Health: Why is Yar’Adua Heavy Handed?

Published on 23rd September 2008

Yar'Adua has been President of Nigeria for over a year and that time has been characterized by playful nicknames like "Baba Go Slow", "YawnAdua", "Sof'ly, Sof'ly Yardy" and a host of other monikers that reflect a general suspicion. Many Nigerians question whether Yar'Adua's laid back, non-interfering style is appropriate to run Nigeria and its myriad of complexities. However, in light of Yar'Adua's recent reaction to Channels TV's mistaken broadcast that the President would step down, Nigerians must begin to do some deeper thinking about unintended consequences and the President they have.


Last week, Channels TV broadcast that Yar'Adua would be forced to step down due to his health. That information was supposedly received via email from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) which typically uses free generic email addresses (e.g., In reality, the email was a hoax, sent from a computer in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire. Nevertheless, Yar'Adua reacted by shutting down the station, arresting many employees and withdrawing the station's license to operate.


When one puts Yar'Adua's reaction into the puzzle of other pieces that have arisen in recent weeks, one could technically understand the response. Yar'Adua has been under significant pressure to prove that he is either alive or dead, and, that, if he is alive, he is capable of running the country. Certain political opportunists have also jumped on the confusion bandwagon created by the lack of information surrounding Yar'Adua's health.  Some individuals and groups have called for the President to step down. As such, it is conceivable that Yar'Adua feels the need to 'throw his weight' around and illustrate that he is very capable of handling state affairs.


Consequently, the question Nigerians must ask ourselves is: are we the reason why Yar'Adua infringed on the democratic rights of Channels TV? Did our constant discussion of our fears for the country and our concerns about how the President would run the nation 'force his hand' on this issue? We have compared Yar'Adua to so many other past dictators and Presidents. Fellow blogger Oz provides a description of past rulers that is an adept summary of the way Nigerians view past rulers. The complaints and criticisms seemingly made Yar'Adua overreact and now he has become the sort of President that all Nigerians do not need - a heavy handed individual that undermines the very democracy Nigerians so desperately seek.


However, I personally believe that no matter what Yar'Adua must defend democratic principles. In fact, the President has consistently promised to commit his administration to democracy, the rule of law and justice. Therefore, under no circumstance is it necessary to shut down the press simply for shoddy journalism. Granted, Channels TV failed its obligation to the people by broadcasting questionable information that indeed, could have proven a security risk. But, that is not a reason for the President to arrest journalists, station staff, shut down the station's offices and withdraw their license to operate. This reaction harkens back to Nigeria's military dictators who simply did what they wanted with no regards for human and civil rights.


Despite all this, it is wonderful that Channels TV's license was reinstated 48 hours after it was withdrawn. I hope that whatever investigation took place revealed that the broadcast, though incorrect, was not part of a plot to subvert the office of the President. Yar'Adua is the President of Nigeria and that cannot be an easy job. Hopefully, Yar'dua will not become a clone of former President Obasanjo who banned Eedris Abdulkareem's song "Jaga Jaga" which criticized his administration and the general state of Nigeria.


Regardless of the pressures of the job, it is better for Mr. President to retain his cool composure, than to take drastic measures that impede upon the very democratic values he is charged with defending.


Slomon Sydelle

Nigerian Curiosity







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