Since President Buhari left the country on the 23rd of Januray, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has been “in charge” of affairs, presiding over Federal Executive Council meetings, shaking hands and smiling for the camera. The question on everyone’s mind has been, what is the true extent of the power of the Acting President in the absence of President Buhari? (For the sake of this post let’s refer to President Buhari as President-in-London. You’ll understand better as you read on) Before I answer the question, I’d like to quickly correct a notion.
People (even media outlets) are fond of saying that President Buhari put Osinbajo in charge before leaving for his “vacation”. That is simply not true. The constitution puts a Vice President in charge when the President is not in the country, especially during a vacation. Take a look at this:
Section 145 of the Nigerian Constitution provides as follows:
“Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President”.
This automatically makes the Vice President the President, for the time being. There should be no limit to the extent of his power while his is President. The ‘Acting’ before the ‘President’ merely indicates that he is discharging duties on someone’s behalf, not that his ability or right to do so is in any way limited. In fact, if there is that notion of a limitation to the extent of his power, the country would be in jeopardy because there would be no one to do those things we believe his should not do since he’s not President. That void itself would be a huge security risk.
We seem to have things easy with technology in the sense that the President-in-London can keep calling the shots via Skype or Whatsapp Video calls. But we ought to know that the constitution was not drafted with video calling in mind; so when it calls someone ‘Acting President’, it means the person is President until that changes, which, in this case, would be until General Muhammadu Buhari get’s back into the country.
Of course I am only at liberty to write about this on the internet. Enforcing it is completely out of my jurisdiction. Let’s keep overlooking the rumor (or fact) that Government officials waste a lot of money and time to run the Acting President’s instructions by the President-in-London before carrying them out. And by that I mean speaking to someone who will speak to someone who will find a convenient time to bring it up when the President-in-London is not on a bed rest. Yeah… from what I hear, even his aides can’t reach him. But I’m not sure about that, I’d have to run it by the President first. And I mean the President-in-London.