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CNNInternational interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues
Obasanjo's failed quest for 3rd Term hasdamaged his reputation
By Prof. Patrick Wilmot
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com,CLASSmagazine, IgboEvents,and The Black BusinessJournal
June 3, 2006: The May 2005 failure of President Obasanjo's bid forathird term may be the beginning of genuine democracy in Nigeria. Manyof the politicians opposed to his prolongation in office may havebeen influenced by the power and moneyof his opponents but the decisive factor was the grassrootsopposition of the Nigerian people. Many of his would be supporterswere deterred by the hostility of their people, and put this popularsupport above the lures of bribes and the fears of Presidentialretribution.
It is now the duty of these budding democrats to organize theirpopular base to prevent the resurrection of uncontained andunaccountable power. They must recognize that the strength of thisinchoate democracy spells the end of a centralized, imperialpresidency, fashioned from the worst aspects of a militaryhierarchical structure that descended into barbarism. The tragedy ofmilitary rule in Nigeria is that it was exercised by third ratesoldiers without honour, integrity or courage.These democrats mustalso realize that enemies of Obasanjo are not necessarily friends ofthe Nigerian people. Many share his values but oppose him on personalgrounds because they want to operate the same system that has ruinedNigeria for the past thirty years.
Obasanjo's failure is not personal but that of a class of Nigerianpower holders who have a profound contempt for their people. Thesystem they operated has failed spectacularly and it would be atragedy worse than the third term if politicians worse than Obasanjowere brought back as saviours. A whole generation has failed and itis time they recognize this and make way for leaders of the twentiethcentury, with the democratic values and competence to run a modernstate.
The President once said that Africans do not know the concept ofopposition. This is rubbish, based on his ignorance and the racism ofhis colonial masters. There was opposition in the simplest of Africansocieties but the people attempted to resolve these throughpainstaking discussions, not through bribes or threats of violence.Our ancestors in Sokoto, Zululand or Ghana did not suborn opponentswith fifty million Naira or send the SSS and mobile police to denythem their democratic rights.
The President severely damaged his reputation by linking himselfwith a project designed and operated by some of the worst elements ofa discredited political class. While he does not care what Nigeriansthink, he is very concerned about the opinions of foreign friends andwhile these people still praise him for his work in places likeDarfur, they were alarmed and disgusted that he tried to bulldoze aproject that is opposed by 85% of his own people from the South Westzone, and 75 to 80% in the rest of the country. To restore hisreputation and leave a positive legacy, President Obasanjo mustaccept that Nigerian society has changed, and that he must choose tobe part of the solution or part of the problem.
First he must recognize that there is an opposition in Nigeriawhose interests must be accommodated. The press, even though owned bymembers of the failed political class, has achieved a degree ofautonomy that allowed it to take an almost unanimous stance againstthe third term project. The President owes his life to the activitiesof pro-democracy activists who opposed the dictatorships of Babangidaand Abacha and fought to realize the democratic mandate of the lateM.K.O. Abiola. He may despise Soyinka, Fawehinmi and Wilmot but amature politician does not formulate policy on the basis of emotionalpreferences. History will ask why he chose to surround himself withTony Anenih, Ibrahim Mantu, Dalhatu Tafida, Chris Uba, and LamidiAdedibu rather than the fighters for democratic freedoms.
The President must immediately consult with the people who opposedhim and come to a consensus on how the most urgent problems of thecountry can be solved. This is the African way of dealing withopposition, as seen in the indaba, majlis, town council, and villagegathering. He knows the African proverb which says keep your friendsclose but your enemies even closer. If he considers Atiku, Tinubu andBuhari his worst enemies, these are the people he should convincethat he has the best programs for making Nigeria better.
The first task should be to guarantee that next years electionsare free and fair. The Nigerian people, like all others, are quitecapable of electing leaders of their choice. They did so in 1993,defying all the stereotypes of ethnicity and religion, and werefrustrated by corrupt military and civilian politicians. ThePresident must guarantee that the Electoral Commission actscompetently and professionally and that the police and securityforces are not used to rig and intimidate the electorate. Politicalgodfathers should be investigated and jailed if found guilty.Stringent laws must control the use of money and publicresources.
In the rest of his term, President Obasanjo must put in placeprograms to alleviate the horrific poverty of his people by buildingschools, hospitals, factories, water-works, roads, power stations;pump resources into restoring the universities, buildingcommunications, saving the environment; must indicate his seriousnessin tackling corruption by investigating all corrupt people, beginningwith those closest to him. All candidates for office in future mustbe cleared by both local and foreign anti-corruption agencies,including forensic accountants.
No enemy or opposition can disgrace the President from office.Only he and his friends can.
Wilmot, author and critic, served for decades until recently asProfessor of Sociology at the Ahmadu bello University (ABU), inZaria, Nigeria.
USAfricaonline.com SPECIAL REPORT/NEWS: OBASANJO'SFAILED 3RD TERM POWER-PLAY IS GOODNEWS TO NIGERIANS, ABROAD AND HOME....USAfricaonline.com and its correspondents in Nigeriaand across the major cities of the U.S are reporting an increasingtally of anti-3rd term phone calls and e-mails from our readers. By amargin of almost 7-2, USAfricaonline.com data show that anoverwhelming majority of the politically active citizenryarehappy that Nigeria's Senate halted retiredGen. Olusegun Obasanjo's stealthy, unpopular, behind-the-scenes-winkand nod power plays to secure an"unrequested" 3rd term as president of Nigeria (a total of 12consecutive years).
Many Nigerians still feel disappointed that a man (Obasanjo)who had gained so much from Nigeria would cling so tightly to power,even against the popular will of the people, moreso with age, energyand fresh ideas for a new era not on his side.
Also, USAfricaonline.com review of Nigeria's recent history show thatPresident Obasanjo seems to be moving rapidly into the zone ofill-repute of his former military colleagues who, like him, refusedto leave office when it was time to go. Gen. yakubu Gowon in 1975;Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha in1995, 1996, 1997,1998.
More baffling many Nigerians we interviewed recall is thelessons of the excesses of the late Gen. Abach who jailed Obasanjowhile the former schemed to remain in power.
For the special report by USAfrica multimedia networks' PublisherChido Nwangwu, click on 3rdterm.
Nigeria's Senate kills bill seeking to prolongObasanjo's tenure to unprecedented 3rd term.... Nigeriansenators voted on Tuesday May 16, 2006 to throw out a bill seeking toamend the country's constitution to give President Olusegun Obasanjothe chance to run for a third successive term in office next year. Amajority of lawmakers in the upper house agreed in a voice vote toscrap the bill, which has raised tensions in Africa's most populouscountry plagued by ethnic and religious violence. "By this result,the Senate has said clearly and eloquently that we should discontinuefurther proceedings on this amendment bill," Senate President KenNnamani announced to applause.
Obasanjo, who was on a visit to France as the lawmakers took thedecision, has never stated he wants to run again when his second,four-year term comes to an end in 2007. But he has hinted he wouldlike to complete economic and political reforms he has initiated.However, many Nigerians believe he is behind a powerful campaign byhis supporters to prolong his rule. Six months must now elapse beforethe bill can be re-presented to the Senate, if Obsanjo's third termsupporters wish to.
Obasanjo's current 2nd tenure (8 years in office) will end on May 29,2007. (IRIN)
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand CLASSmagazine and The Black BusinessJournal
(First written on March 1, 2002, for USAfrica, updated for Prof.Achebe's 74th Birthday tribute on November 16, 2004, and published inCLASS magazine samemonth)
His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective ofthe true essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! There has never been one likeyou!
Ugo n'abo, chukwu gozie gi oo!
ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award(1997), is Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (firstAfrican-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published onthe internet), USAfrica The Newspaper,CLASS magazineand TheBlack Business Journal. He has served as an adviserto the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa) andappears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC newsaffiliates.
This USAfricaonline.com commentary is copyrighted. Archivingon any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with aWritten Approval by USAfricaonline.comFounder.
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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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