16 May, 2006
I will not forget 16 May, 2006, the day that the Senate nailed the coffin of Obasanjo’s ambition for life presidency. The President must from now think of what to do with the rest of his life. He must be thinking of returning to Otta, at least for some days if not for the rest of his life. But Otta Farm will not be the same for him since he has squandered the goodwill it had which hitherto attracted the cream of our society. Prison will also feature in his calculation. Will the next President send him to jail after discovering his corruption activities?
Particularly as a result of the last possibility – jail - the President will naturally be preoccupied in his lame duck days with not less than five things. One, he will be thinking of how to clean the fingerprints that will implicate him in the future when Nigerians discover the colossal corruption that took place at NNPC, privatisation exercise, National ID card project, ministerial allocations, 2003 elections, Presidential library, third term, and so forth.
Two, since some of the fingerprints are indelible, he will also be planning to handover the presidency to a person who will decide to let the sleeping dogs lie. Here, Mr President is too late, for the time he should have used to manoeuvre was wasted planning for a third term. We are more worried that this contemplation will force the president to choose a thoroughly corrupt person to succeed him. Our days of suffering may not be over then.
Three, the president in the next few months may embark on his his last grab. God save the NNPC account! It is likely that we will witness something similar to the policy rush during the Abdulsalami days. Obasanjo is notorious for repeating every mistake of his predecessors. This will not be an exception. Appointments into strategic positions in the civil service; signing of huge contracts; speedy release of payments; completion of privatisation of important parastatals like NITEL and NEPA; etc, will be accelerated without even going through due process. The acceleration will not only be as a result of the President’s interest, but also that of his cronies, third term stalwarts, ministers, business partners and so on, with each rushing to make his last kill.
Four, the President will from 16 May 2006 enter his lame duck days, when he will cease to have the impact he had before as the President. Nigerians and the world will start to see him as outgoing, listening to him as they listen to a person on the death bed. No prudent businessman will sign any long term contract with the regime; he will wait until the next President is sworn into office. No nation will accord Obasanjo the treatment of an effective President, but only as someone whose relevance is over; they will be more interested to listen to who will succeed him. This is a situation that the President has dreaded all along. I was happy that he did not collapse in France the moment the Senate took that milestone decision on 16 May.
Five, the President will live for the rest of his life in shame. Here is a person who preferred shame to honour; whom God has given two chances of becoming a hero forever in our history but chose to be a disaster; and who spoke virulently against the corruption of other leaders only to prove being worse. He saw himself as the Almighty and wanted to lead for ever. He could not even see that Nigeria was bigger than Chad, Togo or Uganda. He broke every promise, and parted with every friend. Instead of choosing to remain with the noble, he sided with the crooks that led him to the pit of eternal dishonour. He will neither die the messiah he once hoped to become nor the statesman he once claimed. We will list him among our most incompetent and corrupt leaders.
16 May 2006 is not a waterloo for Obasanjo alone. Almost all governors who thought that third term agenda will offer them the chance to extend their tenures will share the five troubles of Mr. President which we listed above. The battle over the successor that will not expose them; the gradual motion of people away from them; their rush to grab the last opportunities to steal; and their fate after handing over will particularly preoccupy their minds for the next one year.
All those who partook in his third term project will find it very difficult to reconstruct the respect they had in our society. And they are many; in fact too many to mention. Some governors were carried by greed to support the third term, wanting to remain lords over their people forever; some were driven by the fear that EFCC dog will be set against them, given the stupendous theft they have committed; and some for both reasons – corruption and greed, hoping that third term will offer them the opportunity to loot their states ad infinitum.
Even among the mediocre governors who supported the third term, those of Nasarawa, Borno and Yobe deserve stoning. These political prostitutes terribly disappointed Nigerians. Bukar Abba Ibrahim for example was telling the world that since Adam, Yobe has never witnessed development as it did during the last seven years. The clown has forgotten that Yobe was at a time the seat of one of the most prosperous empires in Africa – the Borno Empire. It was very stressful to see a leader of Yobe State reducing himself to this level of buffoonery. The day I heard that interview over the BBC, I raised my hand asking God to intervene between us and these cheats. And he did, on 16 May, 2006.
But if the three governors are barely educated, I must regret that even my mentor, Jibril Aminu, has at this last stage his life muddled into such a mess after series of record performances in all his previous assignments from a headboy at Barewa College up to his position as Minister of Education and, later, of Petroleum. I wonder why he did not choose to be like Sunday Awoniyi. Despite his involvement in the third term, Aminu is certainly not the man one would ever like to denigrate. But it pains to record that he is concluding his life on a terribly bad note. The only excuse one can give for his depreciating performance is that he has reached his level of incompetence, in accordance with the Peter Principle, which states that each of us will continue to rise until he reaches his level of incompetence. Aminu did not use the wisdom of his ancestors who said power, among four things, must never be trusted. Or is he thinking that Obasanjo will give him the presidential ticket?
Of course there are people in the National Assembly who are not worth of mentioning here – people like Mantu, Tafida, etc. Their fate in politics is sealed.
But 16 May, 2006 is not a day that exposed the scoundrels alone. We must mention our heroes. Charity, they say, begins at home. I am from a state whose politicians who, despite the ambivalent stand of the governor over the third term, categorically rejected the third term. I am very proud of that. My sincere appreciation goes to Bello Kirfi and his group of elders. It seems that this effort has made me to temporarily forgive the dishonesty and cheating they perpetrated against the opposition in the 2003 elections. He has proved to be the father of Bauchi politics. I hope Kirfi will maintain the strength of their coalition and use it to ensure that an equally competent person succeeds Muazu.
Our appreciation also goes to governors Tinubu of Lagos State, Kalu of Abia, Boni Haruna of Adamawa, and Dariye of Plateau. These people are my heroes simply because they proved to be men; they refused to be intimidated by a person who is equally guilty through and thorough. Tinubu in particular, unlike other southwest governors, resisted the ethnic persuasion by an opportunist who was not Yoruba enough to ever support Obafemi Awolowo. Then, of course, governor Bafarawa, who right from the beginning condemned tazarce. “Nigerians,” he told the BBC in a humble voice a year ago, have tolerated us for six years. We should be grateful to leave the scene for another group of leaders.” Then Shekarau, who, ab initio, we never expected will support the perfidy. He did not disappoint us.
Then we come to the most important category of heroes – members of the National Assembly who stood firm against the agenda, despite threats to their lives and cash inducement. Ben Obi, Kuta, Dansadau, Mamora, Kirikasanma, Chukwumereji, Nuhu Aliyu, Baba Tela, Gandi, Bunza, Matori, and plenty others deserve our special praise. I do not think it will be a bad idea if a resolution is passed one day to engrave their names on the wall of the National Assembly for generations to come. They did it proud. I wish rallies will be held in their respective villages and towns to receive them as their ancestors were received when returning from the battlefield. Neither will it be a bad idea for the nation to declare May 16 a Legislature Day. Yearly, we will hold a rally on that day to remember our real victory over the devil of despotism and self-succession.
Lastly, we must mention the Nigerian public which in various capacities, as organizations or individuals, resisted, for the first time, to be swayed by sentiments which the pro-third term characters tried to whip up. They tried to divide us on basis of religion, but the Catholic Church and Christian Association of Nigeria came out to condemn the project; they tried to pitch the South against the North especially at the Enugu Conference where the North was abused recklessly by the President’s agents, but in the end, the appeals had little impact; etc.
It is also interesting to note that the battle against third term was won without public demonstrations, which the police used every tool to suppress. We are glad that, for whatever reasons, the West did not go wild. It kept mute, unlike during the IBB and Abacha era, except for the half-hearted condemnations that came from Afenifere and AD. Yes. We did not require lives to be lost on the streets of Lagos.
Our newspapers from various regions also deserve our mention. Majority of them have maintained the heat on the President and his cronies. Up here we commend the tremendous contributions of the Daily Trust which for seven years has maintained its status as a voice of reason. Then, of course, this newspaper, Leadership – the nightmare of Mr. President, which has offered the opportunity to express our views and vent our anger on the third term agenda. The contributions of Radio Deutche Welle, Voice of America and BBC, have also provided avenues, particularly for the common man, to listen and contribute to the debate over the third term agenda.
Finally, as the President and our Governors who thought they will never vacate their seats come to terms with the realities of 16 May which we listed in the first part of the article, we must start to map out ways of not allowing them impose a successor who is worse than the President, though it is difficult to contemplate one. In doing so, the political cohorts of the President will again use religion, ethnicity and regionalism to divide Nigerians. I wish the collective spirit with which we defeated the third term ambition of the President will remain strong enough to resist their machinations until the election day. I hope we will have the heart to choose a competent leader from any part of the country, any religion or any tribe. If that will happen, I will have cause to smile for the second time in my political career. The first was 16 May 2006.
17 May 2006