Speaking to one of my Nigerian colleagues the other day, he told me that apart from the poor performance of the football team in the Africa Nations Cup in Angola, what has gripped the nation has been the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua since 23 November 2009.
Since then, there has been rumour, and counter rumour in the country, and with it has come an impending constitutional storm, as shown with the swearing in of the Chief Justice. There has also been concern over the forged signature for the supplementary budget.
Despite the ills of no one really knowing what the status of the president is, it has set in the tone of gross uncertainty in the country. Businesses cannot plan, no big investments can be signed off, especially at the period when oil contracts with multinationals are due to be negotiated. The integrity of Nigeria has also been in the spotlight with the alleged terrorist plot in the USA by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, and this has led to the country being listed as a country to watch for terrorists. Without the president to lobby and defend his state, the whole country has been dragged in the mud from this incident.
Nigeria is a country where things need to move forward quickly, there is a fragile truce with the problem areas in the Niger Delta, there is high poverty, high corruption, poor service delivery, a proud nation like Nigeria needs a strong leader. There are many African countries that would be very happy for their leaders to go AWOL, even for a week, but it seems, even if Yar’ Adua is not a perfect president, the Nigerians have realised, having a president is better than having nothing at all. Maybe this is the awakening this country with vast potential needs, to take action and demand greater accountability from their elected leaders.