VACANCY IN THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT /VICE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA MUSA YAR ADUA CASE STUDY
Background to study
A major cause of vacancies in political offices in developing countries is death . Possibility of dying in power is one of the glaring existential realities that confront political tenure-ship in the world. This is an unpalatable fact that all political incumbents must do well to appreciate. Even in the most absolute political regime, the eventuality of incumbent’s death is clearly acknowledged as the ultimate determinant of regime prospects and survival. Faced with death, the sense of virtual immanency of the absolute ruler in this context comes to naught. The continuities and changes that characterize political succession in political systems of the world are determined by a combination of factors, prominent among which is human frailty – ageing and death . With reference to authoritarian political systems, Jinadu opines:
…no matter for how long political power is monopolized by a single, ‘messianic’ leader, who patronizingly or paternalistically harps on his or her indispensability the reality is that, sooner or later, the ineluctable dynamics of the process of economic and socio-political change and the manifestations of human frailty, like ageing and death will unfold themselves to complicate the leader’s political succession calculations, and show that he/she is fighting against time: political succession is merely delayed, and will remain a constant item on the political agenda.
The significance of death as a factor in political succession cannot be over-emphasized. Even in democracies, with constitutionally mediated and moderated political tenure-ship arrangements, the demise of political incumbent have often engendered fundamental outcomes that defy conventional permutations of political succession.
In Africa, there are three recent prominent occurrences that point to this direction. In 2010, Nigeria lost a serving president, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’adua following a protracted ailment . This inevitably led to the inauguration of his vice, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the substantive president.
In May 2012, Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika, died in power as a result of health attack. He was succeeded b his vice, Madam Joyce Panda. In a rather dramatic quick succession, Ghanaian President Atta John Mills also died in July, 2012 as a result of a cancer-related medical condition . In Nigeria, which, by design, is the focus of this paper, two serving state governors have died in power since 2009, necessitating thereby an abrupt ‘power shift’ in the ‘political equations’ of their respective states.
There is also a cognate instance whereby a serving governor has ‘lost power’, de facto, as a result of a fatal air mishap that rendered him partially incapacitated and therefore unfit to govern . This significance of the foregoing events does not lie, per se, on the pattern of political succession they entail; they hold much deeper implications for the Nigeria-style redistributive politics based on sectionalism and minority/majority sentiments.
Objective of the study
It is against this backdrop that this paper examines the phenomenon of vacancy induced political succession in Nigeria with a view to situating its strategic political utility and implications.
Scope of The Study
The enormity of the subject matter has led to the selection of some aspects of Nigerian constitution. In general, reference is made to Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This research methodology is normative or doctrinal research (library research). Normative legal research is the legal researches which use the law as foundation of norm. The norm system in question is related to principle, norm, and rule from legislation, verdict, treaties, and doctrine concerned annulment of an arbitration award. First stage of normative research comprises a research with purposes to achieve objective law, by conducting research on legal issues. The second stage of normative legal research is aimed at obtaining subjective law (rights and obligations). It also concerns with critical review of legislation and of decisional processes and their underlying policy
The notion of political succession has been generally understood in two fundamental senses . In the first sense, it refers to “the transfer of political power from one person, group (e.g. political party, ethnic, religious, linguistic group), government or regime to another” (Jinadu, 2008:5). In this sense, political succession denotes ascension to power by a person or a group of persons. The second conception of political succession refers to the processes and procedures of political transition, whereby power is transferred from one government, regime, or political order to another (Calvert 1987:1). Political succession, therefore, refers to how power is ascended and transferred in a polity. This is based on a number of constitutional or arbitrary rules and procedures, depending on whether the polity is democratically or autocratically oriented. In a democratic polity, the process and procedures of political succession are regulated by the constitution and adjunct statutory instruments, such as the electoral law. In nondemocratic political systems, political succession is a matter of ‘might is right’. In this regard, violent revolutions, coup d’états and other relevant forms of organized violence readily become indispensable in wresting power, or seeking transfer of power. As implied in the foregoing, political succession in democracies is ordered, procedural and constitutionally moderated. This is usually affected through civil procedures such as elections, referenda, and reforms. Apart from these established procedures, political succession can also be necessitated by the occurrence of natural or man-made fatality, leading to either the death or incapacitation of the political incumbent. This circumstance compels an ‘emergency’ political succession designed to fill the vacuum in political