The news of the death of Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua didn't come as much of a shock. He had been thought dead for some time, since disappearing in November - without informing the nation - to go for hospital treatment in Saudi Arabia. For many, the news of Yar'Adua's death was simply a confirmation of what they'd already thought had happened a few months ago.
Although Yar'Adua returned to Nigeria in February under mounting domestic and international pressure, he was still absent from duty, leaving Vice President Jonathan Goodluck to run the country and leaving the nation still unsure as to what exactly had happened to their president. Until yesterday's news, he had not been seen in public - even by the Vice President - for the last 6 months.
There's no doubt that Yar'Adua's death at the age of 58 is sad; he leaves behind his wife and nine children. Condolences and consolations have been coming in from leaders and people around the world in response to the news.
Unfortunately, however, we cannot ignore the questions about leadership - or the lack thereof - in Nigeria that became evident as a result of Yar'Adua's absence.
President Barack Obama said that Yar'Adua had been committed to "creating lasting peace and prosperity within Nigeria's own borders, and continuing that work will be an important part of honoring his legacy." While there is no doubt that Yar'Adua did some good work, such as giving amnesty to militants in the Delta region, exactly how much peace and prosperity was created in the time he took his 6-month leave of absence is debatable.
The truth is that there was absolutely no excuse for the president, and those who knew he was sick, to disappear from the country and leave 150-million people, who looked to him for direction and guidance, in turmoil.
That alone served to undermine any words about his apparent desire to transform Nigeria. That business-as-usual approach, after his absence, was not evidence of transformation, it was evidence of politicians putting their own interests way ahead of what's best for the country. And Yar'Adua was not the only one doing so.
Nigerians have had more than enough of leaders putting their interests first already from the years of military rule. Nigeria's fledgling democracy - only implemented in 1999 - cannot continue to be undermined by such behavior in the future. The audacity of it still leaves me incredulous. As I have written before, imagine if President Obama disappeared from America for 6 months with no word?
Yar'Adua was suffering from ill health before he was even elected, and now we are told that he had an acute disease. It would have been wise, and a true show of leadership, for him to have stepped down as president a long time ago. The fact he didn't raises all sorts of questions. Why would someone in such ill health take on the job of president, with the knowledge that they may not last the term? And why not, as soon as he knew how sick he was, tell everyone and let someone else more qualified and in better health take his position?
One can only hope that lessons are learned from this. The type of "leadership" that is more about the leader than the people must start to become unacceptable. Nigerians must demand better. The country and her people are seriously in need of leaders who are genuinely committed to the country's future.
It is time for Nigerians to have excellent leaders rather than having to make do with mediocre ones. Being better than terrible does not make someone good.
With the elections coming up - that is, provided Nigerians are given the opportunity to enjoy the democratic process - there is the opportunity for new leaders to emerge.
Nuhu Ribadu is one strong contender, should he run in the forthcoming elections. He is former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that prosecuted a number of high-profile Nigerians for corruption - one of the most destructive aspects of Nigerian society - and went in to self-exile after his life was threatened because he charged some of Yar'Adua's friends with corruption.
In the meantime, I wish much good luck to Goodluck Jonathan, who has now been sworn in as president.
Nigeria has entered a seven-day period of mourning for Yar'Adua. May that also include laying to rest the old ways of leadership that negatively impact Nigerian society.