Between Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan of NigerianProf.R.A Ipinyomi Saturday, December 14th, 2013
By Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Always President Olusegun Obasanjo remains in my view one President Nigeria has had many times and Nigeria had been better for it. He fought in the Biafra War and successfully commended various units of the Nigerian Army and rose to be a full Nigerian Army General. At the political level he had saved Nigeria as its Federal Commissioner, Vice Head of State, Head of State, and a two-term elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such an individual should know the ingredients Nigeria needs to move forward and how a solution can be found to our numerous social-political problems. My respect for him is also in his unalloyed confidence and self esteem together with extreme ability in covering his office duties tirelessly and in good joking spirit.
His recent letter to Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the current Nigerian President, only goes to confirm our long held suspicions that not all the animals in Nigeria are equal and some are actually “king makers” and also “king bring downs”. We had been praying and campaigning for the existence of such a club but from apolitical and nonpartisan view points. Our thesis is that, “If Nigeria must move away from deception and ordinary power sharing formula to a full fledge advanced democracy”, it would need a selfless guide like a Mandela of South Africa. Individuals who are still members of a political party, interested in appointments or elective posts would not have a neutral position to analyse Nigeria’s social-economic and development problems clearly let alone being in a position to offer a remedy. They may be tempted always see Nigeria in their individual perspectives and perceptions.
For example, the notion of power rotation and political office sharing claimed to be PDP guiding principle is noble but such an arrangement should be a national constitutional frame work rather than a local one party arrangement. Without any loss of generality PDP is just one of the several other registered political parties in Nigeria. So our General Obasanjo is therefore telling the public about a PDP arrangement and not necessarily what would move Nigeria in the right direction which is actually his main objective. If Dr Jonathan had been doing his party beading this letter may not come to the surface. However we wish every former and present rulers of this country to see themselves as genuine umpires to guide Nigeria to where it ought to be in the committee of nations. At present Nigeria is listed amongst the most corrupt States, the States where food supplies is inadequate, amongst possible failed States, States with very highly skewed economic distribution inequality index and so on, and where its democracy is unpredictable.
In future we should all know the risk involved in arming and enthroning unkown or untested individual with a national assignment. Many would read such opportunities as personal success and sources of personal self enrichment. We love Nigeria differently and for different reasons just as we love humanity also at our different levels and understanding. Until Nigerian leaders can see their service to humanity as most paramount we may simply be enthroning religious bigots, ethnic or regional ward-lords, using the weak PDP rotational model. We don’t have to sacrifice the future of Nigeria for a model that looks good but whose outcome may be a weak candidate.
Nigeria needs a strong candidate as President at its present infancy not a luxury to pleasing religious, regional or ethnic sentiments. It is the other way round PDP. When the system matured enough then we could bend backward to seeing which group has not “enjoy” the booty sharing.The result is the current situation whereby the nation is self dividing on the basis of religion and regional enclaves; these are parts of Chief Obasanjo’s fears and our fears too. Chief Obasanjo’s concern is to save his political party using a Nigerian sentiment rather than vice versa. We want a leader that goes for Nigeria above a party loyalty.
A letter of this length did not even mention methods of improving on our economy either at individual or national level or on the poor education facilities factors that has kept our universities closed since July 1, 2013. Again we expect some suggestions on how to make the economy of individual state independent of Abuja monthly money-sharing meeting and the main source of corruption. A local government that did nothing would only need to wait to the end of the month when monies would be posted from Abuja to the various accounts; in this way they become appendage of a desperate President who can do or undo. Similarly there is a weak guard at NNPC and all oil revenue sources.
The disagreement between a former president and a serving one or between one party and another is largely a private affair. However if the PDP political party or indeed any one of the opposition parties, has any constitutional reason to disqualify a candidate from contesting an election the courts are there to seek redress and we encourage them to use the avenue. This letter is possible evidence. We are in a state of Markovian motion right now where the past history of Nigeria does not determine where the immediate movement will move to but just where we are now. Dr Jonathan is our President now, and even if he doesn’t realise it Chief Obasanjo’s letter has spelt out for him all his offices. It remains to be seen whether the Obasanjos, the Babangidas and all the members of ruling class accept Jonathan as Nigerian Commander in Chief. They must kindly give him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately Chief Obasanjo is doing the work of the opposition parties simply because his party PDP is fast sinking and there is no viable opposition party on the field except factions of the same PDP working under a new name. This is what Nigerians should see; we are just renaming and relabeling the same set of individuals. If PDP is being accused of corruption its products would also be corrupt as we can only harvest the type of fruit planted.
Unfortunately the happenings in many states including Rivers State or Bornu State or the insecurity of our lives, incessant kidnappings and the likes, suggest that many of these letters are still coming to the office of the President of Nigeria unless he can fix things and fast. The situation is compounded by the seemingly rise of a rival party APC at the expense of PDP which may have pained General Obasanjo more than Jonathan’s refusal to listen to him. I make bold to say that APC or PDP have no solution to Nigerians endemic problems which include gross under development, devaluation of our human worth and our moral value systems. I still believe in the orientation of a “Periodic National Development Plan Programme” entrenched in the constitution with constitutional financial backing as a better method to move Nigeria forward rather than ad-hoc appointment of officers who would start a project only on paper and never complete. The origin of these parties, (from the same hand but only having different finger names), make us doubt them from start. There is no evidence that a new party like APC could solve the religious or ethnic divide already growing that Obasanjo also had mentioned.
Democracy must be allowed to work through its circle fully. The fear of anyone is that President Jonathan may seek re-election come 2015. Our candid opinion is that we should let the constitution of Nigeria work fully for him while we also allow Nigerians to decide without any hindrance. We should not short-change the constitution because of a private discussion reached between a candidate still contesting in 2011 and the same candidate that is now in the presidency. The electorates should be made strong, active and free to decide while we remain to police our society in our own little way like Chief Obasanjo is doing. I am between “always supporting Obasanjo” and “letting Nigeria Constitution work” even for Dr Jonathan our incumbent President. It is easy to solve Nigeria problems by asking him not to contest which may give a temporary relief. A robust solution would emerge whether he wins or loses when he has tried within the arbiter of the law.
What Chief Obasanjo did not write in his long letter President Jonathan and many of us could read beyond that but it is left for individuals to make sense from this episode. The first is the weakness of Nigeria Constitution to have placed unlimited power on an individual called Mr President of Nigeria to the extent that he can re-elect him or herself. The second inference is for the politicians that rely always on godfathers and would attempt to jettison their advice, suggestions, and requests later in their political careers. This has been one major source of internal and intra-party infightings in Nigerian politics this Fourth Republic. The others are many and including the acknowledgement by people in power that it is only God the almighty that raises one and also bringing down others. Hence we should all put our faith collectively in that God by joining General Yakubu Gowon in his “Nigeria Prays”. Nigeria will survive the 2015, especially if an Obasanjo of Nigeria and his class would mean well in expressing their concerns and fears ahead of the time. A one on one meeting between President Obasanjo and Dr Jonathan is highly recommended while the public will be waiting for another letter as response from President Jonathan to the public.
Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi,
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