|Yar’adua’s dysfunctional Nigeria|
|Written by Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, email@example.com|
|Thursday, 10 April 2008|
“The starting point is that former president Obasanjo must be called upon to answer several charges of abuse of due process, graft and other corrupt activities. Today, factories are being closed and we endure darkness in our homes. Yet, billions of dollars have been squandered and siphoned to bogus companies….Nigeria was massively plundered…The NLC will mobilize and join other Nigerians to ensure that all those who plundered Nigeria are brought to book”
-Nigeria LABOUR CONGRESS
I spent last weekend in Kaduna. On the way back to Abuja last Sunday, we were caught up in a massive gridlock around the junction of the road that leads to Bwari; the time was 1710hrs.
What we thought would be over in a couple of minutes at most, ended up to be a three-hour ordeal, which brought out both the worst and the best of the Nigerian citizen. In a typical expression of the penchant for individualism and indiscipline, motorists formed extra lanes on what was at best, a three lane road. There were up to eight lanes on the side of the road leading to Abuja, while some of the vehicles coming out of Abuja formed lanes on the side of the road that led into the city. The chaos became total!
In a manner of speaking, we made a transition from ‘go slow’ to ‘standstill’; and for a very long time, nobody had the foggiest idea of what had led to the gridlock, and there were no police men or road safety corps personnel anywhere in sight. There was road rage; there was a fatalistic resignation; there were curses and a sense of hopelessness and anger as well as the typically Nigerian sense of initiative, when some citizens chose to assist to direct traffic, with a mixture of strong arms tactics, cajoling and responsibility all rolled up into one! After three hours of a most dreadful experience of chaos, we finally pulled out of the gridlock and arrived home drained and exhausted!
Locked within the uncertainties of those three hours, I was reflecting on the Hobbesian jungle that our country has become: life is truly nasty, brutish and short in Nigeria today, and in a most poignant sense, the gridlock was a metaphor of the life we live under the presidency of Malam Umar Yar’adua. I think it was General Danjuma who quoted his driver as saying that lagosians now say yar’adua has made a transition from being ‘mister go slow’ to ‘papa standstill’! I think it is the truth. We seem to have at the head of our country, a president who lives in a trance, or who is permanently sleep-walking through the processes of leadership. There is no sense of direction, we get no feeling of leadership and there is so much tentativeness!
I have reluctantly made the observation here, because quite honestly, I felt that we should find some patience and understanding for the president, even against my better judgement. I have been particularly worried about the policy flip flops, which have become so characteristic of Malam Yar’Adua’s presidency. A few weeks ago, I had written a piece to praise the decision to cancel the sale of NITEL/MTEL to Obasanjo’s controversial TRANSCORP. Unfortunately, or is it fortunately now (?), the piece could not be used; but you can imagine my consternation, when a few days later, the regime re-traced its position and decided that the NITEL sale to an obviously incompetent and controversial body, was not going to be reversed afterall. It appears as if the regime is easily intimidated, especially when the powerful lobbies it is trying to reign-in pay so-called experts in the media to defend the privatization done under Obasanjo. The Yar’adua regime retreats, hands off the institution sold, and the nation is left in an even greater mess.
Although this has been repeatedly canvassed in the past, the truth remains the Yar’Adua administration is hostage of the controversy which gave birth to it the first place. The kleptocratic despot, Olusegun Obasanjo had actually designed the regime to be an “overseer government”. Malam Umar Yar’adua was programmed, almost in a Pavlovian sense, to merely provide covering fire for all the crimes of the bandit regime of Obasanjo. However, there is a groundswell of feeling in the land that he cannot also ignore. Therefore, Nigeria is saddled with a president who carries a moral baggage; he feels eternally grateful to the man who imposed him as president; his natural instinct is to protect his benefactor. On the other hand, he wants to be a president of Nigeria, which explains the quixotic tilling against the windmills that he has done in recent times. Unfortunately for Malam Yar’adua and Nigeria, our president has not quite resolved in his conscience the real master he wants to serve: either the Obasanjo cabal or the Nigerian people. This is the basis for the flip flops in policy as well as the confusing signals that we get about the process of governance.
Those who know Malam Yar’Adua from his days as governor of Katsina State often say that he took his time in the act of governance. But Nigeria is a different kettle of fish, and we need a president who leads from the front. There are too many problems in the country, that he must be seen to be providing leadership. Four months into a new year, the budget has not been passed, as the presidency is locked in a bizarre battle with the parliament over approval of proposed amendments to the budget. DAILY TRUST this week quoted government sources as saying that “Yar’adua holds that it is the responsibility of the executive to determine spending based on revenue projections and the National Assembly has no right to increase that. They can only appropriate. But the Assembly on the other hand said it has such power and is threatening to use its two-thirds majority to achieve that”. Locked in this battle of supremacy, it is no wonder that not much is happening in a nation that still largely depends on the operation of the machinery of government.
Industry, commercial outfits and the homes of millions of Nigerians continue to grapple with the acute shortage of electricity, and it is quite interesting to read in the papers this week, that a minister of state for energy, Hajiya Fatima Balarabe Ibrahim, has confirmed that we should expect stable electricity supply in Nigeria, only by the year 2050! What we have not been told is that Umar Yar’Adua was merely huffing and puffing, whenever he threatens to “declare a state of emergency” in the energy sector. Nigeria is clearly dysfunctional under Malam Umar yar’Adua, because the man is not inspiring confidence; he appears to be overwhelmed by the office which he occupies and there is a feeling that he is hostage to forces that really want him to perform a duty of shielding the illegalities that they perpetrated while in office. Malam Yar’adua strengthens the impression that he is the Obasanjo regime by other means, as he has kept in office some of the most patently discredited representations of that regime: from the helmsman at INEC to the head of BPE, who supervised the dubious and unconstitutional privatization programs of the regime!
If Umar yar’Adua appears lost and appears to find the toga of presidency so ill-fitting, there are two areas that illuminate his persona so brightly that we can read him very clearly. On the one hand is the larger than life visibility of his wife; as a matter of fact, SAHARA REPORTERSDOTCOM describes her as the most powerful first lady in Nigeria’s history, and a very ambitious first lady who plays a very powerfully intrusive role in government, according to that internet journalism site. The other aspect of the yar’Adua persona is that wily and ruthless political streak. While he was mouthing the proper phrase about the need for electoral reform, Malam Yar’adua has led the ruthlessly unstoppable “conquest” of electoral positions around the country by his behemoth, the PDP. From local government elections, governorship re-runs to the Abuja senatorial seat, the unrelenting machinery of the PDP continues its conquest in an unassailable manner. The PDP ‘victories” defy the logic of political life, but even the president was reported the other day to have declared the gubernatorial re-run in adamawa state, a “war”; rather like the “do-or-die” one that brought him to power!
Against the background of this dysfunctional political society, it has become crucial, for the sake of Nigeria’s future and even present, to begin to build new political platforms, which might provide an alternative vision for the Nigerian people. It is clear now, that the yar’Adua regime does not possess the competence to chart a different course of national development for Nigeria. Yet there are too many problems needing both leadership and vision; ingredients that are in very short supply under Malam Umar Yar’Adua’s watch. The simple truth is that Malam Yar’Adua has to make a choice fast between dithering and providing a leadership that can inspire hope and confidence as well as nudge the nation out of its dysfunctional status. Unfortunately, there is nothing that gives hope in the way he is carrying on at the moment. This why I hope the NLC will follow through the determination to build a national alliance to make the regime pull in Obasanjo to answer for the crimes of the past eight to nine years.
AMADU ALI AND THE REJECTION OF ‘GARRISON DIPLOMACY’
Under the regime of general sani abacha, the Nigerian press found the gung-ho attitude of Chief Tom Ikimi, rather too offensive; he was not the type of foreign affairs minister, they felt represented the best of Nigeria. His gung-ho approach was promptly labeled as “AREA BOY DIPLOMACY”. Last week, I recollected the Ikimi era, when I read in one of the newspapers, that Doctor Amadu Ali was threatening to reject his ambassadorial posting to a “non-strategic” country, after he was allegedly rejected by south Africa as the new Nigerian High Commissioner to that most important African destination. There had been earlier reports that his postings to the USA and the Court of Saint James had also fallen through.
These were diplomatic gossips that are not definitely confirmed, but it will not come as a surprise, if it is true really. The world is wary of ‘Garrison Diplomacy’ just as much as it rejected Garrison democracy, in its heydays. Doctor Amadu Ali represented the worst excesses of the highly discredited regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. A man given to very impolitic outbursts, the PDP became a most authoritarian, vote-rigging contraption, under his watch. The party became a soul-less, apparatus dedicated to the stifling of inner-party life; a party constantly at war with itself and alienated from its membership. The Amadu Ali leadership’s raison d’etre was to enforce the whims of the monster dictator that installed it in power, against the rules of the party itself. Olusegun Obasanjo. Every step taken was to use the party to achieve the elongation of the tenure of the kleptocratic despot, and to achieve that, there was no law of party life they were not willing to bend.
Col. Amadu Ali and his fellow travelers carried on like petty village tyrants working at the behest of a demented despot, and the over-zealous manner that they carried out all manners of systematic purges and suppression of dissent, did not endear them to the members of the PDP, the Nigerian people and the international community. Amadu Ali obviously did not reckon with the fact that the world took notice of his offensive statements and actions. In the new dispensation, he hoped to earn a diplomatic posting, away from the mess and pains he had caused many people in Nigeria. Fortunately, the world out there remembers, and the stories of the rejection of colonel Amadu Ali as an Ambassador in some of the most important diplomatic postings around the world, must be directly related to his career as the Garrison pro-consul of the PDP. Colonel Amadu Ali’s political career devalued democratic life in Nigeria far too much, for him to find an escape into the world of diplomacy. Even if he eventually gets his letter of credence accepted in South Africa or wherever, Colonel Amadu Ali cannot now run away from the awful record he accumulated in his service as a garrison ‘democrat’, working to help institute the dictatorship of his master, Olusegun Obasanjo. It is that record which is now haunting his transition to the world of garrison diplomacy. It will just not fly with the international community.
DAVID MARK AT 60
This week, the Nigerian newspapers have been full of advertisements congratulating Senator David Mark, on his sixtieth birthday. Even president Umar Yar’Adua was at a cake-cutting ceremony to commemorate the occasion. The grand standing about David Mark’s birthday might make us forget that the gentleman has been declared “not elected” by a competent court, never mind the fact that he has appealed to a higher court. There can be no gain saying the fact that David Mark is living on borrowed time in Nigeria’s Senate. Nigerians will massively celebrate the day he is finally thrown out of the haloed precincts of law-making, as a senator.
David Mark is unpopular largely because of his antecedents and statements. He was a rabid defender of Obasanjo’s third term agenda; and it is one of the cruel cronies of Nigeria’s unprincipled politics that a man, who actively fought to entrench dictatorship and did all in his power to subvert democracy, is now the President of Nigeria’s Senate. He was imposed by Obasanjo, as a dividend of the duty he performed for the unpopular third term agenda, and also to be one of the foot soldiers of Obasanjo’s ambitions, in the Yar’Adua dispensation. I am looking forward to the day that Young Alhaji will rightfully claim his seat as senator, so that the usurper’s reign as Senator and Senate President can end. Nigeria deserves to be run by people who work for its interests not those beholden to the agenda of the disgraced, kleptocratic despot, Olusegun Obasanjo. That is where Senator David Mark belong.