Thousands marched in Lagos today to protest Yar’adua’s absence. Members of the Save Nigeria Group today led the huge mass protest in Lagos. An earlier rally in Abuja led by Wole Soyinka equally attracted thousands.
Chanting “Yar’Adua where are you?” and holding signs saying “Enough with the offshore president”, more than 3,000 Nigerians marched to the state government headquarters in Lagos demanding Yar’Adua give up his executive powers or return to Nigeria immediately.
Nigeria’s ailing president, in hospital overseas for the past two months, faced mounting pressure on Thursday to end a power vacuum that is increasingly worrying investors.
Nigerians want President Umaru Yar’adua to formally hand over executive powers to his deputy or quickly return to ease uncertainty in sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy.
Yar’Adua has not been seen publicly since leaving Nigeria on November 23 to be treated for a heart ailment in Saudi Arabia.
“With Yar’Adua, nothing has changed. He should go and let people who are able to lead, lead the country,” said pastor Tunde Bakari, who was surrounded by dozens of people with “Enough is enough” emblazoned on their white T-shirts.
This is the second major street protest against Yar’Adua in the last 10 days. On Wednesday, a group of senior Nigerian figures petitioned parliament to resolve the problem of Yar’Adua’s absence.
The protest, which was titled ‘Enough is Enough’ and convened by the Save Nigeria Group, was led by the General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
Other prominent Nigerians, who joined the group to protest, include General Alani Akinrinade (retd.), Chief Ayo Opadokun, Barrister Mike Igini and Prof. Shola Adeyeye.
Others were Hon. Babatunde Ogala of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Yinka Odumakin, his wife, Dr. Joe-Okei Odumakin, President of the West African Bar Association, Femi Falana and Mr. Sam Asemota (SAN).
Popular comedian, Gbenga Adeyinka and Charles Oputa (Charly Boy) were also at the rally. Speaking before the protest started, Pastor Bakare urged Nigerians to stand for their rights.
Under the constitution, Yar’Adua must write a letter to the heads of both houses of parliament requesting his presidential duties be temporarily handed over to the vice president in his absence.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, have also said the president has been away without approval for almost two months and that instead of his aides to tell the truth about the health condition of the president, they have continued to confuse the people and enjoining them to pray “while the ship glides inexorably to a stormy weather.”
“Those who are placed at a vantage position to talk to the men in power take refuge in suspicious quietude when silence at this stage is plain cowardice or an indication of shameful compromise.
“The bar will be relentless in its agitation for a polity where the law truly rules. We call on the custodians on the pristine traditions of excellence of our profession to speak out now or face the risk of being label cowards. We cannot afford the consequences of an imminent conflagration,” it said.
NBA said on account of Yar’adua’s absence, the country has become rudderless and gradually moving towards despondency with political hawks and impostors feeding Nigerians with falsehood and deceit.
In another meeting, the former President of Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim group under the name of “Concerned Nigerians” admitted that the current problem was one that should be urgently resolved in the best interest of democracy.
The group was very categorical that the only immediate step to be taken to resolve the crisis was to send a letter by Yar’Adua to the National Assembly regarding his absence from office as dictated by the constitution.
“In the interim, what is required is a letter under the signature of Mr. President. You can agree, Sir, that neither the letter nor the signature can be obtained through protest, threat or even bringing down our democracy,” Anyim said.