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Chinua Achebe: Why IrejectedNigeria's 2004 national honors fromObasanjo's government

Thosewho eat with Obasanjo....

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Summary:It was reported that after the January 4th meeting of the PDP NEC,the President and Ogbeh went to Ogbeh's house to eat lunch. Somecommentators had viewed that as an ominous sign asthiswas the same way heate at Dr. Okadigbo's residence, and within one week, mounted acampaign of impeachment against Okadigbo as Senate president.Nigeria's 3-time ruler retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (in picture,right) has added a new phenomenon to Nigeria's polity--a last supper.We can comfortably add this to the president's repertoire: ThoseObasanjo wants to destroy, he eats with.... Nigeria's President,retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, in his vindictiveness, has graduallytaken us back to the dark days of late retired Gen. Sani Abacha. Itwas such vindictiveness on the part of Abacha that landed Obasanjo inprison on trumped-up charges. He is now walking in the footsteps ofthe man who jailed him. Obasanjo as a military man should be astudent of history. Maybe he has conveniently forgotten history'slessons. I would like to remind him of one: Those who push Nigeriatoo far down the edge of a precipice fall off beforeNigeria.



ThePeoples Democratic Party Chairman, Audu Ogbeh, has resigned hisposition as chairman announced January 10, 2005. The resignationtakes effect on February 28, 2005. To people who watch politics inAbuja and all around Nigeria, this resignation did not come as a bigsurprise. It has been the subject of media speculations since theJanuary 4th meeting of the National Executive Committee of thePeoples Democratic Party.

Ordinarilythe resignation of a political party chairman in Nigeria should notdominate the news. It is no big deal. But Ogbeh is no ordinary partychairman. He is the man whose letter frustrated the president, bycalling attention to Obasanjo's ineptitude in handling the Anambracrisis. The letter of December 6th and the President's reply six dayslater opened up a Pandora's Box that will continue to haunt thePresident after he leaves office.

InObasanjo's reply to Ogbeh's letter, he inadvertently admitted tobeing part of an electoral fraud in Anambra State. Ironically, thePresident's office had leaked Ogbeh's letter, ostensibly to embarrasshim. It turns out the President got more than he bargained for asNigerians came to celebrate Ogbeh's forthrightness and courage incalling on the President to live up to his responsibilities asCommander-In-Chief.

ThePresident resorted to Ogbeh's call with name-calling, insults, andinnuendos that suggested Ogbeh may have skeletons in his closet.Shortly after that, a bogus petition was filed with the Economic andFinancial Crimes Commission alleging that Ogbeh misused funds of thePeoples Democratic Party. Some of the purported signatories to thepetition have denied signing it.

Ogbehsays he has written to the President in the past about his concerns.And in an interview with the Thisday newspaper, he said hewrote the December 6th letter to pre-empt an assassination attempt onChris Ngige, the embattled governor of Anambra State. Obviously heachieved his aim. Ngige is still alive and talking from both sides ofhis mouth as he exercises what many Nigerians now regard as a stolenmandate.

Ido not know if Ogbeh expected the ferocity of the President'sresponse. Ogbeh is an experienced politician, having participated inNigeria's politics since the late 70's from his base of Nigeria'smiddle belt state of Benue. However, I am inclined to think that hisexperience in politics did not give him enough preparation to dealwith a character like retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. I doubt thatthose who drafted Obasanjo for the Presidency were prepared for theimbroglios that have characterized his presidency.

Yet,there are indications and parallels that show that President Obasanjohas been consistent. We, including those who claim to be close tohim, have misjudged him consistently. We romanticized with an imageof Obasanjo that had no resemblance and bearing on reality. And likethe things that happen to those who wait, we have come to see theman, Obasanjo in his true colors.

Thosecolors of Obasanjo were known to his kinsmen. We all recall thatduring the elections of 1999, Obasanjo lost in almost every corner inthe South-West zone which is his home. The people who knew him best,his own people, refused to vote for him. I also recall that whenObasanjo made a bid to succeed Butrous Ghali, as the UNsecretary-general, Nobel laureate and Obasanjo's kinsman, Nobellaureate for literature Prof. Wole Soyinka, mounted a seriouscampaign in opposition. Soyinka had known Obasanjo fordecades.

ThePresident of Nigeria is supposed to be the custodian of our so-calledfledgling democracy. Going by his antecedents and the records of hispresidency, Obasanjo is anything but a democrat. He surrounds himselfwith countless advisers and yet he proudly boasts that he does notlisten to them. To him, dialogue is a one way street, flowing fromhim to the rest of us.

Ihave been very disturbed about Ogbeh's resignation, not because Icare one way or another who PDP chooses as its chairman, but becauseof the way the resignation was obtained. Ogbeh was virtually houndedout of office. Why? Because he had the guts to point out that thecountry was headed in the wrong direction under the President'sstewardship. Now Obasanjo has an opportunity to put a "yes man" inOgbeh's place. In a matter of months or years, the new "yes man" willbe gone too. Democracy indeed!

FormerSenate Presidents, Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Pius Anyim, andformer Defense Minister, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, are men who workedwith Obasanjo from 1999 to 2004; although that is not all these menhave in common. These were men who disagreed with him and foundthemselves leaving office unceremoniously and with great bitterness.Apart from Chuba Okadigbo, who is now deceased, none of these menwant to have anything to do with politics in Nigeria as long asObasanjo is involved.

Whatkind of democratic institutions and culture is this presidenterecting if those who disagree with him are hounded out of office indisgrace even when there are no indications they have committed anycrimes? Did we elect a human being to be our president or a god? Isuspect retired Gen. Obasanjo has started thinking of himself as agod, who cannot be challenged. This will not augur well for ourdemocracy as this President is destroying any little faith people ofgoodwill had in Nigeria.

Theother troubling thing about this President is his penchant for usingState institutions in his fight against opponents. There have beenreports that Ogbeh had to write his resignation letter at theprompting of members ofthe State Security Service who held him at gunpoint. There were alsoreports that he was placed under house arrest by men of the StateSecurity Service (SSS). Ogbeh is quoted as saying that the last strawfor him was the harassment of his daughter by men of the StateSecurity Service right in front of his house. Like I have asked inthe past: Where is the outrage against this president?

Thistreatment leaves a bad test in the mouth. In fact it is scary.Nigeria's President, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, in hisvindictiveness, has gradually taken us back to the Abacha days. Itwas such vindictiveness on the part of Abacha that landed Obasanjo inprison on trumped-up charges. He is now walking in the footsteps ofthe man who jailed him. Obasanjo as a former military man should be astudent of history. Maybe he has conveniently forgotten history'slessons. I would like to remind him of one: Those who push Nigeriatoo far down the edge of a precipice fall off beforeNigeria.

Folks,if there ever comes a time that I inform you that the President iscoming to eat at my house or has asked me to lunch, please prevail onme not to eat with the President. I am not ready for a last supper,yet. Remember, those Obasanjo wants to destroy, he eatswith.
Elendu,columnist and contributing editor of,CLASSmagazine and USAfrica TheNewspaper, alsowrote the insightful essays: DuelingLetters of Ogbeh and Obasanjo reveal Nigeria's sorrystate, JudgingAndrea,Talibansand Osama: A tale of cowards;and The Desperate and theUngrateful. Heis President of Elendu & Associates, a Lansing (Michigan)-basedcommunications firm. He is the author of the book: The AmazonTakes A Bow.

CLASSis the social events, heritage excellence and style magazine forAfricans in north America, described by The New York Times as themagazine for affluent Africansin America. It is published byprofessional journalists and leading mulitmedia leaders andpioneers.

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Achebe, scholar, social conscience, cultural historian and globally-acclaimed writer, has been a significant and binding source for an engaging understanding of African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and realities. I believe that such insight has made him a favorite of African-Americans, and other scholars and regular folks in search of a better, realistic understanding of Africa, at least, from Achebe's utilization of his rich and dynamic Igbo ancestry, in south eastern Nigeria. I share the same ancestry, and he's one of my mentors.
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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 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 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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