Obasanjo, 3rd Term And The Future Of Democracy In Nigeria

by Tokunbo Awoshakin

You only have to look at the profiles of the senators, chieftains of the ruling party, state governors, and appointed government officials, to get the picture. The same political jobbers, who ruled Nigeria with guns and decree, are now in public offices and now poised to consolidate their hold. It’s Army Arrangement, ala Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.. They knew military rule with guns was going to be obsolete, so what did they do? They re-organized themselves; they maintained a network and re-trained. With enough money to spare, they are now in power perverting the constitutional process and orchestrating the demise of democracy in Nigeria.

Organize, train, Network and then Act individually and collectively. Sure looks like a sound strategy. It should not be exclusive to the military. Citizens can also use the strategy. Can journalists help? I think so. Contemporary knowledge, and trends about the power and influence of the media, suggest that sound bytes and straight reporting, covert and overt moves to hurt democracy subvert a country’s constitution or threaten peace and stability in a country, should not be the only way journalists should act. Journalists in Nigeria, and colleagues abroad, can act differently to protect democracy.

Just like Nigerian media practitioners did in the past, they could again re-organize, re-train and network as they inform, educate and open up the public space for increased participation of the Nigerian people in resisting illiberal democracy. The news media in Nigeria could go beyond simply reporting as usual, and become more involved in civil society initiatives for building a more virile society. Acting differently might require doing more than the “objective” reporting of events, ideological shout-fests, or discussions framed in the classic, journalistic “either/or” frame.

The fixation with power in developing countries makes journalists’ endangered specie. Nigeria is no different. I should know! Meanwhile, journalists are also citizen and stakeholders who need to remain professional but act differently without making ourselves vulnerable to becoming causalities. First step might be to think differently. It might be to begin to see the media as a civic institution, which could be similarly effective in engaging citizens and strengthening civic- life. Politics and democracy as covered in the news has to be beyond the traditional view of supporters and oppositions of Obasanjo’s 3rd term agenda. Journalists could engage citizens on the implication of these agenda on the future of democracy in Nigeria.

Civic society members in Nigeria may also need to take on these strategies as they connect with one another and civic society members globally to build trust and the spirit of working together; to explore other non-violence inclusive ways of protecting democracy in Nigeria. Given the status of Nigeria in Africa, warnings, like the recent one from United States Intelligence Agency (CIA) may not be the only way the international community can act. The unfolding situation in Nigeria might be pointing to the need to study and fund initiatives in constructive engagement among citizens and between citizens and officials. Everybody knows that this is an essential ingredient of representative democracy. There might be fresh insights from knowing more about how citizen articulate or can further articulate their concerns and how government officials in “states” like Nigeria listen to them.

Meanwhile, a Nigerian High Court has ordered the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 constitution to desist from conducting the public hearing on proposed amendments to the constitution to seal the third term agenda. Will Obasanjo obey this court order? Recent history shows that his administration does not always obey court orders? But, why should he not act differently this time?

Will Nigeria break-up? I don’t think so. Although I usually take the words of Fani-Kayode with a pinch of salt, I tend to agree with him on two points in his latest CNN appearance. The first point is when he said: “It is part and parcel of democratic process for people to make choices” The second was when he said: “No matter what happens in future, Nigeria will not disintegrate”.

Except of course, we allow democracy to die in Nigeria. I’m sure Obasanjo himself does not want that.

I believe that an educated, engaged and deliberative citizenry is not only vital to a healthy democracy but also to a peaceful and vibrant community.

Democracy is on the slaughter slab again in Nigeria. What will you do?

You may also like


eno April 1, 2008 - 6:23 am

i like to have information on what is happening in the house

Anonymous March 10, 2006 - 8:42 pm

"Meanwhile, a Nigerian High Court has ordered the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Review of the 1999 constitution to desist from conducting the public hearing on proposed amendments to the constitution to seal the third term agenda. Will Obasanjo obey this court order? Recent history shows that his administration does not always obey court orders? But, why should he not act differently this time?"

You ought to investigate your facts before accusing the Govt. No such order was ever made and the wrong impression created by the incompetent ones in the medis has been corrected by the Court itself. Even if made, it would have been an illegal court order which the Govt could justifiably ignore. We would not thereby cease to opetrate a democracy. Don't bring the judiciary into your political mess. Many of you accusing the Govt of disobeying court orders never read the judgements in question.

Constitutional amendment is not done by decree and you know yourself that Obasanjo cannot extend his own term. Ours does not cease to be a democracy because we altered the provision on tenure of offices by amendment. If you don't want third term, indicate your preference. (I, in my own view, want only one term of 7 years) But you cannot stop Nigerians from amending their constitution. That will be undemocratic. Amendment is not only on tenure.

What you, and others in the diaspora must know is that two brothers in the PDP family are quarelling. One goes and recruits journalists and others outside the Family to attack his brother. That is why you could see a little Abacha tyrant like Uche Chukwumerije siting side by side with Ahmed Bola Tinubu in puported "defence" of democracy. Nigerians are too forgetful, too forgiving.In the long run, we will discover too late that these fraudulent Nigerian Politicians offer no alternative or opposition to President Obasanjo. Imagine a cruel dictator like Muhammadu Buhari (who embarassed Nigeria by abducting a citizen from Britain) sitting sude by side with a Gani Fawehinmi and calling himself "pro-democracy".

Take whatever you read from your home-based colleagues with a pinch of salt. Due to economic hardship, many of the stuf being published were commissioned by disgruntled and corrupt ex-PDP Members who ought to face justice and be jailed for life. They should however limit their attack to the person of President Obasanjo. They should stop attacking the Nation's democracy and its sovereignty and integrity. Educated Nigerians (like you) from good homes should exercise caution not to be unwittingly used as a tool of attack by these unpatriotic ones. The paid write-ups are being funded with stolen Tax-payers money.

Nigeria is a democracy. It is wrong to mislead people to believe that the anti-third term fanatics are a replica of NADECO. Far from it! Our Executive and Legislator are elected. Most of them are NOT ex-Military. Most of them are responsible, successful people in their own right. Send your suggestion to them rather than try to whip up unnecessary sentiments. The 1999 Constitution must be amended; and that imperative must be addressed without further delay.


Leave a Comment