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Lawyer Says Constitution Supports President Obasanjo for Firing VP

In Nigeria, the political drama between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar continues. Late last week, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) expelled the vice president after he was chosen as the presidential candidate for the Action Congress Party. President Obasanjo moved to declare the office vacant. But on Sunday, Vice President Abubakar reportedly wrote the Nigerian legislature and judiciary saying that he was still the vice president of Nigeria. So who is right?

Chief Gani Fawehinmi is a lawyer and human rights activist. He said the answer lies in the Nigerian constitution.

“The president and the vice president must be elected on the same ticket and they must both belong to the same political party. Unfortunately, the vice president has deserted the party political platform under which he was elected with the president. He has now been adopted by another party called the Action Congress to be a presidential candidate. And under 31-46 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sub-section three, he’s deemed to have vacated his office,” he said.

Chief Fawehinmi said President Obasanjo must now nominate another person from the same ruling People’s Democratic Party as vice president for the approval of the national assembly. He said President Obasanjo is not usurping too much power.

“They were both elected, according to the constitution of Nigeria on the same party platform. So he’s not usurping any power at all because Section 142 of the constitution says that both the president and vice president must be of the same political party. In this case, they were elected on the platform of the PDP, and therefore they must remain in the PDP. But the vice president has broken that constitutional provision, Section 142, deserted his party, and therefore deserted the constitution of Nigeria...And therefore the president is enjoined by the constitution to nominate a new person to replace the vice president whose office has been declared vacant by the operation of the Nigerian Constitution,” Fawehinmi said.

He said the blame lies squarely on Vice President Abukakar whom he described as not behaving honorably.

“I think the vice president has not behaved honorably because ordinarily integrity demands, morality demands, apart from law, that once you have deserted your party and you have moved to another party where you have been endorsed as a presidential candidate, you just simply resign,” Fawehinmi said.