Welcome, and goodbye to Nigeria’s President Yar’Adua….

By Chido Nwangwu
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These are challenging but interesting times for Africa's largest democracy, Nigeria. Nigeria's 58 years-old President Umaru Yara'Adua's return from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday February 24, 2010, offers an opportunity as well as a turning point for Nigeria.

While Nigerians thank God, say welcome back home, and hope their President gets better, if you listen carefully, a majority of Nigerians have, politically, psychologically and substantially, started to look at Nigeria beyond President Yar'Adua.

Nigerians are moving on beyond Yar'Adua to a path of patriotism and determination to make sacrifices in order to change the apparition they live as life; a life of want, scarcity, inflation, corruption, mixed blessings, electricity darkness, horrible financial lending terms for businesses and dodging kidnappers.

Nigerians are determined to move on to the plateau of progressive change saying, I believe: we have had enough of the impositions of serial incompetence, the violence of religious bigotry, the brutalities of ethnic hostilities and genocides, enough of the mounting of unlawful and raw impunity which disregard the core interests of almost 120 million citizens! Enough!!

Nigerians are moving on, with casual regard for the mysterious presidency of Yar'Adua and the man who imposed him and his VP Goodluck Jonathan on Nigeria in 2007, the retired General and former president Olusegun Obasanjo. The truth of the matter is that Nigerians are sick and tired of subjecting our youth and children to compete and struggle for the same political positions with their grand-fathers; positions the same grand-fathers held when they were thirty-something years old in the 1960s! Goodbye to the Yar'Aduas, Anenihs and Obasanjos of Nigeria.

Nigerians are saying goodbye to Yar'Adua and his patrons as they move on to engage in what I consider robust debates of rights and leadership, of responsibilities and entitlements; engage on another voyage of constitutional clarifications, demand for the dividends of democracy and effective governance; an irreversible demand to address the needs of all of Nigeria's youth and children.

With Yar'Adua's return, the constitutional complications for Nigeria's growing democracy have become further complicated by the realities which are unfolding. One such reality which is clear to me is that the demands of Nigerians for a responsible and responsive government will not quieten with the return from Saudi Arabia (after 100 days) of the unwilling president of Nigeria 'Baba Go-Slow' Umar Yar'Adua. Nigerians say welcome; Nigerians can and will move at a more brisk yet responsible pace.

Second issue amidst all the drama, subterfuge and power-play around the president and the presidency since the past 100 days, I predict that there will be an expansion of the clash between the guardians of naked privilege versus the energetic, yearning troops of representative democracy in Nigeria.

Consequently, Nigerians will live and deal with the historical fact that power yields nothing except faced by sustained, vigorous demand. It was aptly put by the great orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1857 who said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

It will not be different in Nigeria. No
Third, I am glad our President came home better and well enough to see those who supported him and those who disagreed with his hide-and-seek methods over his health and command of the ship of the Nigerian republic. Remarkably, the turn of the Yar'Adua-Saudi Arabia trip also showed the courage of the progressives in the Northern section of Nigeria calling for a transfer of power to the VP, arguing that the President's long absence and ill-health indicated he was incapacitated.

Fifth, Yar'Adua's handlers wanted more time to keep power; they forced it, and got it, especially with the cooperation of the extraordinarily deferential Nigerian Vice President Jonathan. As a student of power and politics, I do know that one day of presidential power in Nigeria or elsewhere can alter the landscape of the environment. The Yar'Adua team and family have more than one day!

Amidst all the twists and coyness of the Yar'Adua group, they had a united front in effectively but illegally blocking and thwarting constitutional contacts with the ill commander of chief (at the time in Saudi Arabia).

Only surmises and speculations about his condition filtered and dominated the airwaves and print media in Nigeria and abroad. Much expected health updates and significant factual info could not be leaked through his family and close aides who — in concert with the Saudi authorities and doctors, quashed all visits by Yar'Adua's political appointees-ministers.

Sixth, during the final month of Yar'Adua's extraordinary medical care trip to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria's Federal executive council/cabinet became divided along the lines of those who called for his resignation based on his ill-health-incapacity and Yar'Adua's core loyalists who played, well, for time to see this day happen.

There are two interesting ministerial contrasts which generated miles of embarrassment for some of the appointees and party hacks.

For example, the minister for External Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, stepped all over himself to the amusement of the international community/media in his unique, tortured struggle to explain the long absence of the ill President in relation to how he, the minister, derives his mandate to speak for Nigeria but cannot speak to the President….

On the other hand, it pushed up Information Minister Dora Akunyili as courageous (some of her critics alleged recklessness) when she largely said her boss (Yar'Adua) was incapacitated in Saudi Arabia and ought to step aside.

Will Akunyili resign under the present circumstances; or….

Seventh, how will the Senate and the House of Representatives (the parliament) which facilitated and affirmed the unique, some of Nigeria's leading legal scholars argue, unconstitutional title of “Acting President” given to VP Jonathan handle the return of the President. How, especially does Nigeria revert to and insist on the formalities of a clear, precise formal transfer of authority or letter from Yar'Adua or any other President should the situation –similar or different– warrant? I understand the Senate has passed, a few hours ago, a 14-day requirement for the leaders of the country who are on extended absence.

Weeks before the vote, the Senate President of Nigeria, former soldier from Benue State and multimillionaire David Mark and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu (from Enugu State) joined the bandwagon of the convoluted dance to “rationalize” the absence of the reclusive Yar'Adua from a series of tired and illogical spin about how the President can stay away as along as he wants, ad nauseam….

Mr. President, Welcome back to Nigeria; a different Nigeria, where the citizens now demand their leader's health worthiness and collectively ask you, Obasanjo, Anenih, and Mark: where has all the billions for electricity, fuel, water, security and food gone to??

• Chido Nwangwu, honored by the Washington-D. C.based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression, is the Founder & Publisher of first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, USAfrica.TV and several blogs. He served on the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria in Lagos and worked for the Nigerian Television Authority (news) in the 1980s. He served on the board of the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., the NAACP Houston; publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009; served on Houston former Mayor Lee Brown's international business advisory board (Africa), and has appeared as an analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, etc.

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