Obj: The Secular President Who Courted The Sharia Governor

by Ossie Ezeaku

In managing a diversity of people, certain enabling elements must be conscienciously upheld. The success, of which, will largely depend on how the interests of the respective groups within such diversity are protected. The freedom in multi-culturalism, as exemplified by members of true secular societies, is fundamentally owed to the existent and the application of the enabling laws.

The separation of religion and state as a political doctrine, has seen many multi cultural societies of today thrive. By ensuring that the institutions of the state were kept separate from those of religious institutions, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews have been able to live in relative peace among their christian hosts in many lands. The U.S pres., Thomas Jefferson, in his January 1802 reply to the Baptists affirmed,”…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, ‘Thus, making a clear demarcation between church and state.

And in Nigeria, It is that bad. The people’s short memory has once again, reared its ugly head. One of the Sharia-state Governors, Mallam Umar Yar’ Adua of Katsina, has been chosen to fly the ruling party’s flag in the 2007 presidential elections. To this end, many questions are begging for answers. In the first place, most Southern Nigerians are in shock over what they see as a policy somersault, from an administration whose spin doctors were until a few weeks ago, promising that power, for the sake of “equity”, wouldremain in the South.

With the power of incumbency, the scales are likely to tip in favour of the Islamist, UmarYar’Adua becoming Nigeria’s president in 2007. But the out come of this political marriage between a Christian president, who’s recently enrolled in a distant learning programme to study theology, and a state governor who’s been implementing the Islamic legal injunctions, is any one’s guess. What common ideologies united these two men? How long will Yar’ Adua remain Obasanjo’s nice boy?

Pundits wonder what the strategic calculations of the current president were in supporting such a candidacy, even as the dread for Islamisation of the whole country was rife in the minds of the largely christian south.

It is widely believed in many quarters that it was a matter of time before the man the president sees as his man, will fall out of favour with him, as there will be competing interests from the conservative Northern political establishment. Then ethnicity and religion, as in the past, will determine who’ll get what.

Of course, one of the first demands of the pro-military Northern establishment from their son, Yar’ Adua, many expect, would be to return the military configuration to the status quo ante. Wiping out the modest balancing OBJ has effected so far. Then, exposed, would be, the lack of courage and visionary judgment Pres.Obasanjo displayed, by not backing a southern candidate.

The newly empowered office of the BOT chairman that Obasanjo wants to assume after the elections, can never equal the powers of a head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. After the period of consolidation of powers, such nuisance of an office that may interfere with governance, could easily be impotented with executive fiat by the sitting president..

Far from considering the tripodal political balance of Nigeria, the emergence of Yar’Adua has mainly revalidated the “core” North’s claim of being the eternal rulers of Nigeria. Head or tail, whatever might be the reasons for the choice of Yar’ Adua, It has further impressed upon Southern Nigerians that the Northerner’s words and requests amount to law.

There were regrets of relinquishing the power to the south, perhaps this time, they may not want to let go. And I stand to be challenged. Therefore, the strategic political prognosis of the country would continue to remain jaundiced, visa’vis the CIA report on Nigeria.

Rival bids such as Dr. Chinwe Otunaya Odili, whom Nigerians once viewed as the likely successor to the president withdrew from the race. Coming surprisingly on the instruction of the current president, whom he had worshiped and praised like anything. Odili, the governor of Rivers state, had had a running battle with rival interests in his zone over his being an Igbo man. He’ll now have cause to remember when he told Governor Victor Attah, a few years ago, that Ekwueme’s candidacy would be too hard for him to sell to his “Rivers People” because of Ekwueme’s Igbo roots. What a hard way to learn!

Nevertheless, he would have made a good president. The man is endowed with the prerequisite mental and intellectual capabilities to serve Nigeria on that level.

In the interim, the old Eastern region has once again missed the chance of producing Nigeria’s president. And by 2015, It ‘ll be 48 years since they last smelt the office through Gen. Johnson Ironsi, only for a six months period. What a nation?

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Anonymous December 28, 2006 - 2:05 pm

Very touching and also true in all entirety. You spoke for all the christians and southerners in Nigeria. Good job.

Aminu Wouba December 22, 2006 - 7:54 pm

Who really cares about a Northern or Southern president?We want somebody best all round for the job.Did OBJ. really sit down and say I will only support a northener? I don't think so.Yar'adua must have something that distinguishes him from all others and that's why he is the PDP bearer.In Africa we must do away with tribalism,regionalism,languagism(as in Anglophone,Francophone,Lusophone etc.)to effectively compete with the rest of the world in this era of globalization.

Amechi December 19, 2006 - 6:25 pm

You are right Ossie! After so many decades of political power resting in Northern Nigeria. Equity demands that southern zones should have taken their turns. It is just that Obasanjo lacked the courage. He was defintetly afraid of a troubled retirement. The Northerners really won the psychological warfare. Simple.

prince kennedy Iyoha December 19, 2006 - 3:24 pm

Mr Ossie Ezeaku

As a Nigerian that hails from the south, it is easy to understand your fears as regard the person of Shehu Musa yaradua. First because he was one of the governors that implemented the Sherrie laws in his state. If we consider acceptable, many of the policies implemented by the out-going president, and the equilibration of the once dominated Nigerian arm forces, we should also conferred in his judgements as regard his choice for Malam shehu Musa yaradua.

Nigeria though is secular, is a multi ethnical and multi religious. If the president did not change the constitution to make the country a Christian state, Yaredua will not apply the sharia system for the entire nation. I am of the opinion that he may be the one to remove this sharia from the states where it now exist. We are witness of what is going on in the Sudan, and Nigeria of today is not the same as Nigeria of the Biafra, where the Ibos fought with mac4. the North are aware that any attempt to force the sharia law on the Country will mean the end of the entity called Nigeria, and the North though have all the Military installations in their zone, will suffer defect for various reasons. One of such is that many southern Nigerians, live abroad, and have asses to the major arms industries, beside modern wars are no longer fought face to face like was the 60s.

I am convinced your fear dont have bases, because Nigeria being a democratic state with a strong parliament, that will insist that decisions concerning the well been of the state, be taken by consultation. I am convinced that Obasanjo is thinking of the survival of democracy in Nigeria, and he is looking for a man that can command the respect of both the Northerners, and the Military. He may have thought that another ex- military person with the qualities and respect from all the people of Nigeria, such as Abraham Babangida and others that participated in his administration. He chooses Shehu Musa Yaradua because his brother command lots of respect from the north as well as the military.

He may be the democrat that will take Nigeria a step toward its consolidation of democracy. Why is it that you cant write without bringing in this sentiment of tribalism? The fact that Ironsy was the last Ibo man that ruled the country did not remove merits from people like Alex Ekuemeh who was the vice president during the era of Shehu Shagari; and people like Ebute Ukiwe who are Ibo men that have served the country in the highest capacities. so please let the lying dog rest.


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