Speaking Truth to Power: The Dummy OBJ Sold Nigeria

Most have followed with amazement the fast developing Nigerian political climate and the constant ability of its government to reach new depths of mesmerisation. But more fundamental to this is some growing realisation that General Obasanjo sold Nigeria a dummy. A dummy being one that hears not speaks not and reveals very little. It is within a proper contextualisation of these that I would usefully expose and develop the points I wish to make in this article. For it is beginning to appear to me late in the day that President Umaru Yar’Adua was imposed upon us not because of his ability to transform Nigeria but more for the opportunity to wrong foot and outwit the then Vice President Atiku.

An article that usefully amplifies this point, published on 06 April 2007 in the Voice of America website, titled ‘Umaru Yar’Adua: The Man Tipped to Become Nigeria’s Next President’ by Sarah Simpson, encapsulates dummy dilemma I am alluding to:
Critics of Yar’Adua say that he does not have the strength of character to dominate an unruly nation like Nigeria, and that he was chosen to enable the outgoing president to retain the reigns of power after his own departure.

Chief among the critics is Vice President, who is currently battling in court to get his name back on the presidential ballot as a candidate, here speaking at a recent press conference.

“It is your right to freely choose your leaders, but this time you must be careful of which leaders you choose. Nobody can take that away from you,” said Abubakar. “Nobody should foist a leader on you, nobody should foist a leader on you, particularly somebody you do not know and who does not know you.”

Abubakar accuses President Obasanjo of using the Nigerian courts and electoral…

While his older brother worked alongside Mr. Obasanjo, Yar’Adua was a chemistry teacher at his local polytechnic.

But he has long been active in politics, and for the last eight years, he has been governor of Katsina State, where he has adopted Islamic Sharia Law. In total, 12 northern Nigerian states have adopted Sharia since 1999.

…”I would like to see that I have a government that is trusted and credible and that can be so, if we have proper respect for law and order – in other words the rule of law is placed in an exulted position.”

Yar’Adua had to abandon campaigning for several days last month when he was flown to Germany for medical treatment relating to a long-standing kidney problem. Party insiders said it was a routine check-up.

Opponents pounced on it as another sign of weakness in a man seeking to take on one of the most challenging jobs in African politics.”

In the past I have argued that the complexity of governance so overwhelms this President to the extent that he offers Nigeria little hope for progress. He is haunted by his origins, rooted in electoral malpractices and to a degree, the illegitimate imposition by President OBJ and of course his sad history of chronic ill health.

It occurs to me, that commiserations and prayers could have been mobilized for a President, undergoing surgical procedures in a far away land if the truth had been revealed. However, the decision of his handlers to sell and sprout out dummies left, right, and everywhere makes a straight forward situation that of a complexity. They have indeed contrived to make a drama out of what should be the routine.

Let us now examine the circumstances that makes this article appear scathing in its analysis. I point to the Nigerian Guardian of 4th of September 2008 where the information minister states:

Like I informed you the last time the President went, he left here, he informed us that he was going for lesser hajj. Of course that is true. Today (yesterday) also, we inquired from the Vice President who has been in touch with him. They also spoke yesterday (Tuesday) and by the close of work today (Wednesday) we will also confirm his schedule when he will come back and obviously I will inform you accordingly.”

On the alleged mismanagement of information on the president’s health by officials, Odey said:
I don’t think there is any delay of information because I informed you the very day the President travelled from here. A week after, I also informed you and a few days ago, I reiterated the same statements that I made that the President travelled to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj. And yesterday (Tuesday), the Vice President was in touch with him on phone and by the close of work today (Wednesday), we will be able to confirm to you his schedule and when he will return to the country.”

Initial reports also points to the President’s spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi who had earlier announced that the trip to Saudi Arabia was to enable the President perform the lesser hajj.

This gives one the impression of charade upon charade and as I have indicated before, whilst lots of commentators have provided their own take, spin or in depth analysis few in my view have been so compelling enough to present a coherent narrative that places the complexities these government faces on a daily basis and the paralysis it induces.

For I dare suggest that the longer this charade continues about the President’s health the more it lays open the possibility of considerations of the Federal Executive Council invoking Section 144 (1) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution which states:
The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office, if –

(a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is declared that the President or Vice-President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and

(b) the declaration is verified, after such medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(2) Where the medical panel certifies in the report that in its opinion the President or Vice-President is suffering from such infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office, a notice thereof signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.

The choice is open to this President, his salesman and his handlers, start treating Nigerians as adults, reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth or allow the constitutional consequences to take its course.

I conclude by stating that in this article and as in others am more convinced of a role for others and myself to highlight tensions that exist with the policy-makers, i.e. between us as seekers after truth and the holders of power. I refuse and am unable to remain on the sidelines as Nigeria is made to look like a banana republic due to the incompetence of the President’s handlers. For our ‘silences’ would only seek to do the following:

to justify and legitimize power, to stand ‘in metaphorical exile’ as a witness against power.

However I seek to use this opportunity of this lacuna to act as a constructive critic and I say so help me God (1)’.


(1) Chan, Stephen (1994),, ‘Critical Theory, Praxis and Postmodernism’, , ch. 3 in Girard, Eberwein and Webb, eds., Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy-making, pp. 32-3. London: Pinter., Said, Edward (1994) Representations of the intellectual (London: Pinter).

Written by
Olu Ojedokun
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