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From President to problem now(4)

By Dale Sobowale
“A leader is best When people barely know that he exists
Worst when they despise him.Fail to honour peopleThey fail to honour you…Lao-tsy, 16th Century Chinese philosopher(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p. 124).

Education is supposed to polish and edify the mind, but Nija’s first graduate president is behaving even more irrationally than Abacha! What went wrong?”

Indeed what went wrong, as the text message asked? Interestingly, that text message represents perhaps the mildest form of dishonour attaching to the person of Yar’Adua that I have heard people voice across the land since the man and his wife departed to Saudi 69 days ago today Sunday, January 31, 2010. Many of the other insults that have been hauled in the direction of the presidency are totally unprintable.

Thus a year, after I begged Mrs Turai Yar’Adua to take her husband home to Katsina, the president has lost so much respect among a broad segment of the citizenry that it matters little now what he does . Whether he goes or not, it will not be with the dignity the office demands intact.

Late President John Kennedy, 1917-1963, the 35th president of the United States, in his own contribution to the everlasting concept of leaders and leadership, had said, “The worst thing that can happen to a leader is to look back and see that there is nobody following”. Today Yar’Adua has lost the followership of majority of the National Assembly, the general public and worst of all, virtually all his living predecessors in office as Head of State and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces.

The last is important because, even if his few remaining self-serving supporters can accuse the rest of us of ignorance about the burden of office, they cannot say the same of those who have ruled us before. And his sponsor has deserted him; the less said about that the better.

Never in the history of this country, and most probably any other country where governments are elected, has a leader set so many stakeholders at each others throats as this one man has done in just 69 days. His party is now woefully divided; the National Assembly is at war; governors belong to different camps and even the National Working Committee and the Board of Trustees are at daggers drawn on account of Yar’Adua. The man who is supposed to be the symbol of our unity has become the rope in a tug-of-war that is becoming increasingly nasty.

Already, the whole episode has claimed several casualties; but let me point to only two for now. First, the Vice-Presidency which, John Adams, 1735-1826, the first Vice-President of the United States once described as “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”; and which a less erudite Nigerian has called “a spare tyre” has just been turned into a political grave yard for aspiring presidents.

After Obasanjo’s hostilities directed at Atiku from 2003 and now the ambiguities surrounding Jonathan’s position at the present time, it is unlikely that anyone with an eye on the presidency will again want to accept the VP job. Indeed, two governors now heading for second term have told me in private interviews that for them the VP is out of the question –even if it offered on a platter of gold.

The 2010 budget, like all budgets before it, has become a hostage to the present “Yar’Adua Crisis”. With Senators and Representatives divided over the president, the co-operation required to work out the budget has flown out of the window.

Most committees of both houses are either on holidays or are going about the task at speeds that would make “Baba Go Slow” himself appear like Usain Bolt. Some time in March, somebody will wake up and find that we have no budget for the year.

Even when passed by the National Assembly, the budget might have to be signed into law by the president in camera –as the Supplementary budget reportedly was done. Then more legal controversy will follow.

Right now, it matters very little when and how Yar”Adua returns to Nigeria. The three options were listed last week – he could return completely healed; he could be sent back a vegetable permanently hooked to life support machines; and then he could be returned to “senders” (meaning Nigerians) in a box.

The last has happened before. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader went to France for treatment; he returned in a flag-draped coffin. Oddly enough, the happiest outcome, meaning the first, might present the President with his biggest challenge because few will believe all is well – given his history of breakdowns. And, he will return to a country divided into war camps because of him.

Yet, he will have only until May 29, 2011 to heal the wounds his absence has inflicted on the nation. Worst of all, he knows he cannot be a candidate in 2011. Even, Mr Fix-it, who has been fixed himself in Edo, cannot fix that next election without starting another war in Nigeria. Any way you look at it, Yar’Adua’s days are numbered in Aso Rock.
STOP PRESS: Prof Dora Akunyili has broken ranks with other Ministers; hope at last?


“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But, I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
Miles to go before I sleep
Robert Frost, 1874-1963

This article might as well be titled THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF GODFATHERISM; and it will be just as apt. The end of the Obasanjo regime; the independence demonstrated by “godsons” in Enugu, Zamfara, Imo, Niger, and even Oyo; added to the humiliation of “Mr Fix-it” in Edo are signposts to a new political destination.

PDP has a problem; the logical candidate – Yar’Adua – is out of it. Jonathan is also not in the race. And neither Ogbulafor, nor Yar’Adua, nor Obasanjo has the clout to impose a candidate. So the field is wide open; but, only to those who can organize their campaigns with proficiency.

There are 30 states and the Federal Capital Territory to cover. Add to those 774 Local Governments (at least according to the 1999 Constitution) and 6,300 wards approximately. Yet, the key states, Local government Councils and wards are very few. More importantly, there are only five key issues which a candidate must address in order to build a great following which will increase the chances of success at the polls.

Otherwise the candidate must try rigging –which in 2011 will be very risky. A mini poll conducted in twelve states and fifty-four local governments showed remarkable uniformity of concerns among Nigerians nationwide which they want addressed by their president….


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