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Obasanjo's 'prayers' and the Abacha path of staying in power

Special and Exclusive commentary
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston


Increasingly, the so-called divine "prayers" and guidance which Nigeria's former military dictator and current president, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo's are emerging. For too long in my view, Obasanjo has taken the Lord's name in vain. He never seizes to amaze one. I am very concerned that in a tradition typical of Abacha's self-succession plot, these politicians and their "Baba" Obasanjo, led a bunch of other claimants to leadership in Nigeria to urge and work in concert with the same Obasanjo on to a comparable road and false claims of indispensability path in Aso Rock, now and possibly beyond 2003. In my view, what has referred to as Obasanjo and his cheerleaders' "April 2, 2002 Ota Farm charade" appears to me as that event that history will use to recall when Nigeria took its last step on the path to perdition. If the voices of these men represent the voice of 'God' I am afraid, Nigerians may never be able to make any progress. Sadly, knowing Nigeria for what it is, that 'charade' means that Obasanjo is already assured of a second-term, a place in Aso Rock beyond May 29, 2003. This is a second script being played out after Obasanjo failed to 'unconstitutionally' falsify the 2001 Electoral Law to ensure that he hangs on to power at all costs. The prayers, indeed! What a prayer!

On April 2, 2002, in a show of shame at his own Ota Farm, an expanse agricultural investment and one of the few privately-owned farm investments to attest to Obasanjo's agricultural scheme during his first time as Head of State of Nigeria called "Operation Feed the Nation", the same retrogressive forces and politicians who sought to perpetuate the late Gen. Sani Abacha gathered to hand over to retired Gen. Obasanjo what amounts to a sealed deal for his continuation in power beyond May 29, 2003. The prayers, indeed!

One is extremely concerned when Abacha followers led by Tony Anenih (who counts among those who scuttled June 12, 1993 elections), Jerry Gana (who has served all military dictatorships in Nigeria from 1985-1999), Ojo Maduekwe (who made some input in Abacha's failed self-succession bid), Richard Akinjide and Adisa Akinloye ( two former stalwarts of the ruinous NPN party which mismanaged Nigeria between 1979-1983), Obasanjo's buddy retired Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma (whose Defense Ministry is responsible for many the human rights violations, poor handling of the Ikeja Cantonment explosion and still has issues to answer regarding the assassination of Major _Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi), opportunistic, partisan advocates like Solomon Lar, among others, have turned out to be the 'voice(s)' of God that Obasanjo has always alluded he is been waiting to hear before declaring intent to contest the 2003 presidential election.

When attorney and human rights activist Gani Fawehimni robustly challenged him, and the Supreme Court of Nigeria nullified the 2001 electoral act, Obasanjo now resorted to the Abacha style. Readily, he had experienced men like Tony Anenih, Ojo Maduekwe, Jerry Gana, Emeka Offor, and others who were the architects of 'Nigeria will go to pieces if Abacha is not the President.' But theirs like Abacha's own scheme is only human plot. Will Nigeria, now, go to pieces, or what?

Should retired Gen. Obasanjo, on the strength of this despicable and shameful showing goes ahead to declare his candidacy for a second term in the 2003 presidential election rather than immediately convening a Sovereign National Conference where the decision on the future of Nigeria will be decided, then the world must hold him responsible and accountable for the consequences of the decrepit Nigeria ship!

One would have loved to see a man with the unenviable "achievement" of being the first Nigerian Head of State under whose watch innocent and unarmed students were killed for protesting increase in fees in 1978 in the midst of opulence, huge oil revenues, and profligacy that characterized his reign as a military dictator between 1976-1979, to be more receptive to critical and honest advice. One would have thought that a man who since returning to power on May 29, 1999, has also seen under his watch the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, and the armed forces destruction of an oil rich Niger Delta town, Odi in 1999, would have become a little compassionate. Only a few months ago, his soldiers as documented by the media and human rights organizations allowed the killings and bloodletting in Zaki Biam (Tivland). Most critical observers believe that the Sharia-inspired riots alone in Kaduna in February, 2000 and the ethno-religious riots that rocked the once peaceful Central Northern Nigerian town of Jos, caused as much as 2500 lives.

Such mayhem had been replicated in several other areas in Nigeria, the latest being Idi-Araba, Lagos where the Yoruba militant group, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) agitating for an independent homeland for Obasanjo's Yoruba ethnic group took on the core Northern Hausa-Fulani residents of the suburb. How can we forget that fact that under Obasanjo's watch and authority, the international human rights groups protested his forces killing of the Igbo and minorities-led MASSOB members and destruction of their offices in Okigwe and Owerri. One would have thought that a man whose prosecution and roles in the Biafra-Nigeria conflict between 1967-1970 has raised concerns and arguments about possible war crimes, would have been more reflective and honest in actions, ever since.

Clearly, absence of leadership on the part of Obasanjo resulted in some of these avoidable mass deaths and destruction. Tellingly, his naïve stance on the Sharia issue when the strict Islamic legal code was first introduced by the Governor of a core Northern State of Zamfara, Ahmed Yerima, fuelled the Widespread and fast adoption of the code in several core Northern States. To date, 12 Northern States are Sharia States. It was Obasanjo's poor handling of the issue at the onset that led to a foretold explosion that caused huge losses in human and material endowments of the country. Obasanjo has since given himself away as someone who fits into the mode of one who is out to exercise power without responsibility in the sense that Patrick Wilmot seminally dealt with it in his book "In Search of Nationhood."

Deadlier consequences appear to be hovering on the horizon of the Nigerian space on this Sharia issue as Obasanjo makes a fundamental shift from his previous naïve posture to a chameleonic positioning, an act obviously factored into his and his henchmen's strategic integral resolutions to retain power in 2003. This is why the man who is waiting for the voice of God and now acceding to the voice of men, proudly declared in an interview with BBC's Robin Lustig last month that: "We are not a secular but a multi-religious state. That is what we call ourselves in the Constitution."

Some international human rights organizations have since produced damning reports of his recent human rights crimes and violations. In a report, published recently by Human Rights Watch, concerning the most recent of these killings in Zaki Biam, Benue State, the group unequivocally stated that the crimes committed at Zaki Ibiam constituted a clear case of extra-judicial execution.

The report underscored the fact that Zaki Biam case was one of the worst human-rights violations since General Olusegun Obasanjo came to power in 1999. Also, that report strongly criticized foreign diplomats who look the other way as Obasanjo perpetrates human rights violations. Professor Omo Omoruyi, one of retired General. Ibrahim Babangida's former confidantes, had in international talk circuits denounced Obasanjo's criminal acts of using an his undisciplined military to perpetrate heinous and horrific crimes against the civilian populace. At one point, Omoruyi is reported to have suggested that the international community should arraign Obasanjo at the Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. Regrettably, The so-called international community, a concept that most in the developing world understand to mean the USA, UK and NATO, continue to remain silent in the face of these inhuman acts.

Lest we forget, Obasanjo appears to know some things we do not when he said something recently to the effect that 'there will be consequences and protests if I decide to contest and there will be consequences if I do not contest.' What Nigeria needs to move forward, at this point, is not Obasanjo's vaulting presidential ambition and the financial needs of his hangers-on, but the progressive and better future of Nigeria. That future is embedded in a dialogue of nationalities in the shortest possible time. I, like most compatriots, await the true voice of God!
Ekeopara, an engineer and writer, until recently served with Kuwait Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAF). Readers responses to Aluko's commentary will be published in our print and online editions. Linking to this page is permitted but archiving on any other site or newspaper will not granted. April 4, 2002. INSIGHT: Is Obasanjo ordained by God to rule Nigeria? And, other fallacies. By Prof. Sola Adeyeye. Because of a juvenile interpretation of Scriptures, especially the 13th Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, there are those who constantly assert that Obasanjo was raised by God to provide the only need of Nigeria-a good government. Such people should be reminded that God was alive when Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Mobutu Sesesoko, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and other despots ascended to power. The point here is not that Obasanjo belongs to this phylum of despots. Rather, one is debunking the fallacy of ascribing all events in history to God. My Evangelical Christian faith is comfortable with the notion of God's permissive will enabling Obasanjo to become our President. However, Christians know that sometimes, the permissive will of God is completely different from His directive will. The 1999 election of retired General Obasanjo (in pix, right) as the President of Nigeria was directed not by God but by a survivalist, self-serving cabal of current and retired Generals. CLICK here to full commentary.

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