Obasanjo: Working Hard Against Democracy


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Obasanjo: Working Hard Against Democracy





Simon Kolawole




culled from THISDAY, December 31, 2005



I envy President Olusegun Obasanjo, so to say. It’s never an easy task to be something else at home and to simultaneously paint yourself as a saint abroad. I don’t know how he does it so excellently. Outside Nigeria, Obasanjo is a symbol of an angelic democrat, an extraordinary statesman and a no-nonsense anti-corruption crusader. It’s amazing. Sometimes when I hear foreigners talk about my president, I get confused. Are they talking about the same Obasanjo? Are they talking about the Lion of Aso Rock? Are they talking about the Obasanjo we know or the one that is yet to be born?

Recently, we were to have a lecture on the role of the UN in human and economic development. I got to class so early that I was the first to get there. Shortly afterwards, the man who came to give the lecture entered the classroom. We greeted warmly. He had worked with the UN for decades and had written a series of books on the history of the organisation. We had enough time to chat on different issues while he got his computer ready for the PowerPoint presentation of his session.“I understand your president is a very good and honest leader,” he said. “I have met him once and he comes across as a committed leader. But I keep wondering why Nigeria is not making much progress under him. Some of my friends tell me that it is because of the people surrounding the president. They say the man himself is very upright but the people around him are corrupt. What do you think?”

Inwardly, I chuckled. Committed leader? Upright president? Anti-corruption purist? Democrat? Peacemaker? Statesman? Which Obasanjo is that? I don’t, in any way, begrudge him for having a false, messianic image abroad. It is his luck, our ill-luck. What I cannot stand is his desperation to hold on to power at all costs, his desperation to distort and destroy our democracy, even if it means setting Nigeria on fire – playing the South against the North and grinding all his perceived opponents to submission by using and abusing state power. This desperation is acidic. The biggest threats to our democracy used to be the military and economic hardship. How times change. Today, the biggest threat is Olusegun Obasanjo. He is doing everything possible, everything within his power to pull down this democracy. He is doing all his best to damage our liberty. He is so committed to his newfound love. And because of this selfish ambition, he is not bothered about the cost. He is ready to fan his ego at any cost to national unity, democracy and common sense.

Obasanjo’s pathetic deficiency in leadership is very evident in the way he allows his cronies and sidekicks to unleash mayhem on this country. The Anambra issue is enough evidence to show the kind of president ruling this country. We all know the story. It is, however, more demoralising that the same characters who have been perpetrating evil in Anambra for the past two years are now the favoured oil block owners and PDP chieftains or trustees or whatever they are called. The same characters who set the state on fire are wining and dining with the president. Was it not Obasanjo who told us that Chris Uba confessed to have rigged Anambra elections? Isn’t it tragic that the same Uba is now a member of PDP Board of Trustees? Does PDP know the meaning of “trustee” at all? Isn’t it more tragic for Obasanjo that Uba is not behind bars for rigging? Didn’t Obasanjo swear to uphold the laws of the land? Meanwhile, the victim, Chris Ngige, has been expelled and de-registered from the party. What manner of president is this? I suggest he should make Chris Uba Senate president so that the equation can be complete.
The latest brigandage in Oyo State, orchestrated by thugs loyal to his imperial majesty, is another manifestation of how Obasanjo allows his loyalists to wreak havoc on Nigeria. The sin of Governor Rasheed Ladoja is not clear yet. What I understand is that Obasanjo suspects Ladoja is an Atiku associate. Therefore, he has allowed Lamidi Adedibu to soak Oyo State in an obscene, murky crisis. When policemen, in collaboration with thugs, storm a governor’s office to fulfil the heart desires of an emperor, is our democracy not under attack? How can Obasanjo, who paints himself as a peacemaker in Darfur and Liberia, preside over a country where Adedibu would be giving conditions for peace? Who is in charge here? How can one individual, a stark illiterate at that, hold a whole state to ransom and is still riding horses on our streets like a king? What manner of president is Obasanjo? How can anybody ever say Obasanjo is a committed and sincere leader? They may call him committed leader in AU or G77, but we who are his victims in Nigeria know better than that.

The Oyo crisis has further exposed Obasanjo the way he is: a ruler who turns blind eyes to the excesses of his cronies. He watched with amusement as Uba heated up Anambra State. He has been watching, with more amusement, as his boys put Lagos State under siege through the instrumentality of FERMA and police. And now, Oyo State is in the grips of his foot soldiers. Meanwhile, when those cult boys tried to stir up crisis in Rivers State, Obasanjo quickly sent in the military to protect his only begotten governor. This is a shame, a big one for that matter.

Obasanjo does not inspire confidence in the citizenry at all. He does not behave like a leader or a statesman, because he is not one, anyway. A sincere leader will put his country first above personal ambition and selfish interest. Nigeria under his watch has become a killing field and a jungle. Bola Ige was murdered in cold blood in 2001. Up till today, there is no head or tail in the investigation. Yet, this was a man who jilted and disorganised Afenifere in order to please Obasanjo. Where is the reward for his labour? Marshall Harry and AK Dikibo were murdered in cold blood by those who could be easily traced, arrested and brought to book if not for their political aprons. Up till today, the truth is buried. But, of course, we know that it will not remain buried forever. This seeming triumph of deceit will only be temporary.
Obasanjo’s contempt for democracy is very evident in the way he reacts to criticisms. The US says it would not support a third term and gets a stern rebuke in return. General Yakubu Gowon says tenure extension is not advisable and he gets insults in return. Yet, this is the same Gowon who was running up and down in 2002 when the National Assembly wanted to impeach Obasanjo. This was the same Gowon who, along with respected Northern politicians, rallied round the president to save his neck. It was OK then. Now that he has raised a very patriotic alarm on the third term plot, he gets insults as his reward. Of course, it serves him right. If the National Assembly had done away with Obasanjo then, Nigeria would have been saved from this unfolding catastrophe.

I have not forgiven Vice President Atiku Abubakar for compromising at the PDP convention in 2003. The VP and the governors had a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to rescue our democracy from the Otta chicken farmer. But they flunked it. For whatever reason, they threw away the golden opportunity. That is why, inwardly, I am happy the way Obasanjo is dealing with Atiku and all the governors now. It is too late to be fighting for the survival of democracy when they had willingly given this man the rope with which he is hanging our democracy. How can anyone ever trust Obasanjo to be fair and just? How can anybody think Obasanjo means well for Nigeria with all the unfolding events? Can we all be deceived forever?

Democracy thrives when the judiciary, the police, the electoral body and all the institutions are allowed to function freely. Obasanjo has done enough to discredit the judiciary. The Inspector General of the Police takes instructions from him. The electoral commission chairman is an appointee of his cronies. Obasanjo has made a mess of every institution that makes democracy thrive and sparkle. We are all watching in pains, unable to do anything, unable to raise a voice, unable to call him to order. He is doing whatever pleases him, like the maximum ruler that he is. He wakes up one day and decides to de-register PDP members. Uba destabilises Anambra and gets trusteeship position in the PDP. He may soon get a national honour since national honours have been cheapened and ridiculed by Obasanjo. Adedidu sets Ibadan on fire, gives conditions for peace and then rides majestically on a horse to Obasanjo’s warm and respectful embrace.
Obasanjo’s determination to wreck our democracy is further evident in Southern leaders’ meeting. How can a true leader be playing one section of the country against the other? When you hear that Chimaroke Nnamani is hosting a Southern leaders’ meeting, the implication should be clear to all. He has never for once believed in 25% derivation. For him to spearhead the campaign suggests something strange. Like my Igbo brothers would say, when you see an antelope dancing beside the road, the drummer is somewhere in the bush.

But let it be known to Obasanjo that he is playing a dangerous game. We have seen this before. And we all remember the outcome.


Ribadu’s Reputation at Stake


In a country where characters like Chris Uba, Bode George and Lamidi Adedibu are the ones calling the shots, nobody should blame me for continuously, and desperately, looking for role models. The acute scarcity of heroes in Nigeria has often boxed someone like me into a corner as I am ever eager to celebrate those who I feel are making a positive impact in a society where evil is treated with full respect. On this page, I have never hidden my adoration for Dora Akunyili, NAFDAC DG, and Nuhu Ribadu, EFCC chairman – two Nigerians whom I believe have demonstrated integrity in the land of indignity. I have celebrated entrepreneurs like Femi Otedola, Aliko Dangote, Wale Tinubu and Mike Adenuga Jnr on this page because we have seen many people who have government connections and who never translate such to the benefit of millions of Nigerians as these men have been doing.

Of course, I have been pen-lashed by many readers who don’t agree with me. I once got an e-mail from someone who wanted to know how much I was paid to sing the praises of these people. Significantly, I have come under heavy bombardment because of my support for Ribadu. My inbox is regularly congested with e-mails from those who think Ribadu is just doing a butcher’s job. I get comments like: “You must be the only Nigerian who doesn’t know that Ribadu is a cutlass in Obasanjo’s hand and a ready tool for the implementation of the third term agenda”

While I would very much like to discount these side talks, I cannot, in good conscience, ignore them.  I rigidly stand by my position that nobody should steal and hide behind “political victimisation” as defence, but, at the same time, Ribadu should draw a very thick line between sincerely fighting corruption and fighting Obasanjo’s vindictive battles. As far as I am concerned, I remain very proud of Ribadu; we need more of Ribadus to clean up the peculiar mess in the land.
However, Ribadu has a rear opportunity to carve his name on the tablets of history. And that will depend on his ability to resist pressures from the president. He is the chairman of EFCC, not chairman of the kill-and-go sub-committee of the Life Presidency Project. That must be uppermost on Ribadu’s mind at all times. His allegiance is to the people of Nigeria and not to Obasanjo, who in any case sees Nigeria as his courtyard going by the way he calls Nigeria’s money “my money”. If Obasanjo tries to exert undue pressure on him, Ribadu should honourably bow out of EFCC. That way, he will prove a point that he is nobody’s hired assassin. That way, he will write his name on the hearts of millions of Nigerians.

Most importantly, Ribadu should examine his conscience. I know Ribadu to be a committed Muslim who does not joke with his religious beliefs. Anytime he sits on the mat to say his daily prayers, I implore him to search his heart and ask himself some sincere questions, questions like: Am I truly fighting corruption or am I a machete in Obasanjo’s hand? Do I do things because Obasanjo has personal interest or because that is the right thing to do? Is my motive genuine or am I playing into Obasanjo’s hands?


I tell Ribadu something: ultimately, his loyalty is to God. Obasanjo is a mere man. We who believe in God know that it is better to fear God than to fear any man. This very fact of life should guide Ribadu in his actions. He should be true to himself and to his God. I have no reason to distrust Ribadu yet, but he needs to talk to himself and allow his conscience to be his guide. And if he cannot go on under these mysterious circumstances, he should take the honourable way out. Afterall, Obasanjo is not our God, even though he thinks he is.



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