Presidency: The Danger of Shagarinization

by Priye Torulagha

Why Chief/Gen. Obasanjo Always Select Political Juniors to Replace Him?

At this moment, it is necessary to ask why Chief/Gen. Obasanjo always seems to pick political underlings as his successors. It is also necessary to ask why he repeatedly selected individuals who were not prepared for the top job in the country to become presidents? The following is an attempt to identify the reasons given by Nigerians to explain Obasanjo’s proclivity toward selecting political juniors to succeed him:

1.Some Nigerians believe that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo always prefer to hand over power to individuals who have less political influence so that he can be able to control and dominate them after he leaves office.

2.Some believes that Chief/Obasanjo chooses to hand over power to individuals who have less political clout in the country so that they would not be able to summon enough courage to investigate and possibly charge him for various crimes after he is no longer in power. It should be noted that some Nigerians are convinced that the culture of large scale embezzlement of public funds actually began during the regime of Gen. Obasanjo and not that of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. It should be recalled that while Gen. Obsanjo was in power, preferably, around 1977-78, a wild rumor circulated that the late President/Gen. Idi Amin of Uganda captured a plane which landed in Kampala, the capital of his country. According to the story, the plane was said to have departed from Nigeria with large sums of unexplainable money. According to the rumor, it was stated that the money was meant to be distributed to liberation fighters in Rhodesia, Angola and South Africa. The rumor ended with an allegation that Idi Amin confiscated the money. The story circulated far and wide but it died without further clarification.

In recent times, rumors have been circulating that former President Obasanjo has been going around pleading with the new governors not to carry out any action that could jeopardize his business interests in their states. In particular, Rivers State is repeatedly mentioned as an area where his business interests are threatened. This is a mere rumor, however, it is a fact that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo invented and created the Obasanjo Holding Companies (OHC) while he was in power. Some Nigerians point to the resemblance between Obasanjo Holding Companies (OHC) and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and wonder whether the change of the name of NEPA to PHCN was done for the convenient of the former president. Some Nigerians are wondering why the former president was so eager to privatize national corporations. In addition, they wonder why he allowed only a very few friends of his to own most of the privatized government properties. They also wonder whether the few friends who gained from the privatization exercise were members of OHC.

It could be said that under President Obasanjo’s leadership of Nigeria between 1999 and May 2007, the scale of corruption and political assassinations escalated uncontrollably, even though he announced publicly to fight a war against corruption. Before Chief/Gen Obasanjo took over the presidency in May 29, 1999, Generals Babangida and Sani Abacha’s regimes were noted for being the most corrupt in Nigeria. Today, some Nigerians would say that Obasanjo’s reign has beaten the records of the two former generals, in terms of corruption.

3. Some Nigerians theorize that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo always wants to open political doors to political underlings so that the country can go in the right direction. Consequently, it was necessary to put somebody like Shagari in power. Similarly, it is necessary to put someone like Yar’Adua in power. In this regard, Nigerians who hold this perspective believe that President Obasanjo helped to put President Yar ‘Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in power, thereby, for the first time, allowing a member of a minority group to ascend the corridors of national power, apart from Gen. Yakubu Gowon. Furthermore, those who hold this view believe that President Obasanjo must be congratulated for appointing General Alexander Ogomudia and Gen. Awoye Azazi as heads of the Nigerian Army and Chiefs of Defense Staff respectively. They also insist that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo must be congratulated for creating the EFCC and making the anti-corruption war possible.

4. Some Nigerians believe that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo is a party loyalist and prefers to hand over the mantle of leadership of the country to individuals who are beholden to the political party so that they can reinforce the capability of the party to win elections against the opposition. In deed, Shagari was beholden to the NPN and the clique that controlled the party from behind the scenes. As a result, he decided to run for reelection rather than hand over the presidential candidacy to Vice President Alex Ekwueme after the NPN had made a decision to rotate the presidential slot among the political zones of the party.

To Avoid Shagarinization

Actions needed to be taken by President Yar’Adua in order to avoid Shagarinization:

1. Become more decisive and act like the leader of Nigeria and not as the caretaker of the PDP.

2. Make the war on corruption the number one goal and objective. Corruption affects the entire lifeblood of the country, thereby, truncating its development. Corruption perpetuates the violation of the Constitution and the laws by those in power. It enables national and states political leaders to be unaccountable, unresponsive, irresponsible, and nontransparent. It is not possible to move the country forward in a progressive manner if corruption is not drastically reduced.

To fight corruption, the law must be allowed to take its course. Judges must be allowed to make legal decisions based upon the merits of the law.

3. He must work with the National Assembly to get rid of the immunity clause. Why should the Nigerian population at large be held accountable to the laws of the country while the rulers are exempted from the tentacles of the laws of the land?. The law should apply equally to all Nigerians. The immunity clause encourages thievery. .It is not surprising that the former governors are behaving like common thieves and searching for every means possible to avoid being invited by the EFCC to explain what they did while they were in power.

4. He must distant himself from former President Obasanjo and members of the inner circle of the PDP if he does not want to be aimless and ineffective.

5. He should stop the PDP practice of forcing governors, especially those of the oil-producing states to sponsor PDP political activities. The rumors are all over the place that Chief James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State was responsible for financing his presidential candidacy. As a result, some Nigerians believe that President Yar’Adua has been lukewarm in allowing the EFCC to carry out massive investigation of the former governor of Delta State. Is it a coincident that Mallam Ribadu was removed as the head of the EFCC exactly at the time in which Chief Ibori was arrested by the EFCC? Is it also a mere coincident that the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police have been working so hard to make sure that the EFCC is controlled either through the Attorney General’s Office or the Nigerian Police Force? Many citizens of the oil-producing region believe that their governors are imposed upon them by the PDP and Abuja power-wielders in order to milk the states of large sums of money. The citizens of the Niger Delta States further add that portions of the revenue accruing from the Federation Account are recycled back to Abuja through compulsory donations to the PDP and other national activities as a form of payback by the governors who were installed in power. It should be noted that former governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State was probably the first to openly allege that he gave money to the PDP from his state allocations. It is not possible to reduce corruption while governors are forced to donate public funds to carry out private activities of a political party. The practice of forcing public officials to donate public money to a private political party is illegal and a violation of the financial and developmental rights of the people of Nigeria, especially those in the oil-producing region.

6. He should pay more attention to the national interest of Nigeria and not that of the PDP. As stated above, President Shagari kowtowed to the pressures of some inner circle members of the NPN, hence, refused to hand over the presidential bid of the party to Dr. Alex Ekwueme, his vice president, as the presidential flagbearer of the NPN during a second presidential election.. By so doing, he fractured the coalition that would have made the NPN a truly national party

7. The EFCC should be allowed to stand on its own as an independent government agency instead of being forced to become either part of the Nigerian Police Force or the Attorney General’s Office. So far, it seems that the president is allowing the Attorney General to unduly interfere with the operations of the EFCC. This sends a mix message indicating that the president is not serious about fighting corruption. In particular, the tactical coup which led to the sudden departure of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as the head of the EFCC shows that the Attorney General and the Inspector General of the Police are playing politics with the war on corruption.

8. The Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police should work together to solve the high profile murders that were committed in the country during the administration of Chief Obasanjo. In particular, the case of former Attorney General Bola Ige must be solved. They should allow the EFCC to do its work.

9. He should not extend the deadline for the stoppage of gas flaring. Gas flaring has been going on since oil was discovered in Oloibiri in 1958. Instead, he should put pressure on the oil companies to take proactive measures in ensuring the reduction of gas flaring. The youths in the Niger Delta are watching to see whether the president will kowtow to the interest of the oil companies or act decisively to put an end to the biochemical poisoning of the peoples of the oil-producing region. The peoples of the region are being subjected to an unbearable condition due to the fact that while they are compelled to inhale the poisonous gases and develop incurable medical conditions, there are no specialized medical facilities in the Niger Delta to treat their ailments.

10. He should distribute major national infrastructural developmental activities throughout all the zones of the country. So far, the impression is created that almost every major infrastructural developmental activity is focused on the North and the Southwest. For instance, the West African Gas Pipeline project is located in the Southwest. There is a plan to put a major railway line between Lagos and Kano. There is plan to rehabilitate Lagos/Ibadan highway. There is no effort to rehabilitate the Lagos-Benin Highway which is the main artery for transportation to the South-East and the South-South from Lagos. Nigerian citizens from the South-East and South-South are like traveling gypsies when they want to visit their regions because there is no reliable international flight zone in that part of the country. The roads in the South-East and the South-South are terribly bad.

11. Since the legitimacy of his presidency’ is being challenged by the opposition led by Atiku and Buahri, the only way he could gain the sympathy and trust of the people is for him to carry out programs and activities that would directly benefit the masses. He has to act very quickly in making sure that he is the president of the Nigerian people and not the president of the PDP and the protector of PDP’s financial nests. Otherwise, he could be removed from office as the courts continue to review the electoral processes of the 2007 elections. Already, some governors have been relieved of their jobs.

12. The political stakes are very high. Nigerians have patiently waited for too long for a good leader to emerge. Nigerians pray and hope that President Umaru Yar’Adua will succeeds in leading the country to a better future.. If he fails by becoming powerless, aimless and ineffective, the tragic political drama that has been taking place in Kenya could be a child’s play since in Nigeria, almost every ethnic group has an armed militia. In the days of President Shagari, there were no armed militias and the level of corruption was not as high as it is today. Therefore, there is no room for Shagarinization in contemporary Nigeria because the consequences would be catastrophic. President Yar’Adua should search his conscience and take a position on whether he wants to be the president of Nigeria or the president of the PDP oligarchy. So far, the only specialization that Nigeria is noted for is corruption while countries like India and China are building computers, automobiles and other technological devices.

You may also like

Leave a Comment