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Nigerians flay Yar’Adua’s BBC’s interview

LAGOS—THE interview granted to British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, by President Umaru Yar’Adua from his sick bed in Saudi Arabia, has done little to quell the opposition clamour for him to step down as president.

Commentators argued that the fact that the president is still absent and has not delegated executive powers to his deputy posed a threat to democracy in the country, 11 years after it returned from military to civilian rule.

“The constitution does not provide for a president ruling us from a hospital bed, in an undisclosed hospital; enough of the insult,” said President of  West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana.

The country has been blighted by a power vacuum for nearly two months, after 58-year-old Yar’Adua was flown to hospital in Saudi Arabia for treatment for a heart condition last November 23.

In a BBC radio interview, conducted by telephone, Yar’Adua announced on Tuesday that he was “getting better” and intended to get back to work.

“This makes Nigeria look worse than a banana republic, seriously,” said Chidi Odinkalu of the Open Society Initiative in West Africa.

He said Yar’Adua’s refusal to step down “trifles with the stability of the Gulf of Guinea and the West Africa.”

The lack of regular information on the president’s state of health from the government has proved a fertile ground for speculation about the president’s condition.

Some Nigerians even doubt the authenticity of the BBC interview.

“How do we know it was Yar’Adua? If someone can arrange a telephone call, why has it been difficult to arrange a current picture or video?” asked Odinkalu.

On Tuesday, the Financial Times had warned that “Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence risks pitching Nigerian into its most serious political crisis since the end of military rule in 1998.”

No fewer than  2,000 opposition supporters rallied in Abuja on Tuesday and yesterday, an Abuja High Court heard three suits challenging Yar’Adua’s leadership of the country.

Promised constitutional and electoral reforms are yet to materialise, a row over the budget is brewing, corruption is still endemic and the country now is now placed on the US terror security watchlist.

The peace overtures Yar’Adua had started in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta region are already showing signs of being derailed.

“The president’s absence has certainly jeopardised the entire peace process because there is no structure,” a spokesman for the main rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an email.


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