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FYI Nigeria: Your President Can Walk

March 11, 2010

I'm alright ya'll

Here, at the glorious and mighty ewz, we love having guest bloggers who are intelligent and have something important to say.  Below, an ewz reader from Nigeria does just that in a short and poignant piece on the (always ill and undying) Nigerian leader.  Enjoy.

The president is able to walk, talk and feed himself, the first cousin and spokesperson of Nigeria’s ailing president kindly assured us less than a week ago. The only person to have seen the president since his return to the country a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Zubaru Ali didn’t have much else to impart. At least not to the Aljazeera journalist who interviewed him shortly after his meeting with Umaru Yar’Adua.

‘What did the president say?’

‘He asked me, how are you? I said I am fine. He asked me how is the family at home. I said they were fine and wishing him well.’


Wait. Thats it?

Great. The Nigerian people send kisses too.

For those following the country’s travails with any interest, news of the president’s return would have been quite sensational. The acting president, Goodluck Jonathon, a southern Christian and former vice president would barely have had time to read The Economist’s righteous and sober comments as to what he could potentially achieve in the remainder of the northern haling Yar’Adua’s term, before being given a hard reality check. One and a half years is likely very optimistic. The north isn’t quite ready to give to give up its turn at governing yet. Yar’Adua would be brought back from the dead a la Weekend at Bernie’s if necessary to make sure they get their share of a power sharing agreement which sees the presidency rotated between the acrimonious north and south every 8 years.

In a country like Nigeria, divided along clear loyalty lines, the president’s aides desperate and desperately transparent attempts to stay in power are fairly standard and predictable. And yet one cannot help but be amused by the whole scenario. A president disappears into nowhere (Saudi Arabia) without even a ‘holla at you later’ to the general public. After a month or so of rumor mongering, he finally deigns to give an interview. To the national press? Heavens no. Let them hear from the BBC. The news is bound to travel, good news always does. But what’s this, You’ve elected another president? Then for gods’ sakes what do you want from me? I’m an ill man! But fine. Fine, I’ll come back to this hell hole. But don’t expect me to be happy about it.

And, apparently don’t expect him to actually govern. Instead Nigeria waits in uneasy limbo. Hoping that pockets of religious violence are not a shape of things to come. Hoping that its placement on an American watch list of terrorist states, (along with the exponentially more concerning Somalia and Yemen) after the attempted blowing up of an American plane on Christmas day by a Nigerian man, is a temporary blip. And hoping that whatever the outcome of the current political impasse, Nigeria will stop being one of Africa’s basket cases, stop being as Chinua Achebe called it “A Child. Gifted, enormously talented, prodigiously endowed and incredibly wayward” and start being a fully functioning mature state. Where it is not just the president who is able to walk, talk and feed himself, but the entire nation.

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