Citizen Umaru Musa Yar'Adua 40 days after

By Niyi Egbe

It is almost unbelievable that barely 40 days have passed since the demise of President Umaru Yar' Adua. Thanks goodness, the uncertainty in leadership is over and the nation is adjusting to the norms of governance without the characteristic double speaking and lurking darkness over the seat and command of power. Interestingly, too, the international community has more or less re- admitted Nigeria into the comity of nations without concern over who wields power in Aso Rock. It is quite interesting that Nigeria has forged on even before the very eyes of those inglorious mortals - the popularized cabal who literarily held the nation hostage in the twilight of the Yar'Adua administration.

Pray, where are the felons who frustrated attempts at obtaining information or access to the late President Umaru Yar'Adua whom we loved to the extent of affording him a privilege to steer the ship of our state? Where are these people who carried on as if they were larger than the nation, putting their self interest ahead of our collective good? Where are those do or die rascals that frustrated efforts at indentifying ways out of the quagmire in order that the state could run without jeopardy? Just where are those who played gods over the affairs of this land, getting the nation to the brink of denudation?

The circumstances of the exit of Citizen Yar'Adua, undoubtedly one of the most intriguing experiences in Nigerian polity should be useful lesson for all. Despite the resources at the disposal of the cabal to cover up and invent untold trickery under the sun, when his time was up, Yar'Adua simply went the way of all mortals. There was nothing the ignoble collective could do other than to give up. Pray, where is former Justice Minister Michael Aandoakaa now? We need him to explain why his beloved idol Yar'Adua can't rule even from the grave now.

However a recall of the inglorious activities of these praise singers and political jobbers needn't distract us from doing a worthwhile appraisal of the times of Musa Yar'Adua in the Aso Presidential Villa. What were his achievements, what were the challenges that confronted him? How did he handle them? How did his presidency fare? And what is the likely verdict of history on the Fulani man?

I became a silent admirer of the late President Umaru Musa Ya'rdua after listening to an interview he granted late Segun Akpata and broadcast via a Nigerian Television Authority programme. Akpata who incidentally died about a year before him, probed into his governance of Katsina State and sought to know his thoughts and planned programmes for the larger nation. I recall that at the time, Yar 'Adua had been the anointed successor of President Olusegun Obasanjo, foisted on the nation through the inglorious political machination of the Peoples' Democratic Party to the effect that he received the endorsement with hardly a fight for the position. He was the preferred choice over the likes of Peter Odili, Donald Duke, Victor Attah and a parade of Presidential hopefuls all who couldn't court the favour of Baba Iyabo as successor. Who would dare an OBJ that virtually paraded himself as larger than life and as more insightful than the rest of us? His choice was Yar'Adua and that was it.

In that interview, Ya A'dua clearly betrayed an understanding of the Nigerian nation and indeed offered informed and enlightened analysis of national issues. He was brilliant and in my opinion intellectually deep. There was also the claim then that he had performed creditably as the then Governor of Katsina state affording the state a sizeable revenue reserve - a phenomenon quite alien in our political dictionary. The norm is that the vandals that adorn our political landscape ravage the resources. In the light of the revelation, I was somewhat optimistic that the frail looking one, who appeared to have some inner stamina, would do well.

There were two other things that thrilled me and kindled my optimism about Yar'Adua. One was his disclosure to the host that he had a habit of going to bed reading, even mentioning the book he was reading; one having much to do with governance. It was gladdening that a President who reads was going to be at the helms. In my view, anyone who reads has a high probability to be intellectually deep. Thus I nursed the hope that the nation was going to be in for good times.

The second issue had to do with his fear of failure. He didn't seem to attach much emotion to the prospect of being a head of the state. Rather, he was concerned about the verdict of history about his leadership. He seemed to appreciate that only good governance could help him with good footprints in the sand of times. Yar'Adua wanted to perform well in order to leave a befitting legacy.

Ya'Ardua was later to become President of the nation, and is now history. Poor him, much as he desired, his ill health did not allow him even up to three years as President to actualize his desires. His programmes and conduct in the handling of national affairs would for long dominate discourse in the media, research in governance and the political turf. Did he leave some legacy? Sure yes. Did he fail as feared? To reasonable extent, yes, he did!

There are far many legacies for which the late Ya A'rdua will be remembered for in the annals of Nigeria's history. It couldn't be farfetched that during his regime, there emerged new vocabularies in Nigeria polity - words like servant leadership, rule of law, amnesty programme, the seven point agenda etc. It is my intention to discuss his modest achievement before veering into his failure.

Yar' Adua's disposition to servant leadership seemed to be a veiled protest against the uncivilized and uncouth conduct of those who hold political offices. For most our political charlatans, rather than seeing leadership positions as a privilege, it becomes an opportunity to lord it over the electorate. They see in such positions, an opportunity to get a piece of the action. Rather than think baking up the proverbial national cake, it is their lifetime opportunity to take a good bite. The philosophy of the Nigerian politician appears to have been encapsulated in the nomenclature that a second republic political party adopted – "You chop, I chop". For them a succinct way of telling the masses that they too would have a go at the national cake was to have them realize that they too will "chop"! By Jove!

Agreed every leader has his style. Compared with his immediate predecessor, Yar' Adua presented himself as easy going and readily approachable. The aristocracy in him seems to have placed a check on him to handle the exalted office with civility and dignifying candour. He was visibly humble and was not loud and lousy. We never had him fight rash or loud. Till his last breathe, there was never a revelation of uneasiness in relating with his Vice, Jonathan Goodluck. Let us attempt a comparison his predecessor OBJ the Great. On numerous occasions, OBJ attempted demystifying the exhorted office. What makes the monk is not the hood but the person. OBJ did demonstrate that the President could at least be human. We can't forget how he would slice cakes and beginning with his Vice, Atiku Abubakar (when the going was good), serve all his aids. However, much as OBJ tried to be human in the handling of the Presidency, the soldier in him had no room for stomaching perceived rubbish. When the people of Odi took him for granted, he showed then pepper. When OBJ is after you - "your own don chikenah!" Ask Atiku, thanks to OBJ, he would likely end up the President Nigeria never had. Yes, Atiku won all the court cases, but sure didn't win the coveted Presidency. Poor him, it is predictable that he would not win the PDP ticket under the present dispensation. There is an overt love bond between OBJ and Goodluck Jonathan, his anointed candidate for 2011 – rotation formula his foot!

Without doubt, to Yar' Adua's credit, the axiom rule of law was popularized. Much as there are pointers to double speaking by his administration in this regard, there are some testimonials in the direction. The judicial victories of Comrade Adams Oshiomhale and Olusegun Mimiko, respectively opposition governors Action Congress held Edo State and Labour Party held Ondo State during the Yar Adua administration are visible demonstrations of respect for the rule of law. Added to that- the triumph of Peter "the rock" Obi over poor PDP's Charles Soludo in Anambra added credence to the seeming regard for the rule of law.

It is undoubted that one area where the Yar'adua administration surpassed efforts of predecessors is the thorny issue of the Niger Delta. It was unbelievable that our brothers in the creek were in possession of such a large stock of lethal arsenals even where the nation was not in battle. But for the smartness of Yar' Adua, it is predictable that there wouldn't have been headway over the endemic confrontation between the state and the warlords. Even the administration of ex – Army General Obasanjo could not out-fox our Niger delta brothers. Rather, his mission to delete Odi merely stared the hornet. He sowed the wind of brute force and the nation simply harvested whirlwind of blown up pipelines, hostage taking especially of expatriates, frustration of production and other development projects. What is force in the face of the will of a people? If only Abacha and Obasanjo had learnt from history, they would have learnt from the resilience of the late Indian sage, Mahatma Gandhi in his war of wits against English colonial masters. His philosophy of non – violence simply made nonsense of brute force.

Only recently, our Excellencies, Niger delta governors had to scamper to safety when the boys literarily unleashed bedlam in detonating bombs around the venue of their meeting. It is interesting that they and their security details are human after all! Those mean Niger delta boys! They did not even respect Comrade Adams Oshiomhale! Although there is relative peace partly owing to the ongoing amnesty, Niger Deltans know quite well that it is not yet uhuru. Insecurity looms like the sword of Damocles. Now, the advice for all in Niger delta is to leave at least an eye open when going to bed as no one can ever predict when the boys would strike. It is the wisdom for the rich and influential. Ever heard of the rich also cry? In the Niger delta, the rich are better prey. It simply adds up as bigger ransom is placed over the head, child, relative or parent of any person of influence that is kidnapped. A single kidnap deal would keep the bodies and souls of the agitators for reasonably long till it's the turn of the next victim.

Much as there were positive sides to the Yar'Adua administration, there were inglorious sides. First is that his government was conducted in a drag. It always took too long before decisions were taken and implemented. A nation that has been through untold and sustained depravation didn't expect to be subjected to further waiting. His poor health didn't help matters. He had to travel several times for medical check –up. It is human to be sick, but it is a responsible thing to do a proper handing over to the Vice so as to avoid lacuna. The want of such transparent interest in the greater good of the nation paved way for the agitation that quite heightened in his twilight. The disposition had the people of the Niger delta suspect foul play, seeing the attempt at cordoning off Goodluck Jonathan from constitutional power to mean that their son may never access to power. In their view, to deprive a scion of the goose laying the golden egg from a taste of the action, amounted to a slap in the face of indigenes of the Niger Delta. This was more infuriating considering the utterances and conduct of the proponents of the zoning formula.

Another drawback of the Yar'Adua administration was the seeming penchant to club down whatever the gain that OBJ appeared to have made. Of the lot, the decision to discontinue the speed train projects. There is no denying the fact that Yar'Adua needn't take hook line and sinker projects handed by OBJ. But then, the project could have been reviewed to the effect that grey areas can be ameliorated. If the nation had continued with the project, it is possible that some parts of the nation would be enjoying modern speed train services now and the economic benefits associated with the rail transportation industry. Painfully, till now, Jonathan doesn't seem prepared to look in the direction. We should postpone the realization of such dream till 2011 and beyond.

Finally, the conduct of the cabal around Yar'Adua especially as he was passing on would continue to cast shadows over his genuine interest in the corporate existence of the country. How come he was ambushed as claimed by a wife who reportedly seemed to have disregard for the nation and constituted authority? Couldn't he properly educate Madam Turai that the moment he aspired for and became President, he was also accountable to the 150 million Nigerians that put him in power? It is claimed that the wife was so overbearing that key appointments were influenced by her. We suspect that the outcome of auditing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, where it is claimed that top positions were dominated by people from his regional block. This certainly would reveal much about how weak or culpable the Yar'Adua government was in running the affairs of the land. With all the exposure of our late President, he saw nothing amiss in literarily donating his daughters to governors as if being in power necessarily translated to being good husbands.

As the drama of the handling of the latter days of Yar'Adua unfolded, tongues justifiably wagged over his imposition on the state by OBJ. The former's rather weak defence of the choice of a sickly person was that Yar'Adua's medical records indicated that he was no longer undergoing kidney dialysis and went on to conclude that he was fit and proper to rule the nation. One would have expected OBJ to know better. Having been twice head of government, he sure was too familiar with the rigours that the office demanded than to foist a half healthy man on the nation. Whatever Obasanjo;s defence, the nation would forever hold him accountable for the slow days of Baba go slow.

Another poor showing of the Yar'Adua administration was the posturing as a government committed to the rule of law. Where was the rule of law where proven criminals in the molds of James Onanefe Ibori and Lucky Igbinedion were always welcome guests at Yar ‘Adua's Aso Rock. The President's sickening excuse was that they were colleague governors. We are not fooled. It is public knowledge that Ibori bought the access by being one of the President's chief sponsors. Ironically, while Ibori dinned and wined with Yar'Adua, a person like Nuhu Ribadu whose name sent cold shivers down the spines of the nation's corruption kingpins had to run to safety in exile for the most of Yar'Adua's administration over trumped up charges of non declaration of assets. The fact that James Onanefe Ibori is now on the run from Nigerian and British governments and predictably wouldn't escape jail stand to be everlasting shame to Yar'Adua.

All said, we again bid Yar'Adua farewell. He meets his creator, who holds every mortal accountable for his times on earth. Luckily, one cannot outwit God, which is a relief to all oppressed and a warning to all who find themselves in positions of power. Painfully, most won't heed the advice to handle well, every opportunity to serve. Pray they realize that even if they outwit men on earth, there is no way they will escape divine judgment. Adieu Yar' Adua.

Niyi Egbe

A Media Practitioner lives in Lagos Nigeria

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