It is practically an oxymoron to use the word "dead" in a sentence with Nigeria's President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. Even before he attained the titles of President, Head of State, Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Nigerians and their titles), he had died a few times in the court of public opinion. Yar'Adua's health condition, simply referred to as a kidney problem, has forced him to flee to Germany and Saudi Arabia for regular checkups and surgeries on numerous occasions. Each trip has been met with ever increasing criticism. Yar'Adua's most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, where he was treated for a "heart infection", has created debate over issues such as resignation, wazobia/tribal politics and power sharing amongst tribes and much more.
CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
Yar'Adua is allegedly no longer in the hospital's intensive care unit, and his doctor has now stated that he can return to Nigeria sometime after December the 13th, almost 3 weeks since he left. But, while he has been recovering in Saudi Arabia, a heated debate has been on going over whether or not he should resign. More than 50 Nigerians, including legislators and other prominent individuals issued a statement calling for the President's resignation. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association has also demanded that Yar'Adua step down and lawmakers from the Lagos State House of Assembly have equally advised the President to resign. There is even a Facebook page called 'A National Call on President Umaru Yar'Adua to Step Down'. And now, there are newspaper reports that northern leaders and former President Obasanjo are preparing for Yar'Adua to step down. Obasanjo, who selected Yar'Adua to be his replacement, is allegedly lobbying to place the governor of Jigawa State and a northerner, Sule Lamido, as the new Vice President to presumably serve under Goodluck Jonathan.
Despite these calls, the President has received plenty of public support from the majority of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Vice President, a group of governors and many others. The Deputy President of the Senate even went as far as saying that Yar'Adua can remain in Saudi Arabia because there is no Constitutional requirement on how much time a President must spend in the country. The Northern Union has even gone ahead to warn that the "stability of [the] country [which] is hinged [on] power rotation between the North and the South."
Although no individual would want to be ill and it is unfortunate that Nigeria's President is unwell, the President's sickness and his stay in a Saudi hospital is especially embarrassing. Even before Yar'Adua became President, his ability to lead was always in doubt because of his illness and his frequent trips for health care served to damn the nation for its lack of adequate health care and the lack of vision by the administration to outfit at least one health institution with the equipment and know how necessary to cater to his health needs. This most recent trip is widening divisions amongst Nigerians that are dangerous and do not forebode well for the nation's future. Statements like that shared by the Northern Union about power sharing does nothing for Nigerian democracy. While the Northern union and others that think like them believe that wazobia politics is necessary for national stability, they incorrectly ignore that democracy, transparency and a leader that at least appears to be working in the interest of the nation are key. Yar'Adua has been questioned since his first day, and him hanging on to the office of President simply to satisfy some power rotation deal is unconstitutional, unconscionable and not helpful for his health or the nation. One would hope that this is not the main reason why he has chosen to not resign given his serious health problems (heart problems and a kidney condition), but, evidence points to the contrary. While that might be good for those focused on power sharing, it might not be good for those concerned with the nation's best interests - a cost the people must not pay.
Many continue to focus on this need for power sharing with little concern for the potential outcomes if Yar'Adua were to die on seat. If Yar'Adua died in office, there is the possibility of certain elements using that time to accuse various tribes or groups of causing his death and then use the anger and confusion to stir violence that could quickly get out of control and detract from a peaceful handover to the Vice President. As things stand, given the President's sickness, this current situation is the perfect opportunity for Yar'Adua and others to do the right thing and allow for a peaceful transition. It definitely does nothing positive for other countries to see that Nigeria's President is so sick to warrant constant emergency trips and the questions as to who is in charge leaves the nation open to opportunists that might not have the nation's interests at heart, be they Nigerian or otherwise. As such, the people need a strong leader it can trust to do what is necessary to steer the national ship. They should not have to endure seemingly unending confusion because a strong stance cannot be taken by a President yet to return home.
Although the Constitution allows for a President to resign it is little help at this time. It provides for the removal of the President, but only if the Federal Executive Council (FEC) determines that the President is permanently incapable of satisfying his duties. This provision is devoid of substance for many reasons. First, the FEC consists of individuals hand picked by the President. As such, it is highly unlikely that any or some of those individuals would sacrifice their highly coveted and influential positions by trying to remove the President. Second, as things currently stands, there is no concrete evidence that Yar'Adua is permanently incapable of being President. Hence, even though there is no proof that Yar'Adua is indeed capable of handling the position of President, the Constitution is useless at handling this particular situation. And, since Yar'Adua's handlers have consistently repeated that he will not resign, it might be best for those who do not want Yar'Adua as president to prevent a repeat of the rampant fraud in the last polls when the 2011 election period arrives. That would be a peaceful option, but the violent option could involve death, a return of military rule and other highly unattractive possibilities that hopefully, will not come to pass.
The current confusing situation in Nigeria is quite unreal and unheard of - a President in hospital abroad for a heart condition, calls for his resignation, warnings from groups reminding the nation that tribalism trumps democracy and common sense and unnecessary confusion as to who controls the nation and what will happen next. It also does not help that the Constitution lacks the necessary provisions to bring about a resolution, whatever that would be. Yar'Adua and others might want to follow the example of Segun Ayobolu, who gave up his appointment in the Lagos State government due to acute ulcer and high blood pressure, so as not to be a disservice to the public. Or, they could simply think about the interests of the nation and not their tribe or pocket. Nevertheless, Nigerians are ultimately a resilient people, and whether or not Yar'Adua resigns, the people will continue with their lives. Nigeria is bigger than any person or group, but one can only hope that the deepening national fissures will not become so deep and wide so as to make future peace and progress impossible.
UPDATE (12/09/09): Reports now indicate that Yar'Adua's situation is much worse than originally revealed. His doctors are considering sending him to either Germany or the US for treatment. While most well meaning individuals wish the President the best of luck, one cannot help but wonder how much money is being spent by the federal government to not just care for the President but pay for any inconveniences his absence might cause or has caused. (Hattip to Nneoma of the Pyoowata blog for sharing this information about a possible move to another country).
From the Archives:
- More Yar'Adua Health Uncertainty
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health
- Nigeria, Be Careful What You Wish For
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime
- Wanted Dead Or Alive
- Rest In Peace
- "We Need Fresh Blood Haba!!!! Bones Are Weak!!!"