All the above were written on the wall for the Nigerian people: an idea cannot be honorable if it is being introduced the way it has so far been with the case of the elongation of Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure as President of Nigeria. As much as Nigerians appreciate the fact that no other leader in the history of the Federal Republic has made as much positive impact in the life of Nigerians as Obasanjo, they will not subscribe to a carte-blanche manipulation of the constitution without involving them directly in fixing the same constitution. Plus, many Nigerians are aware of the fact that Olusegun Obasanjo only stands tall when compared to a list of failed despots and corrupt politicians that preceded him.
Mr. President, like most of today’s politicians or leaders in Nigeria, has always treated the rest of us Nigerians in a condescending manner. He acts like he is all-knowing of what is best for us. Rather than consult directly with us on his ideas and proposals, he goes ahead and does as he wishes, bullying his way through to achieve his objectives, the end result of which is alienating himself with the people he rules. While the nation remained on a knife-edge due to the rumors of ‘3rd Term’, the President did not see it fit to choose just one prime-time slot on national TV to address us. Who knows, he may have had excellent reasons to justify extending his stay. But no, the President remained aloof; preferring to evade questions on the topic as tension mount across the land.
No one in our recent history in Nigeria, of Obasanjo’s stature and respectability, has wasted public goodwill as he has done by stubbornly taking on such an unpopular choice of action and it really does make one’s heart bleed for him to see him go down such a lonely road to political isolation. All we can do is ask ourselves again and again: Is power so bad at corrupting people? If it is, can it also corrupt a man like Obasanjo who has literarily been through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ during the Abacha era? Do we blame his actions on his advisors? Or is this an early manifestation of senility? Perhaps he has good intentions? Or is this the REAL Obasanjo whom we are just getting to know?
The President has inadvertently made dictators of yesteryears today’s ‘champions’ of democracy and the rule of law. Hear Ibrahim Babangida yesterday, while he congratulated the Senate as reported by THISDAY: “I knew it would not succeed because there was no adequate consultation with Nigerians on the matter…It did not succeed, not because the lawmakers did not want constitutional amendment, but because of the way the proponents packaged the exercise as a third-term agenda”. That was vintage IBB talking; discerning as ever! He was practical enough to appreciate the need to involve Nigerians in affairs of state – of course by any means necessary if one is to go by IBB’s antecedents.
Then there was the case of former Senate President Adolphus Wabara who was indicted for bribery last year and was subsequently impeached. According to reports, it was a moment of glory for a man who only a few months ago was a personification of corruption in the public eye. Senator Wabara used his allotted 10 minutes on the senate floor to deliver a humorous and powerful speech that stood for fairness and accountability. It won him encomiums from many that included his colleagues, the viewers in the Senate gallery and many others who viewed the proceedings live on AIT TV. He spoke of his constituents wishes rather than his wishes – all in a very civilized manner that in no way revealed he bellied any grudges with the executive arm that saw to his previous downfall.
Other observers of the proceedings in the senate yesterday also commented on the outcome of the debate; from Vice-President Atiku to Uche Chukwumerije – another Senator who has been in the fore-front of the battle against tenure amendment for the Obasanjo government. He is another example of a few individuals that President Obasanjo has inadvertently helped cleanse of past ‘sins’ against the Nigerian people; for it was Chukwumerije who only a few years ago was Ibrahim Babangida’s propaganda chief as the latter manipulated Nigeria till she got dizzy from the dribblings. Today, Senator Chukwumerije is one of the most eloquent voices in the National Assembly on important debates that affect the direction of the affairs of state -including the so-called third-term.
The Nigerian media – especially the press – has always been the last line of hope for Nigeria. Without them, a lot of injustices and `wuru-wuru to the answer’ will go unreported in the land. Their tenacious vigilance beamed the spot-light on this tenure issue while it was under fertilization, as it grew to an embryo and as it hatched to become an issue that rocked the nation. The perpetrators had nowhere to hide or run; the search light of the Third Estate of the Realm was on them wherever they went. A few lawmakers asked for secret voting and the press cried foul. Our own CNN in Nigeria, the African Independent Television displayed her independence – even while under harassment of raids and bomb threats – and broadcasted live from within the senate chambers.
Ken Nnamani (Pix: Kwenu.com)
Ken Nnamani, the Senate President, could have easily bent the way of those who applied pressure on him on an almost daily basis. He could have done things the way Ibrahim Mantu did as head of the “Constitutional Review Committee”. Ibrahim Mantu’s committee had recommended that a ‘3rd Term’ be included in the amendment of the 1999 constitution. According to him, it was in line with the wishes of the Nigerian people whom he consulted with as he criss-crossed the country. He went further to state that history will vindicate him and he thanked God for using him to help Nigerians [!]. However, Senator Nnamani toed a different path – the humble path of honor and integrity. Today, Mr. Nnamani won’t have to boast of how history will treat his name; it is obvious to all and sundry how posterity will view him.