Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nigeria's President Yar'Adua died on May 5th, 2010. He was known to suffer from a kidney disease, but developed pericarditis, a hardening in the lining of the heart, in late 2009. He left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia in November 2009 and returned 3 months later but was not seen by the public, politicians or even the Vice President-turned Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan. Prior to his death, Yar'Adua was visited by Muslim clerics and then Christian leaders. He was only 58 and leaves behind his wife of 35 years, Turai Yar'Adua, their 7 children, and 2 children from a previous marriage. In accordance with Muslim tradition, he will be buried one day after his death on May 6th at 2pm.

Now that Yar'Adua has passed away, ongoing pressure to impeach him will likely come to an end. Thursday has already been declared an official day of mourning for the late President and Acting President Jonathan encouraged the nation to spend a week in mourning. Speaking on the passing, Jonathan said,
"Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown, and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight... [a]s individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr. President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of all life."
The reigns of power will be passed over to Goodluck Jonathan who will be sworn in as President and a new Vice President will be selected. They will serve out the rest of Yar'Adua's original term.

The unfortunate passing of President Yar'Adua will reduce any lingering questions over who controls the country. Although Jonathan was officially declared Acting President in February 2010, there remained a President, albeit an incapacitated one. The President's death will further free the Jonathan administration to make even more changes during the short amount of time they have before the 2011 elections.

Yar'Adua's severe sickness and passing also highlights the importance of a leader's health and its impact on a nation. The late President was known to be sick before he was elected, but, the extent of his illness was never fully explained to the citizenry, despite calls for such. Yar'Adua's health emergencies interfered with diplomatic visits, such as the cancellation of his 2008 trip to Brazil. The very last health emergency of November 2009 lead to a political vacuum that spurred insecurity and uncertainty. Yar'Adua's sickness allowed opponents, opportunists and others to question his ability to govern, weakening his position. This, combined with his slow leadership style, diminished his standing and reputation amongst far too many. Consequently, one of many lessons that must be learned from Yar'Adua's time in office must be that the people have a right to know the health status of their leaders because it plays a factor in the day to day lives of citizens.

Prior to his death, Northern elites were concerned that Yar'Adua would not be able to serve out his 'term. This is because of an agreement that Presidential power would fluctuate between the North and South of the country. In fact, the ruling party declared that its Presidential candidate would be a Muslim from the North.

Now that Jonathan will be sworn in as President, it will be crucial for all parts of the nation to be respectful of Yar'Adua's passing. If the North believes that Yar'Adua's death is being celebrated by the South, that could ignite violence of the kind seen recurrently in Jos. Inflamed tensions would mirror those from 1966 when the North felt that the South was jubilant at news of the deaths of prominent Northern politicians killed in a coup. According to Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture[1], Southerners were pleased by the removal of these politicians from office and the coup led to Southern Igbos controlling politics. These factors were interpreted as an anti-northern act and led to tensions. The tensions from that period in Nigerian history led to a follow-up coup, arguably contributed to the Biafran war and remain a factor in the continuing distrust between various tribes today. Therefore, the manner in which the country reacts to Yar'Adua's death could inflame tensions if not done in a manner that is respectful. Hopefully, the week of mourning announced by Jonathan will provide an opportunity for the entire nation to come together.

President Yar'Adua is not the first Nigerian Head of State to die while in office. Nonetheless, he is the first President to die right before an election season poised to be the most important in Nigerian history. His death will undoubtedly add an additional element to the Nigerian political landscape and only time will tell what that will be. Until then, may his soul rest in peace.

From the Archives:[1] - Siollun, M., Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture (1966-1976); Algora, 2009.

From the Archives:
- Is Yar'Adua Brain Damaged Or Not?
- Nigeria's President Absent During Crisis
- Yar'Adua Health, Resignation & Nigerian Cost
- More Yar'Adua Health Uncertainty
- Yar'Adua Health, Resignation & Nigerian Cost
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health

11 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Nairobian Perspective said...

sad affair for the nation but a reprieve for the constitutional impasse

TheAfroBeat said...

Just had to come on here and feed my curiosity ;) Thanks as always for sharing your insights, i agree that these are trying times for the nation and we all have to be mindful of how we publicly react to the news of his death.

Would like to share the following, which I read in today's Punch:

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in his tribute, wrote, “What passes for the Nigerian nation is nothing more than a tragic arena, and Yar‘Adua is only the latest tragic figure. The vampires, including those within his own family, turned him into a mere inert resource for their diabolical schemes.

“They have a reckoning with their conscience, assuming they know what the word means. One can only hope that, while mouthing sanctimonious platitudes such as ‘Power belongs to God,’ they have now learnt that the politics of Do-or-Die cannot guarantee who does and who dies. They must stop playing God. I pray for the repose of the soul of their latest, much abused innocent victim. Wole Soyinka.”

Don Thieme said...

Let us all pray for a quiet period of national morning and a smooth transition in political governance. Mr. Yar'Adua did leave Nigeria better than he found it, I believe.

Secret Diary said...

I heard the sad news about 3AM this morning here in London. R.I.P Yar'Adua.

Omosi Thisgirl said...

I don't think the South is going to celebrate or anything, most Nigerians both Southern and Northern believed the dude was on his deathbed or dead anyway, so I see his death being met with a shrug more than anything. Compared to our past leaders Yar'Adua was pretty unremarkable both in his incompetence and corruption.

Taz said...

My condolences to my brothers and sisters from Nigeria at this time of mourning following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. May he rest in peace. And may peace and stability prevail in the good land of Nigeria.

brap said...

So what's the gist? Who is going to be the new Nigerian VP? Will the North and South jostle for that position?

RE - Entrepod said...

The Passing of President Yar'Adua will hopefully not be the tipping point for the military; who are poised to pounce. Mr. Jonathan is making it clear that there is a nation that needs unity to rebuild itself to it's former stability. lets hope that this plan is enough to appease the north/south row.

My Prayers are with his family and the entire nation of Nigeria. we lost a great man.

Beauty said...

The King is dead, Long Live The King. President Goodluck Jonathan, how will you be remembered?

imelda said...

condolences to his bereaved family. he was a great loss to his country

imnakoya said...

The era of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua now belongs to the annals of history; a successful nation must learn from its history. What have we learned from Yar’Adua’s presidency?

An astute point you made on Nigerians knowing the health of their Chief Commanding Officer and other cadre of leaders, but the constitution must be amended if this is to be. This is lesion one.

Also, we as a nation must have a clear cut standard operating procedure on what to do when a leader is about to embark on a an activity that may lead to incapacity to execute. It appears, the national assembly might have made some modifications to the constitution. I’m not sure of the details.

If I may comment on other issues you raised/mentioned. The North-South rotational presidency is a contraption of the PDP; this has to be made clear. It is not a constitutional demand, but a party arrangement.

The demise of Yar’Adua was not sudden. The drama leading to his departure is well documented in the news, so I wouldn’t see how his death would be used by anyone or tribe as a call-to-war, or object of celebration.

On the role of the media, we can not fail to highlight the role of NEXT (, the nascent news media outfit of Mr. Dele Olojede, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former foreign editor of New York Newsday. NEXT stood out in the media coverage of the Yar’Adua brouhaha through its frank editorials and news-breaking coverage. Mr. Olojede and his crew were the first to report the former president was brain dead, and incapable of overseeing the affairs of the nation -- an audacious and unprecedented play by a media house going by Nigerian standard.

1. NEXT: Yar'Adua is brain-damaged:
2. Huffington Post: Nigeria’s Next ‘a paper that can’t afford to die’

Even when a mysterious voice claiming to be that of the former present was heard on BBC air waves, NEXT stood by their claim. What NEXT did more or less set the stage for the eventual swearing in of the vice president as the acting president.

In closing, as sad as the demise of Yar’Adua is, and as disruptive as the events surrounding his death was, it appears Nigeria did come out stronger, with a better grasp of its emerging democracy. However, as you mentioned, the play-out of events in the next 12 months – during the elections, will confirm if this is indeed true.


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