Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
AFTER PRESIDENT OBASANJO, WHO/WHAT?
Research Fellow, African Studies Center, Boston University.
I threw this question into a recent essay, which I wrote on the issue of pact between the geo-ethno-military-clique and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in June 1998 on one term only. A Nigerian of Ndi Igbo ancestry asked me if I did not think General Ike Nwachuku would not be a response to the question? A fellow Edo person asked me if I did
not agree with Admiral Augustus Aikhomu that it would be the turn of the southern minority to produce a President in 2003. Of course, I dogged both questions even though I would any day support Ike, if he is a candidate, not because he is an Ndi Igbo person and not because it is the turn of the Ndi Igbo. I know him for many years as a patriot and fellow alumni of the National Institute and worked with him on ‘Nigerian Project’ in the past. Senator Ike Nwachukwu and
Admiral Aikhomu would both be ideal candidates. Do they want it? Do they have the stomach for it? Do they possess the temperament for politics in a plural society? Can they wage a vigorous campaign for it? What is their vision? These are personal questions, which they should answer themselves, which I am sure General Obasanjo never asked himself before he accepted the invitation of the northern retired military officers to be their candidate in 1998. Omo Omoruyi is available! He has the temperament, the vision and can fight for it on a progressive platform.
There is no way I can answer the question ‘after President Obasanjo, who/what?’ in one sentence. Instead, I decided to use the new wave of political meetings in the country to respond the question. Nigerians in the ‘southeast’, in the ‘southwest’, in the ‘south-south’ and in the ‘north’ including President Obasanjo’s handlers are responding to the same question ‘after President Obasanjo, who/what?’ in their own way. This is the issue in Nigerian politics between now and 2002.
That the question ‘after President Obasanjo, who/what?’ has potency is evident from the decision of the Nigerians who initiated the emergence of President Obasanjo in 1998 and took credit for his election in 1999 to float a new political association, the Nigerian Solidarity Association.(NSA) What went wrong one would ask? Nothing went wrong one would answer. Aren’t Nigerians free to take advantage of the ‘freedom of association’ in the human rights regime to engage in the realignment of political forces?
What is of concern to Nigerians is that the realignment is taking place in the country with its bridgehead in the north all geared to challenging President Obasanjo in the 2003 Presidential election. Isn’t the group reminding the President that he would face a formidable challenge, if he decides to renege on the ‘unwritten’ understanding that he would be there for one term? Has he decided to renege by floating a new term of five years via the new National Conference, which is working from an answer? To this group, there would be a vacancy contrary to what Chief Tony Anenih said in the Aso Rock in 2003 and not 2004/5.
Can he survive the challenge from the Nigerian actors who were instrumental to the emergence of General Olusegun Obasanjo? It is a matter of history that these same actors got him out of the Abacha’s Gulag immediately after the death of General Abacha in June 1998. They ‘military-jacked’ the transition program and the leadership of the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) to ensure his nomination in preference to the original founders of the party. Finally they bank-rolled the election that eventually made General Obasanjo the President of Nigeria. What went wrong? Why is there a general dissatisfaction with the President’s performance with respect to what he promised his sponsors since 1999, which he is unable to deliver? I was on a telephone to a friend of mine in Nigeria and he told me that the President was planning to renege on the understanding he reached with his sponsors in the north hence the decision to put him on notice that he would not
What was the expectation of the sponsors from the man they sponsored for the office of the President on the one hand and what was the expectation of the Nigerian people who voted for the President on the other? Definitely there is a difference between the expectations from the north, the sponsors of the President and from the Nigerian people, who thought
they voted for the man for some reasons.
The problem with President Obasanjo since 1999 is that he had not been able to move from his sponsors, the north to the Nigerian people. One would recall ones advice to him on how to cope with the threat from the Arewa Consultative Forum. You would need political acumen to do this; this was one attribute that the President does not have unfortunately. Instead of doing what the people want, he seems to capitulate to the whims and caprices of his sponsors.
The more he capitulates to the capricious whims of his sponsors at the expense of the people, the more they demand. The more his sponsors demand, the more the President is alienated from the people. His sponsors turn round to blame him for his failure to deliver as a failure.
EXPECTATION OF OBASANJO’S SPONSORS
Those who sponsored President Obasanjo’s candidature were of two types, the international community and the domestic. The international community led by the US, UK and South Africa approved the General Abubakar’s transition program and General Obasanjo as the candidate for the office of the President. They knew that that it would take President Obasanjo some time for him as the President to lead Nigeria to cross the bridge from the military and anti-democratic order to a democratic order.
In the domestic realm, the former military President and other retired military officers from the north initiated the process that invited General Obasanjo in 1998 to become the President as they did it in 1976. One would recall the Guardian interview by General TY Danjuma of
December 24, 2000 that ‘we’ had to go for General Obasanjo after the sudden death of General Abacha as ‘we’ did in 1976 after the sudden death of General Murtala Muhammed. Who ever constituted this ‘we’ is now academic as we know them to be the military wing of the geo-ethno-military-ckique. Did they like the international community genuinely want President Obasanjo to serve as the bridge leading to a democratic order? The answer is no! They wanted President Obasanjo’s tenure as President to serve as a stop-gap within which the north would regroup. We will take up this matter later.
The President and the international community and other sponsors knew the Nigerian situation very well. They knew the character of the military and the political class as not capable to be entrusted with the capacity to deliver a free and fair election. They knew that the Nigerian military and
the political class contributed immensely to and are still part of the lingering political problems of Nigeria as they contributed to the betrayal of the democratic rights of Nigerians in the past.
Unfortunately, the so-called leaders of the parties who are making statements about the pact should not interject themselves into the pact as they were seen as part of the political problems that should not be trusted with such a pact. This is where the international community made a blunder.
There was an assumption that the President would distance himself from these people. This could not be so. As the instruments used to make the retired General a President, President Obasanjo could not be expected to move against them. In fact, President Obasanjo is surrounding himself with these same members of the anti-democratic elements in the
military and in the political class.
Over now to the issue of ‘brdge’, I came up with the notion of ‘bridge’ after the emergence of General Obasanjo as the President in 1999. The ‘bridge’ is the
emergence of General Olusegun Obasanjo and not the emergence of a political order in 1999. The view of those who sponsored him in the north, especially the retired military officers in 1998/99 was that General Obasanjo would be a stop gap for one term in the first instance. There was a possibility of a second term, if and only if the sponsors are
convinced that President Obasanjo would need an extension to enable him complete his limited assignment. What was this limited assignment?
What is important was that President’s mission was to create the necessary environment for the emergence of true rulers of Nigeria. This could be within one term of four years or two terms of eight years. It was an unwritten
understanding, like all military conspiratorial understanding, between the candidate Obasanjo and the ‘military in politics’. The understanding had nothing to do with the official military. The ‘military in politics’ is what I identified as the military wing of the northern leadership,
which I call the geo-ethno-military-clique in many of my writings. Those who are wondering as to what I am talking about should see how the retired political generals moved into the leadership of the Arewa Consultative Forum.
Two facts should be obvious by now. One is that there is no comparable institution that encompasses the military and civilian leadership in the other parts of Nigeria. I have never seen Yoruba retired officers or the retired Ndi Igbo officer hobnobbing with the Afenifere or
the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo respectively. The situation is so obviously inexplicable in the ‘south-south’.
Second, isn’t it obvious that the ‘military in politics’ excludes southern military officers? Does one need to comment further on this matter? Maybe I should.
‘MILITARY IN POLITICS’ IS NOT ‘MILITARY IN OFFICE’
The action of the ‘military in politics’ in its dealing with the exercise of political power was, therefore not known by those who held commands in the military establishment such as the Chief of General Staff. This is an obvious reference to the assertion of the former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe in the Guardian
of April 12, 2001. He claimed that he, as the Chief of General Staff in charge of the election, was in a position to know, if there was a pact between the President and the military. Why was this false claim? Was he ignorant of the distinction between the ‘military in politics’ and the ‘military in office’? I don’t think so. All military officers in the north and in the south are aware of the difference. How many of the southern officers know the origin of any military administration in which they served as Chief of General Staff or as a Minister or as a Military Governor?
With the greatest respect to my admired Admiral and brother, he was not in a position to know by the nature of the ‘military in politics’, which excludes the navy officers generally and officers from the south. I had an occasion to defend the former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu in my account of the June 12.
I made it clear that he was not privy to the events leading to the annulment even though, as the titular No. 2 to President Babangida, he was made to defend the anti-democratic act of the geo-ethno-military-clique after the annulment. Admiral Aikhomu would not claim to know what happened within the clique as Admiral Akhigbe is claiming today.
One should read the account of how another Navy Officer and Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ubitu Ukiwe was treated with contempt by General Abacha who spoke to the press that there was no No. 2 in the military administration even though on paper, the Chief of General Staff was the No. 2. As No. 2 and a member of the ruling organs in the military
administration Commodore Ukiwe did not know when the decision of the military in politics to take Nigeria to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) was taken and he told the press so when he was asked. He did not claim to know what he did not know and did not try to defend what was immorally indefensible as others after him did when faced with the actions of the ‘military in politics’.
Of course, we knew how he was finally humiliated out of office. General Domkat Bali still considered the shabby treatment meted to Commodore Ukiwe as one of the low period of the IBB administration.
General Oladipo Diya thought he would be different partly because he assured General Sani Abacha that he had answer to the June 12 and partly because he would be able to create an ‘alternative Yoruba leadership’ to the ‘Yoruba leadership supporting’ the June 12. General Diya does not need to be told after what he went through that there is a geo-ethno-military-clique acting in the Nigerian Armed Forces and that he was in government but not in power.
How many retired military officers from the south knew how General Obasanjo became the Head of State in 1976 and how President Obasanjo became the candidate of the PDP and the President of Nigeria in 1999? Where are the retired officers from the south in President Obasanjo’s administration? Were we
surprised seeing these same southern officers surfacing in the new anti-Obasanjo political party?
I went this length in the foregoing to emphasize that the former Chief General Staff, Admiral Akhigbe from Edo State should not lay claim what he did not know by the nature of the ‘military in politics’ and no one would blame him for that.
It was not something, which would be known to officers in the Army/Defense Headquarters as I tried to correct the Defense Information Chief, Brigadier General Ugbo that he could not be expected to defend what he did not know also by the virtue of where he comes from. Ugbo’s predecessor in office, Brigadier General Fred Chijuka, a southerner spoke for the ‘military in politics’ in the days after the election in June 1993 and later found himself to be wrong.
VISION OF NORTHERN SPONSORS OF OBASANJO
The vision of the domestic sponsors was limited; they were not interested in the revival of the battered economy and the collapsing social sector and they were unlike the guarantors of the transition program in the international community not interested in bringing about a democratic order. The two notions
of a bridge are critical to the issues in the pact.
When I was invited in 1999 at two Universities in Boston (Northeastern and Boston) to shed light on the implication for democracy in Nigeria of the emergence of General Obasanjo, I coined the concept of a ‘bridge’ in 1999 as a way of assessing the event of May 29, 1999. This in my view should be the way of
assessing the new President. I tried to identify the various senses in which what constitutes a bridge appear in the popular discourse in the international community and in the Nigerian press. This paper is still available; all the points I raised then are still valid.
PRESIDENT OBASANJO AS A ‘BRIDGE’: TWO SENSES
Let us itemize the senses in which the concept of bridge was used in the international community and in the north. They had different implication when we consider its application to the emergence of President Obasanjo.
SENSE OF OBASANJO AS A ‘BRIDGE’ INTERNATIONALLY
In the international community, President Obasanjo as a bridge was expected to satisfy certain goals such as;
1. the link between the ruling political leaders from the north who annulled the June 12 and the southwest, the area that produced the winner of the June 12, Chief MKO Abiola;
2. the link between the north in general and the south in general, who have been itching for the power shift;
3. the link between the military junta (the highly politicized military/the military in government) and the political class;
4. the link between the military institution in general and the civilian in general;
5. the link between the outgoing Head of State and the incoming President.
SENSE OF OBASANJO AS A ‘BRIDGE’ IN THE NORTH
To the sponsors in the north the notion of a bridge is the singular act of the election or of the installation, which is meant to serve certain goals such as;
1. the gap or the period in time and space spanning from the day of election and the swearing in of the new President to the tenure in office of the incoming President (one term or two terms);
2. the gap in terms of tenure of four years, which is to serve as the period in time and space and to create an environment for the reemergence of a President from the north in collaboration with their supporters in the south in furtherance of the British design that only northerners should rule Nigeria.
What the various notions tell us is that we are still on our way to ‘democracy’ based on the ‘will of the Nigerian people’. Hence the above notions of the term ‘bridge’ would be used to determine the achievement of the new dispensation. My assessment of the different notions of a bridge means that there are constraints in the movement from one end to the other.
Now back to the two notions of the bridge in the international community and in the north, one could say that while one does not know the feeling of the international sponsors one knows the feelings of the northern sponsors. The international community might still be
thinking that President Obasanjo should be allowed to move Nigeria from the military and anti-democratic order to a democratic order as in 1-5 above. But the northern sponsors of the President had one and one thing in mind when they initiated his emergence. As long as he ruled in their image he was all right. Now that they
are dissatisfied with his performance in office since 1999 they now want the informal pact of one term implemented.
PRESIDENT, ‘PROBLEM-SOLVER’ AFTER YEARS OF MILITARY MISRULE
There are some Nigerians especially in the southwest that did not vote for him in 1999 that want to make a case for the President’s second term in the face of the north’s demand for his replacement with a candidate from the north. There are others in the country such as in the southeast and in the south-south, that genuinely voted for him in 1999 because
they thought he would be able to do certain things for them and for the country. These two groups are now calling on Nigerians to rate President Obasanjo’s performance as an instrument for the resolution of certain lingering political problems since 1993
In my initial analysis of the results of the Presidential election of 1999, I came to two generalizations. One was that the Nigerian voters did not vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), but for the candidate put forward by that party, General Olusegin Obasanjo.
Two was that the Nigerian voters were merely calling on President Obasanjo on faith to take them out of the dismal situation created for them through many years of military misrule. I made this clear in my analysis of the election and its aftermath in The News of April 1999. I argued then that the President was commanded, as it were, by the Nigerian voters to do certain things for them and for the country, because they trusted him not necessarily from his track records from his past as a military Head of State. The Nigerian people compared him with the military and the political class and were prepared to pitch
their tents with him on faith.
Were we surprised that the transition program did not provide for the National Assembly as a coequal branch of government with the Presidency headed by General Obasanjo? It did not provide for a functioning federal system where the states will function as autonomous federal units. Above all, no one cared about
the ‘boundary on rulers’, which we call the Constitution. Was it not strange that there was no Constitution known to all those who were contesting elections at all levels of government?
This is the situation Nigerian find itself today. The focus throughout the transition period in 1998/99 was on the one man (General Obasanjo) who was to become the President and not on the political class, the political parties and the National Assembly or on the Constitution. The
voters were expecting the President to set in motion the machinery for the development of a viable democratic order. They knew the enormity of the lingering problems from the past. Trust is the crux of the matter, which the President should not abuse, but which is wearing thin daily. The Nigerian people thought President Obasanjo would use his person to do precisely that or set the machinery in motion for the resolution of the problems. It would appear that the President is failing the Nigerian people, not just the north as the former
President Shehu Shagari would want us to believe, unfortunately.
The pro-democracy forces betrayed the Nigerian people for abandoning the well-tried method of resolving political problems as part of the transition and instead they capitulated and joined in the jockeying for positions under the transition program. What one expected was that the internal political settlement ought to have formed part of the transition before a
Constitution was foisted on the Nigerian people. Nigerians should have rejected the Constitution, which was like putting a cart before the horse. Nigerians are seeing the problems today and unfortunately the President they trusted is invoking that same military-imposed Constitution, which he condemned initially at the Party’s Convention to rebuff those who are calling for some kind of discussion as part of a meaningful transition.
The President, in effect, is making this faith in his capacity to do certain things to be a misplaced assumption in the international community and among the Nigerian people. That faith in his capacity to do certain things to
move the country forward after he shall have been sworn in on May 29, 1999 is obviously being betrayed. That is why many people including those who engineered his emergence are forming new political parties to push him out. This is the purpose of this paper.
RESOLVE AFTER OBASANJO, WHO/WHAT? ON VISION
For the future, especially with respect to the resolution of the succession crisis, Nigeria is faced with two questions today. One is whether the President appreciates the expectations of Nigerians in the face of the lingering political problems afflicting the country since and as a result of the annulment of the June 12? The
second is whether the President appreciates the value of institution building that with or without him there would be institution and processes in place for isolating the dimensions of the lingering political problems and resolving them? The President has not been able to address these two issues as he ponders over the 2003.
How much of the country’s lingering political problems has he tackled?
How much of institution building has he embarked upon since becoming the President?
‘2003’ would be determined by the answers to these two questions. President Obasanjo would have to work hard to answer these questions between now and the end of 2001. Does the President know that 2002 is a nomination year and 2003 is an election year? This is the nature of a four-year term of office.
May I strongly advise the President that unless the answers to these questions become evident by the end of this year, the rule of four-year term of office would make his quest for another term after 2001 unrealistic and unrealizable.
The politics of 2003 is everywhere, in the media and in the agenda of all political groups. This is a serious matter. I recall the kind of question in the textbook on India in the early 60s about Nehru. The question was everywhere, ‘after Nehru who/what’? One would soon be asking, if we are not already asking that kind of question in Nigeria about President Obasanjo, ‘after President Obasanjo, who/what’? It would not be answered in the context of what Chief Tony Anenih, the Minister of Works and the ‘Mr. Fix It’ for the President had to say that ‘there is no vacancy in the Presidential Villa in the year 2003’. One hopes the President is not considering the plan of Senator Arthur Nzeribe that President Obasanjo should be jointly
nominated by all the political parties in the tradition of Abacha’s self-succession project of April 1998. I hope the President does not believe in this kind of trash.
I would urge the President to discard the assurance of Chief Anenih and do two things for his legacy. First is that President Obasanjo should deal with the lingering political problems. Second is that President Obasanjo should
embark on institution building. President Obasanjo seems to be failing the Nigerian people on both counts.
These two questions are complicated by another question: after President Obasanjo, who/what? One hopes the President is following the debate. The future of democracy in Nigeria hangs on the resolution of two interrelated critical questions. One, does the President have one term? Two is who succeeds him after one term?
I had earlier called on him to tell the Nigerian people the truth and seek a new coalition to enable him seek a new term.
The Nigerian voters who trusted one man that he and he alone would handle all the lingering problems of Nigeria as soon as he was sworn in as the President now have another opportunity to revalidate President Obasanjo. I have also done some content analysis of some issues, which the President seems to be confronted with since taking over on May 29, 1999. What
has he been doing? What do his challengers want to do differently?
LINGERING POLITICAL PROBLEMS
The summary of the political problems is the following:
1. What has the President done so far with the fundamental restructuring of the military with respect to de-ethnicization and depoliticization of the military? What
effort has he been making to have a ‘representative’ and ‘accountable’ armed forces as the basis of a stable democratic order in Nigeria?
2. What has the President done so far with the prior regimes in two key areas: past human rights abuses and the loot from past corrupt practices?
3. How has the President been handling the ‘issues in the annulment of the June 12’, which he promised to tackle in his sermon in June 1998 as soon as he was released from the Abacha’s Gulag?
4. How has the President been handling the ‘politics of oil’ or the ‘ownership question’ of oil or the ‘resource control’ advocacy as part of evolving a true federal system in Nigeria?
5. How has the President been coping with his role as the peace-keeper in the sub-region and with the expectations from the international community?
6. How has the President been dealing with the political problems in general and with his political party and with the other elective branch of government, the National Assembly?
7. What is the President’s concept of Nigeria with respect to the issue of representation in Nigeria: three ethnic nationalities or many ethnic nationalities; the states or zones; and other groups in civil society and how has he been dealing with the matter since 1999?
8. How has the President been handling the complex issue of marginalization all over the country based on the complex issues of group/regional claims and counter-claims and demands and counter-demands all over the country?
9. How has the President been handling the issues in the ‘politicization of religion’ in Nigeria?
10. How has the President been dealing with Nigeria’s involvement in international religious organizations, which he inherited from past military regimes in the face of a multi-religious society of Nigeria?
11. How has the President been handling the complex issue of social and economic reconstruction that had collapsed after many years of military misrule?
12. How has the President been handling the personal security issues in the country?
13. Finally, what has the President been doing to overcome the obvious denial of the people of Nigeria their ability to evolve a Constitution for themselves?
USE THE NOTIONS OF ‘BRIDGE’ AND “PROBLEM-SOLVER’ IN 2003.
Those who want President Obasanjo renominated and reelected and those who want his tenure terminated in 2003 now have basis for action. President Obasanjo should be ranked with respect to how he performs and has been performing the function of a bridge and the function of a problem-solver
since 1999. Those who want to challenge him and seek the office of the President should also use the same indices to attack him and make a case to the Nigerian people for their candidature in 2003. This is the only way the Nigerian people can make a meaningful choice come 2003.
Finally, we should discard the pact, which candidate Obasanjo entered into with his sponsors in 1998 and which was hinted at by Alhaji Mohammed Kura, the Senator-elect from Kano on March 2, 1999 in the Post Express. It is sad that out of laziness, the Nigerian politicians ignored this hint since then until Chief Sunny Okogwu said something about it two years after. The politicians and some military officers are jumping up to deny and denounce the existence of any document or of the pact. Unfortunately, they fail
to address other hints about the understanding between the sponsors of candidate Obasanjo and the candidate in 1998/9. We should recall the analogy between the succession in 1976 and 1999 by General TY Danjuma. What about the revelation at the Oputa Commission by General Bamaiye, that General Obasanjo was deemed the successor before the announcement of the transition program? Have we forgotten the outburst by Alhaji Lawal Kaita that the north allowed the ‘voluntary power shift’ to the south and that the north would take it back at the appropriate time? Have we forgotten the outburst of Dr. Datti Ahmed on why the North invited General Obasanjo and funded his election or selection? We should recall the
critical BBC interview by President Shehu Shagari in September 2000 that the Obasanjo ‘abused the trust of the north’ and later told the Ndi Igbo people that if he were to have his way, it would be turn of the Ndi Igbo in 2003. Was it an oversight that President Shagari did not say that Nigeria should give Obasanjo a second term and allow the Ndi Igbo to succeed him after two terms?
All these were in the context of the understanding called the pact.
We should open up the system; we should allow the visions of the incumbent and challengers from anywhere in the country to be played out in the political arena. Consequently, we should discard the notions of ‘zoning’, ‘rotation’ and ‘turn by turn’. They are not only static,
but they are anti-democratic.
One could recall how one worked hard for the ‘interplay of political forces’ in 1992 to be allowed to determine who became the Presidential candidates of the two political parties. It was this, which led to the new electoral system and a new nomination system
for the free, fair and credible process. This was how we had an election that produced a southerner in 1993. I can still work with INEC to set in process, the modality that would determine who leads this country if one is given the opportunity to advice.
Now that all the three political parties are no longer political parties as we know parties in literature or in the past and now that the existing parties are different from the parties that were recognized in 1998, the political space should be opened up for other formations. Consequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should allow many
political parties to participate in accordance with the freedom of association in the human rights regime. There is nothing wrong for a party to organize for the purpose of controlling part of the country just as the UPN, NPP, PRP, GNPP in the Second Republic and the AD in 1999. This would have to be in the context of the fundamental restructuring of the federal system, which
reduces the power and the attraction of Abuja and concentrates enough power and attraction in the federal units. Parties would eventually sort out themselves into two sprawling alliances and later parties as the UPGA/NNA under the First Republic, PPA/NPN under the Second Republic and SDP/NRC under the Third Republic.
© 1999 - 2006 Segun Toyin Dawodu. All rights reserved. All unauthorized copying or adaptation of any content of this site will be liable to legal recourse.
Segun Toyin Dawodu, P. O. BOX 710080, HERNDON, VA 20171-0080, USA.
This page was last updated on 10/27/07.