Is Obasanjo To Blame For State Of The Nation?

If you want to join them in their rat holes of perpetual and self-seeking wastefulness, rancour, envy, lawlessness, jealousy, haughtiness, deceptions, injustice, and unrighteousness, then become like them; be drawn to their inbred backwardness and injustice and intemperance and carelessness and cowardice and childishness. But if you want to join other nations in developing your own resources and children, then know ye that freedom and progress depend on telling the truth and facing our retarding forces with tireless courage and Godly vigilance.

I have oftentimes heard people say ‘judiciary is the last hope of the common man.’ It is by far more important than protecting the rights of only the poor and oppressed. In fact, the judiciary is the last hope of even the rich and influential in our society. I have always wondered why our opposition parties have continually down played the issue of calling for the strengthening of our judiciary. Instead, they have always bothered about electoral fraud and the partisanship of the electoral body in favour of the ruling party. Knowing fully well that electoral body too would be bound by the decisions of the courts, our political parties; especially the opposition should fight to strengthen the judiciary through enabling laws that would guarantee their independence as it concerns funding, employment, promotion and discipline.

By so doing, the judiciary will be on the right footing to protect both the poor, rich and oppressed. While I am not of the opinion that an independent judiciary would guarantee the stoppage of corrupt persons entering the system, I am quite confident that non-interference from government control would make it easier for an internal mechanism to weed out the bad eggs among them. With this in mind, politicians can go about their electioneering campaigns with full hope, believing that should there be any criminal omission or commission to their detriment, the judiciary would be there to safeguard their rights. The electoral body too will have no option than to act within its brief and oath of neutrality. The future of Nigeria is dependent on the quality of its leadership. A leadership that is sensitive to the needs of man, society and God.

It is only through a genuine democracy that Nigerians can make a true choice. Unfortunately, these choices are sometimes rubbished by fraud, violence, intimidation and partisanship by the electoral body. No doubt, successive governments, NGOs and CBOs have spent huge amount of time, energy and money to educate the electorates about the powers of the ballot but not much have been achieved. The resultant effect is that so many credible candidates have either lost elections or failed to be nominated by their parties because of the excusable weakness of the judiciary. As a result, politicians are most often discouraged from seeking redress fearing that they may not get fair hearing. Painfully, those that benefit from this unfortunate system are few. Democracy is a game of majority. Therefore, when a few people hold power and call it democracy, the dividend will be something far less than what is expected of a true democracy. Why were some African dictators are rated higher than many democrats. This is an insult on democracy. The time has come for Nigerians to bring to an end the issue of electoral fraud, violence, intimidation and partisanship by the electoral body.

The opposite of their bondage is freedom! The opposites of their falsehood and injustice are truth and justice. Therefore “our” determined road to freedom and truth and justice is bound to lead to the liberation of their kind. It is a win-win proposition for their own masses, currently living under “their” self-designed Houses of Bondage! Simply put: Slavery is falsehood, but freedom is truth! Those who stand-by and fold their arms while bondage and falsehood fester and corrode “our” society will ultimately inherit bandage and falsehood. And with “their” prevailing and recurring version of bondage and falsehood as the norm, as the only guiding principles for Nigeria, “their” age-old internal and persistent rancour, wars, and murder will become the inevitable norm for our posterity in Nigeria.

They sleep not because they have murdered sleep. They fight one another because they fought against the God of Heaven! The task now is daunting, but with Godly patience and persistence and courage, nothing is impossible. God of truth and freedom and justice is on the side of truth and freedom and justice? The expression that the worst democratic authorities is more than the best military regime, have been taken as given. Only a smattering of greedy, often blood thirsty military officers and work force boom during military regulation and they check down difficult on their co-workers who effort to inquire inquiries even about social welfare or training.

Development is stunted under the military, human rights, like the constitution, is suspended while politicians are either clamped in jailhouse or chased off into exile. During military dictatorships, everybody, except the dictator and his henchmen are the “losers.” Under democracy however, the majority, including the military as an institution, are the winners.

The decade and half of military rule in Nigeria was marked by economic collapse, political repression and systematic human rights violations. Following a protracted struggle for the restoration of democracy, which intensified following the annulled elections of June 12, 1993, and the deaths in 1998 of head of state General Sani Abacha and Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 elections, the interim government of General Abdusalami Abubakar conducted a series of elections in late 1998 and early 1999 which led to the restoration of civilian government under Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.

One year after the return of civil life to Nigeria, the hot topic is who should be blamed for the economic stagnation. It is utterly disappointing for most Nigerians to see their struggle for “democracy”, although it has theoretically succeeded in yielding an elected government, has failed to produce tangible results. Poverty is worsening, corruption is deepening, ethnic tensions are rising and some analysts fear that people may soon become nostalgic about the good old days, saying: “at least things used to work!”

It seems that nothing is working right for Nigeria nowadays. The months old bitter battle fought between the legislative and the executive branches in the government over the approval of the budget is prolonging most, if not all, projects aimed at developing the shabby infrastructure and the overall ailing economy. The time for accusations has apparently kicked in. Who’s responsible for wasting the country’s resources, aside from the past’s military rulers? The President? Governmental corruption? Foreign influences? Or perhaps one year of civil life is simply not enough to make a tangible difference in an already bankrupt economy.

Most disturbing of all has been the renewal of state violence in the Niger Delta. In late November 1999, Nigerian soldiers moved into Odi, a community of perhaps 15,000 people in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta, engaged in a brief exchange of fire with some young men alleged to be responsible for the deaths of twelve policemen, and proceeded to raze the town. The troops demolished every single building, barring the bank, the Anglican Church, and the health center. According to testimony collected by Human Rights Watch and Nigerian human rights groups, soldiers may have killed dozens of unarmed civilians. According to the Nigerian constitution, the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has the power to determine the operational use of the army, including when it acts in support of civilian authorities to restore order. While there have been some government efforts to provide relief to the residents of Odi, there has been no government support for the independent investigation of the abuses committed and accountability of those responsible.

The collapse of the criminal justice system under military rule continues to result in serious and systematic human rights violations including the prolonged incarceration without trial of criminal suspects. The government has stated that it is committed to improving prison conditions, and federal and state governments have announced a series of amnesties for prison inmates. In January 2000, the government announced that all prisoners under sentence of death and awaiting execution for twenty years or more would be granted total pardon, and that those awaiting execution between ten and twenty years would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. This has merely scratched the surface of the problem, and the government is yet to address the root cause of prison congestion, the collapse of the criminal justice system. Lack of faith in the criminal justice system is certainly a factor in the emergence of ethnic militias in the last two years, a particularly disturbing phenomenon. In some cases, these militias have obtained automatic weapons, significantly increasing the death tolls in communal and sectarian conflicts. The various militias claim to be vigilante units defending local populations against the rise in violent crime, which the police have appeared unable to contain. They are responsible for hundreds of murders of suspected criminals across Nigeria in the last twelve months. They operate on the basis of denunciations of suspects by local residents and administer “instant justice” by lynching their victims usually by “neck lacing”—being burned alive by a burning tire placed around their neck. The vigilante/militia groups have also become involved in inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts.

There are three dominant criteria which analysts put forth to explain ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s inability to deliver his promises to the Nigerian masses. One led by Senator Arthur Nzeribe, which saw Obasanjo’s delay in enforcing a strong anti-corruption policy, the primary cause of the country’s economic failure. The second explanation states that Nigeria’s economic backwardness stems from many years of corruption and mismanagement, which have simply drained the government’s resources and have increased the national debt, which was $35 billion. However, they demand that the ex-President to appease growing dissatisfaction, and assure the people that he is in fact doing something. The third group, which consists mainly of official newspaper columnists and Obasanjo supporters, see that what appears to have failed is in fact part of the plan aimed at reviving the infrastructure from the grassroots level. They are able therefore, to count many of the reported achievements of Obasanjo’s year in office beginning with his contribution to the polishing of Nigeria’s distorted image around the world.

Is Obasanjo To Blame?

In the beginning Sen. Arthur Nzeribe’s introduced a bill to impeach the ex-President; perhaps the strongest open rejection to Obasanjo’s style of governing and foremost integrity. The bill, which contained 15 allegations including corruption, nepotism and discrimination, was buried in the Senate committee. Yet the heated debate sparked by Nzeribe’s confrontational approach re-introduced a concept which Nigerians feared the most; what if the democratically elected government is responsible for the economic deficiency? Senator Nzeribe, who was linked by some to past military governments, received some punches in a fistfight that broke out as Obasanjo’s supporters accused him of “trying to destroy Nigeria.” Yet the few bruises are unlikely to silence the slowly and steadily growing opposition, which accused Obasanjo of illegally awarding petroleum contracts.

“You cannot blame the government,” some say. After all, when Obasanjo came to power, nothing was left in the county’s budget. It is unfair therefore, to expect the government to completely turn the economy around in a year after being pillaged for so many years. However being fully aware of the difficulty of the government’s mission, this group feels that the government ought to defend its integrity by providing and maintaining tangible change.

Some Nigerians yet saw salvation in Obasanjo’s hands. For them, the ex-President resembles the opposite of their past military rulers. He is caring, sincere and most of all, democratic. According to one, Obasanjo singled out the return of Nigeria to its leading role, regionally and internationally. He sees Obasanjo as some sort of a messiah, who will lead, not only Nigeria, but also the first G 77 of the 21st century, where he among 133 countries scaled through the possibly destructive path of Globalization. Nationally, Obasanjo’s government’s achievements could be controversial. Ranging from educational programs, poverty alleviation programs to the National Rebirth Campaign and people-oriented economy. Yet Nigeria’s leadership of the G 77 was a triumph for the Nigerian image and for diplomacy, Obasanjo’s critics bashed him for leading a 60-member delegation to Havana, costing the budget plenty of unnecessary spending. For the Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP), Obasanjo’s critics find it absurd that the President of a country overwhelmed with foreign debt requests legislators to approve a $78 million Presidential jet (equals the entire US foreign aid package to Nigeria for that year, which former president Clinton of the United States asked his Congress to approve.)

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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