Mr. President, for God & country, please resign

The President’s aides, cronies and beneficiaries of his condition may persist in denial but the truth is that his dismal failure in the past two and a half years could only be the result of his failing health. A charge of malingering would do injustice to the man famed for credible performance as the governor of Katsina state. Yar’adua’s predicament is not a family or PDP affair as his aides would have us believe. They need to acknowledge the terrible suffering Nigerians have to put up with on account of his very dismal performance and having to watch helplessly the pitiful sight of their President on television screens.


Mr. President, for God & country, please resign.

Not too long ago, I was approached, as were a number of other Nigerians, by a group of human rights activists to sign a statement calling on President Umaru Yar’adua to resign and hand over to the Vice President, Mr. Jonathan Goodluck on account of his worsening health condition.

I interpreted their bold move to have been stirred by one or two issues.

One, a reaction to the dangerous and unfounded rumour that a section of the country was opposed to the constitutional provision regarding Presidential succession which would transfer power prematurely to another section thereby depriving it of exercising Presidential power for 8 years.

Alternatively, a genuine frustration with the negative impact that the President’s protracted illness is having on governance. My response was that, in as much as I am one with them on the concern for the adherence to the constitution and the need to reinvigorate governance and set the nation on a more dynamic footing, I would rather wait for a more complete assessment of the situation. In the face of the very sketchy information available on the President’s medical condition, thanks to the deliberate suppression of information on the matter, one needs to avoid giving the impression of insensitivity towards the President’s predicament and playing into the hands of ethnic jingoists and sycophants.

It is now five weeks since the President once again took seriously ill and had to be rushed to King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he remains, according to some accounts, bedridden. Whatever the conditions in which the President may find himself, it is one more trip too many.

Since May 2007 when he took office, the President’s ill health has become increasingly manifest – frequent medical trips, absence from important national and international functions, ghostly looks and lack of vigour in his body language. Former Minister of Mines and Power in General Yakubu Gowon’s government and elder statesman, Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, was quoted as having said that “President Yar’adua is visibly working under stress.” He does not believe that “there is any human being watching him (the President) on the screen that would not feel sorry for him.”

Like most Nigerians watching, I share Alhaji Shettima’s observation. The President is a tragic and pitiful sight to behold. The only conclusion anybody can reach is that the President is a very sick man and we don’t need Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah and his Leadership newspaper to persuade us of the fact.

The President’s aides, cronies and beneficiaries of his condition may persist in denial but the truth is that his dismal failure in the past two and a half years could only be the result of his failing health. A charge of malingering would do injustice to the man famed for credible performance as the governor of Katsina state. Yar’adua’s predicament is not a family or PDP affair as his aides would have us believe. They need to acknowledge the terrible suffering Nigerians have to put up with on account of his very dismal performance and having to watch helplessly the pitiful sight of their President on television screens.

The important role played by a charismatic, dynamic and knowledgeable leader in giving direction to a nation in crisis cannot be overemphasised. This is more so in developing societies which are characterised by weak democratic institutions.The contribution of such leaders in crisis time was well documented. Britain’s Winston Churchill during World War II, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and now Barrack Obama, Nigeria’s General Yakubu Gowon, et al. More than at any time in its chequered history, Nigeria stands in dire need of a redeeming leader; a charismatic, energetic and diligent figure … that is what Yar’adua is not. He is introverted, reclusive and too frail to serve as the mobilising president for a nation under deep stress. The perpetuation of this overburdened and weak leadership is not in our national interest.

The impact of Yar’adua’s poor health on the fortunes of this country is everywhere. I will mention a few major examples especially in the areas where he himself had chosen to make as the focus of his attention, under the well advertised 7 Point Agenda.

To be sure the Yar’adua administration inherited a lot of rot from previous administrations more so from the immediate past administration of President Obasanjo, his mentor.

At his inauguration on the 27th May 2007, Yar’adua had the modesty to acknowledge that he was the beneficiary of a very fraudulent election. He could not therefore be said to have a legitimate mandate, that alone could make the task of mobilising the nation towards national resurgence quite arduous.

But Nigerians had been traumatised; they were willing to place, for the moment at least, those concerns on ice. After all, they are not new comers to electoral scams in the past. Although honesty and integrity in public conduct were of great concern to them, they were willing to live with a flawed electoral process if it were to deliver a true messiah. Eight years of President Obasanjo’s false messianic rule had left the economy prostrate.

Physical infrastructure had all but collapsed. And despite the hype of the government’s war against corruption, the scourge grew and grew, making good governance all but impossible. Any little effort on the part of the new President would have assuaged the very low morale of the nation.

But two and a half years later, the situation has grown worse in all sectors.

Power. This is the most pivotal infrastructure and the only sector in which the President chose to give himself both a target of delivering 6000MW and a deadline of December 31st 2009 to do so. Without adequate power nothing else could be achieved in the much desired national economic development. President Obasanjo‘s government inherited a power generation capacity of about 2600MW, it was able to achieve a tiny increase to about 2900MW after an expenditure of well over 10 billion U.S. dollars.

A far cry from its mission objective of power outages being a thing of the past in six months. It came as no surprise when President Yar’adua declared his intention to proclaim an emergency in order to address the crisis in that sector. Two and a half years after, and a further investment of about $5 billion, there has been no visible improvement. This has forced over 70% of our manufacturing industries to shut down compared to about 65% under Obasanjo. The rest are producing below 25% installed capacity.

We have watched as many industries are relocating to less endowed countries like South Africa and Ghana. It is easy to see how this has thrown more Nigerians into the jobless market and deepened poverty across the country.

Roads. The Obasanjo administration was accused of serious neglect of roads rehabilitation and construction. Instead, it used money voted for such purpose as slush fund.Over N500bn taken from the treasury over eight years produced little to show. The Yar’adua government was expected to hit the ground running in the rehabilitation and construction of roads. Hopes were raised with the early inspection tours of the Minister of Transport, Mrs. D. Maduekwe. She reportedly came close to tears on seeing the deplorable state of the Benin-Shagamu road. And yet, after two and a half years, not a single federal road project has been delivered nor has the President ever visited any of the sites to see progress of work if any. The public is still left wondering what is holding up work on the much used Benin-Shagamu, Apapa-Oshodi, Gombe-Yola, Ibadan- Ilorin, or any of the South Eastern Federal roads.

Even more shocking is the choice and implementation of the projects. Ongoing road projects are suddenly abandoned in favour of less critical ones which anyway suffer similar fate before completion. Education. There is a paradox to the government’s approach to this sector.

Under a teacher President, education appears to be the worst hit. Our universities were closed down for about 4 months due to government’s failure to address genuine demands of academic staff unions for the improvement of working conditions in the universities. Budgetary allocation to the education sector remains below 10% of the total national budget as against the 26% recommended by UNESCO.

Health. It is a measure of the decay in our health services that our ailing President and senior government officials seek routine medical checks and minor treatment overseas. Other hapless Nigerians have largely resorted to self medication, use of traditional medicine and prayers.

Service delivery. Under President Yar’adua’s watch and ‘meticulous’ planning, budget implementation and project execution limps along at 25% according to data collected by the National Assembly. All sectors of the economy, not surprisingly, are showing signs of severe decline. The only industry that seems to be growing is poverty; now some 70% of the population have fallen below poverty line and still counting. Life expectancy has fallen below 45 years; 1 out of every 10,000 women die at childbirth as against 1 in 100,000 in developed countries or 1 in 20,000 in Ghana.The UN mandated programme of combating extreme poverty, child and maternal death, endemic diseases etc under the MDG programme, all seem tall and unrealisable dreams.

Even the uncharacteristic success the President seems to be achieving in the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis appears to be unravelling.

Anti corruption. Corruption is established as the bane of our national development. It was therefore expected that the Yar’adua administration would take seriously the fight against this malice. CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s commendable efforts in the sanitisation of the banking sector has done little to ameliorate the harm being caused to the nation by the government’s failure to prosecute the war against corruption. The prosecution of the war against corruption has remained very selective and unserious almost exactly the same as under the Obasanjo administration. Stealing by public officers goes on with greater impunity due to and not in spite of the feebleness of the war on corruption. Palatial buildings being put up by public servants in Abuja and other capitals, their frequent junketing round world capitals for spurious conferences and holidays as well as the exotic vehicles they ride are their way of proclaiming that the war on corruption is on recess.

Nigeria’s waning influence on the international stage. Gone are the days when the World sought our opinion on all important issues concerning Africa. The frequent absence of the President has once again isolated Nigeria.Our inability to influence events in the ECOWAS region is evidence enough of our waning international influence. Nigeria was unable to dissuade the President of Niger Republic, Alhaji Tandja Mamadou, from illegally amending that country’s constitution in order to perpetuate himself in office. We looked helplessly on while a Captain seized power in a military coup d’etat in Guinea and went on to engage in serious abuses of human rights including the recent massacre of over 150 peaceful demonstrators who were protesting his plan to succeed himself through what would definitely be a sham election.

Succession.While the country is drifting on account of the President’s lack of capacity as evidenced by his frequent absence and lacklustre performance, our political leaders are compounding our problems by declaring that the nation would be thrown into crisis if the President fails to recover. This, to say the least, is irresponsible and can only succeed in once again pushing the nation to the precipice. It is difficult to see how the ill health and possible incapacitation of an individual, even if he is the President, may lead to the kind of crisis our leaders prophesy. After all our democracy is guided by a constitution and therefore governed by laws. We also have in existence democratic institutions which are superior to any individual. Provisions contained in sections 144-146 of our current constitution are clear on the issue of presidential succession.

Luckily, this government has laid claim to being a stickler for observance of the rule of law. Undoubtedly, the nation will be thrown into crisis if we fail to allow the constitution to prevail in this matter for whatever reason. Our leaders must eschew any actions or utterances that can only result in over heating the polity. Contrary to what some sycophants believe, the country is greater than any individual.

The President is not Nigeria and Nigeria is certainly not the President. Since the President’s medical trip to Saudi Arabia, some of our leaders have turned into prayer warriors. They have engaged in desperate, mostly self serving calls for prayers. Such calls or command as they appear are also capable of sending the wrong signal to the public about a possible impending crisis on account of the President’s illness. Nigerians are renowned for the zealousness with which they pray; they would willingly resort to prayers at the slightest perception of adversity, they need not be prompted to pray for the sick. At any rate, how may we pray for the President whose health condition has been deliberately shielded from us? What prayers do we offer a President who is well enough to be watching soccer matches in Saudi Arabia?

No, the President’s aides must respect our right to know his current state of his health and leave us alone to pray the right prayers as we deem fit.

These people must also know the Good Lord cannot be intimidated. He knows our motives and intentions and will judge and answer our prayers accordingly. Our prayer for now is to deliver us from selfish people and sycophants who have continued to idolize every leader even when such leaders are not doing well. Most irritating of all are such senseless and insulting submissions which seek to remind us that President Umaru Yar’adua had once stayed away on overseas medical treatment for six months while he was governor of Katsina state. He returned and successfully completed his first term and went on to secure a second which he also successfully completed.

What this means is that we should expect to keep Nigeria in its current rudderless state as if the President’s office is hereditary. Others say that the President can continue to exercise his powers from anywhere in the world in whatever condition. It does not seem that anything is too absurd or too shameless in this desperate struggle.

Way forward. The constitution is very clear as to what should happen in the event that the President is unable to discharge the duties of his office. It is however difficult to see how a cabinet appointed by the President and exists at his pleasure can summon the courage to declare him unfit to hold office. The contradictory messages coming out of the Federal Executive Council since the President’s hospitalisation attests to this. Nor can we hope to have the successful activation of Section 144(1)(a) of the constitution if statements coming from the Senate and to some extent the House of Representatives, are anything to go by. All of which go to show that a resolution of this matter through such constitutional provisions is wishful thinking.

There are no nice ways to tell President Umaru Yar’adua what has to be said: he has proven too ill to function effectively. His poor score card and the very pathetic state of the nation are proof of the evidence to which all can attest. While we wish and pray for the President’s quick recovery, we do not believe it is in the nation’s interest, nor even in his to hang on to power. He should do what is patriotic, sensible and right and voluntarily resign forthwith – for God and Country.

Any thought of a temporary handover pending his recovery can only sustain the state of disorder in the country, quite apart from creating the conditions anarchists often seek to exploit. Those who will choose to accuse me of working against the interest of one section of the country or the other; I need hardly stress my innocence. The guilty ones are those who decided to impose poor Umaru on the country knowing too well his poor state of health and Umaru himself for accepting to be used.

May God continue to guide us aright.