Ben Nwabueze, a professor of constitutional law, said in March last year that President Muhammadu Buhari lacked the “intellectual capacity” to govern Nigeria. While this claim may be disputed, it is now becoming increasingly clear that the president doesn’t have the physical capacity to govern.
Buhari, for the third consecutive week has failed to appear for cabinet meetings. His propaganda minister Lai Mohammed said after the president’s no-show that his boss is “working from home” and needed “rest”.
This is after he disappeared in London in January for 49 days on what spin-doctors like Mohammed claimed was a “medical vacation” and extended “rest” in order for “tests” to be carried out.
The president has not left the Presidential Villa since his return and has avoided public engagements, with the exceptions of the launch of the regime’s “Economic Recovery and Growth Plan” and Friday prayers at the mosque.
Images of the frail-looking president do not fill anyone with any confidence about his health. For the best part of three months, a country with a myriad of security, economic and social problems has at his helm, a president that can’t even be described as part-time. Despite the glaring evidence that the president is not in the best of health, he and his handlers continue to refuse to disclose to Nigerians the nature of his ailment. Their continued attempts at cover-up fly in the face of transparency and insult the intelligence of Nigerians.
Buhari’s apologists claim that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, is there to step in in the president’s absence. But the VP’s stepping in should only be a temporary fix. There is no indication that the president is getting any better if after more than three months he still needs “rest”. In those circumstances, he should either resign or be impeached.
However, it is clear that Buhari would cling on to office as long as he is breathing, regardless of whether he is in full functioning mode or not. The cabal around him are also very unlikely to advise him to do the right thing and step down because this would drag their snouts out of the trough.
The National Assembly, that has been a very expensive joke since 1999, is the only hope Nigerians have for holding the executive to account and compelling the president to go in the interests of the country.
There are two grounds in which the president can be removed from office. Firstly, he can be removed due to “gross misconduct”. It is the position of Naijiant.com that lying to Nigerians constitutes “gross misconduct”. The president and his spokesmen have lied about his health and wilfully failed to disclose material facts on the issue. The Senate should pass a resolution compelling the president to reveal what is wrong with him. If he reveals the illness, he should be asked to resign. If he claims there is nothing wrong with him apart from the need for “rest”, that would be further evidence of “gross misconduct”.
The Constitution defines “gross misconduct” as “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct”. So the National Assembly has the discretion to define “gross misconduct”.
A British MP, Pauline Latham, said last month that Buhari’s illness was “creating a feeling of instability in the country.”
If the president’s illness is grave enough to cause instability, lying about it and engaging in a cover-up, is “gross misconduct” and the National Assembly should start the first steps for impeaching Buhari.
The second ground for removing the president is due to illness, but takes the powers to kick-start the process away from the National Assembly. Two-thirds of the Federal Executive Council (the cabinet) have to pass a resolution that the president “is incapable of discharging the functions of his office”. Then a medical panel set up by the President of the Senate would have to verify that declaration. This route is highly unlikely since most members of the Federal Executive Council owe their positions to loyalty to Buhari and the cabal around him. They have a lot to lose by voting for the president’s removal. It’s just not gonna happen.
“Gross misconduct” is the only way out. The National Assembly is the only hope for constitutional rule in Nigeria to rid itself of a president, who can no longer discharge the functions of office due to illnes, who claimed his government was getting rid of “ghost workers”, but has turned into the Ghost-Worker-in-Chief.