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Yar’Adua was OBJ’s dud cheque

By Ochereome Nnanna

NIGERIA has gone into another political impasse. An impasse is a situation in which things neither move forward nor backward. It is a time when a major political issue freezes the nation to a spot, and nobody has time anymore to discuss core issues of development. It is like when a major calamity befalls a family.

When a member of a family is stricken down by cancer or organ failure, it is a catastrophic impasse because everything else the family had planned to do must now wait. This is why we must always hasten to assist when such cases come to our notice because, as the saying goes, “it could be you tomorrow”.

Since President Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua was rushed to a highbrow Saudi hospital for acute pericarditis, Nigeria went into the kind of impasse that descended upon her when the June 12, 1993 presidential election was annulled. These days, nobody is talking anymore about the target the Federal Government set (which it failed in December 2009) to upgrade our power supply to 6,000 megawatts. Unless the issue is resolved somehow, April, when the target was shifted to, would come and go and nobody will even remember about it.

Even our publicity loving Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili’s quixotic Nigeria re-branding campaign has suddenly gone quiet and the lady has cleverly withdrawn from NTA’s kleiglights. But for the fact that fuel is the Nigerian citizen’s last resort for livelihood, the fuel scarcity and atrocious prices would have been a forgotten issue. The National Assembly, which showed early signs of expeditiously treating the 2010 Budget in order to embrace the constitutional amendments and electoral reforms, has also been seriously distracted by Yar’ Adua’s health problem and his refusal to hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

The amnesty programme of President Yar’ Adua seems to have gone with him to Saudi; and the “nice boys” of the Niger Delta have reportedly ended their ceasefire, opting for an “all out” campaign against our country’s oil infrastructure. Just like in June 12, protests from the civil society have rocked Abuja and Lagos, and leaders of thought representing the different ethno-regional parts of Nigeria (including former heads of state and top elderly statesmen) have called on the National Assembly to put pressure on the President to write the letter which Section 145 demands of him whenever he is incapable of handling his official duties. This is 1993, 1994, 1995 all over again. And this is what a sane and otherwise reasonable person like the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, told Nigerians, has not affected the Nigerian economy in any way!

I will be overjoyed if we hear from Yar’ Adua, live, ever again. We are waiting to see how the promise that the President will write the letter this week works out. If that letter is written, it is a good sign that the Yar ‘Adua era might not have closed. It would seem to me as though someone’s selfish, unpatriotic and evil-minded dream may not come true after all, and I pray against it. This is because if anything happens to Yar’ Adua, our stagger (not swagger) towards nationhood, will suffer years of setbacks.

Since the letter will never be written, Vice President Jonathan will never be Acting President. That is part of what I mean by our march to nationhood suffering setbacks. If this impasse is delayed until another Northerner is nominated as a replacement for Yar’ Adua late this year, the South-South, especially the Ijaw, will walk away from this experience with the feeling that they were treated like third grade Nigerians. It will add to their larder of grievances against Nigeria.

Olusegun Obasanjo is to blame for this current impasse. Even though he has denied it, but I am convinced that he deliberately gave the presidency to the weakest and least prepared Northerner in 2006 to spite the North after the failure of his third term, which the North collectively joined other patriotic Nigerians to work against. Remember, at a meeting of so-called “Southern leaders” after the May 16, 2006 waterloo for Obasanjo at the Senate, his political Man Friday Bode George, who is now cooling his heels in Kirikiri Prison, was on national television boasting: “We will never give them (North) the power!

They will never smell it again!”
When Obasanjo decided he had no choice but to cede power back to the North, he gave it to a terminally ill Northerner who was his best friend’s younger brother. It was clearly a gamble. Yar’ Adua was likely not to last the distance, he reckoned. If that happened, his Deputy, a hale-and-hearty Jonathan (also a handpicked spineless stooge of the Owu General) would take over. Either way, Obasanjo would win, or so he calculated. His appearance at the recent Trust Newspaper event in Abuja to urge Yar’ Adua to “toe the path of honour” and resign was a desperate attempt to add to the pressure on the system operators to cave in and give power to Jonathan.

But the system operators will not oblige him. If the former Prime Minister of Israel could be on life support for over three years, nothing stops the system operators from keeping Yar’ Adua on life support for another 14 months when a new Nigerian president of Northern extraction would have emerged. Obasanjo would be beaten to his own expensive gamble. If Nigeria survived June 12 and went on as if nothing happened, she will survive this even more nicely.

This is how those who took over power after the war have gambled with Nigeria. It was not only Biafra that lost the civil war. It was the Nigerian people, and they lost it to their “gallant”, all-conquering soldiers and their civilian co-victors. When Sonny Okosuns sang: “and we won the war of unity”, he should have defined who the “we” were.


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