I once argued in a column that the tragedy of Obasanjo’s presidency was not its incompetence. It would be easy to forgive a merely incompetent president. The tragedy lay in the man’s decision to lend himself, and the considerable prestige as well as resources of the presidency, to awful forces (the Uba brothers and Adedibu) and malignant policies (incessant fuel price hikes, a selective—and hypocritical—crusade against corruption, neglect of the nation’s terrible roads, commitment to the emasculation of the National Assembly, his unmonitored (mis)management of the oil sector and the NNPC, disdain for the judiciary, and an abject failure, after squandering hundreds of billions and making misleading promises, to improve the nation’s power supply).
Yar’Adua has so far avoided some of the snares and pitfalls of that preceding dispensation. Still, he is surrounded by many of the same forces who made Nigeria a hellish address. In fact, he is a product of those forces. As a man thrown up by an irredeemably errant process, he won’t ever be able to shake off the stamp of illegitimacy. That is why, for all his promising moves, one still hopes that the courts would do the right thing by ordering fresh polls. But as long as Yar’Adua occupies the office of president, it would pay him to remember that the right compass of action and deportment is the one that points away from Obasanjo’s tracks.
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