By Yushau A. Shuaib
The emergence of Umar Musa Yar’Adua as president may not be as clean as majority would have expected, especially going by the outpouring of condemnations of the electoral process from different angles. The interesting development is that the politicking was devoid of sectional sentiments, ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry. We may recall the way some political stalwarts, who for their selfish agenda had desired to fuel the ember of hatred amongst Nigerians when they deliberately instigated agitations on South-Versus-North for the Presidency. We could remember the our-turn-campaign by geopolitical regions with smart politicians bandying documents for and against purported early agreements over power shift. The Enugu Conference of Southern leaders in 2006, just like the Third Term imbroglio for instance, made right-thinking Nigerians to wonder where the country was heading.
Many commentators have refrained from tacitly endorsing the last elections that brought to the most exalted office in Nigeria the seeming reluctant President Yar’Adua who was said to have secured an appointment to lecture in a university after his tenure as governor of Katsina State and his quiet deputy Jonathan Goodluck who could have been contented as governor of oil-rich state of Bayelsa. Their endorsements if not carefully crafted may be used against them in future. I find myself in that dilemma recently when a special publication of the TELL magazine devoted to eulogize Obasanjo’s administration took a phrase in one of my articles published in 2002 without reference to the date. Though the TELL publication is said to have been sponsored, the phrase lifted from the said article of 2002 portrayed me as sycophantic. How were TELL readers to know that I had subsequently published other articles with contrary views? My consolation is the realization that highly respected Nigerians, Agbakoba of NBA, Olu Falae, Atiku Abubakar, Dangiwa Umar, Prof. Omoruyi, and Senator Ken Nnamani amongst others were also quoted praising President Obasanjo in glowing terms.
I won’t join others who claim Chief Obasanjo didn’t achieve ANYTHING in his eight years in office, rather I believe some of his achievements were overwhelmed by his deep involvement in political wrangling and later day unpopular policies. We should give credit to him on the debt relief and huge foreign reserve for instance; likewise we shouldn’t pretend that all is well with the recent increase in the fuel price in the face of high profit in our crude oil sales in the international market; and the increase in VAT rate in spite of huge monthly returns from the service of Inland Revenue Board.
Therefore, to avoid a situation where one may further be misquoted in future, I write this piece with extreme caution on the new President Yar’Adua. With his emergence as the first elected university graduate to mount the top leadership position in Nigeria, our gain from the first civilian-to-civilian transition has a comma, unless we must all pretend. The legitimacy of the administration is still in contention by oppositions in the court; the likely existence of moles within his party and system to distract his attention; apprehension of ardent supporters and genuine critics over his alleged health problem and the nauseating fear of his ability to address the mammoth problems confronting the nation. The real question now is: Does Musa Yar’Adua deserve the support of Nigerians?
Stories have been built around him like riddles that he is a Marxist who believes in positive changes without making noises about it: that he doesn’t attract pomp and fanfare not even on his executed gargantuan projects in Katsina state; that he is so humble he chooses to pray amidst the ordinary worshippers instead of taking vantage position in the mosque; that his cheap costume is a reflection of his simplicity; that he crosses the road to even personally buy a pastime stick; that he disallowed the use of electricity generator by his family whenever there was power failure during off-office hours to enable his household share in the pain of other citizens of the state; that he is so incorruptible and confident of himself so much that he willingly declares his assets before its demand; that he doesn’t talk too much but strike appropriately to provide the necessary changes; that even his political opponents don’t mistake his meekness as sign of weakness because he always has his way; that he was so radical and was always in the progressive/opposition group instead of the family’s elitist camps and that he is so healthy to play tasking games of squash and polo at a stretch.
As striking as some of this information frequently provided by those close to him and the people of his state is, it is obvious that he was indeed a successful governor going by the evidence of physical infrastructures in his state: massive road networks, schools, hospitals, development of the hinterland and scholarships amongst others.
Some believe without the massive electoral manipulations, which he did not in anyway influence, Yar’Adua MIGHT have made it to the Presidency if he had received the genuine support from his colleague-governors with adequate campaign strategies that would highlight his manifestoes and his antecedents.
The unfolding development so far, after the swearing-in is the new singsong, to give Yaradua a chance. In fact the public discourse now is on the challenge of new government in providing necessary changes through his professed 7 points-agenda. Most editorials and commentaries are heading on with this line of thinking. We should at this stage remember the past and think about the future. We could easily recall the political intricacies that emanated after the freest and fairest election in Nigeria that brought about Chief MKO Abiola as the president-elect, the annulment that followed, the constitution of the Shonekan Interim Government; the master-coup that ushered in Abacha’s regime and the demise of MKO Abiola and General Yar’Adua in controversial circumstances. That was a gory past we shouldn’t pray for it recurrence.
General Muhammad Buhari and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku as the major contenders at the last Iwu’s election are personalities that command immense respect amongst Nigerians and have close relationship with Umar Yar’Adua, who is more like their younger brother. The two gentlemen are truly heroes of democracy by their conducts and acts so far. For instance, while Buhari remains an indisputably principled and honoured leader, Atiku was able to correct some of the erroneous impression and allegations against his person. They have, most especially Atiku, provided precedence for the growth and development of the legal profession in the cases they took to the courts and would forever remain reference points in what lawyers call stare decisis, ratio decidendi, obiter dictum and locus clasicus.. The two leaders would therefore not be expected to encourage actions that may have negative consequences on our polity like strikes and violent protests that may question their leadership potentials. They should know how to do that and look forward to legally pursuing their grievances with the best of intentions for our nation, without overheating the system.
They have the right to protest the outcome of the alleged rigged-elections as they are presently doing in a mature and decent manner through the legal process. The judiciary has not failed Nigerians lately in its landmark verdicts. Having the no-nonsense Justice Kutigi as the Chief Judge of the Federation at least would test the ground to avoid future reoccurrence of bastardization of the electoral processes at all stages while the incoming legislators work out practical and realistic electoral reform. They, like every Nigerian should also think about the best way to move the nation forward, especially towards the sustenance of democracy and ensuring that the nation is not remotely controlled by behind the scene hands.
As a Muslim, my religion teaches me that we should pursue equity, peace and justice bearing in mind that the holy Quran reminds us (in Q3 V26) that ‘God gives power to whom He wills and takes power from whom He wills.’ Predestination does not prevent us from working to achieve greatness and progress for our society. If I need to add anything – May God give us the courage to tell our leaders the truth without fear of misrepresentation.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Daily Trust June 5, New Nigerian June 6, Vanguard June 8-11, The Guardian June 12, Daily Independent June 12 and Punch June 13, 2007