MINNEAPOLIS – A Nigerian-born Minnesotan scholar called on Nigeria’s newly elected President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to step down and call for fresh elections to save face and clear the mystery surrounding his nomination.
Addressing fellow compatriots in Minneapolis on a Saturday Oct. 6 celebration to mark the West African country’s 47th year of independence, Anthony Okubue, a professor of Environmental Science at St Cloud State University, asked Yar’Adua "to do the honorable thing" and resign from office to prepare for a fresh free and fair general elections for the benefit of all Nigerians and the African continent at large.
"I personally admire the Yar’Adua family,” Okubue said. “They are good people and have played a pivotal [role] in the country’s political history, but what I am simply saying is that why remain in office when you confess publicly that the elections were fraudulent?"
Yar’Adua of the ruling People’s Democratic Party won the presidency following the April elections, which were condemned by local and foreign observers, who alleged widespread vote rigging. Before assuming office Yar’Adua served as governor of the remote northern Katsina state since May 1999 and was little known in national politics.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo surprised many Nigerians when he chose Yar’Adua as his successor.
Yar’Adua comes from a prominent political family. His father was a minister in the first government after independence and his late elder brother was an army general who served as deputy to Obasanjo during his military rule in the 1970s.
Okubue emphasized the need for politicians to preach the gospel of unity among Nigerians. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has faced consistent ethnic and religious chaos that threaten to tear the country apart. In 2000, more than 1,000 people were reportedly killed in Kaduna Province in violence related to the introduction of Sharia laws in the state.
Okubue also decried the rising levels of corruption in the country, calling it an "incurable ailment." Commenting on the recent media highlights exposing growing number Americans falling prey to Nigerian conmen, the don said all the parties engaged in the fake dealings were greedy individuals who would stop at nothing to enrich themselves. While he said he sympathized with anyone who might have been duped in the scandal, Okubue equally blamed successive Nigerian Federal Governments for not doing enough to revamp the country’s economy to counter the surging levels of unemployment, which he said led to the rising numbers in crime. He was, however, quick to add that not all Nigerians were tricksters.
"In every society there are bad apples and Nigeria is surely no exception," Okubue said.
The Independence Day ceremony was organized by Minnesota Institute for Nigerian Development (MIND). It gave an opportunity for Nigerian nationals residing in the Twin Cities metro area to intermingle freely and chat with personnel from the New York-based consulate, who offered passport renewal and other services onsite.
The provisions contained in a document distributed to the audience unveiled plans by the Nigerian government to issue ID cards to its citizens living in the United States. The government claimed the objectives were to enable the consulate to come to the aid of its citizens in the event of natural or man-made emergencies, and to unite Nigerians and their businesses to enhance their unity and cooperation, rather than competition. The document also cited efforts to consider approving absentee voting using the New York office as a pilot centre, as one of the potential benefits of the ID card system.
But a spot check by Mshale revealed that many Nigerians were skeptical about plans by the embassy to conduct a headcount on them, saying that their businesses and associations were already registered in the United States.
Gladys Igbo, the vice president of MIND, termed the move unnecessary and wondered what its motive was.
"I have been living in the United States for many years legally and see no reason why I should carry around a Nigerian identification card now,” Igbo said. “It’s simply not important."
Okubue also expressed his reservations of the move, saying he didn’t quite understand its goal.
"Everybody knows I am a Nigerian and living legally in the United States,” He said. “So what’s the need of giving me a number? Am I a cow?”