Yar'Adua: A tourist attraction?

Monday, April 12, 2010

By Reuben Abati

"I have this very brilliant idea." "Don't bother. Keep it to yourself." "Hear me out. Don't be anti-intellectual." "I say keep it to yourself. You think I don't know you? I can imagine what is going on in that skull of yours. I know you well enough to know that you can only come up with stupid ideas and embarrassing mischief"

"This one is in the national interest and it has to do with President Umaru Yar'Adua. I have been thinking about all these visits by the clerics and the inability of the men of God to tell a simple, straightforward story based on the evidence of their eyes."

"It is shameful. You know if any of those guys was my pastor or imam, I will be reluctant to go for worship this week, in protest."

"No. Don't generalize. Archbishop Onaiyekan has not said anything out of place. Bishop Oyedepo has refused to be drawn into the politics of the matter. Sheik Isa Pantami has also kept a dignified silence."

"But the parrots among them have been contradicting each other. If these are truly men of the cloth, then it is shameful. Religious leadership should be about responsibility and that includes the ability to say the truth."

"I know. It is embarrassing. One religious leader says they saw Yar'Adua sitting on a sofa. Another one saw him lying down. Yet another one says he shook hands with them, which someone else denied. And someone else says they sat together with him at the dining table. These are supposed to be adults, and men of the cloth? I think dragging religion into the Yar'Adua matter is the limit of absurdity."

"I wonder what the pastors and the Sheiks will say when their congregants face them and ask the inevitable question: did you actually see him?"

"One pastor said he thought he heard the man saying Amen although he wasn't quite sure because his eyes were closed."

"One of these pastors who are not sure whether Jesus Christ forgave the thief to the right or the one to the left. I know that type."

"But one of the Sheiks says if anybody attempts to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution and talk about declaring Yar'Adua incapacitated, there will be fire in Nigeria."

"I am surprised that the fellow is still walking free. In a serious country, that fellow will be in detention. He will be busy telling the security agencies where he saw the fire coming from, who prepared it, and what he really intends to do with it."

"My friend, don't go that way. The man is a religious leader."

"That does not give him the right to threaten fire and brimstone, juts because some people

have been talking about Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution. In fact if you ask me, I will insist that the Constitution should be invoked by the Yar'Adua cabinet to put an end to this blackmail, this charade."

"No. Not yet.


"Can't you see a great a potential here, a revenue generating opportunity? Big business? A business idea. Entrepreneurship."

"I don't get your drift."

"I have been thinking about it. We can turn President Yar'Adua into a tourist attraction. Yes. This sudden interest in Yar'Adua sighting can be used to jump-start the national tourism industry. That way he can pay back some of the money that the country has spent on his illness."

"Sounds hare-brained to me."

"It is like this. In this country today, the biggest deal is seeing Yar'Adua. Yar'Adua sighting can therefore become a big revenue generating programme for Nigeria. Instead of all these clerics who are contradicting themselves going to the Presidential Villa and telling strange stories, we can throw the doors open. Imagine the great scramble! The queue will stretch all the way out of Abuja. Why haven't they thought of fit? The problem is that these people are not patriots."

"You want to turn the President of Nigeria into a comic spectacle?"

"Look at the revenue generating potential. It will be a brilliant way of diversifying the Nigerian economy. Just imagine the number of people who will take part in the programme and feel compelled to write a bestseller. It is a win-win proposal."

"You can't be serious."

"I am."

"I know you are joking."

"You think so? Have I told you that kind of joke before now?"

"You know what I want?"

"What do you want?"

"I want the traditional people, Soyinka's orisa people to also go on this Yar'Adua sighting expedition. I believe they will tell us nothing but the truth."

"What is the difference? We are saying the same thing. I am just saying let people pay for it. And who told you traditional religionists will tell the truth. Even Orunmila may be tempted to bend the truth like a Beckham shot if the pay is right."

"Not if they send Sango people, Ayelala, Egbesu and mammy water. Get Professor Soyinka, Professor Wande Abimbola, Sat Guru Maharaji, and all the leaders of the spiritual groups: Eckankar, House of Truth, Freemason, ROF, AMORC, Society of Friends, Ancient Order of Foresters and so on and so forth to make the selection. And when they get there, they should get Turai to swear to an oath of truth."

"Ha- lla- lu -yeah"

"Are you alright?"

"Ha lla-lu- ya ah dua. Oh Jehovah. Sha baba ra baba ba ba"

"Hello o"

"I see a vision"

"You don shack?"

"No. It just occurred to me that the Yar'Adua people are leaving out something important. They are inviting clerics and all kinds of people, but they have not yet invited the right kind of people."


"Why haven't they invited Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and Pastor Temitope Joshua?"

"Oh. Is this about your favourite Pastors? For your information, these people were actually not interested in Pastors. The Christian clerics were invited as an afterthought after the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) threatened to make an issue out of the politicization of President Yar'Adua's ill-health and faith".

"That wouldn't have been necessary if they had invited Oyakhilome or Joshua. By now, the President would have been up and about. These are Pastors who have the anointing to make the lame walk, to make the blind see, to give strength to the infirm. Was it not a Pastor who said he saw the president lying down? Why didn't he lay his hands upon him and proclaim: Be well in Jesus name, I command you to rise in Jesus name as our Lord rose on Resurrection Day."

"You really think this thing is a joke."

"On the contrary, I consider it a serious matter. Take a man like Pastor Temitope Joshua, people travel all the way from Zambia, Gabon and Ghana to ask for his healing powers. We are not talking about ordinary people, but Presidents and former Presidents. One of them even camped out at the Synagogue and proclaimed that Pastor Joshua is his saviour. Charity should begin at home. We should value what we have. Pastor Joshua and all the pastors who claim to have special anointing must feel challenged to give Nigeria a practical demonstration of their healing powers. But if they are not invited, will they send the healing grace by SMS?"

"The ways of God are not the ways of men."

"Don't tell me that. You are making me lose faith."

"If you lose faith, many more will believe."

"So, that is what President Yar'Adua's illness has become? A matter of faith and belief?"

"You use what you have to get what your want. Macchiavelli."

"Where is Nigeria in all of this? Isn't this supposed to be a secular country? When it suits the ruling elite they throw up religion to serve their own selfish purposes. They really don't care about Nigeria, do they?"

"Nigeria is there? Are we not all Nigerians? Hasn't Jonathan made Mrs Allison-Madueke Minister of Petroleum? Anything is possible."

"If I were in Jonathan's shoes, I will invoke Section 144 of the Constitution and have Yar'Adua impeached."

"He doesn't need to do that. Did you not listen to his speech when he was inaugurating the new Cabinet? Very nice speech. Strong and well put."

"I am tired of nice speeches. Go and read Yar'Adua's inauguration speech too. It was also nice and well put."

"There is a difference. Take that speech apart. You'd see that was Jonathan telling the Yar'Adua group that Nigeria has moved on. Moved on, and he is in charge."

"We can't move on until we resolve the Yar'Adua matter."

"I don't think Jonathan wants to resolve anything. Did you not notice that he referred to the President only once and not by name? He looks like he really doesn't mind if the Yar'Adua people invite all the clerics and busy bodies in Nigeria to the Yar'Adua sighting carnival. It really doesn't change anything. Don't forget that the Americans are all over him. He is going to the United States and there are talks that he may have a one on one with President Obama. Johnny Carson, the US Assistant Secretary of State has been referring to Nigeria now and again as if Mungo Park has just discovered River Niger. Yayale Ahmed the Secretary to the Government of the federation just met with Mrs Hillary Clinton. Well, Nigeria is moving on"

"You mean your Ijaw brother wan go White House? Now, now? "

"What kind of talk is that? Is there any American law saying an Ijaw man cannot come to the White House?"

"Niger Delta meets Obama."

"Stop that nonsense."

"But I hope your man won't go there and tell Obama, this is the best thing that ever happened to me."

"We are smarter than that. Have you not heard about our code of conduct for Ministers and is anyone still in doubt that we are in charge?"


"Yes, we-we".

"And who are we?"

"Stay there. This is our turn to let all you hijackers of the Nigerian state know that a minority man can also control Nigeria's security vote and inspect the Presidential Guard of Honour and drink tea in America"

"Are we still having a conversation here?"

"Yes. What do you mean Ijaw man wan go White House? What kind of talk is that? The problem with you people is that you think you have a divine right to rule, and that is why President Yar'Adua and his aides will line up all the religious clerics to remind Nigerians of his divine right."

"Okay. I am sorry. You know I am not one for divine rights. I was joking. You know I am a constitutionalist and a federalist. We are in this mess, because people won't just do the right thing."

"Yes. You people won't do the right thing. That is why all the highways have been taken over by bandits and a fine man like Abubakar Rimi will be attacked by robbers. He gets taken to a hospital, a teaching hospital, a so-called centre of excellence, and there are no wheelchairs and no care givers to attend to him. And the man died, just like that."

"Just like that. Yeah, his death should serve as a lesson to the elite and even plebeians. In the long run, we are all in this together and who knows whose turn it will be to pay the price for our collective omissions."

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