South-West and 2007 Elections


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South-West and 2007 Election

by Dele Sobowale

With Commentary By


Mobolaji E. Aluko


South-West and 2007 election

Sunday, September 07, 2003

"Men make history but not as they choose"

V. I . Lenin 1870-1924

PRESIDENT Obasanjo in his first term unfolded an Economic Blueprint in 2000 which promised Nigerians a lot of welfare packages as dividends of democracy. Today, the World Bank, the IMF, NACCIMA, MAN, the President’s own new economic team led by Professor Soludo and the Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs) Okonjo-Iweala as well as everybody else in Nigeria, including the village idiot, unanimously agree that the promises were not fulfilled. And that is being polite; because I am right now filled with the milk of human kindness. The new economic team had also got down to business very quickly and have released the acronym for the new economic package called NEEDS which on further examination appears suspiciously like the "same stale stew, warmed up and served in new plates" (apologies to the ubiquitous IBB).

One thing is right now of interest to me in the NEEDS; it is related to the fact that its authors have told us in plain language that it will take ten years for the benefits of the proposed economic reforms to be felt by all Nigerians. Curiously, the highly regarded economists either failed to realize the meaning in political and social terms of their revelation or they were just flying a kite hoping somebody will notice a lot that is amiss in their proposal. First, Obasanjo has already spent or more appropriately wasted four years of our lives as a nation during which we have fallen further behind on every indices of human development. Thus, a ten-years proposal from him will amount to a fourteen years sentence for Nigeria for the simple reason that it is difficult to believe the President anymore. Secondly, the man has only four years to go constitutionally meaning that the NEEDS initiative will be implemented for six years by another President who might not share, and if history is our guide, is unlikely to share Obasanjo’s economic visions in every aspect.

Clearly, the promise of NEEDS rests on an assumption which is fundamentally flawed because the blueprint might not be implemented after Obasanjo’s departure; unless of course the President intends to prolong his stay and implement the programme for the ten year’s duration. In short, it would appear that these highly respected technocrats are labouring in vain even before they start. Wisdom born out of collective experience and history would dictate that we should right now begin urgently the search for the successor to Obasanjo, despite the President’s admonition to IBB and Atiku. At any rate, the President can only caution members of his own party the PDP; his wishes made known to IBB and Atiku can only be regarded as advisory not compulsory even by those two. But in the process, he gives advantage to prospective candidates of other parties who can ignore his admonition at will and to their advantage. They should ignore him and use the self-imposed handicap of the PDP to balance the awesome power of the ruling party in 2007.

Obviously, the search for the next President will occur along two tracks; those who will offer themselves willingly and those who will be "drafted or persuaded". Either way, the sooner the better to know in advance if the contents of the NEEDS proposal will end up in the trash-can or not. Policy inconsistency has been recognised as one of the greatest obstacles to our development. Certainly, a President who has only four years to go who nevertheless presents a ten-year economic development plan has already positioned the nation for another policy shift when he departs. That also means that our leader does not learn from the lessons of our economic history regardless of how often it is retold. We must look beyond Obasanjo from now on. At any rate, he is what Americans call a lame-duck President; his days are counted more in how many days he has left not the number he has spent.

That being the case, I think the South-West will have to consider which candidate to support outside of the South-West which has had its turn irrespective of what one might feel about Obasanjo. He has represented the zone and that is a fact that cannot be denied. In that case, the South-West can and should play an important role in the search for our next President who might provide the real dividends of democracy which had eluded us during the first term of Obasanjo and which we have now been told in plain language will not be delivered before 2013, long after Baba Iyabo would have once more retired to his farm at Ota.

Obasanjo's admonition to IBB and Atiku is an attempt to pocket the future of Nigeria and control her history; we should not allow him. He should play his own role from now until 2003 [sic.  2007] and leave Nigeria to march to her destiny after him and with a President who like Clinton when asked what will be the central plank in his Presidential campaign wrote boldly on the notice board in his Arkansas campaign headquarters:" JOBS STUPID". The next President must be someone who will not only promise jobs as Obasanjo did in 1999 but who will demonstrate to us how he intends to do it and he will write his name in gold in the history of Nigeria if he actually does it. Job creation on a massive scale will solve many of our social problems which now threaten to tear this nation apart. For too long, we have created millions of people with nothing to lose; a paying job gives not only dignity it also over time provides an incentive for law-abiding behaviour.



I myself have been reading the tea-leaves:

Following the electoral mess of 2003 and the PDP routing of all other comers -  which from all indications will largely be gotten away with -  the present din about 2007 is the frustrated "opposition's" best attempt at poking its hands into the eyes of the present administration, that it has been "written off" until 2007, and that Nigerians should start looking for another now. 

The most bitter opposition of course, is now in the South-West, particularly among the AD leadership who rightly feel "betrayed" by a scheming presidency, a presidency without a clear development agenda and with a cash-strapped purse, whose Southwestern "slot"  is being "used up" most probably for a long time to come by a reluctant "son of the soil."

Forget the thorns - to the South-West, the Vice-Presidency suddenly smells like a rose.

The calls to IBB, particularly by some more scheming elements of the AD, are a further twisting of the knife in the wound, and to smoke the squirrel out of the hole early - that is, if there is a squirrel in the hole.  In a seminal interview in Newswatch given in the early days of the then three new parties (AD, PDP and ANPP), when he appeared to inscrutably accept the title of "Evil Genius" of Nigerian politics,  IBB once wistfully stated that his amibition in life was to be Chairman of AD, but quickly added that he knew that he would not be accepted. 

IBB is no doubt a monied political power in the country, and it appears that the beginning of political wisdom, at least at this time, is that if you are not in bed with him, at least you should not be his enemy.   Hence the loud claims of those who would run under him (as Vice-President), beside him (as supporter) or in front of him (to have him as their backer.)  All he need do is choose  - and choose early, and not play his usual Maradona.

Tough request.

And all of that irks the OBJ regime to no end, forcing Atiku to watch his flanks constantly and distract him from continuing to be a "worthy" Man Friday, as he waits for the top job - and the promise of sixteen years at Aso Rock.

The 10-year-success horizon of NEEDS recently does not help matters.   Like Vision 2010 when it was born at a time when its promise appeared to outlive the then-advertised tenure of Abacha, NEEDS may have heightened the suspicion of intentions beyond 2007, making speculations to begin this early:  will NEEDS be used as an argument for a third-term OBJ presidency (after the constitution has been duly and expediently amended), or failing that, an argument for "continuity", with Atiku as the "man of continuity", because NEEDS was started under his "co-presidency?"

We will remember that "Continuity" was the codeword in 2003, and the NEED(S) for continuity may also be the codeword for 2007:  once bitten, twice shy.

Personally, all this talk about 2007 is simply too early, because a lot can still slip between the cup and the lip in three and a half years.  But what do I know?

We shall see.

Bolaji Aluko



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