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N’ Assembly holds valedictory sessions for Yar’Adua


* UPU mourns, condoles with family, Jonathan
AS the lobby for the vacant Vice President’s slot continues in Abuja, the two Houses of the National Assembly are to hold separate special valedictory sessions in honour of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua today.

Also, former military President Ibrahim Babangida has said that the choice of a Vice President is the prerogative of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

According to him, the President needs to select a Vice President who can defer to him and who will respect the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution. Such a Vice President will work for Nigeria through the President.

“The President therefore must know the elements and mindset of his Vice President, and must be able to establish the fact that such an individual will buy into his agenda of providing sound leadership for the country. The President does not need to choose somebody whom he will have to understudy before getting to know him or her. The right person for the job is a man or woman who will respect the person and office of the President, and not one who will defer to lobbyists,” he said.

However, the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) yesterday commiserated with the President, Yar’Adua’s family and other Nigerians over the passage of the nation’s leader.

In a statement, UPU President-General, Olorogun Felix Ibru, urged Jonathan and the late leader’s family to take solace in the fact that he lived a fulfilled life, brought integrity and simplicity to governance, and entrenched rule of law in the polity.

Ibru said Yar’Adua would be remembered for his transparent and committed pursuit of peace in the Niger Delta and the development of the long neglected region through the creation of the Ministry of the Niger Delta Development and amnesty for militants.

To Jonathan, Ibru charged him to bring to bear in his new office his statesmanship, experience and understanding of the dynamics of leadership to move the country forward.

He urged the President to continue with the laudable policies and programmes initiated by Yar’Adua, adding that history would be kind to him, if within his tenure, Nigeria witnessed significant transformation.

Ibru prayed for God’s guidance for Jonathan in carrying out the onerous task of leading Nigeria aright. He also prayed that God should grant the Yar’Adua family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

The Senate Deputy spokesman, Anthony Manzo, and the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang, told journalists last week that the House would also hold a session for Yar’Adua who died on Wednesday night and was buried on Thursday. Manzo said yesterday on phone: “It is holding tomorrow.”

Asked if it would be a joint session, Manzo said: “It will be two different sessions. It will be transmitted live and will begin at 10.00 a.m. That is all I can say for now.”

The plan of the House of Representatives was expected to be tabled before the body of principal officers of the House, which had been slated for yesterday.

Speaking on phone last week, Enang said the valedictory session would be the only agenda for the House today (yesterday).

“Yes. We are holding a valedictory session for the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Tuesday. It is going to be the only issue we are treating on that day. And we are inviting all former speakers of the House of Representatives to attend. We are not considering any joint session at all on the matter. It is purely the issue of the House of Representatives alone,” he said.

Another lawmaker also told The Guardian that a joint session of the two houses of the National Assembly was first considered but had to be dropped because of the existing disagreement between the two houses regarding which chamber should host the joint session.

The lawmaker said: “You see, it would have been better to have the two chambers, I mean the Senate and the House of Representatives, holding a joint valedictory session for the late President Yar’Adua but that could rekindle the disagreement they had last year when the budget was to be presented by the same Yar’Adua. So, I think each house may hold the valedictory session separately.”

It was still not clear yesterday when exactly the National Assembly will get the name of the vice presidential nominee as many lawmakers said they had not seen or heard of any name from the presidency, but sources said soon, a name will be presented to both Houses.

Last Saturday, Manzo told The Guardian: “If you look at Section 146, the name to be submitted is at the discretion of the President, and there is no timeline to the submission in that section, but I have to confess that I have no information whether it will be submitted (this) week or not.”

Among the top contenders for the office are the National Security Adviser, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed; former Kaduna Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Governors Aliyu Mahmud Shinkafi (Zamfara), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Muktar Shagari (Sokoto Deputy Governor); Minister of State for Defence, Murtala Yar’Adua; and Senator Kanti Bello.

A rash of meetings in some northern states and Abuja at the weekend, it was gathered, were being fine-tuned to settle on a candidate, amidst disagreements among the contending political forces.

But on the issue of when the name of Jonathan’s successor as Vice President will be sent to the National Assembly, some senior lawmakers were divided in their positions last Saturday.

One principal officer said: “Having seven days of mourning does not allow us to have a constitutional gap. The constitution envisages that you can have an Acting President, but it does not envisage the fact that you have a substantive President without a Vice President so it has to be done very early enough.

“We usually meet on Mondays when we have a lot to discuss, but these days we meet on Tuesday morning before sitting. So if we do not meet on Monday night, we will meet on Tuesday morning.

“The list could not be sent on Thursday because it would give an impression that government is happy over the death of the late President.”

But another lawmaker said: “It is not settled yet, I do not think a decision has been reached.”

However, they were agreed that the National Assembly would play a pivotal role in who emerges because, according to them, when other forces were reluctant in their approach to empower Dr. Jonathan, the Senate did, and the House of Representatives followed suit.

One senator told The Guardian that the National Assembly would merely endorse the name sent by President Jonathan. “I think what we will do is just to approve the nominee,” he said.

Section 146 of the 1999 Constitution states:

(1) The Vice President shall hold the office of President if the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or the removal of the President from office for any other reason in accordance with section 143 of this Constitution;

(2) Where any vacancy occurs in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) of this section during a period when the office of Vice President is also vacant, the President of the Senate shall hold the office of President for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office;

(3) Where the office of Vice-President becomes vacant:

(a) by reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal in accordance with section 143 or 144 of this Constitution;

(b) by his assumption of the office of President in accordance with subsection (1) of this section; or

(c) for any other reason; the President shall nominate and, with the approval of each House of the National Assembly, appoint a new Vice President.

In a statement by Babaginda’s spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, the former leader said: “It is important therefore to allow the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to conclude the mourning period as a mark of respect for his predecessor before making his own choice of a Vice President and not anybody’s choice. He has the prerogative and he should be allowed to exercise it without equivocation or undue pressures from certain quarters. His choice should be informed by the understanding that he can work with such an individual, he knows the individual’s priorities, potential, qualities and attributes as well as patriotism and loyalty. Nobody should impose any candidate on the President on account of what is often called ‘political balancing and expediency’. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has a responsibility to the nation hence he should be allowed to carry out his prerogative powers without undue interference and imposition.”

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