Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
RALLY ROUND OBASANJO
BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF NIGERIA IN 2003
Professor OMO OMORUYI, mni
Being an address delivered at the Fund Raising Dinner organized by the Integrated Supporters for Obasanjo (ISO)at Holiday Inn, South Ozone, New York on March 29, 2003.
I recently fulfilled the promise I made that at the appropriate time I would make my views known about the presidential candidates in the 2003 election. Today while the President is still in my home in Edo State selling himself, I am glad to join you as one of the SUPPORTERS of Obasanjo in the forthcoming election.
In making this declaration, I indicated that I would be giving more reasons in concrete terms why I endorsed Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the presidential candidates in the April 2003 election. This occasion is just the beginning. I thank the organizers of this occasion for inviting me and allowing me to say few words. In my public and private life I am not known as a praise singer; in whatever I do I do not rush to take a decision.
THE NATION SWOOPS IN DANGER
This was the expression of my revered political leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe when he as the ceremonial President did not know how to check the excesses of the executive Prime Minister whose party was bent on rigging the “self-succession election” in December 1964. How do we deal with a clique that mismanaged this country for over forty years since 1960 and who now wants to get back to power at all cost? What do we do with such a clique that appeals to religion and ethnicity as the instrument of mobilization?
Nigeria is at a crossroads; Nigerians are in a dilemma. At this juncture, patriots and lovers of that citadel of the Black World must stand to be counted.
I want to be counted on the column of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and not on the anti-Nigeria and anti-democratic column of Buhari/Ojukwu in 2003.
This is the choice in 2003; I have already made mine. Have you made yours?
In fact, when Mr. Eduwu of the Integrated Supporters for OBASANJO first hinted me of this occasion, I asked myself few questions. Did he or the planner of this event know that that would coincide with the period when I shall make my endorsement of Chief Obasanjo as the fit and proper candidate in the forthcoming election? That would be a coincidence and it is as I made my endorsement just few hours ago.
This occasion turns out to be a minor coincidence. I am afraid if Mr. Eduwu or Attorney Sam Osagiede or Mr. Davies Aiwerioghene (all illustrious sons of Edoland) or Dr. Mark Olufemi Adesina knew that the MOTHER of ALL COINCIDENCES was in the offing.
“EDO ISIAGBON” (Edo as the center of the Universe) or “OBAISIAGBON” (Oba as the source of life)!
I further asked myself certain pertinent questions as an Edo person does, how today “Edo has become the center of Nigeria’s universe” or how today “the Oba has become the source of life”.
Do the planners of this event know where Chief Obasanjo would be during this period?
Do they know that Aso Rock has temporarily relocated to Benin City, the proverbial heart-beat of the nation from March 28 to 29, 2003?
Do they know that all roads lead to Edoland in Nigeria during this period?
Do they know that I am expected to be there too to formally endorse the candidacy of Chief Obasanjo in Benin during this period? And here I am doing the same thing! What a coincidence!
Do they know that they are reenacting the saying in Benin, which says “EDOISIAGBON” or “OBAISIAGBON”, meaning “EDO IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE”, “OBA IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE” by the coincidence of these events. What a coincidence!
This event in New York US is coming just within the period of the visit of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to EDOLAND, Benin City and his courtesy call to the OMO N’OBA N’EDO, EREDIAUWA at his Palace in Benin City.
I am speaking to you just about the same time Chief Obasanjo is bringing to the Edo people his message of hope.
Are the Edo illustrious sons and daughters participating in this event in lieu of their participation with their kith and kin in Nigeria? My brothers and sisters, you can do more. Mr. Chairman, use your power to direct the Edo persons including me to send messages home to night to make the folks back home know where we are. This is not all; ask the individual Edo person back home to win one soul or one voter for Obasanjo for April 19, 2003. What a coincidence!
WHY I ENDORSE OBASANJO
In endorsing Chief Obasanjo, I did it as a Nigerian who is concerned about the issues at stake. In doing that I was acting in accordance with the decision I took in December 1983 after the military intervention in politics that put an end to the Second Republic. My New Year Resolution of January 1, 1984 was in two parts: (a) to renounce partisan politics and (b) to commit myself to the goal of reforming the practice of politics.
OBASANJO: THE ONLY DEMOCRAT IN AND OUT OF SERVICE.
My decision to get involved in the politics of democratic transition was in furtherance of the commitment. During this period 1989-93 there was one person whose views mattered as far as the military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was concerned. He was General Segun Obasanjo as the former military Head of State and the greatest defender of democracy and of one Nigeria from his farm at Otta. General Babangida always told me that one should be careful because when he spoke it used to signal the end of a regime. Obasanjo’s word of criticism ended the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and of Buhari, so it was assumed in military circle.
OBASANJO SHOULD COPY HIS FORMER DEPUTY
Looking back, in my dealings with “the men on horse back”, I can vouch for Chief Obasanjo as the only democrat in military uniform unlike his colleagues. His innate commitment to democracy was very infectious.
I was not surprised that his deputy, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was the first and only retired General in Nigerian history unlike other retired Generals today masquerading as democrats who demonstrated a knack for organizing a political party in Nigerian history. I recall how General Yar’Adua went round the country to set up a political machine that had tentacles in all parts of the country. I recall how the Yar’Adua’s machine, the Peoples Front of Nigeria (PFN) that successfully took over the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1989.
I recall I once had a breakfast with General Yar’Adua during the SDP Primaries in his home in Katsina. Seeing how he was dominating the Presidential primaries from the reports reaching me from various parts of the country and appreciating his dominance of the primaries in Katsina, I was forced to ask, “General, how did you put together this massive and close knit national political machine”? He smiled and said “Prof. that is for your PH.D student to find out”. He assured me that he would cooperate with any scholar who would want to talk to him. Unfortunately no one has ever done a study of the “Yar’Adua political machine” as far I know till today.
What is remarkable about this retired General, was that he did it with out making noise. General Yar’Adua did what he did without emphasizing religion like his fellow Katsina man, Buhari who is campaigning for Muslim to vote for someone who would respect their religion. He did what he did without emphasizing his ethnic group or region like Ojukwu who is campaigning for the Igbo worldwide to vote only for him. Nothing about his conduct betrayed his military connection. He relied solely on the civilian political leaders.
Another issue that is worth asking is where were other retired Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals from the south? They contributed to the relative impotence of their people politically and economically during the period of the military misrule of Nigeria.
MORE LESSONS FROM YAR’ADUA
I still recall how General Yar’Adua, a Fulani from Katsina and a retired General beat the legendary popular former civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji LK Jakande in the open presidential primaries under the SDP in Lagos in 1992. As a matter of hindsight, one of the mistakes of that period was the cancellation of that exercise that would have had General Yar’Adua and Mallam Adamu Ciroma as the two candidates in that election. I knew as of fact that for the cancellation of the primaries in 1992, General Yar’Adua would have been the first retired General who would have successfully moved from Khaki to Agbada or Babariga through the interplay of democratic forces.
What lesson do members of ISO learn from this episode? The ISO should impress on Obasanjo of the need for a new base of support and survival during his second term.
I am not surprised that this Yar’Adua machine is still at work today with the Vice President Atiku as the link. The Yar’Adua machine was a national organization. It should be reenacted as the new support base for Obasanjo’s second term. This in my view should be the mission of and for the Integrated Supporters for Obasanjo (ISO).
An important lesson has to do with the Yar’Adua machine PFN fused with the Awo machine, the Peoples Solidarity Party (PSP) to form the SDP. One hopes that one day the new Obasanjo machine, which is a reformed Yar’Adua machine would fuse with the Awo machine to form a new PDP. This would be the political party of the future of Nigeria.
OBASANJO’S BATTLE IS FOR THE SOUL OF NIGERIA
Through this medium, I want to associate myself with the Integrated Supporters of Obasanjo (ISO) in coming to the aid of President Obasanjo as he battles for the second term. This is a tough battle.
ISO should not underestimate Obasanjo’s two major opponents. I am referring to General Muhammadu Buhari, the “Political Jihadist of Nigeria” and Dim Emeka Ojukwu, the “Stalemate Strategist of Nigeria”.
General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu are working from the same page disguised as if they are operating from two ends, it would appear. I say disguised or it would appear advisedly. Nigerians should not be fooled and I am sure members of ISO are not. One hopes that the Obasanjo/Atiku ticket appreciates the danger to the democratic order of the combination of Buhari and Ojukwu. What about the INEC?
The ISO should tell Nigerians who mean well for the country that General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu are coordinating their anti-democratic strategies. General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu are working for the same purpose. They want to defeat Obasanjo by making it impossible for him to win on the first ballot. Dim Ojukwu in the end would turn over his supporters to vote for Buhari during the run-off. This is the “hidden agenda” of Buhari cum Ojukwu.
One hopes that Nigerians in the north and in the southeast know what their icon (Buhari and Ojukwu) are planning to do in their name. Do their followers know that they want to work together and in effect plunge the country into utter darkness? May I implore you that you have an onerous task at hand, to support Chief Obasanjo and join him to battle in 2003 for the soul of Nigeria.
A VOTE FOR OJUKWU IS A VOTE FOR BUHARI
From today, members of ISO should tell the Nigerian people of the “hidden agenda” of Buhari and Ojukwu. Consequently we should tell the Nigerian people the refrain,
“a vote for Ojukwu is a vote for Stalemate” and
“a Vote for Ojukwu is a Vote for Buhari”
as the end of Ojukwu and Buhari.
SELL OBASANJO’S PLACE IN NIGERIAN POLITICAL LIFE
Mr. Chairman and members of ISO, may I use this opportunity to remind our people at home and in Diaspora that no Nigerian in public life, dead or alive, whose life has meant so much for the country as Chef Obasanjo between 1970 and 1999. In my endorsement statement I tried to identify the FIVE FEATS I know in the life of Chief Obasanjo in his public life in Nigeria between 1970 and 1999. What a remarkable life!
Candidate Obasanjo is a modest man; he would not want to blow his trumpet. You members of ISO should blow it for him.
Those who are managing his campaign should place these before the Nigerian voters to see. The Nigerian voters do not know. They just know him as the former military Head of State from Abeokuta.
It is your business; it is my business; and it is our business to tell the Nigerian voters to compare these feats with his opponents, such as General Buhari and Din Ojukwu.
1: Who ended the Civil War? Who did the rebel leaders surrender to? Who took them to Lagos to meet the Commander in Chief? Answer; Chief Obasanjo.
2: Who stepped into the shoe of the slained military leader and performed creditably and was able to hold the country together? Answer; Chief Obasanjo.
3: Who successfully implemented the program of democratic transition (1976-79) and handed over to a democratically elected President and went back to his home a civilian on October 1, 1979? Who was the first African Head of State that voluntarily handed over to a civilian? Answer; Chief Obasanjo.
4: Who came to the rescue of the Nigerian people from the hands of the military that misruled the country for 13 years (1966-79) and for another 16 years (1983 to 1999)? Answer, Chief Obasanjo.
5: Who served as a credible “Bridge” between the past and the present? Answer; Chief Obasanjo.
We should deal further on the number 5 as this is critical to the 2003 election.
FROM BRIDGE TO A PROBLEM-SOLVER
The campaign by ISO should take another form when asked what Chief Obasanjo has done since 1999. Those who ask such a question have in mind the mundane things like the number of roads built, schools opened etc. These were not the problems that Nigeria faced when Obasanjo came to power.
Any fool can found a school; anybody can build roads.
NOT anybody can serve as a “bridge” between the past and the present and the future. It is Obasanjo between 1999 and today.
NOT anybody can be a “bridge” between the long years of military misrule and the period of accountability of the military to the democratic order. It is only Obasanjo from 1999.
NOT anybody can be a “bridge” between the period of despair and the period of hope. Obasanjo brought hope to Nigerians that they can govern themselves.
NOT anybody can be a “bridge” between the life of cynicism and pessimism and the life of skepticism and optimism. Obasanjo introduced a questioning spirit and a skeptical disposition that Senator J. William Fulbright called the highest form of patriotism.
THREE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES RESOLVED BY OBASANJO
What should be the simple answer to the question what did Obasanjo do since 1999? In addition to the highly philosophical answer, members of the ISO should focus on three fundamental issues.
ONE. He without making a noise about it, dealt with the bane of Nigerian politics since 1966. I am referring to how he with one announcement took the military off the back of Nigerian politicians. He retired those officers who had held political appointments since 1966. This is what we call the fundamental restructuring of the armed forces. That was what I recommended as the solution to the crisis of democratization in Nigeria after the annulment of the June 12. You will find this in my book, The Tale of June 12.
The fundamental restructuring of the armed forces takes two forms: the fundamental depoliticization and fundamental deethnicization of the armed forces. Today Nigeria has accountable military and representative armed forces.
One hopes that Nigerians would recall that General Buhari criticized this policy in the immediate past. It is his plan and that of those who asked him to run as their presidential candidate to reverse all these laudable feats, if he is voted to power.
ISO should remind General Buhari that the era of the armed forces becoming the alternative political party is over. But it could come back, if Buhari becomes the President. He should therefore be stopped.
TWO. The emergence of Chief Obasanjo moved Nigeria from political cynicism to political optimism. This is the explanation of why so many political parties and presidential candidates are vying for the control of this country from 2003.
Buhari, a non-believer in democracy masquerading as a born-again democrat should be stopped. Ojukwu is a product of those who have all sorts of grouse against others except themselves.
THREE: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s commitment to one Nigeria can only equal Chief Obasanjo’s belief in one Nigeria. At a time when everyone in the southwest in the name of ODUA Republic was saying let us secede after the annulment, Obasanjo kept his cool, put himself between the forces of evil that dealt with him mercilessly and the forces of good on the firm belief that Good will triumph. That is where we are today. The Good triumphed. The dominant forces in Yorubaland can now embrace him. Is it sad that at a time when other ethnic or religion are getting back into the political mainstream of Nigeria, General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu are embarking on the “Politics of Vote for Your Kind”. They are in effect, taking their followers out of Nigeria. Their followers are wiser than they are and would reject them in April 2003.
NEED FOR OBASANJO AS “PROBLEM SOLVER” 2003/7
Those who know Chief Obasanjo in the armed forces would testify as to his capacity compared with General Buhari. Having restructured the armed forces, having given Nigerians hope, and having kept the country together, the next four years will be a period of solving problems. This was why I strongly support his election now that he successfully performed the function of a “bridge”.
In conclusion, let me emphasize what I think the mission of ISO should be in the next few days before the series of elections.
The ISO should educate the Nigerian people and the voters on the choice before them based on Chief Obasanjo’s politics of hope compared with his rivals with the politics of fear.
The ISO should educate Nigerians to appreciate that what this country needs now is choose between Chief Obasanjo who has the capacity to solve problems and his rivals who had never achieved anything in their private life since leaving office.
The ISO should portray these opponents as those who just want to take the country in the name of religion (Buhari) and ethnicity (Ojukwu).
The ISO should impress on Nigerians that Nigeria needs Obasanjo who would be able to reduce the political salience of religion and ethnicity.
The ISO should impress on Nigerians that the election of his rivals (Buhari and Ojukwu) would increase the political salience of religion and ethnicity.
The ISO should impress on all right thinking Nigerians that the future of Nigeria is at stake.
The ISO should impress on Nigerians that one should stand to be counted on the side of the democracy barricade.
The ISO must impress on the Nigerian people that Nigeria is at a crossroads and that Nigerians cannot afford to take the wrong turn and plunge the country into darkness.
May I also appeal to the members of ISO that everything must be done to avoid a disputed election? This is one of the plans of Obasanjo’s opponents who are scheming for a stalemated election (OJUKWU) or those who campaigning that no civilian President has survived two terms (BUHARI). These are serious anti-democratic campaign tactics that should have been declared as such by INEC.
The ISO should impress on the political class that it must avoid rigging of election especially during the presidential election, The ISO members should go home, form a monitoring group and undertake the policing of the polling stations on the Election Day. Chief Obasanjo and his team can win if the process is properly managed.
Each and every one of us must be counted on the side of those who stand for light and against those who are on the side of darkness.
Each and every one of us must be on the side of the democracy barricade and against those who are on the other side of the democracy barricade. This is the choice facing the Nigerian people today.
The ISO should emphasize that Chief Obasanjo is for light and on the side of the democracy barricade and that the anti-Obasanjo clique is for darkness and on the other side of the democracy barricade; hence ISO should impress on the Nigerian people that they should not be for it.
Mr. Chairman, Guest of Honor, Dr. Mark Adesina, Mr. Eduwu and other otganizers of this occasion and the entire body of the Integrated Supporters for Obasanjo (ISO), this is my message of solidarity.
God Bless ISO and all of us;
God Bless our President;
God Bless Oba Erediauwa and the Edo State Government and people hosting the President;
God Bless Nigeria; and above all
God Bring Peace to the Niger-Delta.
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