CNNInternational interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues

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What Bush Should Tell Obasanjo at theirmeeting, today (March 29, 2006)
By Chido Nwangwu

This commentary appearedin Thisday newspaper, Lagos

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston, CLASSmagazine and

March 29, 2006: These days when Republicans are running away fromUnited States President  George Bush, it is heart-warming forhim to hear Africa's first  female elected president, Dr. EllenJohnson-Sirleaf of Liberia,  commend him: "President Bush whosestrong resolve and public  condemnation and appropriate actionforced a tyrant into exile and  thanks to you" (the 108th U.SCongress). The tyrant? It's not that dishevelled megalomaniac ofBabylon, Saddam Hussein. No. It's the  diamonds-dealing, brutal"president",corrupt, human-rights abusing,  anti-democratic felon fromLiberia, Charles Taylor.

On Wednesday March 15, 2006, I had the privilege of watching from inside the gallery of the U.S Congress, President Sirleaf'shistory- making, impactful 40-minute speech.

On  Monday, January 16, 2006, the  inauguration of thisHarvard-educated woman of substance ended 14 unrelenting years ofviolence and mayhem in a west African country established, largely,by freed American slaves. She represents the new face of Africa: theprogressive and technocratic class, propelled simultaneously bydomestic and international sources of support with a dignifiedcommitment to rebuilding her country and parts of the  continent's future.

Then, comes March 29, 2006, at the White House, where Bush alsomet a few days earlier with Liberia's Sirleaf, new face of Africa; hewelcomes Nigeria's President retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, anold face of Africa, to thank him for regional support of theU.S.,discuss "strengthening democratic institutions, and the need tobring Charles Taylor to justice."

Those come against the current background of the outrageousnonsense parroted by hangers-on and political idol worshippers, thephilistines of Nigeria's politics who have since become the domesticand international canvassers of the indecent baloney that: Nigeria'sconstitution must beamended for one man, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, to govern fora 3rd 4-year term (12 years!). This they,  shamelessly, claim isfor Nigeria's survival. Worse, they add that without Obasanjo, therewill be no progress, criminality of the political economy will aboundand the polity will collapse. Good heavens! The sheer hubris thatNigeria can only move forward only by the "divine" and eternalgovernance of a 74-year former dictator Obasanjo is simply stupefyingand immoral, to say the very least.  Hence, the enabledexecutors and conductors of this folly on behalf of Obasanjo onlyremind me of the infamous words of the 17th century  Frenchmonarch, Louis X1V (1638-1715) who reportedly said "L'État,c'est moi"  meaning  "I am the State." If only Obasanjocould drive us back to the 17th century; only there was no Nigeria,at the time.

In comparison, while Liberia's Madam President Sirleafrepresents the manifestation of the triumph of popular constitutionalmethods and emerging institutional democratic values in Africa,retired General Obasanjo's imperious, know-it-all, emerging projectfor a sit-tight  presidency in Nigeria remind us all of the1970s old Africa where constitution-tweaking soldiers (hiscolleagues) and power drunks  funnily believed their country'ssun rose and shone at their hideous and idiosyncratic say-so. Wewon't go back there; no; not now that we  have the greatNelson Mandela as our icon, historical benchmark and reference point.Obasanjo makes it difficult for Obasanjo to be a statesman; no doubt,he's a regional leader.

As a specialist on US. and Africa public policy and culturalissues, here are things I'll suggest President Bush tell PresidentObasanjo, in a short, sweet but realistic summary:

One: the U.S government and its growing population of Nigerian-Americans respect and honor the fact that you've, by accidents ofhistory, been the most privileged (not necessarily the mostqualified) Nigerian to lead the country, having served as Nigeria'sruler 3 separate times (1976-79; 1999-2003; and 2003-2007 (asrequired by the constitution).

Two: U.S. missions in Lagos and Abuja (Nigeria) are fully aware ofthe ongoing plots, brazen moves and schemes of the (same, yes, same)anti-democratic prostitutes and anti-constitution "evil doers" who inyour name like they did with your late tormentor, the brutal dictatorand your junior ex-colleague, Gen. Sani Abacha, seek to amend theconstitution for your personal benefit. We also take note of the factyou've refused to stop or condemn those charlatans and subverters of"democratic institutions." General Obasanjo, if y'all succeed in yourlittle but dangerous scheme, you'll be governing Nigerians for anunprecedented 3rd-term; really 4th time! No; not under my watch willI subvert some of the reasons I moved against Saddam for neverholding honest elections; which as you know has caused the deaths ofalmost 2600 American soldiers. It's not prudent, for you, GeneralObasanjo to even whisper the two words '3rd term.' Nah!

Three: that the U.S has a firm position on "strengtheningdemocratic institutions." It has one, clear meaning to all of thecivilized, democratic world who are watching your moves in Nigeria:retired General Obasanjo, you have served your constitutionallyalloted 2 terms and we know you've mightily benefitted from theresources and government of Nigeria, and age is not on yourside. Now, Mr.President, you must leave, come May 2007, to hand overto an able Nigerian (from a talented pool of 146 million people!), anew, technocratic generation, all under fair and free elections.Please, not the type you and the PDP were bulldozed into power in1999, which my many Nigerian contacts in Houston call (s)election.Then, you can comfortably retire to your farm or just go spend timewith your very children and grand-children.

Four: General Obasanjo, note that although I had disagreements onIraq with a man I still greatly respect, former  president ofSouth Africa, Dr. Nelson Mandela, you must learn from his example ofhaving served  just One term, handed over  to a technocratThabo Mbeki, and left with his clout, statesmanship and gravitas morecredible than any sitting president in the world, today! You'llleave, even if grudgingly.

Five: because the United States defines  its interests beyondpersonalities and Nigeria is our "strategic partner in Africa", thisgovernment will not be party to any corrupt moves and short-sightedagenda which equates your personal interests and ambitions to theobjective, non-personal and law and order interests of the FederalRepublic of Nigeria. We cannot support  moves  which have,to borrow a familiar Nigerian political-speak "overheat the system."Open up the democratic space for presidential campaigns by otherNigerians towards "strengthening democratic institutions."

Six: Even for all the oil your country Nigeria provides as our 5thlargest supplier, I have enough problems with my fellow Republicanson virtually every issue; immigration debates, Dubai deals, Katrina,another hurricane season is almost here, debts and deficits are skyhigh, gas prices are ripping the pockets off Americans, thatevil-doer-in-chief Osama bin-Laden is till at large threatening fireand brimstone. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. Wait a minute, another breaking newson CNN on Iraq. You can see, Mr. Obasanjo, the liberal American,Nigerian and world media (except VP Dick 'Big Time' Cheney's and myfavorite FoxNews channel) are focusing on nothing but violence inIraq. And, my strategist, "the architect" Karl Rove just handed me areport with my public approval dropping lower than a Texas rattlesnake. Listen, we cannot add your self-serving 3rd-term scheme inNigeria to the truck-load of my problems. Enough already, GeneralObasanjo. Please, let this be a friendly send-off meeting with you. 

Read my lips: you will leave in May 2007 in order retire withhonor, or we'll not take your call or those of your multi-milliondollar lobbyists when the heat comes on inside Nigeria. As we saydown in Texas, you'll be own your own.

In concluding my suggestions of what Bush ought to tell Obasanjo,may I note that Obasanjo's anything-goes-and any-government-in-powerstrategists who continue to bleat that "amending the constitution" inhotel lobbies and walled-off venues reflects the "popular will of thepeople" for Obasanjo to run and govern for a 3rd term. shouldremember what our pathfinder, our political father, the great NnamdiAzikiwe (Zik of Africa) said to the late Ukpabi Asika: no conditionis permanent. Obasanjo knows better. I believe that soon, he willdump those mealy mouthed contractors and self-serving partisans tolisten to the dignified call of history: leave, even now that theovation is dying down before you confuse the jeers for cheers! Mr.President, you can, and should fully halt the dishonor of appearinglike Abacha. Remember Mantu worked  for Abacha, and he's workingfor you....???

Nwangwu, an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on internationalbusiness (Africa), is an analyst on CNN International's InsideAfrica, is the Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned,U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet,, USAfrica The Newspaper, TheBlack Business Journal,, and CLASSmagazine. He is the recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award(1997) and writes commentaries on current U.S. and Africa issues inmajor newspapers in the two continents, and has served as a panelistat the BBC World Technology Forum in San Francisco, VOA WorldNettelevision and a number of other broadcast networks.

Related commentary. WhyBush should focus on dangersfacing Nigeria's return todemocracyand Obasanjo's slipperyslide. ByChido Nwangwu. on the GW Bush-Obasanjo first meeting appearedsame day in the Houston Chronicle, May 10, 2001 as 'Nigeria'sproblem sits across the table from Bush; asWhy BushShould Focus On Dangers Facing Nigeria, and a number of othersites and newspapers).

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