TranscriptCNN International interview with Nigeria's President Obasanjo andUSAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracyand Security Issues

 
Saga in Anambra, Obasanjo and Nigeria's federalism

By Ken Kemnagum Okorie
 

QUESTION:  Following the Anambra July2003 crass events, should anyone not satisfied with PresidentObasanjo'sperformance in office also be able to seize him in Aso Rock anddeclare Vice President Atiku in charge?

The recent wild and weird saga in Anambra State underscores in theclearest of terms Nigeria's need for National Dialogue. For severalhours on July 10, the State's Governor Chris Nwabueze Ngige (one ofthe products of the recent national rigging jamboree that waschristened election) was removed from his office by a contingent of200 federal Mobile Police officers led by the Zonal AIG in charge ofZone 9 of Nigeria Police in Umuahia, Raphael Ige.  

The police officer claimed that he hadinstructions from Abuja to keep the governor under house arrest. He was at the Choice Hotel in Awka where he was kept away fromphone or other contact for several hours until he gained phone accessto the Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.  The Vice President then directed the Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, tosecure his release.
 
As the governor was held, his purported letter of resignation wasread to the House by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon(Mrs.) Eucharia Azodo.  It turned out that the Governor did notresign.  Yet the Assembly begun steps to swear-in his deputy,Dr. Okey Udeh, who reportedly paraded himself for five hours asgovernor - "exercising" State executive power.  
 
Such deplorable incident is as much a nuisance to civilized order asit is constitutes vicious danger to democracy.  Such situationmust be arrested if Nigeria is to progress out of its currentdecay.

What manner of country does a police officer walk into the officeof the State chief executive and yank him from his elected positionon the pretext of orders from some unidentified federal directive. What manner of federation does the federal authority have powerto scuttle the governance of a federating unit?  What manner ofdemocracy does federal control supersede the mandate of theelectorate, assuming governor Ngige's and those who acceded to powerin last April's exercise can be so characterized.  
 
Notice that the police AIG's claim was simply that he hadinstruction from Abuja!  No one verified, corroborated orotherwise validated an order so consequential, assuming it werelegitimate?  Indeed the source of his orders was not identified.  If Nigeria's current federal arrangement were not a joke,who in Abuja should have the power to dismantle State governor?  

Does the fate of the governor not reside purelywith the States legislature and electorate of that State?  In aproperly organized and run federal arrangement, federal authoritydoes not supersede state authority, unless specifically granted. 

One cannot contemplate a situation where eventhe President from the White House (much less lower federal official)orders action that would disrupt the functioning of the Governor'soffice in Austin, Texas or other state capital!  Even ifunauthorized, that president would probably not last beyond that dayin office.
 
Several discussions have been on about national agenda for Nigeriaand for its sectional ethnic components.  Ndi-Igbo are currentlyimmersed in such animated discussion.  Among otherconsiderations, this incident highlights the reason Nigerians(Ndi-Igbo in particular) should abandon every other political concernand aspiration (including the presidency) and prioritize mobilizing aconsensus for National Dialogue.  Until there are clearlydefined terms on which Nigerians co-exist in a proper federalarrangement (or whatever other model that is agreed to), nothing willwork and Nigerians would simply be fooling ourselves pursuinganything else.  
 
What does it say about Nigeria that a police officer is able todisrupt the Executive office of a State with such ease, such scam? Notice that the Anambra State House of Assembly proceeded toact on this fraudulent scheme without verification and withoutasserting its corporate right, as a federating unit, to control itsinternal governance.  The mere mention of Abuja had everyonequivering in their pants, and the state legislature jumping toprecipitous action!  Anambra State and the entire Nigerianenterprise has been scammed once again.
 
Assuming someone in Abuja has reason to be concerned about thenon-performance or other problem with the State governor, who has thepower to also be concerned about the non-performance of thePresidency and other federal operatives?  Should anyone notsatisfied with President Obasanjo's performance in office also beable to seize him in Aso Rock and declare Vice President Atiku incharge?
 
A major part of this problem can be attributed to Nigeria'sPresident, retired gen. Olusegun Obasanjo's characteristic disrespectfor democratic principles and practices.  As an example, onlyrecently the President plunged the nation into stifling strike byunilaterally raising the price of fuel without consultation with, ordeliberation by, the National Assembly.  He sets very poorexamples.

Such move should have first been proposed tothe legislature for proper enactment into law.  But in this, asin many other situations, President Obasanjo simply increased fuelprices by fiat.  This is dictatorship at its worst! Obasanjo thecareer soldier still has difficulty seeking specific authority fromthe people through their elected representatives as he properlyshould.
 
All the concern about having an agenda, national or sectional to thefederating units, is water over eggshell until Nigerians agree on aformula for co-existence. That will define the duties,responsibilities and relationships among levels and sections ingovernment. That order can only be achieved through deliberation,call it Conference, Constitutional Conference, or what have you. Nigerians have serious need to talk.  
Attorney Okorie, member of the editorial board of USAfrica TheNewspaper and USAfricaonline.com, is a former Secretary-General ofthe World Igbo Congress. Essay written exclusively forUSAfricaonline.com on July 11, 2003
 

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Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue). On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer. He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence." Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But USAfricaonline.com Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement." He noted in USAfricaonline.com backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.
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DEMOCRACY DEBATE
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on February 19, 2002. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

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CONTINENTAL AGENDA Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents." These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.' Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president. By Al Johnson
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Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues