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Preparing Nigeria for disintegration

By: Kali Gwegwe
Published February, 7th, 2010

The unusual long absence of President Musa Yar’Adua from office owing to his ill health has revealed how shallow the socio-political foundation of Nigeria lies. It has also abruptly unmasked the real enemies of the Nigerian nation. The actions and inactions of these anti-democratic elements have clearly turned Nigeria into a baobab tree standing on the edge of an erosion prone river.

Events following the official admission that President Yar’Adua was suffering from severe pericarditis and on admission at the King Faisal Hospital in Saudi Arabia has pointed to one ominous reality: The multi-faceted leadership institution in Nigeria is unarguably not built on the pillars of justice, fair play, and the rule of law. As a result of this anomaly, tribal and religious sentiments now shape the opinions of government officials. Instead of nursing policies that will unite and improve the lives of the citizenry, public servants now take pride in pursuing parochial tribal agendas.

There is no gainsaying that the die hard attitude by some key government officials in ensuring that President Yar’Adua does not hand over power temporarily to Vice President Jonathan is clearly a narrow minded agenda, plotted to deny a southerner from assuming the political leadership of Nigeria at this time. It shows how treacherous and unconcerned some of us are about the survival of democracy and Nigeria as a country.

Not minding whatever unofficial power sharing arrangement between the north and south, one must not ignore the fact that issues are not supposed to dislodge substance in every society where justice and rule of law are celebrated. In a presidential system of government, the presidency is a 2 in 1 ticket shared by the president and the vice president. The prevailing issues as they relate to Yar’Adua’s long absence from office bothers mainly on the headship of the Nigerian presidency by natives of the northern belt of the country up till 2015. On the other hand, there is also the case of substance regarding the culture of a presidential system of government, which clearly prescribes the order of succession.

This writer is of the opinion that whenever issues and substance clash like it has in the case of Yar’Adua’s ill health, common sense should be applied. It would however be necessary at this point to expose the fact that the office of the vice president is nothing more than a spare tyre in a presidential democracy? Jonathan had known this since when he served as deputy governor under Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha in Bayelsa State. Many persons believe a deputy governor or vice president should exercise equal powers with their principals. Jonathan does not think so and has chosen to pursue his beliefs about the tradition of political leadership in a presidential democracy. While some had excused him, others did not. This is mostly responsible for the very wrong picture several commentators have painted of Jonathan as a politician. They would quickly dismiss Jonathan as a lily livered man, not fit to hold a tasking public office. Would Nigerians sincerely prefer the Atiku/Obasanjo option, where the president and vice president were at each other’s throat all through their second term in office? Of course not!

Perhaps, one should also remind the few tribal zealots and other self-seeking Nigerians bent on ensuring that the vice president is not made an acting president even in the face of glaring constitutional necessity that Jonathan is not responsible for Yar’Adua’s ill health. He should therefore not be treated as if he plotted his boss’ predicament. More than that, the matter on ground is not about Goodluck Jonathan. It is all about justice, fair play, and rule of law. Let me recall that it was clearly as a result of glaring injustice in the sharing of oil and gas revenue that gave rise to militancy in the Niger Delta region. Like the Nigerian civil war, we are still counting the colossal loss.

Furthermore, Nigerians are eager to taste the fruits of good governance through rapid social and infrastructural development. Ghana and South Africa have all left Nigeria far behind in terms of democracy, economy, science, and technology. Continued denial of the vice president sufficient powers in the present circumstances may push Nigeria deeper down the ladder of developing nations.

It is necessary to remind the band of Nigerians that have placed their personal and tribal interests above national concerns that a day will come when questions would be asked regarding the inglorious roles they are playing today. Their children too would be reminded of the shameful roles played by their parents in attempting to warp the entity called Nigeria.

Frankly, Nigeria will not lose anything if President Yar’Adua hands over power temporarily to Goodluck Jonathan. But Nigeria will definitely lose her poise and shape if Yar’Adua is coerced into pushing a dishonourable and illegal tribal agenda. In July 1985, President Roland Reagan of the United States temporarily handed over power to Vice President George Bush to enable him attend to his health. Also between 2002 and 2007, the junior Bush; as president of the United States also handed over power temporarily to Vice President Dick Cheney twice when he was to undergo medical procedure at Camp David- the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. Presidential spokesperson, Tony Snow had told reporters then that, “Vice President Dick Cheney will serve as acting president until the president notifies authorities that he is ready to reassume his powers.” A fine example of a decent democratic culture- free of tribal and political sentiments. This is what Due Process and Rule of Law really mean.

Within the last four weeks, a number of shallow excuses have been advanced by the “Power Sharing” army, outlining the reasons why Goodluck Jonathan would not be given any opportunity of becoming the acting President of the federal republic of Nigeria. Chief among them is the charge that Jonathan is a political son of ex President Olusegun Obasanjo. I will not want to bother my readers with arguments about whether this charge is true or false. This is because; no part of the Nigerian constitution has barred any citizen from being a political son. Yar’Adua himself too is one of the many political sons of Obasanjo. More than that; it is not yet criminal for the political son of a former president to become an acting president in Nigeria. Let those that have personal and political problems with Chief Obasanjo settle same in the law courts and save Nigeria from disintegration. Nigeria is bigger than Obasanjo.

The Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970 was remotely a battle over the control of the oil wealth of the Niger Delta people. No doubt, the war would have been avoided if the spirit of justice and fair play were respected. The Ijaws were denied commensurate benefits from the sale of crude oil buried in their swamps. Consequent upon this, the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro decided to pull the Ijaws out of Nigeria on the 23rd day of February, 1966. It was a massive protest against the Ibo dominated Eastern Nigeria administration. On the other hand, the Ibos were emboldened by the oil wealth of the Niger Delta people to halt the ruthless and overbearing nature of the Hausas by seceding from Nigeria. In order to weaken the Biafra dream, Rivers and South Eastern States- the main oil producing areas were carved out of the Eastern Region on the 27th of May, 1967.

The present scenario in the country is getting quite close to detonating tribal bombs. However, the 2nd Nigerian civil war will be fought not over the control of Niger Delta oil. The bone of contention this time around would be political power. Let every true Nigerian pray that tribal zealots in and outside of government does not cut the rope that binds the numerous Nigerian tribes. It has been widely reported that the United States is afraid Nigeria may break up soon and has already put in place plans to face the challenges that such reality may throw up. Quite unfortunately for the Nigerian nation, her political and traditional leaders are oblivious of the negative implications of their parochial and self serving agendas.

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