Obasanjo’s Pregnancy By Olusegun Obasanjo
The foundation of Nigerian problems is political and the solutions to Nigerian problems must start from the foundation. Whether we go back to 1914, 1952 or 1960, we have to go back in the process of soul searching and identification of how, when and where we have wronged ourselves. I strongly believe that we need a Reconciliation Conference to clear the ground. It should be composed of the genuine representatives of Nigerian peoples and should include all the living participants in the pre-independence politics. The objective should be to openly discuss allegations and accusations founded or unfounded of one group’s mistreatment, abuse, disappointment, injustice against another across the board concluding in explanations, apologies, forgiveness and total clearing of the air. There are myths and realities of what happened in the past which we pass down from generation to generation. Let the myths be exploded and the realities be understood and accepted with explanations where necessary, apologies where desired but without recriminations and with complete reconciliation. Nothing should be swept under the carpet. All matters tabled should be discussed and nothing should be hidden, covered or disregarded once it is genuinely and seriously raised by identifiable group. I will consider 1952 or thereabout as the ideal starting date. But on no account should we go back to 1914 because no Nigerian could in part, directly or indirectly be held responsible for events from 1914 to 1952. The Reconciliation Conference should end with the adoption of a reconciliation document, listing all the points raised and how cleared. With the muck of the past cleared, we should have a new clean foundation for our political framework and constitution.
My brief experience with the Nigeria Unity Organisation proved to me how very useful such a conference held in good faith and without bitterness, but aimed at clearing the muck could be. There had always been allegations, stories and accusations of what Yoruba leaders and people have done against Ibo leaders and people and vice versa and these have been handed down. The most serious allegation was dated about 1952 when Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and the NCNC claimed to have been robbed of victory in the West. Chief Sam Mbakwe was honest and courageous enough to raise these allegations in Ibadan in 1995. When Chief M. A. Akinloye, one of the principal actors explained in detail what transpired, Chief Sam Mbakwe said, “We now understand what happened and if I were you, I would have done exactly what you did.” There is no better way of understanding and clearing the air of myths and realities of our past political relationship and interaction…
There are allegations or accusations founded or unfounded levelled by the Yorubas against the majorities and vice versa. The free discussion and explanation of these issues are bound to make for healthy future political activities. The free discussion and explanation of these issues are bound to make for healthy future political activities…
As a complement to the Reconciliation Conference, must be a Truth Commission to ferret out and establish the truth in all areas of our past political, economic and social lives that may be requested for or raised by Nigerians or by the Commission itself and considered by the Commission to be germane and inextricably relevant to its work, its mission and the expansion of our knowledge of truth about the past and the present as a preparation of the future….
I see 1966 as a watershed date and a possible, suitable and convenient starting date for the Truth Commission but on no account should it go beyond 1960. The Reconciliation Conference should, to my mind, substantially take care of most of the issues before 1966. The Commission may be established and be seating concurrently with the Reconciliation Conference but it will require months if not years to do a thorough job. Its essential findings must be published and made available to Nigerians and to those who want to learn from it. The Reconciliation Conference and the Truth Commission in the Nigerian way may be one of Nigeria’s useful contributions to lasting solution to political problems in multi-national societies in Africa and elsewhere.
The third leg of our stool for solid and firm political foundation for our sustained take off is a possible amendment to our Constitution to take account of some of the clearly articulated concerns. This cannot be established until the Reconciliation Conference has completed its task. But it does not necessarily have to wait for the completion of the Truth Commission. The Assembly should be made up of freely elected representatives of the people with ten percent being reserved for professional and trade associations and bodies and groups like traditional rulers who cannot participate in free general elections. Another ten percent should come from the Reconciliation Conference elected from among its members. The Assembly should be free to elect or select its own chairman and work out its own working and operating procedure. It may break the issues to be deliberated upon into two minor issues requiring only a majority vote for a decision and major issues requiring a two-third majority vote of those present who form a quorum for a decision. Approving the operating procedure of the assembly will be regarded as a minor issue requiring only a simple majority. But the issues of revenue allocation, constituents making up the federation – thirty-six states or six zones are major and must require near consensus to take decisions on them since once the decision is taken by a sovereign Assembly, it becomes part of the constitution. For devolution of power, balance and stability, I prefer six zones to be the basis of our federating units.
I will suggest five items, which may be regarded as novelty, which I believe that our recent experiences and experiences from other lands dictate. One, I will like to se a clause for self-determination and self-determination process included in the constitution. I had always thought that a self-determination clause in a federal constitution would be disintegrative and disuniting. But when I listened to the Ethiopian experience and model, I was persuaded and enchanted by it. It makes the federation a true federation and strong both at the constituent level and at the centre because all have a stake and to be out is to be a loser. If a component unit passes and which also involve the rest of the federation, then it has a case worth considering for self-determination. A self determination clause will always make the operators of the constitution conscious of the need to preserve the spirit and the letters of the constitution…
Two, a clause for integration and integration process is to make room for the conditions and the basis on which other states or components of other states may have to satisfy to join and be integrated with a thriving Nigerian federation. I see it as a necessary corollary to the self-determination clause. And no country or state should feel agitated or threatened about such a clause in our constitution if we can insert self-determination clause, we should be able to include integration clause…
The third clause is to deal with the issues of coup d’etat. Once a genie of coup is released out of the bottle it becomes virtually endemic until the tradition, culture and convention of non-military intervention can be recreated and developed within the military and the society as a whole – it will take generations rather than years. Coups cannot be dealt with by legislation alone but it can be fought against in the heart and mind of the people. It is unfortunate that what is normal in the experience of Nigerians who will be about forty years old at the end of the century is military administration….
The fourth clause, I will strongly recommend for inclusion in our next constitution is a compulsory nine-year free education for all Nigerian children. One of the greatest dis-service that almost all administrations have done to Nigeria since 1979 is to progressively uneducated the Nigerian children to the extent that we had more illiterates in 1998 than we had in 1960…
The fifth clause is the elimination of capital punishment. Death sentence must be constitutionally abolished. I know that there are strong feelings for preservation of death sentence including quranical and biblical support. What we know of cruel torture is the so-called investigation by law enforcement agents, official killings nicknamed operation damisa, judicial murder, bloodthirsty leadership and injustice, oppression and corruption at the highest level of the executive, at all levels of judiciary and by all law enforcement agents make it absolutely unsafe and suicidal to entrust the power of death of a Nigerian into the hands of any of these, now and in future. I prefer that we should err on the part of saving lives rather than on the side of destroying innocent lives.
Let me illustrate the level of miscarriage of justice with the case of Sani and Umaru in Yola prison serving life sentence for the murder of an Adamawa State politician carried out by hired assassins. The leader of the group of hired assassins who perpetrated the crime happened to be in Yola prison for another offence while I was there. He confessed to me that he led the assassins because they were hired by a political opponent and that Sani and Umaru knew nothing let alone participating in the crime. Yet they were both sentenced to death by a fire arms tribunal and their lives were spared at the eleventh hour by a special appeal to the governor of the state and they were serving life sentences by the time I left Yola for offence they had not committed.
Our economic system cannot be anything other than a market economy. But in our situation, we must not saddle the market with the function it cannot perform. Some essential factors of the market for effective regulatory and distributory functions are absent with our level of development. So, to abandon the economy to non-available and non-functioning market forces is to destroy the economy… We need massive foreign investment of about five billion dollars annually to get the economy up again. I believe that with the right policy in place under a democratic umbrella with dynamic leadership, trusted and supported national and internationally with corruption put under check, this objective is achievable.
Nigeria was taken captive by conspiracy of deception, oppression, corruption and injustice all for greed and selfishness and it needs liberation.
I remain hopeful that with enough crop of patriotic, well meaning and Godly men and women striving relentlessly and selflessly for the good over darkness in our country and through divine intervention, deliverance and guidance, the great potentials of Nigeria will be actualised.”
The above was written by Obasanjo in his book The Animal Called Man which was published in the year before he became President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I printed these excerpts to prove, in fairness to him, that he was pregnant with the major programs he is presently undertaking right before he became President: the Reconciliation Conference and Truth Commission are expressed in the Oputa Panel; the Sovereign Assembly of what he called “true representatives of the people” is manifested in the ongoing Political Reform Conference; compulsory 9 year education for children is the Universal Basic Education Program. All the five clauses he discussed above have found their way into the fake constitution recently circulated at the conference by the Executive. Privatisation, with a human face then, was also clearly in his mind.
The big question is: what change would have Obasanjo achieved by 2007, after being granted an opportunity to change the situation for eight years? Obasanjo’s pregnancy did not give birth to a child, but a donkey. Did he even care, if we must ask, to release Sani and Umaru from Yola Prison? How many people have been killed by Operation Fire for Fire of Tafa Balogun and how many Nigerians lost their lives in order for the PDP to win over the Southwest and rig the 2003 elections? How many Sanis and Umarus are still in detention as a result of abuses during the election? Is that the meaning of being on the side of life? Are members of his cabinet the “patriotic, well-meaning and Godly men and women he suggested? Is his team “striving relentlessly and selflessly for the good against darkness in our country?
The implementation of these ideas points to a completely different direction. Privatisation has ended up in scandals, one after another, involving the presidency. El-Rufa’I is saying that whatever he did was with the knowledge of the President and his Vice. The government has not published the report of the Oputa Panel. The UBE is a sham, as the government itself has refused to provide the funds required for its implementation. We are yet to see any light, all that looms above us is darkness. No divine intervention, deliverance and guidance, yet.
Talking about corruption, the President needs to be informed that soliciting for funds from government agencies (like the NNPC), governors and the likes of Dangote to build a personal information centre at Abeokuta worth over N7billion is corruption by extortion, which is worse form of corruption. We blame the police for extorting N20.00 at roadblocks. Who will blame the President for extorting N7billion? The BBC told us last week that already over N4billion has been realised. How much did these people contribute to the President’s family when he was in Yola prison?
Excuse me Mr. President.
Editor: Please quote the last paragraph in bold at the centre of article: Talking about corruption, the President needs to be informed that soliciting for funds from government agencies like the NNPC, governors and the likes of Dangote to build a personal information centre at Abeokuta worth over N7billion is worse than the corruption perpetrated by Tafa Balogun because it is a corruption not by theft but by extortion. The BBC told us last week that already over N4billion has been realised. How much did these people contributed to the President’s family when he was in Yola prison? Excuse me, Mr. President.”