Presidency: The Danger of Shagarinization

If one critically examines the unfolding Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency, there is a temptation to say that it is a replication of President Shehu Shagari’s presidency of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In other words, it is possible to predict prophetically the future direction of this government by examining Shagari’s government because both are eerily similar in their creation, nature and style. The similarity of the two governments does not seem to be a mere coincident but a product of calculated political design engineered by Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and a clique of oligarchic individuals who have captured, dominated and monopolized the king making role in Nigeria.

Shagarinization, for purpose of this write-up, refers to a government or a regime headed Umaru Yar’Adua’s by a likable and personable individual that seems aimless, unfocused, corrupt, powerless, and ineffective. . Shagari’s regime of 1979-1983 came very close to characterizing the qualities described above, hence, Shagarinization.

The Similarity of the Governments of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua

The following provide a catalog of reasons why the two governments are eerily similar and almost clones of the same thing:

1.At the time President Shagari was selected to become the presidential flag-bearer of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Alhaji Shagari was only interested in running for office as a senator, not as a president. He was literally dragged from the senatorial candidacy to become the presidential candidate of the NPN. Without any preparation to serve as a president, he became the president of Nigeria. Similarly, at the time President Yar’Adua was selected to become the top presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria (PDP), he was merely running for office as a gubernatorial candidate. He was not prepared to serve as a president since his focus was to become a governor in his state. Suddenly, he became the president of Nigeria, just like Shagari.

2.In both circumstances, the same person was the leader of Nigeria at the time. Gen. Obasanjo was the military leader of Nigeria when Shagari took over power and served as the president in the Second Republic. President Obasanjo was the president of Nigeria when Yar’Adua took over the presidency. This means that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo most likely instigated the process to hand over power to Shagari and Yar’Adua.

3.Both Shagari and Yar ‘Adua were considered to be political juniors in the scheme of Nigerian politics at the time they were chosen to become the flagbearers of their political parties and not well known nationally. Thus, in both cases, Chief/Gen. Obasanjo ignored the political seniors and those who had openly expressed a desire for the top job in the country and selected individuals who did not have any national agenda to lead the country.

4.Since both were political juniors at the time they were selected, they were immediately dominated by the members of the inner circles of their political parties. It is a fact that President Shagari was dominated by the seniors in the NPN, hence, could not accomplish much for the country. He was always swimming against the political currents of the seniors in the NPN. They dominated him from the beginning to the end of his regime. President Yar’ Adua is a political junior in the PDP. He is being dominated by the party bosses of the PDP. His government is increasingly dancing to the tune of the members of the inner circle of the PDP. As a result, he is losing control, just like Shagari.

5.During Shagari’s regime, Dr. Umaru Dikko was the superstar. He invented the trickery that sustained the NPN. He was responsible for inventing rice as a carrot to compel Nigerians to support the NPN. He was alleged to have been the greatest pilferer of public funds during the reign of Shagari. Today, it appears that Dikko’s role is being played by the Attorney General, Mr. Michael Aondokaa, who seems to behave and act like the Attorney General of the PDP and the legal counsel of alleged embezzlers rather than the Attorney General of Nigeria. Like Dr. Umaru Dikko, the Attorney General seems to be above the law and assumes that he can interpret the law in such a way as to protect the PDP and financiers of the PDP machine.

6.President Shagari was very personable, humble, and simple. He did not portray any psychological sign of hunger for power. He was never personally accused of corruption. President Yar’Adua too is very personable, humble in appearance and simple in nature. He does not seem to portray any signs of hunger for power. While these public qualities are likable, they can be very deceiving. As a result, Nigerians did not know who was Shagari and what was he about. Similarly, Nigerians are beginning to question who is Yar’Adua and what he intends to do to move Nigeria forward, apart from posturing to be a personable leader. Let the true Yar’Adua show up

7.Both are products of a spoilt political system. However, Shagari’s presidency had a degree of legitimacy which is missing in Yar’Adua’s presidency due to the manner in which the PDP rigged the elections. The elections during Shagari time were more genuine than the elections of April 2003 and 2007. In short, there were no elections in 2003 and 2007. The PDP used its enormous power to impose its chosen candidates upon the Nigerian people. Although, Shagari won through a mathematical formula that gave him the majority of the votes, nevertheless, the elections were fairer during his time than what has taken place since Chief/Gen. Obasanjo and the PDP emerged to dominate Nigerian civilian politics.

8.Due to the fact that Shagari did not have any pronounceable agenda for Nigeria since he was only trying to serve as a state senator, his government was hijacked by the plutocrats and he was rendered aimless and insignificant. Increasingly, PDP plutocrats seem to be taking over the government of Yar’Adua, thereby, turning him into a directionless figurehead of Nigeria

9. Like Shagari’s presidency, President Yar’Adua has not delivered any policy or program or action that is directed at the Nigerian people, apart from promises being made. Although, it is unfair to compare President Shagari who served for more than four years (1979-1983) with Yar’Adua who has only served for eight months, the process of governance seems to be the same, leading to the implication that Yar’Adua could end up like Shagari if he does not act decisively to deal with the country’s problems. It should be recalled that Chief/Gen. Obasanjo too started very slowly after making promises upon promises and eventually ended up without delivering any tangible service to the Nigerian people from 1999 to 2007. In fact, like Shagari, one could say that former President Obasanjo did not accomplish any tangible activity during a reign of eight years. If President Yar’Adua does not start to deliver tangible developmental goods and services to the Nigerian masses very early in his presidency, his term of office will expire before he realizes that he has not accomplish anything

10. He appointed a number of inner circle members of the PDP to high-level government positions, knowing full well that they were involved in using the PDP to turn Nigeria into a non-democratic, corruption-ridden and gangland-like state. He knew that many of them were corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians, yet, he appointed them in order to please the PDP which concocted the political trickery to put him in power. .

11. He continues to allow the spoilt oil block distribution system to manifest where a selected group of Nigerians are allowed to accumulate wealth for doing nothing These Nigerians are given oil blocks and the oil blocks are then sold to the multinational companies at high prices, thereby, making the oil block owners instant millionaires.

12. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) continues to serve as a piggy bank for those highly connected Nigerians. It is amazing that no official from the NNPC has ever been sent to prison for engaging in financial fraud. The NNPC continues to be a profusely leaking basket that serves as a Santa Claus for certain individuals in the country. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) has never developed any technology apart from serving as a financial reservoir for the former president and his cronies. There is no difference between the PTDF and the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). They are instruments for transferring oil wealth from the state to individuals. The selected individuals become excessively wealthy while the majority of Nigerians become excessively poorer.

13. President Yar’Adua seems to flow into every direction, based upon who is putting political pressure on him. He seems to say the right things and then act immediately to contradict them whenever inner circle members of the PDP visit him in Aso Rock.

14. His foreign policy so far seems to be characterized by inactivity. Due to the mix signals that he sends, even the British are saying that Nigeria is no longer interested in fighting corruption. He has not done anything to correct the shame following the incapability of Nigeria to put his cultural affairs center in Bahia Brazil in order. Of all the African countries that were given buildings to showcase their cultures, only Nigeria has been unable to do so. The Brazilian government is threatening to take back the building and put it to other use. After Nigeria, Brazil has the second largest black population in the world. Afro-Brazilians strongly promote African religious culture, yet, Nigeria cannot even organize a cultural center in that country. Officials responsible for activating the cultural center maintain that they do not have money to do so. The Ministry of External Affairs owes Nigerians and Afro-Brazilians an explanation.

15. He has not taken any action that would directly benefit the Nigerian masses. In other words, for the moment, it seems that the Nigerian masses do not matter politically. The masses must wait, pray and hope that the president will remember their needs. Their needs include affordable health care, reliable electricity, conducive and affordable public transportation system, affordable public housing, productive educational system, employment etc.

As can be seen, President Yar’Adua is dancing like President Shagari. After promising to fight corruption, he is bending backwards and allowing the former governors and party leaders of the PDP to shipwreck the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by tactically removing the only individual most Nigerians have come to trust, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

16. It was obvious that President Shagari’s regime was aimless and corrupt. Eventually, the government was overthrown by Lt. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1983. To instill discipline, Buhari instituted the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). The WAI was considered too draconian by some Nigerians, thereby, leading to accusations of dictatorial tendencies. Gen. Buhari was sneakily overthrown by a smiling general known as Ibrahim Babangida. Gen. Babangida perfected the art of political trickery (Maradonnanism) and corruption. As can be seen, the greatest threat to President Yar-‘Adua comes from Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Ret. Gen. Buhari. This time the effort to remove a sitting president is being done through the legal process. Shagari was removed forcefully through the barrel of a gun.

17. The issue of gas flaring and environmental destruction in the Niger Delta has never been taken seriously, hence, Nigeria always cooperate with the oil companies to extend the deadline for stopping gas flaring. It appears that like Shagari and other Nigerian leaders, President Yar’Adua will also bend backwards and allow the deadline for stopping gas flaring to be extended. The fact that farming and fishing in the Niger Delta have been devastated by oil and gas exploration is not important to the national political leadership. This time, the oil companies want the deadline to be extended to 2010. When 2010 comes, the companies will lobby again for extension. They know that as far as Nigerian leaders are corrupt, they would get their way by saying that if they are forced to comply with the deadline, then oil production will be drastically reduced.

Written by
Priye Torulagha
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