Friday, March 6, 2009

         Please hurry up
Oct 23rd 2008 | LAGOS
From The Economist print

People are worried about
Umaru Yar'Adua's slow pace
of government

ReutersAS GOVERNOR of a
sparsely populated state in
northern Nigeria, President
Umaru Yar'Adua was known
fondly as "the silent
achiever". But a year-and-a-
half into his first term as
his country's president,
more and more people are
muttering that his unhurried
style is failing to move the
machinery of Africa's
biggest and most boisterous
nation. Nowadays he has a
new nickname, taken from
Nigeria's notorious traffic
jams: "Baba Go-Slow".

Many Nigerians are
complaining that their soft-
spoken president has failed
to fulfil his inaugural
promises, for instance to
improve the energy sector
and to end violence in the
oil-rich Delta region, which
is losing the country
billions of dollars of oil
revenue. And worries about
his own health are creating
a mood of uncertainty.

"Initially I thought he was
being deliberate—he likes to
think before he acts," says
a frustrated former
government minister who lost
out when Mr Yar'Adua came to
office. "But now I think
he's just out of his depth.
He's overwhelmed. Nothing is
going to be achieved."

Under Mr Yar'Adua, the
Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission
(EFCC), an
anti-corruption body, has
lost its bite. Civil strife
in the Delta has worsened.
Nationwide electricity cuts
are as frequent as ever.
Worries about his kidney
ailment have exacerbated
things; northern power-
brokers seem more concerned
to retain power in the event
of the president's demise
than to get Nigeria back on
its feet.

Before he was unexpectedly
chosen to succeed Olusegun
, Mr Yar'Adua, a
former chemistry teacher,
was a little-known governor
of the remote northern state
of Katsina. There he earned
a name for quiet efficiency,
spending eight years
deliberating and consulting
as he steadily invested in
development. On the sleepy
sun-baked streets of
Katsina, his reputation
remains high. "He seeks many
viewpoints before making a
decision," says Mustapha
Inuwa, who held several
senior posts in Katsina
under Mr Yar'Adua. "That's
why it may take him a little
time before he takes a
position on an issue. But
when he does take his stand,
you find he rarely makes a

So far, as president, there
have been no big decisions,
so no big mistakes. He
rarely pontificates in the
media. But he did make a
slew of promises at his
inauguration in May last
year. Top of his list was
restoring peace in the Delta
and revamping Nigeria's
dreadful electricity system.
Now he is even further away
from doing so than when he
took office. Attacks by
militants in the Delta have
reduced oil output so
sharply that Angola is
threatening to knock Nigeria
off its spot as the
continent's biggest
producer. Businessmen and
potential investors were
particularly upset when the
EFCC's head, Nuhu Ribadu,
who had won international
praise for tackling
government corruption, was
sacked and then banished to
a remote corner of Nigeria
for "retraining".

But Mr Yar'Adua's admirers
say his deliberative style
is right for a country with
a feeble infrastructure and
an array of problems that
cannot be solved simply by
having oil cash thrown at
them. Few think he is
personally corrupt—a rare
compliment for a Nigerian
leader. Some think he should
take credit for a relative
absence of religious and
ethnic strife since he took
over a country of 140m
people speaking some 250
languages. In the first
years of Mr Obasanjo's
presidency, tens of
thousands of people were
killed in civil strife.

But Mr Yar'Adua's ill health
is a growing worry. He
recently spent more than two
weeks in Saudi Arabia,
officially on a pilgrimage,
but also reportedly for
kidney treatment. When a
Nigerian news station
reported that he might step
down on health grounds, the
government yanked the
broadcaster temporarily off
the air, only magnifying the
topic's sensitivity.

No comments: