A New Generation?

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

In my previous op-ed, I had made the case for why I thought President Obasanjo would not succeed himself after his term expires. I had particularly referred to the “Third Term Campaign” as “Shakara Oloje”. I then made the case for the presidency to move to the South East or the South-South. I had even given a bold proclamation, which was enthusiastically received that Ngozi Iweala be the next President in view of her achievements as Minister of Finance. While the majority of contributors thought it was a good idea, we have not heard from the Minister, Ngozi Iweala or her legal representative. The candidate must express a willingness to be co-opted or express a desire to contest elections for President for that wish to come true. In consolation is the fact that according to newspaper reports, Ngozi was included in the list of those suggested as persons with the credentials and capable of replacing the current President.

Likely Presidential Candidates

I had met the current president informally when I served as a Youth Corper with his daughter Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello whom he had come to visit in Ibadan after he became citizen Obasanjo. I thought he was quite amiable and funny with his self-deprecating jokes. I have nothing against him personally. I missed an opportunity to meet with Ngozi Iweala, Ribadu, Soludo and El-Rufai when they visited Washington DC and New York. I particularly missed the opportunity to point out to Ngozi why I felt she could run for the presidency and to encourage her to resign her ministerial position and seek the highest position of the land and what we could do to back her. I have, however, not missed the opportunity to read the newspaper reports, speeches and policy positions of all the above thanks to the internet.

Third Term Sponsors

I believe that President Obasanjo meant well for Nigeria, and he may still have desires to do well by Nigeria, but in the age of the internet, he may be considered a dinosaur, now extinct. I also believe that President Obasanjo and Nigeria is not served well by the persons who currently hold the levers of power in Nigeria. Specifically, Mantu may be assiduous in serving the Obasanjo agenda, but in our opinion, he does not honor democracy by the Port Harcourt proceedings. Anenih, may be a loyal leader within the cabal that has taken over the PDP, but a dispassionate assessment would show his motives may be at variance with the public interest and his stay at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing remains controversial. Col. Ali may be his master’s voice, but does he brand the PDP a democratic party, or a party that has only one person that can ably rule as president?

Where are the Candidates?

One year and two months before May 2007 and there are not many campaigning Presidential aspirants on the horizon in a country of over 30 registered parties. I am glad that with prompting from some of us, president Obasanjo had taken some token steps to fight corruption (even if selective). The major argument for a third term campaign, according to government sources, is continuity. The President’s fears are that his nominal gains at reform would be reversed if he quits now. Ngozi Iweala would have ensured continuity of policy as well as settle the South East/South South wahala if President Obasanjo had backed her. He would have also been hailed as a Statesman if he had backed one so young and mentored her in politics while she would have applied her international savvy in protecting his legacy. With no known baggage, it would have been a breeze to do right and tackle the issues of the 21st century by Ngozi. In conceding to President Obasanjo the power to select his successor in the PDP, we are very mindful of the immense use of the power of incumbency especially in our nascent democracy. For Mandela, it was easy because he simply made room for his Vice-President by not only forgoing the second term but also endorsing him. The public show of shame with Atiku has the option of a friendly baton-change foreclosed. Albeit, we must move on.

Constitutional Amendment Precedent

For the sake of argument, if we have President Obasanjo for a third term after the so-called constitutional amendment and he completes his three terms of twelve years; what stops the next maximum ruler from canvassing for a term of sixteen years, if he feels twelve is not enough to solidify or consolidate his legacy and use his goons to represent the overwhelming wish of “we the people of Nigeria” regardless of how we feel. Term limits are a fact of life of any presidential system. The rulers knew when they swore to the oath of office of the limitation of time. The world over, the first 100 days are marked with pomp as a milestone to show consideration of time, focus and accountability. Failure to accomplish all within the term limit is not a general failure. There is also no guarantee that Nigeria would not have a new set of challenges if the term is extended for Obasanjo or any other.

Generational Change?

One person that has been consistent in his bid to replace President Obasanjo is Governor Orji U. Kalu of Abia State. Whether you believe he can deliver the goods or not, you must give him credit for the guts to challenge openly, the emperor. I have read and heard much about this comparatively young governor and his connection to the corridors of power, past and present, so when I had the opportunity, I went to visit him. I asked him one question:

Why do you think Nigerians should vote you in as president?

“Generational change” he cut in. He said that he and I were still raising our children (possibly surmising from the dedication he had read of my book); that all of the older politicians’ children are grown and educated, that we have a greater stake in the country to want it to thrive for our collective interest. He also added that the younger generation maturing in the 21st century and exposed to modern international business is more suited to handle policy because such persons are anxious to meet up with the developed economies. I then asked him what he would do if President Obasanjo declares that he would run for a third term. He said he would cross that bridge when he gets to it. I guess we may be closer to that bridge than when I met the governor. Regarding my sister, Ngozi Iweala, unless she resigns to run against her boss now, we may have only one candidate from the South East on the ballot.

Where are the Candidates

It is said that for logistic reasons all the other candidates are watching to see “developments” (read) waiting to see what Obasanjo and his group are up to; as if democracy is about the incumbent. Where is Falae, Buhari, Ojukwu, Rimi Gemade, Gani, Kris Okotie, to mention a few of the past contestants for any primaries or those who were on the actual ballot for the position of President? How are the people being prepared to participate in the next democratic election? If there are over 30 parties in Nigeria, in spite of the alleged selective investigation of the EFCC, why do we read only about the machination of the PDP? What are the policy issues to be faced? Who is the opposition if the third term agenda amounts to tyranny? Has every politician got skeletons in their cupboard? Does Obasanjo have any skeletons worthy of airing? Are all the judges of the land compromised? Can this constitutional amendment be ruled as the charade or is it legal? Why the hurry to amend the constitution, where is the clear and present danger posed by its non-amendment? Where is the NBA regarding this issue? Would the Attorney General resign or join the ignoble when history renders its verdict on the professional whose duty it is to advise the somewhat educated, ambitious but legally ignorant lay men?

Who would bell the cat?

What do you think, OBJ, Presidential Candidates, Ngozi, Kalu, everyone?

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