Nigerian religious leaders, politicians and educators will lead a mass rally today in the capital Abuja to demand the government put an end to the political uncertainty surrounding its ailing president.
The 58-year-old leader maintains executive powers even though he has not spoken or been heard from publicly since leaving Nigeria seven weeks ago to receive treatment for a heart condition in hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Yar’Adua’s refusal to transfer powers over to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has prompted a lawsuit from the Nigerian Bar Association, slowed government business, and threatens to renew violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
“We will lead a march to the National Assembly (parliament) to persuade them to either pass a resolution requiring the vice president or Yar’Adua’s personal physician brief Nigerians on his health, or apply sanctions for a breach of the constitution,” said Osita Okechukwu.
He is secretary general of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, a group of opposition parties to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Parliament returns from recess today and is expected to address the issue of Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence.
Femi Gbajabiamila, leader of the opposition Action Congress in the lower house of parliament, said Yar’Adua must transfer powers to his deputy or face impeachment charges.
But with the president’s PDP party controlling a majority in parliament, any such motion is unlikely to pass.
Yar’Adua’s spokesperson said yesterday the president was “very much conscious” and his health was improving.
Assurances not enough
But Nigeria’s 140 million residents are becoming more sceptical and say government assurances were no longer enough.
“I’m still doubting whether (Yar’Adua) is still alive,” Great Igo, a 27-year-old evangelist from Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, said.
“Let them go there and picture him to confirm that he is still alive. They should film him and show us the video,” he added.
Yar’Adua’s absence threatens to derail a widely popular amnesty programme that has brought relative peace to the Niger Delta after thousands of militants surrendered their weapons for clemency, a monthly stipend, education and job opportunities.
Former rebel commanders and local activists will decide today after a three-day meeting in Bayelsa’s capital Yenegoa whether to continue participating in the amnesty programme that has stalled since Yar’Adua’s departure.
“The absence of the president has very wide public policy implications for Nigeria in terms of development, in terms of justice, you name it. Our type of government revolves around the president,” said Ayodele Thompson, executive director of Lagos-based Initiative for Public Policy Analysis.