Would Yar’Adua be ‘Tsvangirai’ed in Germany?’

Morgan Tsvangirai was booed by Zimbabweans in exile when he said, “Let me tell you that Zimbabweans must come home”.


Morgan Tsvangirai in London

When President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua created space and time to meet his fellow-countrymen and women in Germany in his first visit outside the country, Dr. Peter Agwi, the president of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Germany (NIDO) Germany, thanked ‘His Excellency’ in his welcome address, “for the honour given Nigerians to meet and interact with him”.

That was two years ago, one wonders how the president will be received today if he travels

again and decides to meet with the expatriate community in Germany, London or New York.

Back then, it was “a special occasion”, because it was his first visit abroad after his ascension to power as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29th, 2007. “We are indeed greatly honoured”, Mr Agwi said.

Last Saturday, 20 June, The Zimbabwe’s premier, Morgan Tsvangirai, got more than he bargained for when he was booed as he said to his countrymen living in Britain: “Let me tell you that Zimbabweans must come home.” Mr Tsvangirai was at Southwark Cathedral in London during his first official visit to the UK.

The response to his rallying cry was not what he would have hoped for. Instead of a wave of patriotic fervour, his words unleashed jeers from thousands of exiled Zimbabweans.

The Movement for Democratic Change president appealed for the best and brightest to return to help rebuild his nation. The plea was shouted down with chants for ‘politicians’ children to return first.

The MDC party slogan “chinja” (change), which Mr Tsvangirai used to get to power, was employed to mock his assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe, which, he said, was one of “peace and stability”.

The ferocity of the crowd was such that he left the pulpit for two minutes before returning and saying: “I did not say ‘pack your bags tomorrow’; I said you should be thinking about coming home.”

But Mr Tsvangirai admitted he was shocked by the crowd’s reaction. He said afterwards: “When I go out to the Zimbabweans back home this does not happen. People must give us a chance.”

The service began optimistically with an emotional rendition of the national anthem and prayers for the country. The cathedral was taken over with the sound of ululations as the crowd was clearly excited by his presence, if not his message. But the mood changed quickly when Mr Tsvangirai described how he believed the country had recovered.

Beatrice Mujana, a 41-year-old teacher from Harare, now living in London, was one of the Zimbabweans waiting for the PM outside the cathedral with placards deploring the country’s human rights abuses. “It’s irresponsible for Mr Tsvangirai to ask people to go home now,” said Ms Mujana, who has two children. “There is still so much trouble; it is simply not a fair thing to ask.”

Mr Tsvangirai, was on the last stage of a tour of Europe and the US to woo financial support. He flew into London on Friday evening. He had been in Brussels holding Zimbabwe’s first official talks with the EU in seven years.

When President Yar’adua was in Jos to commiserate with the people of the state on the transition of the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Victor Dung Pam who passed on at the age of 73, his convoy was pelted with stones and bottles by youths around the Masalacin Juma’at area of Jos, the Plateau State capital. Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang rode in the same car with President Yar’Adua in the long convoy.

In concluding that initial visit by the new president Yar’Adua, and on behalf of all Nigerians in Germany in general, and members of NIDO in particular, Dr. Agwi thanked His Excellency Umaru Musa Yar’Adua for the August occasion, and wished him and his entire team a successful tenure and safe journey back home.

But today, going through the comments of Nigerians in Diaspora, especially in the internet, one observes a loathing for their president, bordering on despise. How the situation has changed!

But who is to blame for this sad state of affairs?

Back in June 2007 in Germany, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua thanked all present for being good ambassadors of Nigeria and urged them to join him in the struggle to make the country a better place for current and future generations. The President enunciated his 7-point agenda, his priority being the provision of energy and power, security, education and mass transit.

But today the 7 –Point agenda for development has descended into a 1-Point agenda of “mortgaging the future of the country for a few corrupt ex-governors at all cost”. One contributor said.

The President put huge premium on protecting these friends of his that he is willing to sacrifice the enormous goodwill that would have accrued to him by the simple act of giving Nuhu Ribadu a free hand to continue the war against corruption.

In his famous Guardian interview, Yar’Adua was asked to explain the perception that people who are perceived to be corrupt, like some former governors and others, are known to be close to his government. “What is going on”?

He said: It is not about them being close to my government. Not my government. It is between me and them, the ex-governors. You see, these former governors are my colleagues. Because I am the President, I cannot just jettison people I know.

Later in the interview Yar’Adua said that if his relationship with corrupt former governors “is what people want to use to judge whether this government is fighting corruption or not, then that it is unfortunate”.

A Nigerian website is now claiming that James Ibori is even now scheming to be the next vice-president!

Come to think of it, Umaru Yar’Adua came into government with a reputation for anti-corruption, modesty and humility. It was said that of all the 36 state governors, he alone have neither a petition against him, nor a file with the EFCC. Unlike his colleagues, he does not junket around the globe in search of a safe haven to starch his loots, a past time for most his corrupt colleagues.

It was therefore expected that he would build on the legacy of fighting corruption that had developed – albeit in a controversial manner- under his predecessor.

That Yar’Adua was willing to sacrifice that enormous goodwill on behalf of James Ibori and co was very baffling, it is incomprehensible.

At that meeting in Germany, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua commended Nigerians in Germany for the reports of good conduct he received, and said: “The era of the elitist leadership is over. This is the dawn of the era of the servant leader. I will be a servant leader, and anybody who wants to be with me must follow suit.

But today, disappointed Nigerians wonder whether Michael Aondoakaa and Farida Waziri also “follow suit” as servant leaders? It is now so bad that many now wonder; do we really know our president? Some have mischievously tagged this servant-leader, ‘Serpent-Leader’. Those looking forwad to enlightened governance, now say they are disappointed.

Yar’Adua also urged Nigerians then, “We have the talents, the resources, the capacity, the capabilities to do it, and I call on all Nigerians, no matter where you are, to join me.” But today, he is now called a BABA GO-SLOW.

While Yar’Adua called for a change in attitude; “We as change agents, are constantly making choices. What we are in the future is what we choose today”, he said. Today, one expatriate Nigerian lamented that “Yar’adua could not conduct a single fair election which is the simplest task of democratic system”. And his electoral reforms are in shambles!

Whereas Yar’Adua declared that “every Nigerian, who has something to contribute, would be given the opportunity to participate”, Nigerians in their droves are still trooping out of the country looking to claim asylum in foreign lands. Nigerians are the highest Assylum claiming country in Europe says the EU.

So I ask: If Yar’Adua goes to Germany again today, Will he be Tsvangirai’ed?