Sam Omatseye: The ‘ghost of Yar’Adua’ is sweeping the nation

by Sam Omatseye


He is not in the throes of the presidency today, but we see his ghosts in five states already, roiling and tormenting the governors. They include Kogi, Kaduna, Taraba, Enugu and Cross River. In each of these states, the troubles of the last days of Yar’Adua are alive and well.

Those who heaved a glorious sigh when former President Umar Yar’Adua passed on should rethink. Don’t gloat quietly. We have not slain his ghost forever. In the words of Poet Dylan Thomas, he has not gone “gentle into that good night.”

The past few months point to his “rage against the dying of the light.” His meek and gentle soul is squirming in his grave. He haunts us from the soft earth of Katsina where his body was swathed in cloth and domiciled forever.

His ghost – or ghosts – hovers over us with subliminal vigour. Unlike other personages, Yar’Adua translated at death into many ghosts. The ghost of succession, the ghost of the cabal, the ghost of the doctrine of necessity, the ghost of acting or not acting president, the ghost of ethnic divide and north-south infighting, the ghost as intriguer.

When he was sick, he was a Lazarus who died and came back to life. Like in the book of Genesis, when the serpent seduces Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, Yar’Adua “shall not surely die.” And the nation, ever facile to the theatre of the absurd, embraced it all, shivering with a sadistic thrill at all the actions, tensions, climaxes and anti-climaxes.

When he was buried and succumbed to the era of the shoeless maestro, we only had a short respite before he reminded us that our leaders are not always dead but they follow our scent. Hence, in all our histories, we even deified our dead, especially in Yorubaland. Enter Ogun. Enter Oya. Enter Sango. Exit mortality.

He is not in the throes of the presidency today, but we see his ghosts in five states already, roiling and tormenting the governors. They include Kogi, Kaduna, Taraba, Enugu and Cross River. In each of these states, the troubles of the last days of Yar’Adua are alive and well.

As I write, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State and Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River are abroad for medical reasons. Governor Patrick Yakowa died in an unfortunate air disaster, while Governor Idris Wada escaped death in a fatal accident that lapped up his ADC. He sustained leg injuries and may be confined to the wheelchair for about half a year. All of these instances evoke the constitutional fever that dramatise our lack of faith in the glory of the rule of law. They also expose our political class for not transcending the puerile antics and feline manoeuvres of the intriguer.

Last week, Governor Suntai’s media team wired us a picture of the governor with his wife and newly delivered twins. Since pictures don’t lie, the message was clear: all those (shall we say cabal?) who are hankering for his position on the pretext that he suffers brain damage and could not assume the post of governor again are baying for constitutional blood. The man is alive, they tell us, and capable of taking up the task when he resumes soon.

Is that Yar’Adua in the Suntai guise? Remember the story of the broadcast from Germany? Yar’Adua’s voice became the subject of acoustic analysts. Was it his voice? Was his voice faint, a feint, or ruddy, or technologically enhanced? Some are doing same to Suntai’s picture. At home, some politicians are already in the labyrinths of manoeuvres, trying to outdo each other in case the man is unable to return fully to this job.

In Enugu State, we have received a welter of news reports and rumours. A recent one has it that, just like in the late president’s time, Chime was expected to return to stave off impeachment woes before December 31 last year. Many people waited in vain. There were also reports of his death, which were denied. Both sides fuel such reports: those who want to prop their man and those who would oust him.

Governor Wada announced, with a hint of patriotic vainglory, that he did not want any treatment abroad. But political players in the state say it was more out of survival. The man may see live ghosts around him already, like those of rival Echocho and legislators against whom he scored dubious victory over the leadership of the state house of assembly. He would rather limp at home or chafe in a wheelchair or snuggle in the humble succour of a local hospital than risk the omen of plotters plodding their way to his throne while he recovers in a foreign land. Yar’Adua was not well when he stole back into the country even if he could not resume his office.

Imoke’s story, like Wada’s, is still in sedate waters apparently, and his votaries are calming nerves in public. Like the early days of Yar’Adua, subversive tongues are either not wagging or are muted by mischief-makers jockeying for his power.

The most potent is the Yakowa story. Here the man dies but the state suddenly reminds us of the primordial temper bisecting Kaduna State: Christian versus Muslim, Hausa-Fulani versus others, northern Kaduna versus south.

That was the tension that whirled up the Yar’Adua story as the so-called cabal wanted to avert a Jonathan presidency because of his southern roots and Christian beliefs. In Yar’Adua’s case, he died and a southerner came to power. In Kaduna, the northern, Muslim and Hausa-Fulani man took over. Just as Jonathan felt slighted as the number two man, Yakowa’s successor confessed openly to the contempt with which some members of Yakowa’s cabinet fiddled with him in his days as second fiddle.

Who says we cannot see the ghosts of the late president at work? In all, we see that the political class is impatient with the law, and would want to force things. Power is a great aphrodisiac, and those with a will would grasp and beaver away to get it.

We should shun the sense of ill grace on both sides: those in power who would not leave and those outside grasping desperately to outplay incumbents.

The law is clear, but those who are sick love to squeeze the last out of their health until nature’s ultimate triumph either in their favour when they survive or against them when they are permanently incapacitated or die.

So when we thought that Yar’Adua had gone, we are reminded of what Mark Twain wrote: “Stories of my death are greatly exaggerated.” We also remember the great Azikiwe, when he was rumoured to have passed on. Ever a man of theatre, the Owelle of Onitsha quipped, “I am not in a hurry to leave this planet.”

When we invoke past leaders’ ghosts, it is often for ugly things. A decade ago, Adam Hoschfield wrote a book titled, King Leopold’s Ghost about the Congo in the colonial era. King Leopold, whom a historian described as a “big-minded man in an insignificant kingdom,” turned the Congo into a vast slave land of miners to enrich Belgium. His ghost is invoked today because the mines inflict wars, hunger and other tragedies of the place today.

It is not to our credit that this is how Yar’Adua comes to memory, over our contempt for simple laws. But Yar’Adua fights back to jolt us to respect law and show decency, virtues of which he was a victim both from the machinations of those who fought for him and against him.

But Yar’Adua will not go until we rise above such malicious folly. United States President George Washington in his last days told his physician, “Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.” Yar’Adua is like Duncan’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, when the usurper Banquo exclaims to the ghost: “Avaunt and quit my sight. Let the earth hide thee, thy bone is marrowless and thy blood is cold.”

We need a political sacrifice to Yar’Adua, and that is a rise from our puerile politics to the dignity of law and order. When Socrates was dying, he said, “I owe a cock to Asclepius, do not forget to pay.”

The sacrifice we owe is a fidelity to the constitution. Then Yar’Adua can have an eternal rest.

As comedian Bill Cosby noted, the past is a ghost and the future is a dream. When Yar’Adua rests, we can follow our dream. Which means the ghost is not Yar’Adua but us. When we do right, the ghost goes; when wrong, it appears.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. can his death redeem nigeria?if his ghost can redeem this country ,we will all pray to support is ghost.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail