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

by Tokunbo Awoshakin

Democracy is again on the slab in Nigeria. It’s gasping for breath! The slaughterers are ready. The knives are drawn. Notices of the plans to “do in” democracy in that country are being rushed to the press .The latest of such notices was served on the Cable News Network (CNN) news program last Sunday, March 5, 2006 by Fani-Kayode, Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

On the CNN news program Fani Kayode confirmed, what was already an the open -secret- that the Nigerian government has some hands in the moves to amend the constitution so that Mr. Obasanjo can stand for election in 2007. He also dismissed warnings from United States Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other global leaders, that Nigeria might indeed be plunged into chaos and violence if the Third Term campaign of his boss succeeds.

Hear him: “It is part and parcel of democratic process for people to make choices and that is precisely what Nigerian people are trying to do today through constitutional process and no one should take that from them”. It would not be proper for us to comment now (on third term). When we get to the bridge we shall cross it.

Just days before, Olabode George, Deputy National Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), compared the Nigerian state to an aircraft, needing Obasanjo as the only pilot to take it to a cruising democratic level before “Ah! Democracy groans. What democratic process? What are these choices; who are those framing these choices, Are the Nigerian people as willing as being portrayed, to be passengers in this “aircraft”? It’s funny that a navy commodore will use an aircraft as imagery for democracy. Do you still wonder why aviation mishaps are commonplace in Nigeria? Round pegs in square holes.

First, one must acknowledge President Olusegun Obasanjo’s achievements. Beyond making cell phones affordable to Nigerians. His anti-corruption and fiscal investment drives are actually commendable. Obasanjo’s assistance towards the humanitarian and security situations in the Darfur region of the Sudan and the Great Lakes is also as important as his effort in the fight against global terrorism. There however seem to be less enthusiasm and aptness on the part of the Obasanjo government to ensure that democracy and respect for human rights become seated culture of politics in addition to being the key indexes of good governance in the country.

To be sure, if we were to follow the paradigm of how democracy would look if democratic institutions were working, as they should in Nigeria, elsewhere too, we would locate sovereignty squarely in the citizenry, or more accurately in the Nigerian people. President Obasanjo could act differently by allowing Nigerians exercise their sovereignty actively, freely and regularly, especially on the 3rd term issue and its implication for the future of Nigeria. The Nigerian government, if indeed it is not trying to hurt democracy, could act differently by engaging the Nigerian people on these issues, in ways that bring to the surface those things that are valuable to Nigerians.

Since the Nigerian president and those campaigning for his self-succession plans have so far not made genuine efforts to explore the concerns of the citizens, the survival of Democracy in Nigeria now depends on you. To be sure, whether or not democracy survives and become part of public life in Nigeria will depend on what citizens of Nigeria and democrats across s the world do now.

Fani-Kayode and Olabode George are just doing what Chukwumerije, another government spokes person in Nigeria did, just years ago when Sanni Abacha was pursuing a self-succession plan. Yes, what’s going on in Nigeria at this time is not really fresh. Many can vividly recall how late Sani Abacha similarly cowed, manipulated and used politicians to pursue his ill-fated agenda.

Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has done it. Obasanjo wants to do it. So What? But will he respect the presidential oath of office he swore to in 1999 and 2003? Nigerian citizens, the press, civic society, lawmakers, judges, professionals, students, youth, women, religious, and community leaders may have to begin to explore all other non-violent ways to protect our cherished democracy and restore its due process.

But how do you deal with a man like Obasanjo? How do you convince a man with a unique destiny that, in the ongoing re-arrangement for the new world order, he may not be as important or powerful as he think he is? Tunde Bakare, a Nigeria pastor, had no success. How do citizens and civic institutions act differently to prevent the demise of democracy in Nigeria especially now that, the opposition party in Nigeria is almost extinct?

Especially now that the labor movement in Nigeria has been fragmented; now that the pro-democracy activists are either dead or wearied; now that politicians and law-makers have been whipped into line and the others are scared stiff of the consequences of opposing 3rd term agenda; now that Northern leaders through Governor Abdulkhadir Kure of Niger State have served warning that any attempt not to allow power to shift to the North come 2007 may spell doom and lead to polarization of the country. How should the Nigerian people and lovers of freedom, justice and democracy deal with this powerful ruler of a great country? Remain silent. Look and laugh. Run to the bushes. How?

As apparent from the situations in the oil rich Niger Delta, Anambra, Oyo and the North of Nigeria, violent resistance to poverty, injustice and perceived political exclusion by the Nigerian people will not ensure stability, prosperity or democratic peace. A Coup de tat is not also an option for the Nigerian people. Those of us that went into different “trenches” in support of democracy the last time, know that military take over of government in Nigeria, will be a step

backward. Besides, the military already seem to have taken over in Nigeria.

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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.


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