Obasanjo, the north and the politics of presidential health

I returned to Nigeria on Monday facing the daunting task of trying to read the pile of newspapers of the past week that I was away in India. Not that I didn’t follow events on the internet, but maybe because of the old-fashioned addiction to the smell of a paper out of the press, nothing beats holding the newspaper and going through with a fine comb, in a manner of speaking. But the papers give an impression that

 Nigeria has been dancing on a spot (and it really is!) because all there is to report has been the thick fog of intrigues around the ill-health of President Umaru Yar’adua.

Last year, I wrote in respect of the president’s disturbing disappearance in search of remedy for ill-health then that Yar’adua was sick and consequently, Nigeria was on life support! It seems much more poignant now: an admission of ill-health has been followed by a conspiratorial silence and the imposition of the tyranny of “everybody must pray for the president”, as if a nation can subsist just upon the hypocrisy of prayers. I have been re-reading the near-contemporaries Machiavelli (THE PRINCE) and Abdulkareem Al-Maghili (OBLIGATION OF PRINCES), and I am convinced that statecraft cannot be reduced to simulated and tyrannical prayerfulness!

But I have been far more fascinated by the fact that not a word has issued forth from the disgraced despot, Olusegun Obasanjo, who foisted Yar’adua upon Nigeria in the first place. In his private moment could he be worried sick about his fateful choice or is the man chuckling at the expense of Nigeria? I do not have an answer definitively, but can speculate leaning upon an entire history of political developments. And the point of embarkation must of course be the defeat of Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda.

It seemed obvious that Obasanjo really did not have a Plan B beyond the Agenda, so the defeat set in motion a panic attack fuelled by a desire to visit revenge upon a nation which did not allow a deluded village despot (that Obasanjo really was!), to achieve his tenure elongation agenda. The man truly believed all the sweet tales issuing from sidekicks like the convict, Bode George, that he was the “founder and father of modern Nigeria”! The imposition of President Umaru Yar’adua, whose fragile health was well known in Katsina and the North (and certainly within the Nigerian security establishment), was therefore a deliberate act of planting political booby traps within the national space.

What was absurd in the circumstance was that not a whimper was heard from the Northern political establishment on the implications for the future and the region’s so-called “turn to rule”! In the first place the vultures of Northern politics were swarming to eat carrion under Yar’adua and therefore didn’t think through the consequences of encumbrance of presidential ill health; besides, they will lapse anyway, into the metaphysics of everybody can fall sick, so let us pray! And that is the response of the past two weeks in Nigeria: from David Mark to FEC, clerics and secular thieving politicians; everybody has been elegantly upping spiritual bonafides even when it is obvious that the nation is adrift, intrigues are brewing almost with medieval court intensity! Nigerians remain in darkness about the true state of President Yar’adua’s health and one of the more irresponsible politicos even threatened us that Yar’adua can stay away for one year and there is nothing anybody can do about it!

Why did Obasanjo get way with his serial assaults on our nation’s constitutional order on the one hand and most especially, why was he able to rub the noses of members of the Northern political elite in s**t, on the other hand? The answer is that Obasanjo knew the North very well and was aware that the old North of political dignity, honesty of service and corruption-free devotion to duty (Sardauna to Awoniyi) has been supplanted by a new North of corrupt politicians who have sold their souls to a thieving, gluttonous acquisitiveness. He therefore set out to ridicule that North, even if he came to power riding it like a cowardly jockey! This is the background against which we must place the humiliation which Northern Nigeria has suffered in the hands of Nigeria’s most irresponsible president ever! So even in his most conspiratorial and mischievous silence, Obasanjo is enjoying his revenge against a country which deflated his over-bloated ego and delusion that he was indispensable and therefore needed tenure elongation! The unending controversy about Yar’adua’s health is precisely the expression of Obasanjo’s revenge not to talk of the impotence of the Northern establishment that has been graphically displayed for all to see!

Interestingly too those who are huffing and puffing about the possibilities of a Jonathan Goodluck presidency, might also note that even he is said to possess some health challenges too. So which ever direction we look from, Nigeria was deliberately dug into a hole by Obasanjo, with the active connivance of the Northern establishment that is now running scared that it might lose, if President Umaru Yar’adua’s state worsens beyond the lame duck that he now is!  Meanwhile, the Nigerian people, North and South, remain outside of the loop of the intrigues consuming the nation’s political elite. Politics here is not about service to the people!

Ten Million northern beggar children and still counting

The Minister of State, Education, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku was quoted by LEADERSIP newspaper of Monday, November 23, 2009, as saying that there was an estimated 10 million child beggars in Northern Nigeria! “We are yet to finish our compilation, but at the moment we have over ten million child beggars roaming our streets, and that’s a conservative estimate”. The minister added that “it is very alarming that parents are becoming so insensitive to the welfare of their children that they dispatch them to unknown places to take care of themselves…without…arrangements for their feeding, medical care, shelter and other necessities (they) end up becoming juvenile delinquents and, subsequently, adult criminals”.

Having ten million Northern children on streets is a major indictment of our ruling elite, pure and simple! We have continued to dither about a revolutionary attitude to education; yet there is no route to modernity but pulling all our children through schools. The North shoots itself in the feet when children roam the streets instead of learning and the elite delude itself even further, by stealing the states blind. We cannot compete in the knowledge-driven world of the Twenty-First century. It is no accident that our region remains most crisis-prone with the worst indices of development today in Nigeria, as the 2009 National Human Development Report (NHDR) just showed again. Hajiya Aishatu shouldn’t just lament the situation, but work to ensure that education is not only placed centrally in the Northern Nigerian scheme of things, but be made COMPULSORY! But it won’t be possible if we do not arrest the level of theft of the resources in our states, because the truth is that our ruling class is stealing the future of our children and society!