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Self-Perpetuation: Not Again




Abubakar S. Olayinka,

Ilorin, Nigeria



April 10, 2005 


The recent admission by President Olusegun Obasanjo that he is under pressure to continue in office after his present tenure must have come as a rude shock to discerning Nigerians.


For upwards of two years, President Obasanjo and many of his spokespersons have denied the existence of such thought or agenda for a third term. At some point, the speculation of a third term agenda became excessively irritating in the face of repeated denials of the state.


It is alarming that in spite of repeated crises that have trailed attempts at self-perpetuation in power in Nigeria, from General Yakubu Gowon through General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha, some Nigerians would still contemplate such an odious project.


It is heartwarming that President Obasanjo stated his commitment to the democratic project particularly the need for transition from one individual to another by 2007. It is yet noteworthy, however that the actions of Mr President   unfortunately seem to confirm that he is in tandem with the evil forces who want him to perpetuate himself in power.


For instance, there is hardly anything on the ground to indicate that Mr. President believes he is on his way out of power in the next two years. What we witness, rather, is a plethora of indications of a grand design to make the continuation of Mr. President in power inevitable.


President Obasanjo is halfway into his second and constitutionally, final term. It is also barely two years to the Presidential election in 2007. Indeed, the process of selection of party candidates for the presidential election is just a little more than a year away. Yet, there is no discernible succession plan for the presidency. Instead, what we witness is the anger that Mr. President deploys at individuals who aspire to the position of President. If Mr. President is willing to vacate power, why is there so much hostility towards anyone who professes presidential ambition?


We agree to some extent that the incumbent government has a job to do, and that aspiring officials of the government need to moderate their political activities not to compromise state functions. This same argument however cannot hold for aspirants who don’t hold any position in the present government. Such aspirants should have the freedom to seek popular support for their ambitions without undue hindrance. The prevailing practice of intimidation of aspirants is inconsistent with professed commitment to transition from one personality to another.


So also is the grand undermining of the pillars of democracy in the polity. Today, the National Assembly is in crisis due to allegations of grant leveled against a few individuals in the legislative arm. The campaign against corruption is laudable and should be sustained. But the sins of a few should not be interpreted as the sins of all legislators. The attack on the Legislature for the sins of a few individuals is untenable and smacks more of an attempt at denigrating the institution, which is the bulwark of separation of powers.


Ditto the disposition of the Executive to the Judiciary. Across the states, governors of the ruling PDP are following in the footstep of the Presidency to disobey court orders. Several months after the apex court in the land, the Supreme Court, ordered the Federal Government to release the local government funds of Lagos state, the order remains unheeded even in the face of untold hardship to the millions of citizens whose livelihood and wellbeing are tied to the funds.


In the People’s Democratic Party, the President has turned the party into a military affair by imposing his military protégée, Col. Ahmadu Ali and former Police man, Chief Anthony Anenih as Chairman, Board of Trustees. The party has virtually been hijacked from the membership as a disconnect now exists between the President’s men and the generality of the membership. We fear that this militarization of the top party leadership may undermine democracy. The party is the bastion of democracy.


All these are not indicative of a President who is on his way out. They rather reinforce the suspicion that Mr. President is sold to the idea of self-perpetuation in power. If this is so, it will be a bad testimony for a man who wrote his name in gold by vacating power as a military man in 1979.


Our country is passing through a most delicate period and it deserves our collective sense of patriotism and sacrifice to weather the storm of nation building. It will be a tragedy if we are to pass through the odious experiences that trailed unsuccessful attempts at self- perpetuation by General Gowon, General Babangida and General Abacha.


President Obasanjo will do well to rebuff the pressure for self-perpetuation. It is a venture that will do no one any good.




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