By Semiu Okanlawon, Olusola Fabiyi, James Azania and Gbenga Adeniji:

A gale of criticisms on Sunday trailed the comments made by the leadership of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria after their visit to President Umaru Yar’Adua on Friday at the Presidential Villa.

The condemnation came from the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, a chieftain of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; and a former Kaduna State Governor, Balarabe Musa.

They argued in their separate reactions on that the clerics’ visit and comments were capable of creating confusion in the polity

But the President of the Sharia council, Dr. Datti Ahmed, wondered why Nigerians had not criticised the council’s visit to Jonathan a week before its visit to Yar’Adua.

The CNPP, in a statement, renewed its calls for the invocation of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution to determine whether or not Yar’Adua was capable of discharging his responsibilities as President.

It said the visit the council once more brought to the fore the need for the incoming Federal Executive Council to invoke the section to avail Nigerians of the true state of Yar’Adua’s health.

The statement which was endorsed by the CNPP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, reads in part, “ We reason that like the Imams, Nigerians earnestly and eagerly want to know whether President Yar’Adua is still capable of discharging the functions of the high office of the President and Commander -in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The invocation of Section 144 is imperative, for going by the statement of the Chief Imam, the capacity of President Yar’Adua to discharge the functions of his high office is questionable; more so when the visit was not made public, nor the Acting President or the President of the Senate (Mr. David Mark) and Speaker of the House (Mr. Dimeji Bankole) offered the golden opportunity accorded the Imams.”

The CNPP said only a constitutional path must be followed in the conduct of state matters, and to douse what it described as an uneasy state of affairs at the Presidency.

It added that “in the absence of doubting the veracity of the Imams’ visit, the state of the health and indeed the permanent capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office cannot be measured or determined by any other scale except the one clearly stipulated in the 1999 Constitution – Section 144.”

Adebanjo, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said it was only a medical team that could testify to the fitness or otherwise of the President and not some Imams.

“They (Imams) don’t need to see him in secret. Why can’t they allow him to be seen in public? They are just trying to cause panic and tension in the polity. They should record whatever transpired between them and the President and show it for everybody to see,’’he said.

On his part, the former governor of Kaduna State, Musa, said the visit had clearly shown that democracy did not exist and had never existed in Nigeria.

He maintained that democratic institutions in the country had been bastardised.

Musa said, “The visit has shown that it is true that Yar’Adua is still alive, just recovering and that he is still incapable to function as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The implication of that visit is that it is now clear that democracy does not exist in Nigeria and has never existed. What exist are democratic aspirations of the people.”

But reacting to the criticisms, Ahmed said the council had written a letter to the First Lady, Turai, asking for an appointment to see the President and was given a week to do so.

“Exactly a week after our request to see the President, she called us to come and we went to see him,” said Ahmed in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents.

Asked to react to the allegations that the visit and the comments were capable of creating panic in the Presidency and slowing Acting President Goodluck Jonathan down, Ahmed said it would be useless to react to “an accusation that is not there (true).”

On the allegation in several quarters that Jonathan was not aware of the visit, Ahmed said it was not for the Acting President to know who visited the ailing President.

He said, “Does Jonathan have to be aware of our visit? Yar’Adua is a free man. He is only sick for now and since Jonathan is acting on his behalf, it does not mean he must know every person that visits him. He is still the President.

“But we saw the Acting President a week before our visit (to Yar’Adua) and we gave him our advice on what he should do. Yar’Adua was not aware of our visit then. And the purpose of our visit to the President was to be sure he is still alive because there have been a lot of speculations.

“We did not even know whether he was there or not. So, we were concerned. And now that we have seen him, we are convinced.”

On why Yar’Adua failed to use the media to convince Nigerians on his true state of health rather than visits by selected people, Ahmed said it was for Yar’Adua’s doctors to determine when he would be fit enough to face members of the public.

Ahmed, who is also a medical doctor, advised that Nigerians should not make an issue of Yar’Adua’s inability to come out in public.

“It is for his doctors to determine when he is fit enough to face the public. He is convalescing and I am speaking as a medical doctor myself,” he said.

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