Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
How A Self-Succession Bid has Turned Nigeria into “Animal Farm”
Mobolaji Aluko, Ph.D.
April 3, 2002
It is “déjà vu” all over again!
If you have read the George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm”, then you will understand why I have chosen it to characterize the ongoing Ota Farm “Obasanjo Self-Succession” parade, which bears all the hallmarks of late
unlamented Abacha’s “self-succession” parades to Aso Rock of almost exactly four years to the day.
Under Abacha, we had the following twenty-five groups “earnestly asking” him to self-succeed:
Now, so far, for Obasanjo’s self-succession, we have “registered” the following seven groups so far:
and the following pilgrimages to Aso Rock and Ota Farm asking Obasanjo to “Run, OBJ, Run!”:
Thus in sheer numbers, Abacha is still ahead!
More seriously, I can almost swear that President Obasanjo, being in Abacha’s prison at the time, was not aware of all that went on under Abacha over his self-succession plans, otherwise how would he (Obasanjo) be
allowing this charade to go on in Ota Farm, thereby making the comparison with Abacha’s self-succession bid so glaring? Will nomination not be through the normal party mechanism – declaration, caucus meetings, nomination, intra-party contest, declaration of party flag bearer, general election
contest with opposing candidates, etc.?
So why the public spectacle, the charade? What the heck is this? What kind of civilian democracy is this?
If President Obasanjo does know how ridiculous all this public campaign for self-succession, then I fear for him: somebody better call President Obasanjo aside and tell him about the “body movements” of Abacha before June 8, 1998.
Please read the following archives on – and enjoy!
Shaking and scratching his head
At the Ongoing Aso Rock/Ota charade.
I just don’t feel fine.
Obasanjo’s self-succession drive
Re-Election Fever: Nigerians on the Tenterhooks
DESTINATION 2003: Obasanjo: A president and a second term
Vanguard 20th July, 2001
Obasanjo's Re-Election Campaigns
Newswatch (Lagos) January 21, 2002
One Million-Man March for Obasanjo
Daily Trust (Abuja) OPINION April 1, 2002
As Yoruba Leaders Converge on Ota...
April 2, 2002 ThisDay Online
2003: Obasanjo Begins 14-Day Fasting
Daily Trust (Abuja) April 2, 2002
Governors, leaders, ask Obasanjo to run in 2003
Guardian, Wednesday, April 3, 2002.
As PDP Leaders Storm Ota... 2003: 19 Govs Urge Obasanjo to Run
This Day April 3, 2002
Abacha’s Self-Succesion Drive June 1997 – April 1998
06/07/97 Abacha Versus Pro-Democracy Coalition
02/01/98 - Abacha's, Self Succession: Northern Ploy to Hold to Power
02/21/98 - The Hottest Business in Abuja
03/06/98 Elected Assemblymen Support Abacha's Self-succession Bid
03/07/98 That Great March in March
03/31/98 Abacha: Lar & Co Vs Northern Elders Forum
A gadfly with a dogged history of confrontation with the military governments in Nigeria was accosted by an unrepentant pro-democracy crusader who obviously had run out of ideas on how to thwart the much publicised Abacha self-succession bid. The former
starred into the vacant space in front of him ruminating for a while and said rhetorically: "Fighting Abacha is like boxing the air." The uncompromising radical who had built all his hopes on the gadfly's answer lowered his head in complete disbelief and walked away disappointed.
As he counted his steps while delicately meandering through the thicket of passers-by, he could not reconcile himself with the fact that the much respected don who had plotted all the schemes and strategies that eventually stampeded General Ibrahim Babangida out of office three years ago could not proffer any solution this time around.
Undeterred, however, the zealot who had vowed to lay down his life in order to scuttle the alleged galloping ambition of General Abacha and the fledgling pro-Abacha groups egging him on to succeed himself, resolved that a meeting to bring together all the democratic movements in the country needed to be convened forthwith. And Jos, the Tin City in
the Middle Belt, hosted the pro-democracy coalition meeting.
The pro-democracy coalition was then christened, United Action for Democracy (UAD). Its sole mission can be summed up in just one sentence: "To stop Abacha, and military rule."
The UAD paraded both Democracy (CD), the Democratic Alternative (DA), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Constitutional Rights Projects (CRP), Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Journalists for Democratic Rights(JODER) and the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP).
Others are Campaign for Independent Unionism (CIU), Human Rights Monitor Association for Democratic Citizens (ADC), Kano Democratic League, United Democratic Alliance, Abuja Coalition, Jos Democratic Movement, Rivers Coalition, Senior Staff Consultative Assembly of Nigeria (SESCAN), Kaduna Alliance for Democracy (KAD), United Workers Action
Group (UWAG), African Redemption Movement (ARM), People's Labour Movement and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, former president of Civil Liberties Organisation was the convener and coordinating chairman, while Messrs. Chima Ubani and Sylvester Odion-Akhaine served as the joint secretaries.
Defending the formation of UAD, Mr. Agbakoba said: "We feel that in this period where there are several issues which are not too clear, the only way we can make sense and relevance is to sit down and plan a carefully programmed action against whoever wishes to bark against democratic forces. You know the CLO can't do it alone, the CRP
can't. The only way to be successful is for all the contending forces to come together. That was the critical reason of coming together."
But this bloated sense of impending victory was to be short-lived as cracks emerged from the walls of the groups. No sooner the communique issued at the end of the inaugural meeting was made public than Femi Aborishade of Gani Fawehinmi-led National Conscience Party (NCP) and Oludare Ogunlana of NANS disassociated themselves from the umbrella
In a letter addressed to Olisa Agbakoba, the NCP explained that it "will have nothing to do with any united efforts that are not committed to the actualisation of June 12." It accused the UAD of not fighting for the actualisation of June 12, instead it demanded "immediate end to military rule and transfer of power to a
transitional government of national unity composed of elected representatives of mass democratic organisations in the country."
Mr. Ogunlana of NANS, on the other hand, argued that some of the pro-democracy groups purportedly committed to human rights had been found to be fraudulent. Said he: "We Nigerian students shall not be part of the groups that collect foreign exchange from some countries to destabilise the country." He added, "some elements
cannot be using Nigerian students for their selfish reasons." He, therefore, vowed that "the battle line has been drawn with the so-called fraudulent human rights organisations."
But Agbakoba debunked the allegations: "You see, the issue of June 12 and Chief Gani and every other person needs to be put in perspective. Social forces must shape events and the only starting point would be that Chief Abiola won the election. I don't think it's in dispute. But we've come a long way from June 12, 1993. It is now four
years and the fact is that June 12 is understood by many social forces in different contexts." He argued that nonetheless, the basis in which they came together was to achieve the same goal. "The one issue that brought us together now is that whatever happens, General Abacha must quietly leave office next year," he stressed.
Indeed, in direct response to the formation of the UAD by the 22 human rights and pro-democracy groups, 26 pro-Abacha organisations whose identities had been concealed surfaced under the coalition of "United Action for Nigeria" (UAN) to challenge UAD's stand on Abacha's self-succession bid.
While canvassing for tolerance, the UAN welcomed the UAD and enjoined it to see its formation as a positive development for the polity, saying the two should engage in open debates to determine "the true lovers of democracy and Nigeria." It further called on the media organisations to organise a national debate between pro-Abacha supporters and pro-democracy groups to ascertain the one favoured by Nigerians.
A consistent but placid military apologist, Dr. Godwin Daboh Adzuana, who also was at the forefront of the Babangida self-succession struggle chaired the meeting held in Lagos, while one Chief Nya Asuquo acted as the secretary of the grand alliance to actualise the alleged bid by the head of state
to succeed himself as a civilian president at the end of his transition programme.
Indeed, the self-succession campaigns to enthrone General Abacha as the next civilian president was ignited by a former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mohammed Bello, who had argued that there were no legal obstacles debarring Abacha from contesting the presidential election.
Bello had in an interview said: "I don't think (Abacha) will want to, but if he likes, he can contest. There is nothing wrong. The constitution says every Nigerian has the right to contest elections. He is a Nigerian and it will not be new in Africa because there are examples in Africa."
The former chief judge was not alone in this call. The Minister of Works and Housing, Major General Abadulkarim Adisa, anchored his invitation for Abacha to succeed himself on the ground that he would not be the first sit-tight leader in Africa. "It has been General Abacha's age-long dream to
liberate the citizens of the country without anyone being oppressed but he will also be a leader of vision," he boasted.
But, by far the most and perhaps what seemed to look like a well-planned, well co-ordinated and a programmed exercise, was the statement credited to the Chairman of Power Devolution Committee and that of the Northern Elders Committee, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene. He advised the five political parties to urge or woo General Abacha to contest the presidential election.
Chief David Attah, the chief press secretary to the head of state, also appealed to Nigerians to exert sufficient pressure on his boss to contest the presidential election. While the First Lady, Mrs. Mariam Abacha, saw nothing wrong with the call.
The head of state's interview with the Washington Times only succeeded in glossing the pro-Abacha campaigns spirited denial that he has not put his mind to the presidential race, but ended up mystifying the populace that the decision would be his and that
of his constituency.
Curiously, it has been the blowing of empty hot words from pro-democracy coalition just as its precursor, NADECO, had sought to raise hell if the military refused to back out within an already stipulated ultimatum that remains a mirage. Apart from this chest-beating ranting from the democracy coalition, a coordinated strategy to contain the
quest of pro-Abacha organisations to actualise the enthronement of Abacha had not been addressed. At best, it has been an on-the-spur of the moment reaction from the pro-democracy coalition, indeed a tactless and sporadic action that goes for strategies to counter the highly articulated and well-funded propaganda of the pro-Abacha groups that
appear to be paying off day by day.
Interestingly, the pro-democracy coalition have decided to drop issues that concern human rights in the new offensive, except where such violation specifically touches on maltreatment or harassment for politically motivated reasons. The coalition is working on the calculation that since that had confused than clarify the intent of the
struggle in the past, it would serve no purpose including it.
In the meantime, the government has in its characteristic silent posturing, adopted measured responses to check the renewed pressure exerted by the activities of pro-democracy forces. It has alternated between outright disdain as a schematic plot to undermine the collective efforts of these groups. Where this has not served its intended
purpose, harassment, arrests, threats, and monetary incentives are employed to either cow the groups or strangulate them out of existence. Floating of parallel groups within and outside the existing pro-democracy coalition appears to be an option which the government has now embraced — hence the factionalisations and dissentions in the UAD and its umbrella associations. Indeed, the National Mobilisation and Persuasion Committee (NMPC), National Movement for Peace and
Stability and Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha '98 (YEAA) continue to intensify the campaign.
Indeed, right from the onset, the Abacha government has had to contend with various opposition groups. The first salvo was fired by the embattled National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). It gave the military May 31, 1994 as deadline to quit the political scene and go back to the barracks. There and
then the presumed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election would be sworn in as president and head of the national government. The ultimatum, though regarded as empty threat, did not go down well with the government. It descended heavily on the opposition.
The first victim of the crackdown was Senator Ameh Ebute, erstwhile Senate president during the botched Third Republic. Ebute issued a press statement on behalf of his colleagues that the Senate which adjourned sine die since November 18, 1993, had reconvened. He was picked up immediately and
detained, while his colleagues were threatened with arrest and intimidation by the security operatives.
The Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, then issued two separate statements describing NADECO and other pro-democracy groups as illegal. He also had a strong warning for individuals. Said he: "Any person, whether a politician or a retired military officer or a pro-democracy crusader who thinks he is in a position to
install another government is advised in his own interest to tread with caution as security agencies are prepared to act decisively on such matters."
The face-off between Abacha's government and NADECO took a dramatic and protracted dimension with the latter employing a most vicious and subversive antics to undermine the government. The group that was dismissed ab initio as not being serious and playing to the gallery in the confrontational phase
of the struggle for power became a thorn in the flesh of the regime. The propaganda of the coalition was so penetratively effective that a counter propagandist machinery of the government was unleashed full blast to check the onslaught of the opposition.
In fact, five ministers, two of which had no portfolios were deployed to rubbish the efforts of the opposition with no remarkable success. Amused that NADECO was winning some grounds in the power game, the head of state had to personally address the nation on August 17, 1994, over the debilitating
effects of NADECO propagandist and subversive strategies. He observed that "in recent times, our country has been inundated by the sporadic rise of unregistered groups seeking to play the role of political associations. Such groups have wantonly and recklessly paraded themselves as advocates of democracy. They created the erroneous impression of commanding national spread whereas they are local, sectional, economically motivated and ethnic in their orientation." He
also said: "I must stress the unflinching commitment of this administration to an early return to civil democratic rule," adding: "there is no Nigerian today who does not desire democracy. Even in the military, there is a groundswell of opinion on the need to establish and uphold a culture of true democracy in our country." In other words, the Abacha regime is staking a counter-claim and commitment to democracy
which it believes to be possible only through its political agenda.
Abacha's warning came on the heels of an early massive counter-propaganda scheme devised in February, 1994 when it held its first cabinet reshuffle that saw the dropping of some vocal functionaries.
Strategically, NADECO at home constantly adjusted the focus of its fight with the government. From its original position of insisting on the "actualisation of the June 12 mandate, the group now calls for a "revisitation" of the matter with a view to resolving the problem through dialogue. Also, it now canvasses for a
"government of national unity" in which both Abiola and Abacha would play a part in bringing about a new and credible transition programme.
With every path of dialogue now apparently closed, NADECO came at naught with ideas on how to meander its way through the intractable political quagmire. Most of its members found solace in attending book launch, public seminars where the sentiments of the struggle were kept afresh. Exasperated that nothing concrete had come out of the
struggle while allegations of being involved in bomb blasts were levelled against the group, a sizeable number of the intellectual think-tank of the coalition fled abroad. They included Wole Soyinka who had on the onset disagreed with the modus operandi of the coalition to achieve its objective, Anthony Enahoro, Bolaji Akinyemi, Ralph Obiora, Tokunboh Afikuyomi, Bola Tinubu, John Oyegun, Gen. Alani Akinrinde (rtd) and Group Captain
Dan Sulaiman (rtd).
Chief Adekunle Ajasin, its former chairman and Senator Abraham Adesanya the new leader have uncompromisingly maintained the tempo of the struggle at home with the latter surviving gunshot attack which was laid at the doorstep of the government.
But despite of the remarkable success recorded by NADECO since it started its arm-twisting propagandist campaign to stampede the Abacha government out early 1994 its major weakness is the absence of a well structured central oraganisation. This made it
impossible for NADECO to speak with one voice, raise necessary funds and forge a common front for its members. It is due to the absence of a central organisation that statements purportedly emanating from members are uncoordinated and this hampered the plan of the coalition.
The government has exploited this lapse to their advantage. Every bomb blast and subversive act perpetrated in the country has been linked to the coalition and all critics of government policies have been hounded in prison. Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Otunba Olabiyi Durojaiye, Olu Falae are all guests of the government.
It is partly in response to these shortcomings of NADECO which also have been dogged by leadership and misappropriation of funds crises, lack of will to continue with the struggle, a blurred vision of executing its organic objective and the perceived fear that the government had succeeded in infiltrating the coalition camp that led to a
rethink on an alternative front and agenda to prosecute the protracted fight to actualise June 12, albeit with a slight departure from the belligerent and radical posture held by the group. Hence, the birth of UAD to continue with the struggle of actualising June 12 and enthronement of a civilian democratically-elected government as soon as feasible.
While the pro-democracy coalition and pro-Abacha groups slug it out on all fronts, the growing concern in the international community is that of fears that the refusal of the Nigerian government to enter into meaningful dialogue with the contending groups to resolve the political problem would only
aggravate the situation, politically and economically.
In this vein, the United Nations Fact-Finding team that visited the country recently to assess the human rights situation and examine the political transition programme, left the country with the verdict that the situation was far from being over.
This unconvincing efforts by the Abacha regime to genuinely pursue a transition programme that would usher in a democratically elected civilian president on October 1, 1998, has led to various forms of sanctions imposed on the country. The European Union (EU) has, during the week, extended
indefinitely the six months sanctions imposed on the country.
Equally, the hide and seek game played by Abacha's regime in refusing to allow the two UN rapporteurs, Mr. Bacre Nduaye and Mr. Para Cumaraswamy also contributed to the passing of the resolution condemning the country.
Sadly, the renewed pressure from the UN and the West and its accompanying sanctions had only moved the Abacha government through Alhaji Wada Nas to issue out a terse statement urging the "Abacha for President" campaigners to stop or be dealt
In fact, critics believe that Abacha is gradually yielding to the pressure of the persuaders by creating a situation which will justify an extension of the transition timetable which had been staggered to make room for this grand design thereby lending credence to the fears expressed by the
Communications Minister, Brig. Gen. David Mark (rtd) who alerted the nation few months after Abacha took over power that 1999 would be the terminal date for the regime. Perhaps time will tell.
THAT first week of June, Chief Francis Arthur Nzeribe, boss of the defunct Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), and founder of the unregistered National Democratic Party (NDP), stared at this reporter as the question was posed.
First, it was not clear whether the Oguta high chief understood the question or he was simply enraged. He just stared for sometime and then burst out. "You want to compare the ABN with all these street corner things that pretend that they want the Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, to succeed
himself. Never! These are non-starters and they are puerile," he thundered.
The matter seemed to have been rested at that then since the managers of the self-succession bid were not that raving in their drive.
They have, however, persisted and this is actually saying it mildly about one of the organisations called Youths Ernestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA), and the General Sani Abacha Movement for Unity and Stability (GESAM). The latter is not the same with the
General Sani Abacha Movement for Peaceful and Successful Transition Programme (GESAM '98) run by one Chief Yomi Tokoya.
These groups have had the pressure on and they have even beaten up a level of public apprehension of their agenda in the bid to get the military strongman to transform into a civilian president.
Actually, the Boss of YEAA, one youthful Mr. Daniel Kanu, son of the billionaire-owner of the Abuja Agura Hotel, Chief Maxwell Kanu, came with a certain method. This was the articulation of the many feats of the regime and the so-called danger of discontinuity. He even succeeded in getting some other citizens to accept that there was a basic
need for continuity and comprehension of the latter-day programme of the regime. This had led to a certain stampede among civil servants and other interested citizens in Abuja, who wanted to register with the organisation.
At another level, one of the high players in the self-succession court, ex-senator Tony Anyanwu, had aided him, arguing that a great measure of stability was needed and could be attained with the perpetuation of Abacha. On that note, he made a vehement
drive for Abacha to remain and transform as a civilian president.
About the same time that the old senator Anyanwu, pressed his point, a cold-gutted business tycoon from the south east geopolitical zone, Prince Arthur Eze, hit the road with his irregular scheme of churning veritable as well as make shift individuals and groups to press the continuity of Abacha.
First, he turned up with the high-flying young entrepreneurs grouped under the banner of Eastern Business Conference which went to Abuja to press some genuine points about the Igbo businessman's dilemma in the Nigerian economic policy. They made universally acclaimed cases for the Onitsha River Niger port, Oguta Estuary Port and an
international airport in the heart of the east, which is actually the heart of Nigerian commerce.
Massive ovation followed this move by Arthur and "more" was yelled across the south east where the people have known the worst humiliating marginalisation since the end of the civil war in 1990.
The applause for that drive was still high when the great Arthur re-surfaced in Abuja, with a band of traditional rulers who now pressed for Abacha's continuity without any condition since according to them, the gentleman general had acquited himself so well in getting Nigeria united and stable. They also argued that he qualified to rule to
provide all Nigeria desired in the precise presence of a stern general for greater effect and sustenance of the tradition built in his style of leadership.
Prior to all these, the GESAM '98, led by Tokoya had stormed the press pavilion of the Inosi Onira Retreat home of Nigeria's foremost democrat, and first president, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, during the final
burial, November 16, 1996, and dominated the horizon with a pro-Abacha poster which screamed what he called "patriotic slogans for Abachaism." These were projected as "the advanced form of Zikism and Awoism to move our great nation - Nigeria - forward."
The first item on the agenda was "a self-reliant ideology for a New Nigeria." Curiously, this was followed by "a self reliant ideology for building a genuine, a true, enduring, durable and lasting democracy in Nigeria." From there, it went on to cover matters in "discipline, stability, unity, international finance,
co-habitation, equality in motivation, demystification of feudalism, elitism and bourgeoism; sovereignty; patriotism; leadership" and more others - it ended with "a self-reliant ideology for using Nigeria's oil wealth through the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), to transform Nigeria into a modern state," which was item number 40 on the card-board, printed green-on-white.
Tokoya, had actually taken a step after growling at the press pavillion at Inosi Onira. He had published these into a book to mark the 53th birth-day of the first citizen.
Somehow, after these, certain front-line players in the five political parties hit the road with their suggestions of an Abacha perpetuation.
Initially, these politicians had put across their respective blue-prints to revamp the Nigerian state and most of the items ran counter to the current programmes of the Abacha regime. In a sudden twist, some of these leaders jumped and declared that they had implicit interest in the programme of the
regime and would pray for continuity. Dr. Olusola Saraki, leader of the Congress for National Consensus, (CNC), was the first to sound the warning. He declared that he would not contest the Presidency of the land if Abacha was running. He would defer to him. A great number of other political leaders followed. "Abacha is doing a great job, "they moan. "It will not be good to
interrupt him," they rationalised.
So many others have echoed them. Some army generals, including the very highest in governmental scale had followed and even threatened to bring down the roof of the Nigeria state if the "dumb" citizens did not hearken to them.
These have led to the birth of more of the self-succession groups. There is no doubt about the motives of the operatives. There is no guessing about the frame of these groups just as there is no contention about the backgroup of the agitators.
But, there appears to be a valid question about their method, their end-gain drive and the actual intentions of their hidden motivators and the implications of their actions of the political development of Nigeria for now and a bit beyond.
Basically, these groups, motley as they are and aided with state apparatus as they are, could not have been anything near what Nzeribe put together in his ABN of the failed Third Republic. The international businessman had arrived the scene with a novel idea about the elongation of the then very long regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
By method, the current organistions are started and headed by illiterates or semi-educated Nigerians.
This reporter who had the benefit of covering the ABN in 1993, was privileged to attend, in the last few weeks, a few functions put together by the current bodies and groups calling for the perpetuation of Abacha after October 1, 1998. It was a disastrous contract. Whereas the ABN paraded the
Nzeribes, Abayomis, Odetundes, Jerry Okolos, all university trained professionals, eloquent speakers, and organisers the current organistions roam the terrain with stark illiterates.
From one Mr. E.O Okereke, who claims he now controls YEAA against the stronger claim of the young Kanu down to one Alhaji Chief, Dr, Abayomi Owulade of the so-called Abacha Solidarity Movement (ASOMO), it was a clear display of ignorance, illiteracy and in some cases idiocy, by these operatives.
In fact, last week, this reporter was stunned with the bizzare organisational pattern of the so-called ASOMO in response to journalists who attended its programme at the Tinubu Area of the Lagos Island. On that occasion and to the chagrin of the journalists, the chairman, Owulade, had stated through his agents that he was expecting the
approval of the questions to be raised in the forum to the journalists. These were later said to have arrived from Abuja and a set of four formless questions and pre-arranged answers that shocked the reporters were distributed. They could not believe it, especially with the firm order that they had to arrange among themselves how to pose the baseless questions on the "missions and objectives of ASOMO; the kind of support they enjoyed then; the role of ASOMO in the five
political parties and in ASOMO joining any of the parties."
Matter-of-factly, this reporter, who attended that forum, had never been this insulted in a function. A great number of the reporters moved to their feet and left, while some stayed back to parry the order from Abuja.
Actually, there was no room for questions since the answers were also already prepared and sent from Abuja.
Possibly, the motivators have a problem of putting across the right calibre of Nigerians to argue these cases and even make them believeable, but actually beyond that is the need to ascertain the implications of the development, first as in redrawing of the military transformation pattern in politics and then as a clear violation of the
yearning of the geo-political zones of the country to have a reckoning at the highest political position of the land.
Arguing in the just released book; Terminus: Power, Hegemony and Endgame Doctrine, Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo, declared that these were in furtherance of the northern scheme for perpetuation in power through ethno-military manoeuvrings.
He said that the northern political elites had a feeling of los and even desperation in the prospect of a person from any where, other than the north, emerging to rule Nigeria now.
According to him, the myth about northern political invisibility was exploded in the June 12, presidential election which he claimed that Chief M.K.O Abiola won.
The victory of Abiola, he said in the book, had put the jitters in the northern establishment that they resented any further attempt at real democratic elections. This, he said, was the basis of the clamour for the perpetuation of Abacha or any other northerner.
This sounds quite plausible, especially with the imputation that the tone of the northern drive to hold onto power was made without regard to the feelings of the other ethnic groups.
This is even more shocking that after the then turbulent constitutional conference had arrived at the need to forster Nigeria unity through rotation of the presidency and even the setting up of the Committee for Devolution of Powers, the north had still been brasen in its crave for further grip of the presidential power. This, he said was,
This is frightful and at the same time shameful, especially for the perpetuation agitators who, either out of ignorance or a desire for material upliftment backed and even operated the "Abacha must stay" campaign for whatever it was worth.
Granted, Abacha has done marvelously as Nigeria's head of state in a time of dire need for a firm one. He has equally exhibited a certain gainful dynamism in response to the global economic behaviour so that Nigeria could switch successfully into the fast lane. But, in the area of concrete political
appreciation and heading the country off the turbulent waters, especially as it relates to the matters of the geo-ethnic feelings, his perpetuation drivers do not seen to understand that raw military power and even the immediate success of a government cannot remove the desire for a sence of belonging. Gone are the days when we say it doesn't matter.
Perhaps, his advisers, and or, sychophants who want him to succeed himself without any thought about the northern usurpation of the presidency did not for once think about the resistant - capability of people who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are, systematically ousted from the prime foya of power.
Incidentally, actually, the overall south has felt more aggrieved but at the same time, the south has produced the entire front-line operators of the "Abacha must stay" campaign. But these are, evidently, men who do not have the capacity to measure their restrictive attitude to their
group's drive and the more beneficial texture of power that could bring confidence, hope and stability.
In examining the profile of these pro-Abacha groups, with all the fine qualities they have, it does not appear that any of them has a grip of the institutional damage their actions have done to the sentiment of their people and their belief in their country.
If it becomes imperative to press this self-succession bid, it will do a great deal to parade the men who have the sample the education, the exposure and the appeal to put across the values of a further tenure for the incumbent head of state.
That way, it will be guaranteed that a reasoned attention would be paid the drive and a deferment of expected shift of power even contemplated.
With such operatives as Owulade of ASOMO, who told this reporter that he could not communicate to him in any language other than Yoruba, or Okereke who failed to read a prepared serrpt of YEAA at a conference in Lagos, or Alhaji Isa Sulaiman, who could not understand why the ASOMO progromme should be made public, it is highly doubted that the
groups would be believed.
This actually makes valid the question of who actually selected them for the job. Some watchers have argued that if actually those who selected them for the job really believed that they could do the job of selling even the loftiest job of Abacha, then they were either ignorant or just taking
Nigerians for a ride.
It is possible that some of these operatives hit the road on their own, believing that they were doing what they wanted to do to show their love for the head of state, but, with such situation where a questionaire and the answers were prepared from somewhere in Abuja, and forced on the officials of ASOMO to give reporters, it is obvious that
somebody with a lot of manipulative power is at work. But, the person must look at the real geopolitical feeling before the pressure for perpetuation.
I HAD the privilege of watching the political jamboree called "The Great March in March," in Abuja, from a ring-side position. Yet when I am required to give my personal opinion or to assess the two-day rally, organised to further persuade General Abacha, the head of state, to
"agree" to succeed himself in office, I am certain my view would fall below those of the other millions of watchers of the event. Depending on which side the other Nigerians would tend to stand to analyse the rally.
Let's face the fact, the "2-million Youth March in March," staged under the auspices of the pro-Abacha National Council for Youth Associations of Nigeria (NACYAN), like a coin, did possess two sides: The organisers and their supporters who believed, very strongly in the endeavour on one
hand, and their critics (and they seemed so many) who would never come to terms with the necessity, the rationale and the justification for the N500 million said to have been budgetted for the two-day event which took place at the New Parade Ground, in the Maitama District of the Federal Capital Territory.
For instance, the organisers and those who came to speak in support of the cause, say the enormous amount of resources, time and energy committed into the rally could not have gone to any better venture. Daniel Kanu, the leader of the notorious "Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) '98" and vice-chairman of NACYAN, says the N500 million budgetted for the rally "came from a number of patriotic individuals in the country who believe in the cause we are fighting."
To those alleging that government had sponsored the carnival, Kanu says there ought to be nothing wrong in government doing that. "Even if we got any grant from the government, there's nothing absolutely wrong with that... nothing wrong in the government funding very worthy projects for them to be realised," he stated in Abuja on
On the other hand, those who do not appreciate the import of the event, have gone ahead to pick several holes in the project: They say it was wrong to have caused each of the local government chairmen across the country to expend public funds on the sponsorship of over 5,000 delegates to Abuja. They point out that the state security was put
at the disposal of the organisers; the entire Federal Civil Service in Abuja paralysed for three days, while such facilities as government vehicles, public institutions and personnel were used for the rally.
A good example, according to the critics, is the use of two helicopters belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), for security surveillance during the two-day rally. Many have wondered how, the NNPC, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, came to play such a role. Were the helicopters hired to
carry out the aerial surveillance? If yes, by who? NACYAN, the organisers?
How much was the NNPC paid for the 48-hours, or more the two choppers flew over the arena and its vicinity? Knowing the high cost of aviation fuel, the corporation must, no doubt, have wasted a lot of fuel flying the birds. So, if the uncalled for 48-hour, non-stop display of the choppers was not carried out on purely commercial basis, then
the Nigerian tax payers would so much like to know how much of public funds was expended on the use of the helicopters for the "2-million Youth March in March". And why? Would that not impinge the government's claim to being neutral or non-committed in the organisation and funding of the two-day political jamboree?
But that is as far as the argument from the two sides go. What I would like to add my voice to, is the fate of the two opposite rallies which were to hold simultaneously in Abuja and Lagos. Organisers of the Lagos (Anti-Abacha) rally and their supporters (who qualify to be termed "the
opposition"), have condemned the disruption of their planned rally by the Lagos State Police Command even as the one in Abuja, in support of General Abacha's presidency, was being televised and beamed live into the homes of all Nigerians and beyond.
Daniel Kanu, who chaired the publicity sub-committee of the central organising committee for the Abuja rally, however says the organisers of the aborted Lagos rally were to blame. He says the Anti-Abacha group had no right to want to stage a rally without first obtaining a police permit.
"Sometime last year, when we in YEAA planned a rally in Lagos (It was to be an Anti-June 12 rally, on June 11-12, 1997), the police came and stopped us, because according to them, we didn't obtain police permission," he stated in Abuja on Thursday. In any case, Kanu says, there's nowhere in the world where any government in power funds its opponents. "For example, in the United Kingdom, the British government has been doing everything possible to do away with
the IRA (Irish Republican Army)," Kanu posited.
My view is that given the perceived support which General Abacha enjoys today, and against the backdrop of the nation's march towards democracy, the Lagos rally or any other one for that matter should have been allowed to hold.
Now, on the raging argument as to the success or otherwise of the Abuja rally, I contend that given the normal difficulties associated with mobilising both resources and human beings, the March 3-4, 1998 "2-million Youth March" was a huge success.
But as to whether the objective of the organisers was achieved, I wish to opine that if tomorrow, the head of state comes out to announce to the nation that he has decided to contest the next presidential elections (or merely to continue in office), it will not be in any way, due to what happened at the New Parade Ground Abuja.
I believe General Abacha, who has demonstrated a soft spot for democracy (by his actions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and even at home), would prefer to follow the democratic path or anything that remotely resembles the path of democracy. In this case, it is my guess that the head of state would rather
use the call by the political party leaders - who are the only known representatives of the people and, if anything more, the traditional ruler — as the basis for his decision to succeed himself. That, to me looks more like it.
As for the large crowd of people seen at the Abuja rally, I would like to commend the organisers for doing a good job, not taking into consideration how it was done. But if I were asked to consider the sea of heads at the rally as a basis for judging its success or failure, I would sincerely state
that even if satan had organised the rally, the mere fact of the presence of such a galaxy of musicians and other artists, alone, would have attracted so much people. The crowd often seen at the national stadium in Lagos anytime there's a football match involving over own Super Eagles must tell us something about events such as the one in question.
For the young people, the "2 million youth march in March" was a very good run-away from the many problems in the land today. This reminds me of America in the early '70s: Each time there were riots in American cities, the government would quickly send James Brown out to the streets to entertain and, therefore, tame the youths. I
realised during the Abuja canival that many of the youths who came to the FCT were lured by the prospect of watching, live, for the first time, such big names as Baba Fry-O, Ras Kimono, Shina Peters and Mike Okri, among other top artists who were earlier advertised by the organisers. A lot more had left their homes determined never to go back.
I recall a particular time on March 3, when one of the masters of ceremony came out to announce a "Lost-but-found" certificate at the rally, what was the owner of the said certificate doing with such a valued document at a musical concert? What has a certificate got to do with "persuading" the head of state to
"accept" the people's invitation to succeed himself?
All said and done, I believe that if the Great March in March" has succeeded in achieving something, it is the fact (which future historians will soon come to reckon with) that the status of Nigerian youth in the politics of the nation has somehow been elevated to its pedestal.
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