Tuesday 14 April 2009

Nigeria: Surely not a wobbly president

Insights from afar

It is interesting that the Economist should take an interest in the leadership of Nigeria under President Umaru Yar’Adua with a table of contents reference of “A wobbly president.” [1]

Now, much as the Economist has never impugned the character of this man, it has never been effusive in praise of his leadership abilities, their commentary can also light the fuse of perceptions that can trigger catastrophic consequences for Nigeria.

A progressive governor

However, they do relate some interesting insights that we as Nigerians have been unable to elicit about our president from the installation of a chronic kidney ailment unit at a local hospital in his home state Katsina where he was governor to his rather persistent cough.

Obviously, these might just be circumstantial; the people of Katsina State might well be predisposed to kidney ailments and the governor has been progressive in providing a healthcare solution; his publicity machine and the ministers tell us that the President is in rude health but one questions why photographers have been asked to desist from taking close-up photographs in Abuja.

The issue of close-up photographs is interesting because we generally fancy ourselves as fantastic discerners of condition by sight; people are quick to notice trimness that they automatically presume to be as a result of severe illness – Mr. Yar’Adua is hardly the quintessential pot-bellied Nigerian politician fattened on the largesse of corrupt enrichment.

What is at stake?

The concerns for Mr. Yar’Adua’s health are however well beyond the personal circumstances of the man himself to what it means for Nigeria.

If indeed he does have as serious a health issue as we are made to believe, the concerted opinion is that he might not serve the two terms he was selected to serve by the dominant political party through the Machiavellian machinations of the erstwhile President Obasanjo.

Already, people are on tenterhooks about the economic consequences of Mr. Yar’Adua having to depart for all sorts of reasons, as one financier opined, “all bets are off” for a spiral in what people already consider would be seriously difficult times.

The gentleman’s agreement

The political consequences are yet unfathomable for the reason that leadership in Nigeria is determined and apportioned in what the Economist has suggested is a pendulum swing alternating from North to South of a brokered “gentlemen’s agreement to allow the ungentlemanly feasting on the country’s billions of dollars of stolen and mismanaged oil resources.”

Constitutionally, if God forbid, Mr. Yar’Adua does vacate his perch of leadership, the vice-President Goodluck Jonathan would have the good luck of taking the reins but what luck that would be for Nigeria is worrisome because the North would consider it their right to retain power regardless of constitutional and democratic mandate for 2 terms of government just as the South already has had.

This is all speculative but to be forewarned is to be forearmed, as Mr. Jonathan is from the volatile and ruinous Niger Delta region in the South, one cannot begin to appreciate what might need to be done to avoid a debilitating political crisis that could lead to the flight of all that is good from Nigeria just because snouts need to gather at the trough.

Begin with the truth

The injustice Nigeria suffers from this situation that is becoming seriously untenable is that the President has not been honest, transparent, forthright and forthcoming about his health which means his capacity is undermined with the feeling that others might be holding the real reins of power than the probably “comatose” figurehead.

As long as he breathes and one hopes he is well, healthy and full of health, things would trundle along but there is very little that can be done if something rather unfortunate happens; that truth cannot be concealed for long and God help us.

In the end, to avert the speculative, the President should come clean and to avert the disastrous the ultra-religious Nigerians should call on their gods for a miracle healing hand to bless the kidneys of our dear President and heal them all any ailment.

What Nigeria surely can ill afford is a wobbly president, not today, not at any time.


[1] Nigeria's wobbly president | What if the president goes? | The Economist

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