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PROLOGUE: Whither Leadership In Nigeria

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor

There is always a temptation in the affairs of men which makes them see what is right as wrong and what is wrong as being right.  There are things that are acceptable by Nigerian standards and yet, there are things that may be right but not acceptable.

The crisis of leadership that has confronted Nigeria since independence but which became grandly accentuated in the last 365 days and which, judging from present signals may attain new heights in the next 365 days, is the inability of Nigerian leaders to properly locate that nexus between being seen as a strong and firm leader and doing what is right on the one hand, and being naïve and contrite yet, believing that personal interests aggregate national interests.

For Nigeria, which would turn 50 years as an independent nation on October 1, this year, it has been one bad turn after another.

Worse, the psyche of the average Nigerian has become so battered that the leadership which is condemned to high heavens just a year ago soon becomes one referred to as having provided “better days”.

From the First Republic, the leadership of the Nigerian nation has continued to recede such that almost always every last administration is seen as better than the present.

At every turn of any crisis in the Nigerian nation, the lack of wisdom and proper appreciation of any situation by the leadership at any given time has led to crisis aplenty.

For instance, why did late President Umaru Yar’Adua refuse to obey the letters and spirit of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution when he was to be flown out to Saudi Arabia for medical attention? That section mandates him to transmit a letter to the leadership of the National Assembly informing it of his absence, a transmission which automatically transfers power to the vice president.

It was this error of omission which plunged Nigeria into a needless crisis between November 23 last year and May 5, this year when he died.  If there was any event of note in the last 365 days, it was all about Yar’Adua, his health challenges, the role of his wife, Turai, and a few others who held Nigeria down for almost six months.  Even Yar’Adua’s Amnesty Deal for militants in the Niger Delta and his proposed electoral reform agenda for which he was already receiving accolades, were dwarfed in the last one year by serial acts of indiscretion.

Goodluck Jonathan is now President, Commander-in-Chief – at least he would run the remainder of the tenure he and Yar’Adua were elected for (he has chosen Muhammed Namadi Sambo, former Governor of Kaduna State as his vice President).

But again, as in everything Nigerian, there is a new reality which seeks to suggest that as incumbent President and as a Nigerian citizen with full rights, Jonathan can and should contest for the presidency next year.

Truth is, whether Jonathan seeks that office or not, would determine the content and context of politicking in Nigeria in the 365 days.  And that is why the choices before him are not as palatable as some people make them appear.

For Jonathan, if he seeks to reform the polity in the coming year and succeeds, he would have laid a very solid foundation for the emancipation of a people.  To be fair and honest, to expect Jonathan to succeed, judging by the actors in the polity who are poised to retain the old order, especially giving the remaining months before elections, would be a wishful thinking.

On the other hand, to attempt to contest and pursue electoral reforms simultaneously, would also be inappropriate because it makes the task even more difficult both for personal and national reasons – personal because he can never really get the presidency in a truly reformed electoral environment; national because a preponderance of Nigerian politicians, no matter how much noise they make about reforms, would not be on the same page with Jonathan. Should the people of Nigeria give up?  No.

What way forward?  Jonathan should seek to govern and govern well; then his quest would be much easier than expected

Absurdities of a year gone-bye

The last 365 days presented Nigeria with confounding realities never thought possible.

From the frontier of the economy to the political terrain, the last 365 days were not only momentous but also intriguing and absurd, very absurd.

First was the announcement by the governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido, that the banking system, as we knew it, was a pack of cards – he had been appointed in the second quarter of the year.  On August 14, last year, he then went on to expose chief executives of five big banks, alleging that they were not doing their banks, their shareholders and the Nigerian economy any good.  He removed them from office in the process.  Personalities thought to be above the law soon became guests of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.  One of them fled the country.

Militants in the Niger Delta who had become lords unto themselves and virtually holding the nation to ransom embraced the Amnesty Deal packaged for them by the Yar’Adua administration.  The deadline was Sunday, October 4, 2009.  Although some people sought extension of the deadline, the militants dropped what they called their weapons en masse.

Late President Yar'Adua

Once it became the month of November, events took a frenetic turn.  At a time when there was a controversy over which chamber of the National Assembly President Yar’Adua should use in presenting the 2010 budget, the man left the country for medical attention in Saudi Arabia. The word PERICADITIS became popular with Yar’Adua’s revelation that that was what led him to seek medical attention in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

First, there was no letter transmitted to the leadership of the National Assembly as stipulated by the constitution. Then information about the President’s health status was treated as a voodoo object. A group, G-54, came out barely two weeks after Yar’Adua’s departure, calling for his resignation. The Governors’ Forum, under the chairmanship of Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State started flexing its muscle, determining that Yar’Adua was still fully in charge.

Calls became more virulent about handover of power to Jonathan. News about Yar’Adua’s possible return became a daily affair.   At a point, the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Aminci, gave several versions of what “GETTING BETTER”, meant.

Then came phrases and words like “DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY”, “DOCTRINE OF EFFICACY” and the “DOCTRINE OF CONSEQUENCE which the Senate claimed it had to adopt in its bid to save Nigeria from the imbroglio of a president who had gone AWOL. Following on the heels of that was the fact that the word LACUNA made a rebound. Everywhere you turned people talked about the LACUNA in the constitution and which had made it possible for Yar’Adua to misbehave.

In the midst of all these, precisely December 25, 2009, an unknown Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to blow up an airliner over the American airspace – he would have taken over 100 innocent lives had his bomb exploded in the plane.  This led the American government to list Nigeria as a nation of interest in terrorism.

Many blamed the vacuum in the leadership of the country for this.

But the role and definition of the ACTING PRESIDENT also became a major issue.

Suddenly, Yar’Adua was flown back into Nigeria in the dead of the night with even his deputy not being aware – this, after a resolution had been passed by the National Assembly pronouncing Jonathan as Acting President since February 9, 2010.  Even Yar’Adua’s ADC and CSO made a show of force by intimidating Jonathan, causing a scheduled meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, to be postponed.   While all these lasted, Turai Yar’Adua became the maximum first lady, taking full charge of affairs until Jonathan was able to get used to being Acting President.

Then came the sacking of the EXCOF and jostling for re-appointment began.  This was in late February. A new EXCOF was put in place by mid March.  But before the sacking of the EXCOF there was publicized rancour among members.  A Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in the person of Michael Aondoakaa would interpret the Nigerian Constitution to suite his desire while for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a member of EXCOF, Information and Communication Minister, Dora Akunyili, openly castigated her colleagues.

Then there were rumours of a possible resurged Yar’Adua who was expected at a Jumat service but did not make it; then there were nocturnal visits to see Yar’Adua by men of God (from the Islamic and Christian faiths).  After seeing Yar’Adua, they gave members of the public conflicting testimonies of the President’s state of health.

Jonathan gave the opposition what they had been waiting for, the sacking of Professor Maurice Iwu, as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Then Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010.  Jonathan was sworn-in on Thursday, May 6, 2010 as President and Commander-in-Chief.

But Jonathan was never allowed to see Yar’Adua, his boss, until he died.

Jonathan has since appointed Muhammed Namadi Sambo, governor of Kaduna State as his vice president, just as Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa has been sworn-in as replacement in Kaduna State as governor – the first Christian civilian to govern the state.


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