Umaru Yar’adua, Great Expectations, Disappointing Outcome- Part 3 by Nasir El-Rufai


14. Has Yar’Adua Delivered “Political Goods”?

Rotberg (2007) identified eight categories of ‘political goods’ which comprise good governance and separate good performers from poor performers. Based on our review of Yar’Adua’s pronouncements, decisions and actions so far, an attempt will be made to assess the quality of his governance.

As far as human security is concerned, it would appear that things have either remained the same at best or got a little worse. The Niger Delta issue has not been addressed. Attacks on pipelines and flow stations persist, and kidnappings have increased exponentially. The much-vaunted “Niger Delta Summit” is yet to take place. An important report produced by a technical committee set up by the Yar’Adua administration is yet to be approved for implementation since submission in November 2008. The quality of the Nigeria Police remains poor but a committee on Police Reform submitted a report which is expected to be implemented with financial contributions between the states and the Federal Government.

(Note – See for instance, International Crisis Group Briefing – “Seizing the moment in the Niger Delta” which strongly recommended the implementation of the Ledum Mittee Technical Committee Report, online at accessed 04/30/09.)

Rule of law is one thing President Yar’Adua would like to be remembered for. How he will be remembered is of course too early to tell. There is a lot of sloganeering about rule of law, but with Andoakaa, Okiro and Waziri as the public faces of this, the Nigerian media and civil society are rightly skeptical. In reality, the Nigerian state is yet to provide “predictable, recognizable, systematized methods of adjudicating disputes and regulating norms…and mores of society….” (Rotberg). Time will tell whether Yar’Adua ‘s administration will take the right steps in putting these in place.

The third political good is free and open participation in the political process – do Nigerians have political rights? Some rights certainly do exist, but one can say, not enough. Votes matter little in elections in many parts of Nigeria in 2007 and now. The recent attempt by the PDP to win the elections re‐run in Ekiti at all costs remains an unfolding drama that will test whether Yar’Adua is willing to deepen and broaden these political rights if that will lead to his person and party being voted out of office. While we will wait and see how it all plays out, both Ekiti and other re-runs so far show clearly that this sacrifice will be too much to bear for Yar’Adua, family and political dependents.

Economic opportunity is the fourth political good, and provides a platform for a citizen to pursue and realize his economic potential. This exists in Nigeria, but the expansion of state intervention, contrary what Yar’Adua promised in his inaugural speech may threaten that unless checked urgently. To exploit the market opportunities, maintaining macroeconomic stability is vital and sound money necessary. It would appear that under Yar’Adua’s watch, both have deteriorated, and this has been aggravated by the global economic crisis.

Investments in human capital – education, health and social services, and in physical

infrastructure are necessary for a productive populace and connection of markets for goods and services. The administration has done little to add to the inherited levels of the supply of these goods. In Nigeria today, electricity generation has fallen from 3,200MW in May 2007 to less than 1,000MW and all inherited power investments put on hold while being endlessly investigated and falsehood propagated to discredit badly-needed investment decisions. The railway investments have been suspended too, but the privately‐owned telecoms sector continues to boom – over 50 million Nigerian now carry cell‐phones.

15. Yar’Adua’s Governance on the African Leadership Index

What appears to be the heartbreaking story of reversals in Nigeria indicates the truth of the proposition that in Africa, more than anywhere else, individual leadership is more decisive of outcomes than anything else. From Obasanjo to Yar’Adua, Nigeria has changed so much, mostly for the worse, that one wonders whether Obasanjo’s successor was hand‐picked, of the same party and of the highest level of education than any leaders has ever had!

a. Vision: Yar’Adua has not within his first two years articulated a clear vision. The

Vision 20‐2020 inherited from Obasanjo has not been detailed into strategies,

programs, plans and timelines. NEEDS has been dumped and the Seven Point

Agenda has become the butt of jokes.

b. Transformational or Transactional Leadership?: Yar’Adua is certainly not a transformational leader. The activities of those around him, particularly his family would point to him being a transactional leader, but perhaps too early to conclude.

c. Hedgehog or Fox?: Yar’Adua does not seem to have one good overarching idea that he relentlessly pursues. Even his “rule of law” idea is not fully understood and

respected by his inner circle, his attorney general and family. The administration

seems unfocused and in the words of a critic, ‘clueless!’

d. Effective mobilization of Citizenry: Yar’Adua had a unique opportunity after his

inaugural address to build on the desire of Nigerians for change to mobilize them,

build consensus and sell a vision higher than their personal interests – but blew it within months due to policy reversals and intentional unraveling of the popular anti-corruption war.

e. An Inclusive Leader? Yar’Adua’s limited knowledge of Nigeria and the world (for instance – he had never visited more than a handful states in Nigeria before joining the presidential race, and never been to the USA until he came to visit President Bush in December 2007) and his introverted nature made him easy to capture by a small clique (K-4) now called “the Katsina Mafia”. Since coming into office, he has appointed a disproportionate number of Northerners to virtually all the important ministries, departments and agencies. This has drawn the ire of other parts of the country, particularly the South‐West and the Niger Delta. Yar’Adua has therefore failed to show he can be a universalist and comes across as sectional, or even worse, clannish.

f. Democratic by design, expression and example? – Certainly not. Right from his days as governor of Katsina, Yar’Adua is known to be taciturn, intolerant of dissent, and not open to disgreeable opinions. He prefers pre‐arranged selections using caucuses like K-11, K-34 to open, transparent and competitive politics. Yar’Adua is not democratic by design or example, but speaks a lot about being democratic! He is not known to be consultative or participatory. He promised to be a servant‐leader – a listener and doer – and failed to be ‐ so far.

g. Building Social Capital on a National Scale? – This would have been possible if Yar’Adua had seized the moment and kept the momentum of his Inaugural Address. Sadly, he lost it due to poor decisions taken early in the life of the administration retaining geriatrics in office (and bringing in many more, later), fraternizing with corrupt ex‐governors and blocking the anti‐corruption war. In his recent Guardian interview, he clearly articulated a preference for his ‘fellowship’ with the corrupt governors to the integrity of his person, the presidency and the nation. James Ibori and Company are more important to Yar’Adua than 150 million Nigerians!

h. Alignment of Means and Ends? – Yar’Adua inherited a sound, debt‐free economy. During his tenure, oil prices rose as high as $147 per barrel. The excess crude account and reserves were in excess of $60 billion. Yet, he failed to appreciate the good fortune, and dissipated most of the excess crude account. Foreign reserves are down to levels lower than in 2007 in a classical proof of failure to align means and ends. More alarming are news reports of Yar’Adua’s intention to borrow from the Eurodollar market to finance a self-created budet deficit – a slippery slope to Paris Club bondage for the next generation of Nigerians which our administration got Nigeria out of in 2005, while Umaru was relaxing in Katsina!

i. Building Trust: For the reasons already outlined, the levels of trust in Nigeria have

fallen under Yar’Adua’s watch. The crisis in Jos, and in Ekiti both resulted from suspicions rooted not in ethnicity or religion, but manipulation of electoral contests. Yar’Adua’s antecedents in Katsina suggest that he considers electoral victory a higher priority than anything else. Things may get worse in this area before they get better.

j. Intellectual Honesty and Integrity: Yar’Adua does not seem to have a national vision and self‐mastery. He has not shown prudence and ability to solve problems. Instead, he has created problems where none existed and aggravated some that he inherited. Though he appears thoughtful and deliberate, his actions seem to reveal deep‐seated insecurity to prove that he has absolute power. The case of the persecution of Nuhu Ribadu and Yar’Adua’s comment thereon in his recent Guardian interview reveals more about the President’s character, sense of priorities and loyalties than anything he has said or done since coming into office.

k. Legitimacy: Yar’Adua came into the presidency through an election which observers within and outside Nigeria have condemned as the worst in our history. For nearly one‐and‐half years, his presidency was threatened by what the Election Tribunal will decide. These legitimacy challenges which were not helped by 4‐3 split decision of the Nigerian Supreme Court on the presidential election. Yar’Adua enjoyed a wave of initial popularity that would have overcome this challenge, but he lost that within months due to some of his own ill‐advised appointments, decisions and inactions. Though he is not personally ostentatious, the association with corrupt governors and dodgy businessmen, the elaborate weddings of his two daughters and the many stories of his wife have put question marks on his true levels of modesty, honesty and integrity.

l. Feeling of a National Transcendent Enterprise? – Not really. When all the above are put together, many Nigerians today feel a sense of loss – something is missing in the leadership equation. Even those that despised Obasanjo’s autocratic ways thought that at leat, Obasanjo made us slightly more proud to be Nigerians than in the last two years. Yar’Adua’s failure to lead ahs made us all feel somewhat smaller as Nigerians, particularly when President Obama’s first visit to Africa would be to Ghana, not Nigeria.

16. Conclusions and Way Forward

As I write this essay, President Umaru Yar’Adua’s associates have started his campaign for a second term in office. That he is still ‘planning’ the first term and there are concerns about his health have not discouraged the campaigners. As is usual with Yar’Adua, he will publicly decry their activities, but privately get his inner circleto encourage and fund the protagonists!

Every Nigerian hopes Yar’Adua’s administration will start delivering those political goods which every society is entitled to, and what Yar’Adua promised in his Inaugural Address. But the strength of the hope dwindles with each passing day. As Nigerians, we must raise our voices to demand for these goods, and pray for our leaders to appreciate that they are in office to solve societal problems – not just to make a few friends, relations and cronies better off.

In my considerecview, three issues cry for attention in Nigeria, and which if addressed will enable the country resolve its numerous challenges in the long run – electoral reform to make votes count, investments in physical and human infrstructure, and security and improved governance of the states in the Niger Delta. These translate into Free Elections, More Electricity, No Fuel Queues, Organized Multimodal Transport, Better Schools, Well-Paid Public Servants, Affordable Housing and Healthcare for all – and are within our grasp within years if we have leadership that cares, and builds upon the work of predecessors rather than engage in endless and fruitless destruction we have seen in 2007-2009.

The issues listed above should command the attention of all Nigerians that care, as well as friends of Nigeria – and Africa. As a Nigerian, I hope we start in the last two years of Yar’Adua’s tenure. As he said at the end of his Inaugural Address, which he may have forgotten

“The challenge is great. The goal is clear. The time is now.”

It is our duty to remind President Yar’Adua of these constantly and require him to live up to his promises. Those that remain silent, in anticipation of some recognition, an appointment in government, an inflated contract, that lovely plot in Abuja or the safety and comfort of their current situations are betraying the Nigerian nation and even Yar’Adua himself. It is only because we care that we take risks. It is because we love that we sacrifice. Let us all care for and crave a better future for our children by insisting on better governance and management of our affairs. We are entitled to nothing less.


Annex1: Nigeria 20-2020 Sustainability And Succession Plan

Annex2: Briefing Memo On FG’s Policies And Programs

Read also Umaru Yar’Adua: Great Expectation, Disappointing Outcome Part 1 – by Nasir El- Rufai

And Umaru Yar’Adua: Great Expectation, Disappointing Outcome Part 2 – by Nasir El- Rufai