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No To Another Term For Obasanjo




'Bunmi Olayiwola




April 10, 2005 



President Olusegun Obasanjo penultimate week confirmed that he was under pressure from certain quarters to stay on in power beyond the May 29, 2007 expiry date of his present tenure.


This admission of a possible third term agenda is a departure from the posture of President Olusegun Obasanjo on the third term controversy. For upward of two years that the rumour of a third term has been alive, President Obasanjo and many of his spokespersons have dismissed it as a non-issue, undeserving of serious response.


It is heartbreaking that in spite of the frequent denials, the President had come out to admit the existence of some invisible individuals or groups or forces who are truly pushing for a third presidential term.


This only confirms that we cannot rely on what our public officials, including Mr. President himself, have been saying on this controversial issue.


The choice of the occasion in which Mr. President made this landmark disclosure is disturbing as it is instructive. He made the disclosure at a lecture entitled “ Nigeria: A Strong Emerging Economy”, delivered at the forum of the German-Africa Association. This is instructive because many of the advocates for President Obasanjo’s third term have anchored it on the need for him to consolidate on the economic reforms he has introduced.


Could it be that President Obasanjo saw the lecture on the Nigerian economy as an opportunity to explore the nexus between his economic reforms and the need for a third term before such an influential gathering?


Official reactions to the speculations of a third term agenda have insisted that President Obasanjo will not seek a third term in office because the Constitution does not allow that. There has never been any instance where President Obasanjo or his spokespersons have used strong words to express his personal convictions against a third term in office. Rather, they have hidden under constitutional provisions to deny such intentions.

But of recent, the President has sustained an unusual interest in constitutional amendments, particularly on issues of the tenure of public officials. From the Bola Ige Constitution Review Committee (2001) to the Mantu Constitution Review Committee (2003) and now, the Constitution and Political Reform Conference, there appears to be a desperate bid to amend the constitution and remove the only seemingly hurdle between Mr. President and a third term in office.


Recent developments in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Legislature and in the polity in general, point at a grand design to clear the path for a third term for Mr. President.


In January, President Obasanjo forced the resignation of the Chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh and foisted his military ally, Col. Ahmadu Ali on the party. He has also forced his political field man, Chief Tony Anenih on the party as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He has completed the take over of the party, which appears set to do his bidding as far as 2007 is concerned.


The developments in National Assembly also show evidence of a grand manoeuvring to completely tame the institution and make it susceptible to the wish of the executive, especially Mr. President. The denigration of the

Legislature is replicated in the contemptuous manner in which the Executive has been refusing to execute court orders as evident in the stalemate over Lagos state Local Government funds.


Whatever doubts the above leave in the minds of discernible observers is removed by the obvious absence of a succession plan to the Presidency barely two years to the expiration of President Obasanjo’s tenure.


The conclusion from all these indications is that the third term agenda is real. This portends grave dangers to our democracy and collective existence as a nation. When President Obasanjo won election as President in 1999, it was a vindication of the resolve of Nigerians to live together by allowing all sections of the country to have a shot at the Presidency. The perpetuation of his rule beyond 2007 will do a serous damage to this resolve to live together as well as   the fabric of national unity.


Nigerians have been witnesses to the debilitating consequences of unbridled lust for power under General Yakubu Gowon, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha. We cannot afford to travel this odious path again.


President Obasanjo has no doubt played his role in nation building and he should allow history to judge him. Nowhere in history has any individual nor even a generation, completed the task of nation building. All these talk of completing any reform is a worn-out logic that cannot justify any perpetuation in power. The emerging trend in Africa is for presidents to vacate office at the end of their tenure. Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, President Mulusi of Malawi, President Moi of Kenya and President Chiluba of Zambia vacated office at the end of their tenure and so must our own Obasanjo.


President Obasanjo should reconcile himself to the reality of vacating power on May 29, 2007. That is the path of honour.



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