Baba and the 23 Traitors
Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Was anyone disappointed when twenty-three governors endorsed President Obasanjo’s request for a review of the Nigerian Constitution? To be frank, I was among those disappointed. There were some governors whom I thought will never betray their people or trade them off for the pittance of an additional tenure. Now, awakened by the stupidity of their resolve, I have joined other Nigerians to abandon our naivety and see the 23 governors who supported Obasanjo as a bunch of self-centred traitors who care more for their pockets than for the nation and its people.
The reader may be interested in knowing who they are. I will give you the list of those who voted NO: Bafarawa, Kure, Boni, Kalu, Shekarau, Tinibu and Dariye. If your governor is not among these seven and he has attended the meeting or sent his representative, then be certain that he is among the selfish folks I am talking about.
Obviously, people alone are too little to attract our attention. And events for their sake are too small to warrant our reflection on this page. What we must focus on are the ideas behind them. We should be interested to know why the Obasanjo wanted to wrap in the governors; why he is now reluctant to handover power, unlike in 1979; why in spite of our condemnation, the 23 governors have chosen to gang up with the President in defiance of our will.
It is not difficult to understand the reasons why the President wanted to get the commitment of the gover nors. The first is mathematical. All along he is made to alone bear the brunt of our criticisms, when we know very well that the benefit of a constitutional review will also be enjoyed by incumbent governors. Let them join me in the ring and receive the punches too, the President must have thought wisely. In this way, we are compelled to distribute the blame appropriately.
The second reason is strategic. No constitutional review will succeed without gaining two-thirds yes votes in the Houses of Assembly of two-thirds of the states in the country. Getting the commitment of the governors now will tantamount to a vow which none will dare violate without provoking the dangerous anger of the President and the ruling party. And the anger of Mr President is one catastrophe that they have learnt to avoid, particularly after it has ravaged many party ch airmen, senate presidents and governors alike.
Three, having committed themselves that much, the governors are compelled by fear of sanctions to start work in earnest. Each of them will be given a target to hit: he must convince the majority of national and state assembly members from his state, and possibly beyond. Failure to do so means he has deceived the President; and deceiving the President is an offence that will instantly incite EFCC to dust a governor’s dossier for immediate impeachment and prosecution. Someone is trying to play with the intelligence of their master, the “role model that we should copy.”
In order to understand the present mind frame of the President, we must look back and note that be fore him, other leaders have shown indomitable reluctance to handover power. In 1979 the will of Murtala was still alive; there was little Obasanjo could do. But Obasanjo has criticised both Babangida and Abacha over their attempt to stay put on the presidential seat. Yet, after swearing to protect the constitution, he is now playing the same game which they once played to extend their tenure.
There could be many reasons but for brevity we will mention the three most important ones. First, I suspect that there is a virus at Aso Rock which infects Presidents and make them defiant of history, principles and conscience. Obasanjo’s conscience has become infected by the same political virus that destroyed Babangida and Abacha. Anenih and Jerry Gana are strains of this virus. They were with the two dictators before; with them every plan was hatched and executed. Shamelessly, these parasites who cannot survive politically on their own have infected Obasanjo and made him believe that he can extend his tenure unlimited; that Nigerians are the dogs that will jump at any meat thrown at them; that they have infinite tolerance level. This group of pests, including all beneficiaries of the regime, will employ every weapon possible to extend their El Dorado. They have antagonised everyone so much that they feel Obasanjo is their last host.
Secondly, the auctioning of Nigeria under the disguise of privatisation is not yet over. Obasanjo is mad about its snail’s speed. He is still not done with the privatisation of NITEL, NEPA, Ports, Ajaokuta, and man y other assets of the federal government which he and his friends would like to appropriate. A third tenure, he and other beneficiaries calculate, will buy them the time necessary for the realisation of their dream: owning Nigeria Plc.
Thirdly, the President has come out of prison filled with vendetta. I think he is not done yet with his plans. The people he wanted to see impoverished are still surviving. His policy of alienation and marginalisation have not achieved their goals in full. More time, he thinks, is required to turn these folks into complete slaves, to reduce them into effectual minority in the political equation of Nigeria.
The fourth is inspired by the practice of rotation which compels the President to handover power to someone among those he did everything to alienate in the past seven years. He sacked their sons from the army, government ministries and Parastatals, underdeveloped their regions and betrayed their trust. He is hunted by his mischief that the political risk of returning power to them in 2007 appears dreadful
So much for the President, on whom we are never exhausted of writing at length.. What of the 23 governors who backed him? Actually, the President must have expected little resistance from those governors. He must have predicted that Bafarawa, Kure, Kalu, Shekarau, Boni, Tinubu and Dariye will not be on his side. These are people who have either publicly derided the i dea of a third tenure or they are already at logger heads with the President and thus have lost the hope of getting a nomination for any third term.
From the remaining 23 who vowed to support the President, he could not have hoped for anything less. Almost all of them have cases to answer with the EFCC. These guys have very deep cuts of corruption in their flesh. A third term not only accords them another brief moratorium, but it also grants them the opportunity to steal more. They have built mansions in Nigeria and bought many abroad; they have accumulated hard currencies overseas; that is why they cannot spend a month in the country. They have turned out to be small lords over their subjects. None and nothing, not even the law, can stop their plunder.
Certainly, they would not like the multi-billion naira theft to be over soon. Here are people who spent their last kobo to become governors in 2003; they also wielded all the power at their disposal to rig 2003 elections to win a second term, thinking that it will take ages before 2007 arrives.. An opportunity to shift the post is dangled at them, and what will they do but grab it. They know very well that EFCC is just waiting for 29 May 2007 before many of them are arrested and put behind bars.
There is also a geo-political angle to my disappointment. I am not in the least bothered with the support which governors from the Southern part of the country gave the President, including those of Igbo extraction. Recently, the President has sounded the possibility of a confederation if they concede a constitutional review. The ‘Biafran’ governors readily conceded because a confederation is akin to their long dream of independent Biafra. Here, the Igbo governors have adhered to the Arab principle that you don’t turn down a portion of what you cannot get complete. Confederation also serves the vanity of the South-South which wants to have a complete control over its resources. These people are so deaf that they are unaware of the shifting emphasis in energy technology that will soon reduce the relevance of petroleum to nothing. Then as for the South-west, confederation reduces their risk of injury which a long stay of power in other regions might inflict on their ‘race’.
The people whom I did not expect to support the President, e xcept on selfish grounds, are the Northern governors. I am tired of the dishonesty of these pests. These are the people who not long ago, in their forum, passed a resolution that in 2007 power must shift to the North. How does it shift to the North when they have now signed a contract that it remains with Obasanjo? They are traitors who deserve every humiliating treatment. In the last seven years, as their assets and accounts continue to grow, they have seen the degree of poverty of their people rise to over 70%, unashamed; they have seen how their states were excluded from vital national development projects; etc. Yet, since they are only commanded by their desire and never persuaded by the noble spirit of collective interest, they will never sacrifice their gluttony for the survival of their people.
The ball is now set rolling. Soon, we will wit ness our governors holding secret meetings with their state legislators, and I bet you that it will be a walkover. The legislators are awaiting the millions with which the Presidency will buy their votes. If we cannot trust the governors, I doubt if we can trust the state legislators who were handpicked and sustained by the governors. We will be glad, though, if they defy our prediction.
Northern senators and members of the House of Representatives have vowed to frustrate the President’s effort at the National Assembly. I hope they do so, that is if they do not fall off the same way that the Governors did. In addition, with the support of southern members, the President needs only to play the card of ethnicity and religion to get the number he requires from the North to pass the bill with a majority vote.
What is our way out? The surest way remains with the population. We must wake up from our slumber and walk away from our complacent positions. We must confront these treacherous governors head on. No treatment will be too inhuman and no humiliation will be grave for a traitor. Resistance is the answer. Let us storm the venues of such treachery where the Mantu committee will sit. If reason does not work, for God’s sake, let us employ other tools, anywhere, anytime.
Finally, I will be very glad if Nigerians prove me wrong on a forecast I made a month after the 2003 elections. In The Monster Ahead, an article which I published in my Thisday newspaper column, I noted that “with a total control over his party, and the party having majority in national and state assemblies, nothing, practically nothing, can stop the President from amending the constitution to limit the number of parties in the country and review his tenure beyond 2007.” We have the duty to disprove this prediction. But it is not possible unless the elite among us damn the consequences and abandon the culture of complacency and silence. Or do we through the challenge as Dan Anache once put it, saying: Ina mazan suke?