubt take into account the continued stability and viability of the nation.
Were the Supreme Court to order a re-run of the election, then as appealing as this appears on the face of it, we will once again, find ourselves at the ‘mercy’ of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (a misnomer, if ever there was one). A party which has perfected the art of returning its candidates to office by any means necessary. So it, rather than the totality of Nigerians, will decide who bestrides Aso Rock. Whether such candidates will be desirable or not remains to be seen; and whether we have the appetite for another bout of wasteful expenditure on predetermined elections also remains to be seen.
But should the Supreme Court decide to declare the candidate of another political party, the rightful winner of the last presidential elections, and then we may be in for a change of sorts. But whether Alhaji Atiku or General Buhari or others still, can be regarded as representatives of change is the subject of an entirely different debate.
In the final analysis, whether Dr. Goodluck is ready to step up or not, it is the Supreme Court which ultimately holds all the aces in this national game of political poker. And, whether it will unveil a joker from its pack of cards remains to be seen. But given their recent ‘Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum’ (‘let justice be done, though the heavens fall’) approach to political issues, I wouldn’t bet against it.