Congratulations For Mr President

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CONGRATULATIONS FOR MR PRESIDENT:
NIGERIANS WANT A "PROBLEM-SOLVER" IN 2003-2007:
being a message of congratulation to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on his success in the "civil rule to civil rule election"

By

Professor Omo Omoruyi

africandemocracy@hotmail.com

 

April 23, 2003

His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,
President, Commander in Chief,
Aso Rock, Abuja. FCT.

Your Excellency:

May I use this medium to congratulate Your Excellency on the resounding electoral victory at the just concluded series of elections especially your election for the second term. More importantly, I congratulate you on successfully overcoming the "civil rule to civil rule succession election".

Your Excellency, you are aware of the foreboding expressed General Muhammadu Buhari that no elected civilian rule had ever completed a second term. It is our prayer that the God Almighty that saw the nation under your leadership through this election will guide you and the political class in the next four years and in the end will watch over you as you preside over a successful civil rule to civil rule election in 2007.

Your Excellency, what you are teaching Nigerians is that democracy is not based on one election but on a series of elections until election is routinized. Democrats are those who believe that one election is not end of political life. Democrats are those who believe in a series of election. Democrats are those who believe that after one election there would be another election. Unfortunately the behavior of your opponents cannot qualify them as democrats. It is a pity that all your opponents were contesting their last elections in life. Many of the political parties only wanted to be recorded in Nigerian history at the expense of tax payers.

Your Excellency, it is not in every election circle that we come up with new laws and new ballot boxes and papers. We can update but we should not think that we should start all over again as we did last year that even a month to the election the Electoral law was still an issue. So too with the nature of ballot box and ballot paper!

Your Excellency, it is every election year that we embark on voters' registration. This should be an ongoing exercise.

A KNOWN CRITIC WHO SAW THE DANGER FACING NIGERIA

I am glad I was able to make my views known about the presidential candidates in the 2003 election. I am a known critic of your administration since 1999 because I want you to do better. I appreciated the issues at stake as soon as your two main opponents (Buhari and Ojukwu) jumped into the race. The choice facing Nigeria and the challenges that you would face as a candidate became very obvious to me that I should speak out. I am glad I was able to endorse Your Excellency subsequently.

PLAN TO JOIN YOUR CAMPAIGN IN NIGERIA FAILED

I had thought that I would be making the declaration of endorsement on the Nigerian soil. But all efforts I made between February and March 2003 to get on the campaign trail in Nigeria failed owing to factors beyond my control.

I wanted to join your campaign as late as March 28 at Benin when you were the honored Guest of my people. The arrangement to get me there came too late for me to be there on time.

When all these efforts to be in Nigeria to campaign for you did not materialize, I resorted to the means available to me, the media at home and in the international community to dwell on why you are the person out of the 17 candidates in 2003 to be entrusted with the destiny of Nigeria. I also resorted to the lecture circuit in the US to campaign for you.

I recall the special occasion organized by the Integrated Supporters for Obasanjo (ISO) where I was invited to be the keynote speaker. It just coincided with when Your Excellency was at Benin. I used that occasion to give the members of ISO and through the ISO to the Nigerian people what was involved in the campaign and some pet talks on how to market Your Excellency.

OBASANJO'S BATTLE IS FOR THE SOUL OF NIGERIA

Through this medium, I want to once more associate myself with Your Excellency as you set out to establish the second term administration. This is quite an onerous task. Nigerians at home and abroad are watching and are anxiously waiting to see how you would commence the second term. The team you would assemble will make Nigerians come to the conclusion as to what to expect from your second term.

Your Excellency, I am glad that you did not underestimate your two major opponents (Buhari and Ojukwu) during the campaign. They respectively raised for the first time in national politics such issues as religion and ethnicity as instruments of getting to power. One (Buhari) was in the tradition of the "Political Jihadist of Nigeria" and the other (Ojukwu) displayed utter lack of faith in the corporate existence of Nigeria. Their plan to promote "Stalemate" during the first election was frightening.

Your Excellency I am sure you are glad as many Nigerians are that the Nigerian voters in the north and in the southeast who Buhari and Ojukwu relied on respectively knew that they were working from the same page. The Nigerian voters knew that they had "a hidden agenda". This was what made me come up with the refrain, "a vote for Ojukwu is a vote for Buhari" and "a vote for Buhari is a vote Ojukwu". Of course, their supporters were surprised when they were faced with the written pact between these two Nigerians 48 hours to the presidential election that they were working for a stalemated outcome during the first ballot. Of course, an inconclusive first ballot in accordance with the Constitution would have pushed the presidential election to the second ballot.

Your Excellency you were faced with the uncertainty over the civil rule to civil rule succession election. One could imagine what would have happened, if the election were inconclusive, a position that Buhari and Ojukwu were working for. Nigerians who voted massively for you throughout the country were aware that a second ballot in Nigeria to determine who would be the President even though allowed in the Constitution would have been a recipe for political disaster. This was what Buhari and Ojukwu wanted and that you were able to clinch victory on the first ballot is a source of joy for Nigerians who genuinely have the interest of Nigeria at heart.

WHAT THE ELECTION DEMONSTRATED

The election results from the north and the southeast proved one thing. The results demonstrated that the followers of Buhari and Ojukwu knew that they were working together. Buhari and Ojukwu failed to appreciate that their primary followers in Katsina and in Anambra respectively were also the followers or the sons and daughters of the followers of two illustrious Nigerian patriots, General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe respectively who would have given you their support, if they were alive. One wonders how General Yar'Adua and Dr. Azikiwe of blessed memory would feel, if they were woken up from their grave and be told that some charlatans in the name of the north and the southeast were in effect planning to plunge the country into utter darkness. I am glad many Nigerians of goodwill in the north, south, east and west joined hands to send a message to them and people like them. This is what your election in April 2003 proved.

YOUR ELECTION IS TRUST IN YOU AND NOT FOR THE PARTY

May I humbly plead with Your Excellency, that Nigerians from different parts of the country gave you and not necessarily the party their votes in April 2003 in trust, as they did in 1999?

In the past, i.e. in 1999, Nigerians saw you as the one who would be "a bridge" between the past military misrule and the future.

In April 2003, Nigerians gave you their votes once more on the firm belief and faith that you would battle in 2003-2007 for the soul of Nigeria and improve the quality of life of the Nigerian people.

I recall when I endorsed you; my critics asked me to name "what Chief Obasanjo did since 1999". Those who asked such a question had in mind the mundane things like the number of roads built, schools opened etc. In my view, these were not the problems that Nigeria faced when Your Excellency came to power in 1999.

OBASANJO WAS "A BRIDGE" 1999-2003

Any fool can found a school; any dictator or tyrant can build roads.

NOT anybody can serve as a "bridge" between the past and the present and the future. It is only you, Obasanjo who did it between 1999 and today.

NOT anybody can be a "bridge" between the long years of military misrule of Nigeria and the period of accountability of the military to the democratic order. It is only you, Obasanjo from 1999.

NOT anybody can be a "bridge" between the period of despair and the period of hope. It is only you, Obasanjo who 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. It is only Obasanjo who introduced a questioning spirit and a skeptical disposition that Senator J. William Fulbright called the highest form of patriotism.

Responding to the question, what did Obasanjo do since 1999, the President's image-makers should focus on three fundamental issues.

ONE. Your Excellency without making a noise about it, dealt with the bane of Nigerian politics since 1966. I am referring to how Your Excellency with one announcement took the military off the back of Nigerian politicians. Today Nigeria now has deethnicized and depoliticized armed forces, thanks to President Obasanjo.

TWO. The emergence of Your Excellency moved Nigeria from political cynicism to political optimism. This is the explanation of why 30 political parties and 17 presidential candidates were vying for the control of this country from 2003.

THREE: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe's commitment to one Nigeria can only equal Your Excellency's belief in one Nigeria. The difference between Your Excellency and your two main opponents (Buhari and Ojukwu) is clear.

NEED FOR OBASANJO AS "PROBLEM SOLVER" 2003-2007

Your Excellency, 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. What these problems are is not for me to identify; a content analysis of Nigerian concerns should be a clue to these problems that could be summed up in one word, POVERTY.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

Now that the election has resolved some of the personnel problems in the National Assembly, the National Assembly should be made to reform the way it does its business. Immediate in my view are the following:

1. The National Assembly should only recognize the majority and minority parties in the work of the National Assembly. This means that there shall be two leaders (majority and minority) in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. This will also apply to the organization of the Committees. Under no circumstances should a member of the minority party be a Chairman of the Committee in the National Assembly. This was a source of friction in the past where members of the ANPP were busy moving motions for the harassment of the President.

2. The seating arrangement in both Chambers of the National Assembly should be in accordance with the political parties. The Members of the majority party sitting together in alphabetical order would be on one side. The Members of the minority also sitting together would be on the other side. The system where all members irrespective of parties sit in alphabetical order contributed to the lack of discipline in the past that should be avoided in 2003-2007.

I shall make some suggestions to the members of the National Assembly in due course.

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW IS URGENT

Your Excellency, you consistently opposed the idea of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) as a means of finding solutions to the lingering political problems in Nigeria.

Your Excellency, you consistently believed that the present machinery, the National Assembly and the political class can be used to address the same problems raised by those who canvassed the SNC.

Your Excellency, Nigerians went to the election with these two positions. In the southwest and southeast the AD and APGA with their ethnic organizations that supported them canvassed for SNC. You and your party consistently opposed the idea. In the end, the AD and APGA were vanquished in the southwest and southeast leaving the PDP and the President, Chief Obasanjo as the victor.

Your Excellency, since you agree with the fact there are some lingering political issues that should be discussed and reduced into a law, the National Assembly should set a guideline for such a Conference. It should thereafter be convened under your auspices.

Once this is done, the outcome from the Conference will be placed before the National Assembly and its counterpart in the States. This would not be difficult to implement since most of the members of the National and State Assemblies are of the PDP.

With your leadership, the National Assembly should immediately be saddled with the review of the Constitution to take care of the issues raised at National Conference.

What these issues are should be for the Nigerian people to itemize. It should be one of the issues that you should charge the Nigerian people with through the newly elected persons. This should be addressed as a matter of urgency. The issues people talk about have to do with intergovernmental relations.

A NEW PDP AND A NEW ANPP

Your Excellency, you have already demonstrated your capacity as a politician. There is a New PDP without any doubt. The New PDP reflects your new base of support that is different from that of 1999.

No one can boast and charge you that "we put you there when your people rejected you in 1999". Those who used to boast that they put you there know that your strongest base of support today as you proceed to the second term is your home base, the southwest followed by the south-south, the southeast and the north-central called the middle-belt. This is the current base of the New PDP. The people in these areas would want to be happy that "their mother is in the kitchen".

No one can charge you that you entered into a pact with him or her for one thing or the other. Your pact is now with the Nigerian people in search of solutions to their problems.

You now have a non-renewable second term of four years, which unlike the first term where you only had less than three years to work with because of politics of second term. That you no longer have to face the politics of another term is the freedom you have during the second term. Now that you have it, use it to make a difference in the life of Nigerians. You will not have excuses and you will not have another chance to make amends.

A NEW POLITICAL MAINSTREAM

Now that you have successfully brought the southwest into the political mainstream of Nigeria, you now face the problem of defining the compass of the "Nigerian Political Mainstream" within which political parties can operate. The Nigerian political mainstream abhors extremism in the pursuit of religious and ethnic goals in the public realm.

May I opine that the people of the southwest could be members of the PDP or of the ANPP? No ethnic or religious group needs a political party formed by it for the purpose of promoting its agenda in Nigerian politics. What happened to the Alliance for Democracy/Afenifere should be a lesson for the Ndigbo and the Arewa. They do not need a political party for the interest of Ndigbo or Arewa in Nigeria.

One would recall that the ANPP that has some followers in the south before the election should immediately redefine its mission in Nigeria. It inherited the Abacha elite of the APP in both north and south. After the 1999 election one would recall that it was gradually getting over the Abacha image when it changed its name from APP to ANPP. But suddenly it became the citadel of religious extremist in the north.

Arising from the current election, it is sad that ANPP occupies the "Political Sharia Belt" of Nigeria. Some Nigerians even call the ANPP as made up of the followers of Sheik of Zamfara or Wadas Nas of Nigeria.

Your Excellency, the lesson of the political debacle of the ANPP in April is that Nigerians in the north and south are against extremism in the pursuit of religious and ethnic goals in Nigerian politics or in the public realm. One would recall that the ANPP presidential candidate that was faced with the drawback from religious extremism before he became the candidate unwittingly entered into a league with another extremist, an ethnic jingoist in Nigerian politics, Dim Ojukwu who told Nigerians that he was in politics "to take the Ndigbo back to Nigeria". Take the Ndigbo back to Nigeria! Even the voters in Nnewi, his home base told him that they are in Nigeria trading all over the country. Others told him that their plight is no different from the plight of the common man in other parts of Nigeria who are in search of employment, who want water and light etc. This is why he would continue to fail in "a one person, one vote" politics that we call democracy. The Ndigbo who are talented and gifted people did not want to fall prey to a charlatan twice in their life and commit collective ethnic suicide. The pattern of their vote reflected this.

Your Excellency, my assessment of the returns from the election demonstrates conclusively that Nigerians in the Christian belt especially in the south-south and southeast who were originally scared of what Buhari represents in Nigerian politics were further frightened when General Buhari and Dim Ojukwu were rumored as working together in order to stop Obasanjo.

Your Excellency, those who voted for Obasanjo/Atiku ticket in the north and in the southeast were frightened of the publicly announced pact between the two extremists in Nigerian politics. This is a lesson for the political class that anyone who wants to aspire to lead Nigeria in the future must aggregate the common denominator in Nigeria.

DEFINING THE NIGERIAN POLITICAL MAINSTREAM

May I hazard a definition of the new political mainstream?

The new political mainstream should be based on a NEW conception of Nigeria with the following attributes:

  1. All ethnic nationalities would be treated as functional equals.
  2. All ethnic nationalities should be encouraged to pursue their political mission through the inter-play of democratic forces instead of the highly static notion of zoning, rotation and power shift.
  3. All ethnic organizations like the Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere or the Ohaneze should leave politics to politicians.
  4. All ethnic organizations should no longer aspire to take the place of political parties. The last election proved their low political salience. In fact, those who depended on them like the AD and APGA must have known by now that they should not have lifted these ethnic organizations to the level they assumed in the immediate past.
  5. As a matter of deliberate policy, may I plead with Your Excellency that there should be a vigorous application of the Constitution (Sections 221 and 222) that forbids the canvassing for votes and political post by associations other that the political parties.
  6. All States in the Federation should be allowed some level of economic freedom, which for another term is called resource control.
  7. All States in the Federation should be the units of representation and not the ethnic nationalities or geo-political zones or regions. This is the origin of notion of "Federal Character" in Section 14 of the Constitution. States are used as the second condition for the election of the President and not ethnic groups. Also local government areas are used as the second condition for the election of the governors. What I advising is that States and Local government should be strengthened.
  8. Your Excellency, you are now faced with the daunting task of managing the political mainstream between 2003 and 2007.
  9. The President should encourage what is left of the AD and APGA with ethnic agenda to fuse with the new PDP or new ANPP as the case may be.
  10. There should be a constitutional injunction that would restrict the number of political parties after every election on the basis of their performance and "geographical spread" in an election. It should have been obvious after the 2003 election that only two parties should have been allowed to canvass for votes. The choice before Nigerians would have been neater. We do not need 30 political parties and we do not need 17 presidential candidates at every election.
  11. Let me use this medium to congratulate Dr. Abel Ibude Guobadia for a job well done under the most difficult circumstances he and INEC found themselves. Some people who criticized INEC did not appreciate the task of managing so many political parties and office seekers. The pressure it poses for law enforcement agencies and on the government resources ought to have warned us before we got into this. We can avoid all these in anticipation of the 2007.
  12. The politics of 2003-2007 should be based on the PDP and the ANPP as the Majority and Minority parties.

Again Congratulations and God Bless.

May God Bless Nigeria.

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