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Yar'adua: The Final Days?

February 25, 2010
Events during the previous two days clearly shows that the recent 'return' of Yar'adua to the country was obviously done to avert his removal from office in the following weeks, certainly not because he was due for discharge from his hospital bed or for the purpose of allaying the apprehension of Nigerians over his ill-health. In fact, this act of desperation has further worsened the political fortunes of the President. His return without any significant improvement on his health was a blunder that is now backfiring with serious foreseeable consequences. All this is happening because the President has failed to make a wise choice between his health and power as I suggested in my first article on the matter.
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First, it is difficult to say whether the President is truly back in the country. Given the proven desire and ability for his handlers to misinform the public, our doubts on the matter could not be avoided. Personally, I cannot believe that the Yar'adua who spoke to the BBC (or did he?) can return to the country without informing its Acting President at a time when a delegation of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was already in Saudi Arabia. This at best is a disdain to the nation, to the Acting President and to the FEC. I would not like to believe that a healthy Yar'adua would indeed indulge in this  perfidy. He could only so return if he was not in a position to decide otherwise. The most logical assumption is that he return to avoid the official inventory on his health by the FEC delegation. Homophobia has become characteristic of his illness. No one can see him, neither there or nor here.

Snubbing the FEC delegation and the Acting President aside, one is bound to wonder what informed his covert landing and conveyance to the Villa during those early hours of Wednesday, 24 February. Would Yar'adua who was fit for discharge by his doctors require to be secretly smuggled into the country in the manner akin to the Israeli invasion of Entebbe Airport as described by Ahmed Idris of the BBC Hausa Service? Then why would not he receive people if he was the person behind the voice that spoke to the same BBC a month ago? Why is he still incommunicado to the extent that even the Acting President who is living within the same quarters and acting in his capacity cannot see him? Is President Yar'adua really back?
Yes, he is back, his own side of the Presidency would claim. Then if he is healthy enough, he should at least receive Jonathan to brief him on the state of the nation, the same Jonathan to whom he has been speaking on the phone when he was in far away Saudi Arabia. I strongly believe that if he has returned, then he is not in a condition of health that would convince Nigerians that he is capable of resuming his office any time in the near future. The fear that he is shielded from the public simply to impede his assessment as permanently incapacitated is so apparent in light of the circumstances. It is unfortunate that the people around him are not taking the right decisions in best interest of the President. They are not interested in his health as much as they are in his power.

His 'return' is bound to stronger agitations stronger than when he was away. It was possible to keep him away from public's eye for three months in a distant country but it will be impossible to shield him from the purview of Nigerians for even a month while he is in the country. The news of his actual condition will be difficult to conceal as it is bound to filter from the coterie of domestic servants, assistants, confidants, family members, etc. The longer it takes for anyone to see him, the stronger will the agitations to declare him incapacitated would become. The agitations will not be fuelled by mischief; rather, they will be engendered by the struggle for power and the constitutional crisis which his mere presence in the Presidency will cause. We have seen that begin when 'he' allegedly referred to Jonathan as Vice-President before backtracking and conceding that the latter is indeed the Acting President.

As the confusion over who does what in the Presidency persist, as days pass without anyone able to see the President, the call for his permanent removal from office will echo in political and media circles. Many of Yar'adua's aides and, of course, Turai, will treat Jonathan as if he were only a Vice President. Already, she has refused to see him yesterday. Jonathan will be thus be provoked more by the insubordination of Yar'adua's aides than by public appeal to invoke section 144 of the constitution in order to avert the entrenchment of a crisis that will make a coup d'etat inevitable.

At a FEC meeting that will come sooner than later, we will see a humiliated Jonathan gather the courage to persuade, through various means, the votes of the FEC members for the constitution of the team of doctors that will officially audit the President's health. FEC members are now more likely to obey Jonathan than stick out their neck for a Yar'adua that they cannot even see. Besides, both the money and the power are entrusted in the ink of Jonathan's pen. This much they know well following the cabinet reshuffle that saw the derogation of the powerful Minister of Justice to the ambiguous desk of special duties. Since then, all of them, except those who finds it glaringly impossible to abandon Yar'adua, are falling over themselves to appease Jonathan. It is my belief that Jonathan will have no problem commanding their support for his plans.

In the same vein, we should have no doubt about the constitution of the medical team. It will be made up by people majority of whom will be willing to return a verdict favourable to Jonathan: Yar'adua cannot effectively function as president. The only thing that can avert this is the complete surrender of executive powers of Jonathan by the Yar'adua camp in the Presidency. This will be a very wise move because it will guarantee them the privilege which membership of the villa accords as long as Yar'adua breathes. However, this is a political dexterity which Yar'adua's camp is unlikely to exhibit, given their pedigree. That makes the audit of his health and subsequent removal inevitable in the wider interest of democracy.

Or would the Yar'adua camp, given the inevitable hard times ahead, prefer a coup than to surrender power to Jonathan in the interest of democracy? A coup would be  a far-fetched idea a year ago. However, with the happenings in Guinea and neighbouring Niger, the military boys are assured by the complacency, if not the complicity of the international community in the case of Niger, that they will at least be tolerated. Moreover, Nigerians are generally tired with the domineering attitude of the PDP. Few will shed tears for its demise. That is why politicians, particularly those in the PDP must wake up to their responsibility and do the right thing. The writing is there on the wall for all to read.

There could be a move to prematurely retrieve power from Jonathan in order to avert the removal of Yar'adua. The only way they could do this is by writing the Senate (and do not ask me if Yar'adua would indeed be able to sign any letter as 'he' did on the appropriation bill) intimating it that he will resume his office, or through another BBC 'interview' since the Senate has proved that such an interview could fulfil a constitutional requirement of section 145. But this effort will be short-lived because it will compel the President to physically show up in office and attend to visitors and other matters, here in Nigeria, not from anywhere in the world as Andooaka would opine. His inability to show up after such a claim would be devastating. This move, therefore, must not be contemplated because it too will precipitate a situation that would require a 'Tandja prescription.'

I am not unaware that support for Jonathan among many northerners has fallen sharply since he committed the mistake of diverting funds for dredging river Niger to Niger Delta Commission.  Not only was it a constitutional mistake but it was politically reckless at this moment. The apprehension of the northerners that Jonathan's presidency will mean a continuation of the lean years which they suffered under his master, Obasanjo, are justified, unless Jonathan does something quickly to reassure them that he will remain impartial. Many northerners have been in the forefront of the agitation for the transfer of power to Jonathan and it will be most unwise if he fails to consider their sensitivity. The dredging of the Niger, as I once observed eight years ago, is a project capable of transforming the economies of the middle belt states. It was first conceived and awarded by the PTF under Abacha, then later cancelled by Obasanjo, and now rewarded by Yar'adua. I am saying this because more of such blunders by Jonathan will undermine the essential support he needs from that part of the country, a support that has been unwavering until this blunder.

In the end, the North has itself to blame for its traditional complacency. Northerners would have saved this nation the difficulties it is passing through now by refusing to cooperate with Obasanjo when he chose Yar'adua in preference to capable candidates. The governors who were interested in being exempted from EFCC investigations and winning approval for their choice of successors lined up their delegates behind Obasanjo's choice. Now is the time to pay for that complacency. Whatever it is, we will stick to our principle of supporting what is constitutionally imperative, regardless of whether the beneficiary is Jonathan or Umaru. This should serve as a lesson.

In conclusion one would say that there are more difficult days ahead for Yar'adua and the nation generally. If his long awaited recovery comes soon as we have always prayed for it will be a great relief to the nation. If he is indeed back in the country, complications cannot be avoided. Such a situation will definitely lead to a conflict within the presidency leading ultimately to his removal from power in order to avert a military takeover. I would not like to believe that Yar'adua is in his final days of his Presidency. But if he is, then we should console ourselves with the reminder that the power was once given by God, and it will one day be seized by Him, as Yar'adua and his supporters often quoted to persuade us recognise the legitimacy of his authority in the aftermath of the 2007 rigged elections. It may soon be the turn of Jonathan to quote that same verse to convince a better inclined nation.

Tilden Fulani,
26 February 2010
 
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