Transcript CNN International interview with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues

Nigeria's future and the burden of Obasanjo's leadership

Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo's May 29, 2003 second term inaugural address exhibited no sense at all that things had gone deeply awry in his first four years. Instead, he permitted himself to wallow in self-inflation, self-congratulation, pomposity, and unsupported claims to grandiose achievements. When he conceded the existence of problems, it was only in order to diminish their impact and import. In case Nigerians had forgotten, their president reminded them that he'd rallied them to select him in 1999 with the slogan: "The leadership you can trust." Then, with an immodesty that runs through his entire speech, Mr. Obasanjo claimed he had earned the trust of Nigerians. He suggested that his renewed mandate was "affirmation that our leadership has been accepted as trustworthy." Given the hard facts of the case, Nigerians would be simpletons to find Obasanjo trustworthy. What's truly remarkable is that a man who is president would so gratuitously misread his country. Obasanjo's May 29, 2003 speech is a dismal document, reeking of grand platitudes but containing little statesmanship. It has no societal plan or bold programme. While it mentions "vision" ad nauseam, there's no discernible vision to be derived from it. It will, I fear, appear to future historians to be a ludicrous speech, and a political con job


Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston, The Black Business Journal and

June 2, 2003: Like many Nigerians, I could hardly wait to read the May 29, 2003 second-term inaugural speech of Nigeria's president, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. I felt certain that what Mr. Obasanjo decided to tell Nigerians, and the accent in which he spoke, would provide a window to the tenor of his second term. There was little doubt in my mind that this would be the most important speech in the man's political career. The moment was undeniably there; the question was: would the man rise to it?

Given the expectations, and the circumstances informing those expectations, I cannot but conclude that the speech was a wasted opportunity. Obasanjo was coming off a deeply marred election, one in which his party displayed little respect for the sanctity of the vote. He had also concluded four years of a first term that was terribly slim on achievements. If, as some of the president's fans suggest, Mr. Obasanjo is about to unfurl a brand new leadership style, shouldn't we expect to hear the man acknowledge the monumental mistakes of his first term? (We note he had ruled Nigeria from 1979-1983 as a military dictator). Yet, one looked in vain to glean contrition and regret in the president's tone.

Obasanjo professed himself "humbled by the confidence reposed in our leadership by the overwhelming response to our campaign for continuity, stability and progress." Then he pledged to invest his God-given ability on "building firmly and decisively on our achievements in the last four years."

In his slim political booklet, "The Trouble with Nigeria," Chinua Achebe concluded that Nigerian leaders live, essentially, in a kind of spiritual exile. In Obasanjo's case, the fact that he spent more than half of his first term abroad raises questions whether he did not, in fact, live in physical exile.

At any rate, it takes a remarkable measure of alienation to affirm, as the president did, that his administration has earned Nigerians' trust. Can anything be farther from the reality? Given the hard facts of the case, Nigerians would be simpletons to find Obasanjo trustworthy. This is a man who, "on my honour," promised Nigerians "regular, uninterrupted power supply come December 31, 2001." I hear that, even in Aso Rock (where there are all kinds of power!), power supply is far from regular! How many Nigerians can vouch for NEPA's improved output, much less regular power? This is a president who swore to combat corruption, but instead began to rock and roll with some of Nigeria's most questionable and corrupt characters. How many in Obasanjo's retiring cabinet can claim that their assets correspond exactly to their salaries and legitimate allowances?

How many can Obasanjo himself vouch for? This is a man who promised Nigerians a quiet first lady, but looked the other way as his wife unleashed herself on Nigerians in a vulgar promotion of "first ladyism." This is a man who voted billions of naira to "alleviate poverty," then billions more to "eradicate" it. Four years later, who but some of his sheen-faced former ministers can claim that poverty has receded in Nigeria? One of the areas where Nigerians can count on Obasanjo keeping his words is in raising fuel prices! In doing this, the president has paid little mind to the misery and suffering inflicted on ordinary Nigerians. Nigerian universities have been shut for half a year, but our trustworthy president has remained unruffled, at ease, unconcerned!

The question, then, is whether Nigerians can trust Obasanjo to know that, in the first four years, he earned little trust. In fact, that he established a firm reputation for betraying trust. Why, then, did Nigerians reward Obasanjo and his party with "a landslide victory"? That question, dear reader, is best answered by Mr. Obasanjo himself!

In the midst of questions surrounding the recent elections, it is amazing that Obasanjo would elevate Mr. Abel Guobadia's INEC to "a place of honour in our history and among other electoral bodies in the world." The kindest thing to say about the president's glowing evaluation of INEC is that he and Guobadia deserve each other! Despite the gloating in Abuja and several other states (Anambra being one of the more shameless cases) many Nigerians will continue to see purloined mandates as morally reprehensible.

If Obasanjo is to redeem something from his presidency, he must begin by admitting the substantial gaps between his promises and his actions. He must see that his duty lies, not in continuity but a break with his past style and policy direction. There's a real opportunity to stop posturing and start governing a deeply fissured, wounded nation. It would pay Obasanjo to recognise that it is tiresome to invoke God while consistently acting in a fashion marked by little piety. He must understand that Nigerians deserve better than being hoodwinked, flim flammed and deceived!

Nigeria's Obasanjo takes 2nd term oath amidst tense polity, heavy security; promises to do more.

In inviting Nigerians to accept his version of an improved, hopeful existence, the president's inaugural address came across as a political con job. With no whiff of irony, Mr. Obasanjo thanked God for for finally removing "the beast of ethnic politics after over fifty years of its influence on the Nigerian political scene." But the celebration of the death of ethnic politics is chastened, noted the president, by "the tragic appearance of religion in our national politics." He admonished fellow citizens that "religion mixed with politics in a multi-faith country like ours portends destruction and devastation of our social fabric and our entire structure."

What's truly remarkable is that a man who is president would so gratuitously misread his country. On what strength did he reach the remarkable conclusion that ethnic jingoism is moribund? And why did Obasanjo fail to detect the irony in his bemoaning the deleterious effects of religion on the polity? As chief executive, Obasanjo has been one of the biggest exploiters of sectarian religious sentiments. He announced that he had applied to God for a go-ahead to run for re-election. He ascribed his wangled victory at the PDP convention (another travesty of democracy!) to God. Last year, to mark his third anniversary in office, Mr. Obasanjo asked Nigerians to "pray and fast for three days." A man who mistakes the task of running a country for being a pastor to his nation should not complain if his competitors also invoke God in their equally cynical, often destructive, purposes.

Beginning with Obasanjo, Nigerian leaders ought to cease their relentless hypocrisy that must "shock and awe" God. If a true sense of God were present in the hearts of a fraction of Nigerian politicians who daily "give all thanks and glory" to Him, then Nigeria would be a paradise on earth, not the dungeon of corruption, rigged elections, 419, depravity and decadence it has become!

For anybody wondering what to expect from Obasanjo's next four years, the prognosis was writ large in his inaugural speech. It is a dismal document, reeking of grand platitudes but containing little statesmanship. It has no societal plan or bold programme. While it mentions "vision" ad nauseam, there's no discernible vision to be derived from it. It will, I fear, appear to future historians to be a ludicrous speech. The president's handlers should have given him a cleverer script to read, even if the goal was to continue business as usual. If public deception was the purpose, then at least provide a motivation for most citizens to be hopeful.
Ndibe, a U.S.-based scholar and novelist, is a contributing editor of His first novel, Arrows of Rain was reviewed specially for USAfrica The Newspaper by Prof. Niyi Osundare.

CLASS magazine debuts as people and events glossy publication for African excellence and social elegance across the U.S. and north America. Class Exclusive interview: Magic Johnson on style and the corporate life.

Why Bush should focus on
dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide.

OIL in NIGERIA: Liquid Gold or Petro-Dollars Curse?
Nigeria, a terrible beauty.... By Chido Nwangwu
How Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By contributor Prof. Mobolaji Aluko
Debating Obasanjo's record toward Nigeria's South East and South-South. By Pini Jason

Elections in Nigeria more a battle of the retired Generals, and votes buying bazaar. By Chido Nwangwu
Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability.
Abati's Revisionisms and Distortions of history. By Obi Nwakanma, USAfrica The Newspaper contributing editor and award-winning poet
Reuben Abati's fallacies on Nigeria's history and secession. By Bayo Arowolaju
How Abati, Adelaja and others fuel the campaign of hatred against Ndigbo. By Jonas Okwara
"Obasanjo, secession and the
secessionists": A response to Reuben Abati's Igbophobia. By Josh Arinze, contributing editor.
Abati and other
anti-Igbo bigots in Nigeria. By Chuks Iloegbunam, contributing editor and author of Ironsi

Obasanjo's late wake to the Sharia crises, Court's decision and Nigeria's democracy. By Ken Okorie
Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe

Obasanjo's own challenge is to imbibe "democratic spirit and practice," By Prof. Ibiyinka Solarin
Is Obasanjo really up to Nigeria's challenge and crises? By USAfrica The Newspaper editorial board member, attorney Ken Okorie. This commentary appears courtesy of our related web site,
Obasanjo's late wake to the Sharia crises, Court's decision and Nigeria's democracy. By Ken Okorie

Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967.

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 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
Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS

Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's burden mounts with murder charges, trials

A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century.

DIPLOMACY Walter Carrington: African-American diplomat who put principles above self for Nigeria (USAfrica's founder Chido Nwangwu with Ambassador Carrington at the U.S. embassy, Nigeria)
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
ARINZE: Will he be the FIRST BLACK AFRICAN POPE? By Chido Nwangwu
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 

Apple, Steve Jobs extend
digital magic

OPINION: Destruction of property and human massacres are always traumatic events in a community, saddening and enraging, but the organizers of the beauty contest, as well as the participants, must understand that they are totally free of guilt. The guilty are the storm troopers of intolerance, the manipulators of feeble-minded but murderous hordes of fanaticism. The nation will mourn the dead and render aid to the maimed and bereaved, but that same nation must understand that it will itself join the graveyard of nations if it fails to uphold the principles of plurality, choice and tolerance. The phenomenon of intolerance is eating up a world that can only survive on peaceful coexistence. By Prof. Wole Soyinka

Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets.

22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu

Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on CNN. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

5 students from Nigeria at Abilene Christian University killed in March 31, 2002 one-car accident.18 year-old Kolawole Oluwagbemiga Sami was identified as the driver of the Isuzu which had 2 other men and 3 women. One of those female passengers in the 1994 Isuzu Rodeo SUV had an identification card stating her as Iyadunni Oluwaseun Bakare. She is also 18 years old. special report by Chido Nwangwu
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

Tragedy of Ige's murder is its déjà vu for the Yoruba southwest and rest of Nigeria. By Ken Okorie
What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
CNN, Obasanjo and Nigeria's struggles with democracy.
Why Obasanjo's government should respect
CNN and Freedom of the press in Nigeria.
Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS

It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers

Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are Keys to prosperity in Africa

What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
Will religious conflicts be the time-bomb for Nigeria's latest transition to civilian rule?
Bola Ige's murder another danger signal for Nigeria's nascent democracy.

In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'

Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.

Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu