Continued from part 1:
As Nigeria’s foremost nationalist and first post independence Head of State, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was (and still should be) to Nigeria, what George Washington is to America, Nkrumah is to Ghana, Nasser is to Arabs, and Mandela is to South Africa. The fact that he is not so remembered is a sad testament to Nigeria’s legacy keeping and failure to honour its founding fathers. Azikiwe transcended national politics to become an icon. He is the father of post independence Nigeria.
Azikiwe in Nigerian Politics
For over a decade after his return from his sojourns to the USA and Ghana, Zik was the most influential politician in West Africa (if not all of Africa). At a time when Nigeria was still a collection of disparate regions, identities and local units, Zik started canvassing for Nigerian independence and for the creation of a de-ethnicised, de-tribalised sense of Nigerian nationalism and patriotism. He was the architect of Nigerian nationhood. He was a strident campaigner for Nigerian independence, and believed in Nigerian self rule as an article of faith. “I fought against British rule, because I honestly believed that it denied me and my people the basic freedoms and fundamental rights. At the material time, I believed, as I still do, that in normal times no man should impose his rule on any people unless he has been elected to do so at a free and fair election. It was an article of faith with me than an African citizen should enjoy individual freedom under the law.”
“Tell Oged to Keep the Flag Flying”
In 1944 Azikiwe was one of the founders of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) along with Herbert Macaulay. When the Southern Cameroons became part of the country of Cameroon, the NCNC kept its acronym by changing its name to the “National Convention of Nigerian Citizens”. In 1946 the NCNC began a pan Nigerian tour during which its leader Herbert Macaulay became fatally ill in Kano and was taken back to Lagos. On his deathbed in Lagos, Macaulay’s last words were the touching epitaph: “Tell the National Council delegates to halt wherever they are for four days for Macaulay and then carry on….Tell Oged to keep the flag flying” (“Oged” was Macaulay’s son Ogedengbe). Azikiwe (who was the NCNC’s General-Secretary) then became NCNC president following the death of Macaulay in 1946.
His own pan-Nigerian outlook was demonstrated by his service as a member of the Western Region’s Legislature. In 1951, Azikiwe became embroiled in an incident which still causes rancour till today. His NCNC party and the Ibadan Peoples Party (IPP) together held a majority in the Western Region House of Assembly which was poised to make Azikiwe (an Igbo) the Premier and ruler of the Yoruba Western Region. Several Yoruba members of the NCNC and IPP defected and joined the Action Group party of Azikiwe’s rival Obafemi Awolowo. Many NCNC members bitterly complained that the defections were calculated ethnically motivated incidents to prevent an Igbo from becoming the ruler of a Yoruba area. This might be the incident that tainted Nigerian politics with ethnic competition. After this he became Premier of the Eastern Region (1954-1959), and later relinquished the Premiership to Dr Michael Okpara when he moved to the Senate.
Nigerian Independence- “I Pray that We May Guard our Unity and Keep our Faith”
Despite political setbacks Azikiwe retained his messianic dream of Nigeria one day becoming a great country:
“As a young man I saw visions: visions of Nigeria becoming a great country in the emerging continent of Africa; visions of Nigeria offering freedom to those in bondage, and securing the democratic way of life to those who had been lulled into an illusion of security under colonial rule…..I trust that I shall dream my dreams amid the peace and ever-increasing prosperity of the people of my native Nigeria. The motto of the independent federation of Nigeria is “Unity and Faith”. I pray that we may guard our unity and keep our faith.” (summer 1960, London)
His dream of Nigerian independence and self rule was realised on October 1, 1960 when Nigeria became independent from the United Kingdom. Yet despite being the country’s most famous political figure and laying the groundwork for nationalism and independence, he did not inherit leadership of his newly independent country. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the country’s first Prime Minister and Azikiwe was given the sinecure position of Governor-General. The post of Governor-General of the federation in titular terms made him the representative of the British Queen in Nigeria.
“My Stiffest Earthly Assignment is Ended and My Major Life’s Work is Done. My Country is Now Free”
When Nigeria became a Republic in 1963 Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa proposed an amendment of the 1960 independence constitution to transform Azikiwe from Governor-General and redesignate his title as a ceremonial “President”. Although the post of President was purely ceremonial and was not an elected one, Balewa suggested that Azikiwe be named President in the 1963 constitution because “Nigeria can never adequately reward Dr. Azikiwe” for his nationalist activities and service to the nation”. Therefore section 157 of Nigeria’s 1963 constitution was titled “Nnamdi Azikiwe to be President”, and read “Nnamdi Azikiwe shall be deemed to be elected President of the Republic on the date of the commencement of this Constitution”.
Although no election was held for the post, the amendment proposal was accepted and Azikiwe became the country’s ceremonial President and Head of State, with formal governmental authority being vested in Balewa as the Prime Minister. To my knowledge Azikiwe’s appointment as President by name in the Nigerian constitution is the only instance in a democratic country, of a Head of State being specifically appointed and referenced by name in his country’s constitution. His post was ceremonial, did not vest him with formal executive or political authority, and was merely a formality to recognise his role as the country’s founding father. Yet despite not being the head of government, Azikiwe was ostensibly satisfied that his life’s work was done. He argued that his duty to his country was to lead it to independence, not to lead it politically:
“I can say without hesitation that I have no personal ambition in partisan politics. This explains why I have been able to play the role of a prisoner in a gilded cage with personal satisfaction and complete equanimity. My stiffest earthly assignment is ended and my major life’s work is done. My country is now free and I have been honoured to be its first indigenous head of state. What more could one desire in life?” – Talking about Nigeria’s Independence on Oct. 1, 1960.
1964 Crisis and The Majors’ Coup
Azikiwe did not manage to stay on the political fringe for long. The controversial federal election of December 1964 caused a massive crisis and ruptured the coalition government of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and Zik’s former party, the NCNC. The elections were marred by widespread boycotts, rigging, intimidation, arson and violence which left Azikiwe so aghast that he refused to call Prime Minister Balewa to form a new government. For a few days, apocalyptic tension hung over the country until Azikiwe’s sense of constitutional propriety prevailed. He eventually negotiated a compromise with Balewa and called him and the NPC to once again to form a government. However the wounds of the 1964 crisis had not gone away. There were to resurface in murderous fashion less than two years later
In January 1966 a group of radical army Majors violently overthrew the government in a military coup, assassinating Prime Minister Balewa in the process. Azikiwe was outside the country when the coup occurred. Although he was accused of sympathising with, or having knowledge of the coup, he strongly condemned it and called it a “national calamity”. Despite his criticism of them, many of his opponents suspected him of sympathising with the Majors who staged the coup.
To be continued…
Continuing with the theme of comparing Nigeria’s current President Goodluck Jonathan against his predecessors, here is a comparison of Jonathan against Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
GOODLUCK JONATHAN’S INTERVIEW:
ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA
Full replay of the 2012 presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
President Goodluck Jonathan has named 57 year old Kaduna state governor Namadi Sambo as his new vice-president. Sambo’s appointment is now subject to ratification by the Senate and House of Representatives.
Goodluck Jonathan has been sworn in as Nigeria’s 14th Head of State and 4th executive President. He is the first Nigerian President to assume office after the death of an elected sitting President.
President Umaru Yar’Adua was buried in Katsina on Thursday May 6, 2010.
Courtesy: The Punch
The Islamic ceremony was attended by several thousand people and dignataries including former Heads of State General Ibrahim Babangida, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, and former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu. Many state Governors also attended.
Yar’Adua’s body was flown from the capital Abuja. His body was draped in the green and white Nigerian flag. It arrived in the Yar’Adua family’s compound in Katsina around 3pm. The air force plane that flew him was accompanied by his wife Turai.
Courtesy: The Punch
His body was initially taken to the Katsina township stadium where it was brought for Islamic prayers, then he was buried at the Dan Marna cemetery around 6.30pm after being given a 21 gun salute. His father Musa and older brother Shehu, are also buried at the same cemetery.
May he Rest in Peace, and sincerest condolences to the entire Yar’Adua family for their loss.
More photos of the funeral procession can be viewed at:
On the back of his recent trip to the U.S., acting President Goodluck Jonathan was interviewed by Christine Amanpour of CNN. Interview Highlights:
1) He has not seen Yar’Adua, nor have the government ministers.
2) He has no idea about Yar’Adua’s state of health.
3) He does not know whether Yar’Adua will ever return and resume his duties.
4) His most pressing concern at the moment is electricity supply, and he has promised to hold a free and fair election next year where voters choice will actually count.
5) He refused to be drawn on whether INEC Chairman Maurice Iwu would be sacked.
6) He declined to confirm whether or not he will contest next year’s election.
7) He was also asked about General Ibrahim Babangida’s intention to contest next year’s presidential election.
The full transcript of the interview is below:
Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on this program.
Thank you for finding time to discuss with me.
Can I ask you first what an extraordinary name. How did “Goodluck” come to be your name?
I don’t know. I have to ask my father.
Have you had good luck? And do you think you’ll need more than good luck to face down the incredible array of challenges that’s on your plate?
Well, the issue of good luck, I don’t really believe that the good luck an issue. But at the present, I’ve been facing a lot of challenges. What some people will attribute to good luck could have been disastrous under some circumstances.
Well, let me ask you this. You are now acting president, because the president, Mr. Yar’Adua, is unwell.
Have you seen him since he has come back from his medical absence in Saudi Arabia?
No, I have not seen him.
The thinking of the family is that they should isolate him from most of the key actors in government. I have not seen him. The Senate president has not seen him …and at every single government function, I have not seen him.
Doesn’t that cause anxiety amongst the people?
Yes, it does. It does. Obviously, it does, but we cannot influence his family’s thinking.
Would you prefer that the family allowed you to visit him?
Yes, of course. But I will not want to force.
What is his actual state of health? This also is a mystery.
I can’t say exactly. Only the medical doctors can.
Have they told you?
No, they haven’t.
Have they made any public statements?
Not quite. Not now. At the beginning, yes, but (Someone’s name – unclear) left for Saudi Arabia, I think in the second week or so, within the first week, we are told that acute pericarditis. After that, no other statement has been issued.
So if he can receive religious leaders, why can he not receive at least the acting president who’s acting in his name?
Well, religious leaders are there for (inaudible) blessings. Probably that is why they asked the religious leaders to go and pray for him. We are a very, very religious society.
Do you believe that those around him are trying to undermine you or your new cabinet?
I wouldn’t say they are trying to undermine me, because the laws of the land are very clear. And, of course, that is why in the first place constitution is designed for two people to be in charge of government at every time, one superior and one inferior.
Do you think he will ever come back to government?
I can’t say that. It’s difficult for any of us as mortals to say so.
So you are now acting president, and you have essentially a year, because elections will be held this time 2011.
What is your most pressing issue?
The most pressing issue for Nigerian now, in terms of basic infrastructure, is power.
You mean electricity?
Electricity. Outside that, what is central to the minds of Nigerians now is an election that their votes will count, free and fair elections because we’ve been accused of as a country that our elections somehow are questioned. And I promise Nigerians that they will surely get that and I’ve done some experiments.
The next thing that Nigerians worry about is issues of corruption. You know we’ve been accused of as people who are in a privileged position in government amassing wealth at the expense of society. So they expect us to take these two issues seriously.
So what can you do to take those issues seriously?
Obviously, the issue of good governance, of free elections, free of corruption is central, and you heard the United States has also said just now that you must remove the head of the election commission, Maurice Iwu. Will you do that?
You see, the issue of the – the electoral body – in fact, I even told the audience I addressed this morning, the issue is whether the present electoral body can conduct free and fair election or not. And I told them that, yes, they can, because I have done it with the same people.
On issue of the people at INEC, I told them that, look, between now and ending of June, most of the officials at the national level – they’re called commissioners – their tenure will end, and we’re going to review them on individual merit.
Within this period that I have been acting president, I have conducted three elections. They are conducted by INEC and it was free and fair. Only on Saturday, we conducted local council elections in the federal capital territory and all the information is that, apart from one or two that had some few discrepancies, they have been very peaceful, very credible… So that is the issue. So the issue is beyond one person.
But let me just ask you…
I’m not defending the chairman.
Do you think he will stay or will he be removed?
All of them we’ll review. And any one of them that we feel is not competent definitely…
Do you feel that Mr. Iwu is competent?
(Laughs) No, no, no, no. I know that this question continues to come up.
What I’ve said is… the issue is beyond Mr. Iwu.
I know. But I’m specifically talking about him, because it’s come up in your meetings with U.S. officials.
Yes, I agree that within the period that is (inaudible) there are quite a number of controversies. I agree. There are quite a number of concerns. There are quite a number of controversies. So I know what I’m telling you; that this very Iwu, I’m not trying to argue for him. The Iwu we are talking about has conducted free elections these past three elections that I’ve made reference to that are credible.
So the issue is beyond Iwu because we must set up an electoral system and our regulations and laws that will make sure that anybody who is appointed to that office should be able to conduct acceptable elections. And that is my focus.
OK. Will you run in 2011? Will you present yourself as a presidential candidate?
For now, I don’t want to think about it, because the circumstances that – the circumstances of the day are quite worrisome.
I came in as the vice president to run with President Yar’Adua, of course, getting close to period of election, he took ill. And I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. Only last week, I reconsidered the cabinet. So let us see how Nigeria will move forward first. I had a similar experience when I was governor of my state.
I said, nobody should ask me whether I will contest election or not. I must first of all see whether the state is moving. If the country is not moving, what what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest?
The full interview will air on ‘Amanpour’ at 2000 BST on Wednesday 14th April
President Umaru Yar’Adua has returned to Nigeria after 3 months away receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Apparently Yar’Adua flew back into Nigeria on Tuesday (February 23) night on board a presidential jet, while members of a government delegation that travelled to Saudi Arabia to see him, flew back to Nigeria in a separate plane, after not being allowed to see Yar’Adua.
Reuters quoted a Saudi official at Jeddah airport as saying “”The president left at 10:22 p.m. (1922 GMT) alone in a plane and another plane carried Nigerian government envoys,” the official at Jeddah airport told Reuters. Al Jazeera has confirmed that Yar’Adua is back in Nigeria, in the capital Abuja. Reuters reported that two presidential planes landed in the presidential wing of Nigeria’s international airport in Abuja.
Return Borne Out of Fear
The timing is very telling. The political mood in Nigeria has been moving toward having Yar’Adua PERMANENTLY declared incapacitated, and the “acting” President Good luck Jonathan has been treated with some hope and optimism with many assuming that Yar’Adua was not coming back, and urging Jonathan to carry out reforms.
Things were not looking good for Yar’Adua: his cabinet ally Michael Aondoakaa was removed as Attorney-General and Justice Minister the same day that Jonathan became acting President. Then the cabinet were become increasingly insistent in demanding to know the state of Yar’Adua’s health. They went to so far as to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia with a mandate to physically see the President to ascertain his condition. Yar’Adua’s return must be viewed in this context. He and his allies are feeling the heat, and are trying to pre-empt any moves that could permanently sideline Yar’Adua from power.
However now that Yar’Adua is back, what next? Is he healthy enough to resume as President? Will Jonathan stand aside for him? Things are heating up….
Jonathan’s confirmation as VP will hopefully put an end to the controversy (at least temporarily), and will give the leadership some semblance of order and due process. While we have arrived at a PRACTICAL solution, I am not sure that the manner and circumstances in which Jonathan was appointed acting VP was LEGAL.
There are numerous mechanisms for appointing the VP to acting President including:
a) Impeachment of the President
b) TEMPORARY incapacitation of the President
c) PERMANENT incapacitation of the President
The National Assembly did not do any of the 3 things above. Yar’Adua was not impeached or declared incapacitated on a temporary or permanent basis.
The basis for Jonathan to TEMPORARILY act as the President arises ONLY IF Yar’Adua HIMSELF informs the President of the Senate (David Mark) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Dimeji Bankole) that he is leaving the country on vacation or is unable to perform the functions of his office. Yar’Adua did not do that as per section 145 of the constituton:
“145. Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
For Yar’Adua to be PERMANENTLY replaced, two overlapping actions are required. Firstly, two-thirds of the Federal Executive Council must pass a resolution declaring that Yar’Adua is unfit to discharge his functions; AND
The declaration then has to be verified by a medical panel of 5 doctors (including Yar’Adua’s own doctor), confirming that the President is PERMANENTLY incapable of discharging his functions.
I suspect that this is not the end of this saga, and that we will be hearing more about it from Yar’Adua supporters. Don’t be surprised if this ends up in court.