In an interview on Straight Talk Africa, Nigeria's former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, explained why he selected the recently deceased Umar Musa Yar'Adua to become his successor. The interview, touched on various subjects but Obasanjo's revelations on why he chose Yar'Adua and what he knew about the late President's health, raises concerns about the nature of Nigerian democracy and what that means for the upcoming Presidential elections in 2011.
Specifically, Obasanjo referred to 3 observable traits that encouraged his selection of Yar'Adua -
- sufficient intellectual capacity to run Nigeria's affairs,
- he (Yar'Adua) was not a "rabid Muslim" but a moderately religious man, and
- he (Yar'Adua) had personal integrity.
While these are all are useful qualities necessary in any leader, the fact that Obasanjo, and by inference, not the Nigerian people, selected Nigeria's President is a condemnation of Nigerian democracy. Votes cast by the people are subjugated to the will of the political elite who select successors.
This problem is one that must be revisited, as Nigeria is gearing up for electoral season. Will whomever wins the 2011 Presidential election be an individual chosen to win by the nation's elite or by the Nigerian public? President Jonathan has committed his administration to ensuring free and fair 2011 elections. This writer supports the achievement of this goal, for it is crucial for Nigeria's future. However, there remains the question of whether or not he will contest for President because if he does, the election results will automatically become questionable, if he were to win. For this reason, Jonathan would have to disqualify himself from the Presidential race so as to prevent any accusations of 'fixing' on his behalf. That in itself will not guarantee a free and fair election, but, it will limit the potential accusations that would definitely be made against Jonathan if he were to run for President and win.
OBASANJO KNEW YAR'ADUA'S HEALTH STATUS
In addition to discussing why he selected Yar'Adua to become President, Obasanjo also addressed allegations that he imposed a sick President on Nigerians. He explained that he had reviewed Yar'Adua's health record and that it indicated he no longer needed dialysis. Obasanjo also mentioned that an "expert" informed him that the fact Yar'Adua no longer needed dialysis meant that he was fit to rule.
It is a shame that once again, only Obasanjo had the right to review Yar'Adua's health information. This begs the question why Nigerians were not privy to such information during the campaign season. In fact, Nigerians received very little official information about Yar'Adua's condition before and after he became President. That was unfortunate, especially since Yar'Adua was the only Nigerian President to ever disclose his financial assets. Nevertheless, given that Yar'Adua eventually died while President, Nigerians should have had the opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether he was fit to serve. Unfortunately, once again, the voting public was deprived of its democratic right to fully participate in the selection process of their elected officials due to a lack of information. Yar'Adua would have likely won the Presidency even if some version of the truth about his condition were revealed. Such information would have prevented much of the uncertainty about his health, political opportunism and even dogmatic actions by the SSS and others that occurred whenever discussion about Yar'Adua's health unsettled certain groups.
It will be interesting to see what will happen this upcoming election season. The question is whether Nigeria's political elite will learn from the mistakes of the past or continue to act in ignorance of the fact that real democracy can only be held at bay for so long. As to Obasanjo, it is good that he took the time to answer questions that many Nigerians sought answers to. Considering his selection of Yar'Adua, one can only wonder what role Obasanjo will play in the 2011 electoral process, and how that will impact Nigeria.
Hattip to Nmachi of CP-Africa.com for the video.