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...Still making a case for a rudderless Nigeria Featured

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Nigerian Community
By Dotun Olalusi

With empathy now waning and tempers beginning to rise over his disorienting prolonged absence, President Umaru Yar‘Adua is about to witness the dawn of a popular disenchantment with his era as the first president that may be disgraced out of office.

It is 73 long days since he has been away for treatment in Saudi Arabia, and like Arabian tales of old, his survival and/or return is as hazy as his days in the government house in Katsina, when he could abscond from duty for as long as six months on end without being noticed or missed by anybody, while still claiming to have ruled the state for eight years.

The intervention of frontline media chiefs this week further raises the stakes in the agitation for a quick and decisive resolution of the crisis that the President‘s absence has plunged the nation into. From both the print and electronic media, encompassing all the leading mediums in the country, including all the major media-related associations, came participants with a united voice to condemn the gridlock that Yar‘Adua‘s embarrassing absence has caused the nation.

Since the crisis in the land is not about Ali and the haunted house in Baghdad, but about a president who has been AWOL for more than two months and still behaving as though he is a monarch or a dictator who cannot be dispensed with, the position of the media stakeholders is timely and courageous. Their resolution is an affirmative action that the nation requires at this time of forced impasse –– cede power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan or resign within seven days.

Should he fail to accede to either demand, the media stakeholders warned, not only would the National Assembly be compelled to commence impeachment proceedings against him; the nation might even witness, I presume, one of the most impactful civil actions ever recorded against a sitting president.

To those who are usually lukewarm about standing up for a good cause, the media chiefs have given fillip to the need to want to stand up and be counted in the march against those who choose to make the country rudderless. And coming at a time that similar forward-looking stakeholders such as the Save Nigeria Group have asked the Vice-President to assume full presidential responsibilities within seven days or risk legal actions, courageous and discernible voices must be heard in their torrents, stating the apparent truth that there has been vacancy in Aso Rock since November 23, 2009.

They may not have stated it, but their intervention is also an affirmation that this window dressing, largely perpetrated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, must stop. Yet, theirs is a timely warning that draws from the Finnish example when the cover-up of President Urho Kekkonen‘s dementia stunned the Scandinavian world, leading to his resignation in 1981 after 25 years in office, when his cognitive decline became a subject of public debate in Finland.

The grand cover-up to keep him office despite his health challenges failed, even though the whole story did not get told until the European Journal of Neurology, in 1999, published an extensive account of that grand deceit in the Finnish presidential palace and the ethical dilemma that both medical personnel and the media often face about when, how and whom to inform when they notice that the president or a powerful person in government suffers from cognitive decline or other forms of terminal disease.

Beyond having the benefit of a full account of a president‘s health crisis, the Finnish are also now a proud beneficiary of a system that makes it mandatory for a sitting president to make an annual report of his health public. In a post-Yar‘Adua era that appears imminent, Nigeria should consider borrowing from the Finnish example of health fitness as a continuous requirement for its leaders.

In one of the few public functions he attended on a social scale at the inception of his presidency, Yar‘Adua once nodded his head rhythmically to the music of Olu Maintain‘s Yahooze. But I doubt if he would be in the mood for any popular music now that he is about to dance naked to save from chaos the country whose interests he swore to defend. Should he be in a position to ‘dig it,’ the closest that must be resonating in his head now must be that entertainingly prophetic song, Danger, by P Square, in which the group warned that wahala dey!

I do not wish to commence yet the drafting of an epitaph for a presidential life not well spent, but since May 2007, during the dour days of his sobriquet as Baba Road Block, with almost a quarter of his working days as President so far spent on hospital beds in Germany and Saudi Arabia, we are closer to witnessing the narrative of a Baba Road Block than a Baba U-Turn.

Now that the countdown has begun and the clock ticking, President Yar‘Adua, frankly, is on his own.


Anambra: Shape of things to come

Nigeria is on the march again in its chequered history of elections. On Saturday, barring any last-minute adoption of one candidate or the other, at least 25 candidates are set to contest for the governorship seat in Awka.

Anambra, no doubt, comes with its own peculiarities in political shenanigans, least of which is its penchant for the gory (represented by the Okija shrine and the naked truth of oath-taking) and the absurd (typified by a sitting governor being abducted by godfathers and forced to write a resignation letter).

If the election holds successfully, the state will see its seventh governor in 11 years. The story of each occupier of the seat has been as fascinating as it has been repulsive. From Chinwoke Mbadinuju‘s running battle with godfather Emeka Offor, to Chris Ngige‘s voyage in the dens of Chris Uba and a detour to Okija; to Peter Obi‘s first solo missionary journey that led to his deputy, Virgy Etiaba‘s gluttonous reign (her son has abandoned his governorship ambition and now supports Andy Uba); and Andy Uba‘s assault on the Constitution and legality that earned him a stint as governor, before Obi finally returned to complete his term, Anambra simply leads in tragic-comic tales.

But how Saturday‘s poll turns out is not just about who rules in this state that has produced the Achebes, Ojukwus, Chimamandas, Akunyilis, Ekwuemes, Agbakobas, Anyaokus, Chike Obis and Ndukwes of this world. It is about how the political class, including the vilified umpire –– the Independent National Electoral Commission –– respects the democratic process and allows the popular will of the people to prevail.

The candidates, in my opinion, have demonstrated ‘integrity’ by submitting themselves to the debate that held in Awka last month. Beyond orchestrated rallies that tend to rely more on rented crowd, a televised public debate among candidates is a time-tested method of measuring the strength of a potential leader.

And so, when the incumbent, Peter Obi, of All Progressive Grand Alliance slugs it out with Chris Ngige of Action Congress, Chukwuma Soludo of Peoples Democratic Party, Andy Uba of Labour Party and Uche Ekwunife of Peoples Progressive Alliance, it is not only Anambra that would be on trial, but the entire nation.

As I had stated in an essay in this column in April 2007, the counting is as important as the voting. Only Anambrarians, therefore, must be allowed to decide their fate through the ballot box.

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