Umaru Yar’adua as Hastings Kamuzu Banda

Sick Umaru Yar’adua

Sick Umaru Yar'aduaHow did a frail, weak, old and  incapacitated Kamuzu Banda manage to hold on to the reins of power and ruled Malawi as an invalid and ill president with “unsound mind”? He was simply propped up by cronies.

Similarly, Nigeria’s President Yar’Adua, surrounded by hangers on and parasites  has refused to resign and will never hand over to the Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck “even for a second” despite his debilitating sickness and having been confined in a Saudi Arabian Hospital in seclusion for more than 40 days.

Umaru Yar’adua as Hastings Kamuzu Banda by Daniel Elombah

Former Edo State Governor, John Oyegun, wondered how Yar’Adua that nobody has reported having seen or spoken to since he went into the hospital could be running the country.

“What is the progress report”? He asked.

“Nobody knows; what is he saying or thinking, nobody can tell you. All you hear are these strange stories”, he answered.

“In the end, we are being held hostage by a recuperating President in a Saudi hospital,” he added.

Well, I know how an incapacitated leader could be running a country. No doubt, Yar’adua remains in office today because he is a hostage of the hawks around him. The Yar’adua I have come to study will have no problem handing over to his vice-president, if he is aware of his environment, but a sick man could only do so much.

As demonstrated in the case of Kamuzu Banda, the sad reality of power is that even when the guy that wields it is too frail and severely incapacitated to govern, the beneficiaries of his government, the hangers on and parasites will run rings around him and forcefully persuade him to stay.

At 87years old officially but actually estimated  to be 96 years, frail and tired due to advanced age, Kamuzu Hastings Banda’s party, MCP sponsored one Party hegemony in Malawi, the way Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has held Nigeria hostage since 1999.

President Hastings Kamuzu Banda was the sole source of Malawi’s political power between 1958 and 1994. He spearheaded his country’s vehement struggle against colonialism and declared himself president-for-life of Malawi in 1971. Banda, the self-styled “president-for-life” ruled the country with an iron fist for three decades.

Violent protests among Malawians and withdrawal of international support forced Banda to consent to multi-party elections in 1994. His loss ended his rule of the country.

But before he went Banda was so weak and frail to rule that relatives claim that the will he signed is invalid on the grounds that the aged President was not of “sound mind” when he signed it, only three months before undergoing brain surgery.

Yet how did a frail, weak, old and  incapacitated Kamuzu Banda manage to hold on to the reins of power and ruled Malawi as a frail, invalid and ill president, one with “unsound mind”?

He was simply propped up by cronies.

Similarly, The Nigeria authorities have declared that President Yar’Adua will not resign but will continue in power and will never hand over to the Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck “even for a second” despite his debilitating sickness and having been confined in a Saudi Arabian Hospital in seclusion for more than 40 days.

Meanwhile, No one can tell of Yar’adua’s whereabouts or when he is coming back to the country; stories are that he is too weak and frail to make any decision; others insist he might even be dead.

To compound matters, News report now say “the ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, who left Nigeria 42 days ago for medical attention in Saudi Arabia, was never admitted to King Faisal Hospital at all as believed by Nigerians”.

The Nigerian Tribune says their investigations show the president was not in either of the two branches of King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh and Jeddah. So where is our president?

In the absence of a supervisor, the looting of the commonwealth continues and governance remains at standstill!

Meanwhile frustrated Nigerians are asking; why shouldn’t the president do the right thing and hand over to his deputy albeit temporarily.

To understand why Yar’adua presumably refuses to hand over to his deputy, the question should be asked; who stands to lose out the most with Jonathan Goodluck as acting president?

I have refused to accept the conspiracy theories of a mysterious Northern cabal; more so as prominent Northerners have publicly called for Yar’adua to resign or obey Section 145 of the Constitution and hand over to his deputy.

In fact, a Northerner, Alhaji Faruk Adamu Aliyu, a former member of House of Representatives has gone to court asking for a declaration that Yar’adua is incapable of continuing as President.

The answer therefore must be much nearer home, with Jonathan Goodluck’s neighbours in the Niger Delta and/or Yar’adua’s family.

Nigeria is exactly where Malawi was with a demented Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Ill health threatened Banda’s hold on Malawian politics in the fall of 1993. Banda was flown to South Africa for emergency brain surgery on October 2.

Following the dictates of Malawi’s constitution, executive power shifted to the presidential council, led by MCP secretary-general Gwanda Chakuamba in mid-October, when it was determined that Banda was no longer able to govern.

Shortly thereafter, however, a still-ailing Banda was declared well enough to resume power.

Hastings Kamuzu Banda died on November 25, 1997 at the age of 99 in Johannesburg, South Africa but in his time as Life President of Malawi, he embarked on a pillaging and plundering of national economic resources for personal aggrandisement. 

Traumatised ordinary Malawians were forced to seek refuge from their Life President in Zambia, then Rhodesia now Zimbabwe and South Africa.

At last, at 87years old officially but actually estimated to be 96 years, frail and tired due to advanced age, Banda’s MCP-sponsored one Party hegemony in Malawi was unshackled by a 1993 referendum that ushered political pluralism. To his credit, Kamuzu Banda conceded defeat and succumbed to old age and died of associated health complications in 1997 at an estimated 101 years of age.

Malawians are reputed for their cultural civility and yet for enduring a sick and demented Kamuzu Banda in a vegetative state as their president for so many years, their civility could be mistaken for intellectual incompetence or downright stupidity. 

If this is true of small Malawi, what could be said of a country of 150 million?

The ungodly hawks around Yar’adua continue to prop him up and insist he will be back stronger to resume duties?

However, by accepting for the Chief Justice of the Federation to swear in an incoming one – a procedure hitherto unknown in the annals of this country, the presidency have simply borne testimony that Yar’adua’s presidency has nothing more to offer.

Nothing but violence, stratospheric rises in cost of living, fuel crisis, strikes, terrorism, unemployment, bank crisis, armed robbery, kidnappings, religious crisis, missed targets (6000MW), trumped up arrests of political opponents; threats and more schizophrenic threats towards imaginary enemies. 

Apart from a dying presidency marred by health complications, there are other ominous similarities between Umaru Yar’adua and Kamuzu Banda. 

Both Yar’adua and Banda were, invited to lead the political parties that propelled them to power namely the PDP and MCP respectively. 

Both Yar’adua and Banda’s retention in leadership positions were similarly underwritten by ruthless and often intimidating suppression of dissent within their Party formations and against opponents from other formations. The role of former president Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP primaries of 2007 showcased the above fact. 

Both leaders were illegitimated by the electoral processes that brought them to power; a violent and unprecedented rigging that would smash all records. Even Yar’adua accepted that the electoral process that brought him to power was fraudulent.  

Yar’adua like the aged Banda maybe weak but his political treachery is now institutionalised in the hoodlums he has surrounded himself with who are fully conscious of the consequences of letting Yar’adua relinquish power to anyone at the moment. 

But for how long can they hold the avalanche of discontent in Nigeria with Yar’adua’s leadership? Could Yar’adua defy the economic and political pressure on his government to relinquish power through a cocktail of unorthodox but corrupt interventions (bribing the National Assembly); fraudulent acts (forging the presidents’ signatures on the budget); blatant political chicanery (illegitimately having a retiring chief Justice swear in an incoming Chief Justice); and bush economic policies. 

Accordingly, I believe a people project will not succumb to the whims of a few thugs, mugs, political despots, murderers, thieves and parasites dependent on Yar’adua.

Like Kamuzu Banda, this government will be history and those that feed from his hands and milk the country dry will be brought to book.

“Operation Bwezani”, revolt by the army, internal protests and international pressure including western threats to cut off aid forced Political Change in Malawi. The postponed general election occurred in mid-1994 and Banda lost control of the country to Bakili Muluzi, his former political protégé.

Popular uprising forced out Kamuzu Banda in Malawi; is Yar’adua waiting for the Nigerian military to push him out?