Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
THE MORAL COALITION AGAINST SELF-SUCCESSION
JAMES DANJUMA CHOLOM
May 13, 2005
The greatest imaginable folly of all is to assume that you can insult and assault the collective intelligence of your fellow citizens. Such is the sickening impression that the promoters of President Obasanjo’s perceived self-succession agenda are creating. And sadly, this perception is fast becoming an apparent reality at the same time as public anger and revulsion are increasingly rising against the subtle moves to extend the constitutionally limited tenure of incumbent President Obasanjo beyond 2007.
At a time the quality of life is deteriorating incredibly, exacerbated by rising crime waves and weakening purchasing power of Nigerians, no patriotic Nigerian in his right mind should endorse the idea of extending President Obasanjo’s tenure beyond 2007. Despite the staggering 300 billion naira sunk into NEPA’s rehabilitation project, power supply is getting rapidly worse since 1999. Today, NEPA can only generate 2000 megawatts, despite the huge funds invested into its rehabilitation project. Ironically, even as NEPA is failing woefully, the know-all Obasanjo administration is said to be contemplating the idea of banning the importation of generators.
It is morally indefensible to ban the importation of generators when NEPA is notoriously unreliable, threatening the normal operations and survival of many industries and organizations. Worse still, the lives of thousands of patients in many public and private hospitals across the country are daily jeopardized because of NEPA’s unreliability. In fact, even where a hospital does have a standby power generating plant, its daily operations may still be hampered by the prohibitive cost of diesel. Hasn’t the government lost the moral argument then, to contemplate the idea of banning the importation of generators?
With such an increasingly widening picture of poor service delivery, a worsening quality of life, in which the original enthusiasm that greeted our return to democracy in 1999 is now being succeeded by despair, no right thinking person should prod the President to continue beyond 2007. When millions of Nigerians defied harsh weather and abandoned their daily businesses in order to vote in 1999, they did not do so for the fun of it. Their legitimate expectation then was that the election could mark the beginning of a better life. But today, their hopes are crushed on the hard rock of despair and disillusionment!
Under these circumstances, in which Nigerians can hardly point to any spectacular performance of government, which made a tremendous difference in the quality of their lives, which normal Nigerian should “persuade” our President to continue beyond 2007? Ramming the idea of self-succession down our throats, in the face of rapid decline in the quality of life is just like turning the knife in our wounds! Are self-succession strategists insensitive to our penurious and excruciating social-economic experience? Do they think Nigerians are lambs or doormats?
If millions of Nigerians can say no to an agenda, a few self-seeking promoters of self-succession can never make the idea credible or acceptable. In fact, there is no issue in recent weeks, which has united Nigerians in common opposition like the self-succession agenda of President Obasanjo. Even politicians and retired Generals, who are known to be sympathizers or allies of President Obasanjo, are challenging the agenda of self-succession.
The most interesting aspect of all is the moral unison with which the self-perpetuation agenda is being attacked widely across the political, ethnic and religious divide. For example, PDP loyalists are attacking the idea with the same intensity and passion as AD supporters. This coalition of common moral opposition to an obnoxious political agenda is an interesting development for our democracy. In fact, even members of the political camp loyal to General Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential ambition are throwing their weight behind the opposition to the self-succession agenda.
It now dawns on every Nigerian, including the supporters of General Banbangida’s presidential ambition, that General Obasanjo has no specific favourite to succeed him in 2007. The original theory that he was mainly opposed Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition now no longer holds any water. The reality is that supporters of self-succession are bent on frustrating the ambition of any other Nigerian politician to ensure they make the coast clear for the incumbent to become an imperial life President.
A recent fire-spitting press interview, granted by retired Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu, a former Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), in which he despondently boasted that a thousand Obasanjos cannot stop General Babangida’s presidential bid for 2007 is a revelation to those who used to think that President Obasanjo is more favourably disposed to Babangida’s ambition than Atiku’s. The sense of frustrating reality that the President is allegedly working to succeed himself, rather than endorsing any possible successor, is becoming increasingly pervasive among the loyalists of Babangida’s, Buba Marwa’s and Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambitions.
When political camps loyal to different presidential aspirants appear to speak with one voice over an issue, it means that they have smelt a rat, some kind of dangerous virus, threatening our democracy. If the President could publicly admit in Germany that he was facing pressure to continue in office, after previous denials of such silent persuasions, do you blame Nigerians for their current deep-seated suspicion that indeed; Obasanjo finds the “unsolicited” and “patriotic” offer tempting? If he did not find the “pressure” tempting, why broach the subject in a foreign country, after previous spirited denials by the President and his aides?
Like a Hausa proverb goes, it takes one step to fall into a well, but a thousand more to struggle out. The strategists of self-succession now seem to be entangled by the cobweb of their own tricks. President Obasanjo’s admission in Germany of silent “pressures” to continue in office has thrown them into a moral fix or a credibility crisis. Their latest flurry of denials always achieves the opposite effect. Instead of reassuring a legitimately suspicious Nigerian public, the credibility of the denial experts weakens rapidly every passing day.
The reported rebuff by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to the moves to enlist his support for Obasanjo’s self-succession agenda has added an embarrassing diplomatic dimension to the self-perpetuation manoeuvres. After The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria reported the rebuff, quoting diplomatic sources, Chief Femi Fani – Kayode was at his garrulous best denying the story, in his capacity as Obasanjo’s head of public communication.
Unfortunately for him, the climate of public suspicion and cynicism towards the self-succession agenda is so merciless that Chief Femi Fani Kayode’s denial fell like water off a duck’s back, and his voice lost in the cacophony of popular derision. Chief Femi-Kayode should have saved his breath. If President Thabo Mbeki himself or the South African Embassy in Nigeria denied the story, the rebuttal would have carried more weight of credibility.
In a country like Nigeria, blessed with intelligent and probing people, who can ask their own critical questions about issues, the strategists of self-succession, however wily they many appear, will have a tough time and days ahead in disabusing the minds of fellow countrymen and women of a hidden agenda. The notion that only Obasanjo is morally qualified enough to move Nigeria forward smacks of ridiculous immodesty, more so in a country with a record of having some of the most educated, experienced and intelligent people.
A story was told about President William Coolidge who, after awaking from his midday snooze, had asked his aide “whether the country is still together.” Such is the arrogance of leaders who tie the fate of their countries to their whims and caprices. Sadly, such has been the mentality of most sit-tight Africa leaders. The self-succession agenda is objectionable on the grounds that we are running a democracy where the will of the people is supreme.
The earlier President Obasanjo realizes that the proponents of self-succession are his real enemies, the better it would be for his long-built reputation, especially when we recall his hostility to the recent moves to impose Faure Eyadema on the Togolese, immediately after the death of his father. Obasanjo originally opposed the manner the Togolese constitution was brushed aside to impose Faure, insisting that “free” and “fair” election should be held to fill the vacuum left by the late Eyadema.
Our President should practise what he preaches elsewhere in Africa and the rest of the wider world about adhering to authentic democratic tenets. His alleged self-succession agenda is, therefore, in conflict with his democratic sermons, because the agenda will entail tampering with the Nigerian constitution, which limits his tenure to two terms of four years each. The President has two tough choices: either he exposes and disgraces those urging him to continue in office, or they will, in turn, destroy his integrity beyond redemption.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.