Yar’adua Is Sick, Nigeria Is On Life Support

September 4, 2008
7 mins read

I will begin with a story; it might even be apocryphal, but it doesn’t really deduct from the general tenor of the issue at hand. The story goes that after the defeat of the Third Term Agenda, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, decided he must make a choice of who to succeed him at Aso Villa. He got his security henchmen to draw up a list of candidates, and after a long session of pruning down, the search light was beamed on Malam Umaru Yar’adua and former governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna state. There was a caveat; the two were said to be battling with ill-health; but Obasanjo asked which of them had the most difficult health problem. The answer was Malam Umaru Yar’adua. Obasanjo decided that Umaru Yar’adua was the man he would impose on the PDP and INEC was given the order to rig the man into office.


Let’s not make a mistake about this scenario, because sitting at the heart of the scheming which threw up Umaru Yar’adua, at the national level, was contempt and a deep-seated disrespect for the Nigerian people. Obasanjo had set great store by the tenure elongation agenda which spectacularly collapsed like a pack of cards; in anger, in panic and with utmost contempt, he went for a sick man, whose tenure was going to be dogged by fears for his state of health. In the past one year, Nigerians have lived through so much uncertainty, largely because we have a president who does not inspire confidence, either in terms of his preparations for the job at hand or his capacity to carry the heavy load of leadership. It is as if our nation has been cut adrift on a listing ship, of course, the natural consequences is a ship wreck!


A few months ago, President Yar’adua shipped out to Germany, to consult with his doctors, and in the wake of that trip, the nation’s political temperature rose to very disturbing heights. The reasons were many; they ranged from the secrecy as well as the serious political consequences which might follow the permanent incapacitation of Nigeria’s president, given the peculiar geo-political calculations at the heart of the country’s political set up. It seemed obvious, especially with the latest trip to “perform the lesser hajj”, that the regime has refused to learn any lessons about the place of openness in a democratic political setting; it might also be that like the Obasanjo regime, the contempt for the Nigerian people remains central to the political style of the regime.


It was Okey Ndibe, in his column this week, who remarked that the ruling elite seems to believe that the Nigerian people are so gullible, as to believe every lie thrown at us. Otherwise, who on earth thinks anyone believes a statement that comes from the mouth of unprincipled politicians like Ojo Maduekwe. The contemptible attempt to

Fool us, succeeded only in exposing just how inept these officials are and how deep the crisis which faces our nation. It is obvious that they have no clues as to the level of desperation in society for meaningful leadership to nudge the nation in a direction of purposeful development and to remove the despair of the citizenry. By playing with our intelligence, they also tell us that we do not matter, while at the same time giving the clue as to how cut off they also are, from reality.


Femi Falana called me this week and apropos of the rumour which took over Nigeria at the weekend, about the president’s health, he reminded me that even under the military government of General Babangida, the state of health, and subsequent hospitalization in France, was very well-handled, empathy was generated and sustained, while Babangida was out of the country for about a month! It says a lot for the backwardness of the Yar’adua regime, that it will keep the nation on tenterhooks, attempt to hide behind a finger, even when all citizens know that our president is an invalid, who has to face serious challenges associated  with a deteriorating health condition. The lies of the past two weeks have brought us back full circle to where we started when Malam Yar’adua was forced on our country by the disgraced despot, General Olusegun Obasanjo. That starting point is the attitude of contempt for the Nigerian people, which we have spoken about.


But what can no longer be on the back burner is disclosure about the state of health of President Umaru Yar’adua. It is no longer enough to tell us tales about the number of hours he spends playing squash or the cheap lies about travelling abroad to be treated for a common cold. The internet journalism site, Sahara Reporters,  has given a far more comprehensive picture of the politics of the president’s health than any official outlet has cared to inform Nigeria. The site reported that President Yar’adua is suffering a rare disease called Churg Strauss Syndrome (CSS).  There is an article written by a Nigerian professor, Edward Operaoji, who gave an even more detailed analysis of this condition. If official etiquette will not allow the president and his men, to give us the nuts and bolts of his condition, they must still be more open about the president’s health to life the state of anxiety, which has led to the widespread rumour in the past few days.


It is absolutely important to re-state the facts that Malam Umaru Yar’adua is not just the husband of his wife or just the father of his children; he is no longer the governor of a near monolithic state of Katsina. During the years that he presided over Katsina, he went back and forth, without much hassle, in search of medical care. But as president of a country of about 150 million people, the paradigms of relationship must change. The president and his handlers mut learn to respect us by being open not just about the state of presidential health, but also about the process of governance. The employment of what Doctor Olatunji Dare called the mafia-style, when “those who know aren’t talking, and those who are talking don’t know”, must also cease forthwith.


What the latest crisis has revealed is just how lacking in cohesion the ruling regime is. One of our colleagues was in fact told by a serving minister that they are in as much darkness about what is happening to the president, as the ordinary man on the street. There is a very tiny core of people around the president, mostly a rump of people from his Katsina years, who seem to know the inner workings of the governmental machinery. There are smaller circles of people on the fringes, while the larger groups of outsiders all hang on to the rumour they pick from the various circles and cliques that have formed within the regime. It is again at this backdrop that the inefficiency of the governmental machinery has built up. The situation is not helped by the president’s laid-back style, which seems to be exacerbated by his poor health.


The machinery of government as it presently is, cannot deliver on any of the promises made to the Nigerian people. Tentativeness runs through government; policy flip flops are the order of the day: there are few properly defined policies; the regime is caught up between staying loyal to the disastrous policies of the Obasanjo regime or charting a new way, but it does not seem to know that direction to pursue; even the process of cabinet reshuffle has been bogged down for months! Nigeria itself is one life support, and unfortunately, a sick president Umaru Yar’adua has proved to be far too infirm to provide the leadership which a very sick nation thoroughly deserves. The vision of artists especially when they are geniuses can be very frightening. I have thought so much about the imaginaries of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, in recent days. He once likened Nigeria to the famous Ojuelegba roundabout in Lagos. Traffic was coming from all directions, Fela said, and unfortunately, there was no policeman to help untangle the gridlock. Doesn’t what is happening to our country today, bear witness to the genius of our greatest musician? The confusion in the process of governance; a president that is clearly not at grips with the enormity of the tasks of governance; a party system that is hopelessly corrupt; a political elite with bandit proclivities and lacking in a sense of history; a thoroughly disenchanted nation that is being led to perdition; Malam Yar’adua’s ill-health and the contemptuous disrespect for the citizenry; all help to compound the state of crisis which Nigeria faces. It is obvious that the political elite and its presidential arrowhead, cannot take Nigeria off life support. The days ahead do not give room for much optimism!


Amos Adamu, where are gold medals you promised Nigeria?

In the build-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing, Amos Adamu, the Czar who controls Nigerian sports, promised us a haul of eight gold medals. Of course, Nigerians knew that Amos Adamu was telling a lie. But that was vintage Amos; he has perfected the style of telling us optimistic tales, even when there was no planning and neither was a process of training and adequate care for sportsmen put in place. What reigns in our sports, is the survival of Amos Adamu and the regime of patronage which he constructed to co-opt people and to defend his own flanks. We never adequately prepare for international sporting events, but Adamu promises much. When the reality of our poor preparations rears its head, Amos Adamu pops up again, as the problem solver, assuring us that we would be better, prepared in the future. It is a recurrent decimal: he made promises after the Olympics in Sidney and after the Athens Olympics; Amos Adamu promised to convene a stakeholders meeting on Nigeria football after the disastrous Cup of Nations outing in Ghana early this year and since we returned from the Beijin Olympics, Amos Adamu has started a new round of promises about the 2012 Olympics in London.


What is constant, is that nothing ever gets done but Amos Adamu stays on, and he becomes even richer (he is arguably the riches civil servant in Nigeria today), while our sports becomes increasingly poorer! This is as a result of the protection racket which Amos Adamu runs in government and within the media. If we want to have sporting success then Amos Adamu MUST BE SACKED! It is amazing that just one man can pack so much power, while the nation’s sporting fortunes declines. Amos Adamu is the Director-General, National Sports Commission, President WAFU; Executive Member CAF (he is scheming to take over from Issa Hyatou); Executive Member FIFA; he wants to be Nigeria’s representative at the IOC as well! In other countries, when you fail your promises you step aside. For example, the Performance Director of British Athletics resigned this week, because the British team won only one of the four gold medals he had promised! Amos Adamu promised Nigeria eight gold medals, but didn’t deliver even one! But trust Amos Adamu, he is sitting pretty, making new promises, getting richer while Nigerian sports is becoming poorer! Amos should show us the eight gold medals he promised or he should honestly be sacked, before he impoverishes our sports further!

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