The chummy relationship between Nigeria’s President, Umar Musa Yar’Adua and businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote may have hit the rocks, a source has said.

The source confided that though the President appreciates the support Dangote provided him while running for the office of the nation’s presidency but differences in matters relating to economic empowerment of Nigerians may have turned the president against the businessman profiled by American based Forbes Magazine to be the richest man in Nigeria in 2007.

“You know the president is a socialist by orientation, and I can tell you that despite the complains of some people that the president is not moving at a fast pace to provide the dividends of democracy to Nigerians, the president, in fact, has been doing battle with some of his friends in industry and business circle to make the provision of basic needs of existence affordable for Nigerians.” The source revealed.

“I think it is on this point that the president and Dangote departed. The President wants Dangote to use his influence to do things that will impact the lives of Nigerians but I think Dangote’s business considerations did not conform to the president’s vision.”

Other sources in the political circuit confided that as a result of this fall out with the president, Dangote might have moved camp to the side of former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

“It’s like taking a strategic position for 2011 which for politicians is around the corner. Since Dangote lost favour with the President he has moved his support to Atiku, the thinking in political circle is that Atiku is going to run again in 2011 and since for top level business people influential links and connection to government is an important factor in their business survival, Dangote may have opted to back Atiku for 2011, at least, to be able to find his way back into the corridor of power.”

All efforts made to speak with Dangote’s spoke person were not successful.

Promoting smoking habit?

What do we do with a drag of smoke? Perhaps, Nigeria’s President, Umar Musa Yar’Adua is convinced we need a smoke filled lung to clear our heads. I read in the papers the past week a new Nigerian Federal Government directive reducing duties payable on cigarettes imported into the country by 20 percent while retaining the 40 percent band on other imported goods the country frowns at.

With the universal outcry against smoking and processed tobacco, one would expect a retraction of the story hours after it was made public but till now, I am yet to get a retracted update. While I am not a dye-in-the wool anti tobacco crusader, I still strongly holds that the persuasive arguments of the unhealthy consequences of cigarette smoking should be enough to make any government castigate any effort that could tempt the use of cigarette by any member of the Nigerian populace. Certainly, a reduced price for a unit of cigarette is a tempting option.

Perhaps, the Nigerian government is calibrating a new path to ascendancy of the powerful and wealthy British American Tobacco Company that had established a strong outpost in the country, no one near government that I discussed with would affirm that. Or perhaps still, it is an imposition of the President habit on the nation. As improbable as this may sound, my private crosschecks seem to confirm that this may be the case. I understand from reliable sources that the President used to delight in cigarette smoking, nobody would dare confirm that he still does, of course for fears of federal reprimand. But there seem to be a connect, an ex (?) smoking president and a 50 per cent reduction in duties charged on cigarettes. Is somebody tallying the connect out there?  

I do not think it is appropriate to officially emblemize Nigeria as a nation of nicotine addict. The cost to us in the near future would be unbearable; we have enough of troubles than to contend with hefty health consequences of a habit that is dying out around the world, even as smokers in Nigeria are fervently in discourse with their makers to save them from the addiction.