When beggars die, there are no comets seen. But the heavens themselves blaze forth, the death of Princes…William Shakespeare
The death of any President, a country’s number one citizen is a watershed in the life of any nation. This rare but sometimes inevitable occurrence in the life of a nation often evokes a deep sense of loss and a prolonged period national mourning. It is usually the end of a circle and the beginning of another. It is a time of profound and subdued national mourning when all the contending forces, oppositions and power blocs bury the hatchets and rally together as one humanity, as one nation. A look back in history will reveal that the death of a country’s number one citizen is a time to bind together as a nation.
The death of a prominent citizen such the President is time to unite together. The assassination of President John .F Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of United States of America on November 22 1963 shocked Americans and briefly united a nation that was brutally divided into racial lines during the thick of civil rights years. Jackie Kennedy, the first Lady, in a limousine with her husband at the time Kennedy was shot went into a period of prolong grief and so did millions of other Americans.
Many of them wrote letters to Kennedy’s young widow, Jackie, sharing their grief. The first lady, who was left with two small children and who was sitting next to her husband in the presidential limousine when he was shot in Dallas, received more than 800,000 condolence letters, cards and telegrams within the first two months of his death. Within two years, she would receive 1.5 million.
Those letters, written by citizens of a nation in grief for a bereaved first family formed the bestselling collection Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation, the product of the author, Ellen Fitzpatrick’s research into how people felt during this tragic period in America’s history. Fast forward to March 2010 when a tragic plane crash took the lives of the entire ruling class in Poland including the lives of President Lech Kaczynski and the First Lady Maria. The country was in shock after the tragedy, with hundreds of people showing up at the presidential palace in downtown Warsaw to lay wreaths and express their grief. A national period of mourning was declared and Polish flags were lowered to half-staff. The assassination of Nigeria military head of state the late General Murtala Muhmmed in February 13 1976 also provoked nationwide national outrage and sent the whole country into a deep grief.
A Cabal that Played God
Since late President Umaru Musa Yardua disappeared from public view in November 2009, a series of bizarre and conspiratorial events threw up a cabal, led by the former First Lady. They viciously kept Yar dua from public and held to this intriguing path till the very end. His health and subsequent incarceration became a subject of intense intrigues and speculations. In the months that followed the embarrassing and macabre saga, no Nigerian, including the current President Goodluck Jonathan knew the true state of things concerning the late President health. The lid was blown on the odious activity of the cabal when President Jonathan revealed in an interview with CNN Chief International Correspondent Christine Amanpour of having not seen the President since his abrupt smuggling into the country by the cabal who had held him hostage for several months. Was he alive? Is he dead? The Muslim-Chriatian clerics’ visits, the rumoured appearance at a mosque that never took place all further went to reveal that the cabal had neared their end game in the dance of the absurd that the whole saga became in those uncertain months.
Public mood went from anger to indignation and then disillusionment. Is the late President taking us for granted? Is it the wife? Political opportunists seized the opportunity to deepen the long distrust between North and South over power tussle. The cabal played the game to the very end. They turned public opinion from sympathy for their late President’s health to anger. Instead of evoking national empathy, the late President’s health became the subject of much vilification.
Why is late President Yardua toying with the nation’s future? Why did he not hand over when he knew he was going for a medical check up? Is it a bid to undermine his Vice President? Even while the nation’s spiritual leaders enjoined Nigerians to pray for their President, the cabal was on to some other machinations. But the time was running out. It was only a matter of time before the bubble bursts. But could the late president have written the letter which was later hidden by an emerging cabal? This should interest a post crisis panel that will investigate the intrigues of those months. Knowing the late President’s emphasis for rule of law, it is not impossible that he indeed did write a letter transferring power to the President Goodluck Jonathan which was never delivered to the Senate.
From Sympathy to Anger and Disillusionment
While the theatre of the absurd lasted in Abuja, the public were taken through an agonizing period of national embarrassment when the President was smuggled into the country like a thief in the night. As the drama unfolded, the Nigerian public went through different national mood swings no thanks to the cabal’s modus operandi of feeding lies about Yardua’s health. Who do we believe as regards the true state of his health? The official spokespersons in government were blanked out. The Nigerian Television Authority took to showcasing the late Presidents moribund Seven Point Agenda. It was thus understandable when the Nigerian public completely lost interest in the affairs of the country and the health of their late President. There was the absence of a rallying point that will drive the country to appreciate the mood of the moment that could have led the country coming together in those trying periods of our national life.
“The President is dead…No he was dead a long time”
On Thursday 6 April 2010, when the public began to grapple with the news of the Presidents death, Donald Riddel of CNN in breaking the news referred to late President Yardua “as a honest leader in a country of corrupt people”. Now that was something considering the activities of the cabal in the past few months, the late President was indeed a sheep surrounded by wolves in the name of the cabal.
The cabal indeed ensured that Nigerians missed the opportunity of the death of Yardua as a time for national healing and camaraderie. If anything, the cabal’s barbaric power game, using the President health and personality as a tool to sow national discord, threw up a number of national questions and further widen the long held belief that our country is held together by a thin thread that can snap in time of national crisis. What is the worth of the constitution to prevent crisis in the polity?
What is the role of the First Lady in a democracy? How can a single crisis of a President health throw the country on a path of infamy and self-destruction? The crisis of the past few months also left a number of casualties and taught lessons of the transient of power. Do we still remember the immediate past Attorney General and Minister of Justice Michael Andoakaa bizarre pronouncement and swashbuckling? He has joined a long list of those who do not appreciate the transience of power.
The activities of the cabal eroded the goodwill of Nigerians and the appreciation of the health of their president. Even in death, the public doubted the sincerity of the announcement. Many believed he was long dead and his death was only announced that Wednesday. Given that the President is adjudged a honest Nigerian with good intentions for t
he nation’s development, his death should have evoked a widespread and deep national sympathy than was witnessed in the last few days.
But the cabal made ensured this opportunity was missed. They shot themselves in the foot in the power game, a quagmire the late President was enmeshed but could do nothing about. But hopefully, Nigerians still appreciated the best President they never had the opportunity to know how much he would have loved to transform the country due to a terminal illness he eventually succumbed to. Adieu President Yardua and shame to the shameless cabal