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Why President Obasanjo Should Be Retired In 2003

By Ignatius Ukwu Nnaekpe
New York, USA

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March 23, 2001

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When President Obasanjo won the presidency in 1999, Nigerians were generally in agreement that his election was a consensus one that would bring progress to the country. At that time, Nigerians were deeply vexed by military rule and the soldiers were fearful that they would be jailed by the civilians if they handed power to them without sharing it. So President Obasanjo was chosen as the man that would reconcile all factions, restructure the country, discipline the 419ers and end corruption.

After his swearing in, the President made promises committing Nigerians to expect, among others, employment to alleviate poverty, uninterrupted power supply, sufficient fuel supply, good telephone service, good roads and clean water supply within months of his presidency.

Now, in the second year of his presidency, all he has done is to disappointingly admit his failure to live up to his promises. And to add salt to injury, while visiting Bayelsa state recently he attempted to coax the people to forgo their agitation for resource control; in the process, he opened up a wound that has checkmated his ability to reconcile Nigerians, by declaring that it was resource control that caused the Nigeria/Biafra war.

For goodness sake, should any Nigerian with a sense of fairness now argue against resource control? Was this not the catchphrase of the west and the north when cocoa, cotton and peanut were the country’s export earners? Resource control was ingrained in the first people’s constitution. This lofty provision was thrown out as the military came into power and noticed the wealth generated by the black gold called crude oil.

Since the first people’s constitution holds that all military governments are illegal, and the legislature is now trying to uphold this law, should anything written by the military in the name of constitution that is being used in the present pseudo-democracy be relied upon?

The stand of the President regarding resource control should concern every Nigerian who cares about peace in Nigeria. Given that it was the same President who wouldn’t go to court to challenge Shar’ia.

While in Bayelsa state the President couldn’t help picking on Ndigbo, who were few miles away, as he alluded to the civil war - his mind war project. Since Ndigbo have been at the forefront agitating for resource control, Mr. President and his northern sponsors have continued to fight the civil war in their minds against the people partly because of the fear that they might lose their cash cow with Ndigbo joining the agitation.

Even though the people have maintained that they fought the war, caused by General Gowon, in self-defense, Mr. President attempted to rewrite history in Bayelsa just to scare the south-southerners to abandon their struggle.

As is the case with enemies, the President is now working hard on the tactic to divide and rule Ndigbo. Since he controls the oil industry, he can afford to make anybody rich. And given Nigerians’ love for money, to whom he beckons among them, with the crude oil money, he is Oba indeed. At the moment many of the officials and legislators are building mansions all over Nigeria. Some of them are frequenting the offshore banking institutions of Lusaka, since Switzerland could spell their doom for now.

Some of the states Governors are now buying mansions in southern London; and some closest people to the President are reportedly buying choice houses in Atlanta.

As for Ndigbo, like Governor Orji Kalu - Abia state’s man of the day, the President is up in arms against them, and if not watched, he may worst them for continuing to speak up about his inability to deliver.

Nor are international reporters spared: often they are scolded for daring to ask questions that may lay bare President Obasanjo’s failures.

Ndigbo have been very vocal in stating that the presidency has been against them. And based on the look of things now in Nigeria, it is obvious that the power structure is tilted against them. It seems the government is employing endless resources to continue to deceive the masses that Ndigbo are anti-Nigeria.

Because of Ndigbo’s attempt to integrate the polity and hold their own, the power structure is shaken. The reason is if those republicans are allowed in, they are likely to provide the necessary checks and balances and insist on accountability, in most cases; instead of the continuing game of graft whose know-how the military had labored since 1966 to perfect.

When listening to Ndigbo’s story about their existence in Nigeria, you cannot help feeling that the people have been railroaded, very wickedly too, by the organized power structure (a diarchy powered by the northern feudalists and the military) since the death of Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, and his protégé, Tafewa Balewa, as the prime minister of Nigeria.

During Tafewa’s time, Nigeria began the plan to construct a steel industry. For unknown reasons, Kainji dam was sited in the north (when it was established and known that the north has no water for such project), while the steel industry was to be sited in Onitsha, near the raw material. The north got their dam, which is today inoperable for lack of water, but the east got shortchanged mainly by General Gowon, the British larky and his gang.

Now, though Onitisha is closest to Ajaokuta and still has the raw material, the military as well as President Obasanjo, have constructed a road to skirt the southeast and link Port Harcourt for the raw material. What would be the cost of the final product - assuming "karma" would let the steel industry to take off? Should Nigeria’s wealth be squandered in projects of hate of this magnitude?

Ndigbo have been plagued with deprivations for so long that one can only wonder why a consensus President whom Ndigbo themselves voted massively to elect would support any attempt to suppress them. Chesterton stated in 1931 that democracy "means government by the uneducated...." Maybe this is acceptable given the tendencies of Nigeria’s leadership, but having a leader who is as " the gate of hell,... hiding one thing in his heart and doing another," (Homer, Iliad) is not what Nigeria wants.

In the Anatomy of melancholy, Robert Burton stated that in leadership one has to light his candle from the touches of the led. But, in Nigeria, the leadership has terribly infected the democracy with clannishness. Those in power are after themselves and their cronies. This reason alone is adequate to support the demand that the leadership be rotated, so that others (including the crude oil owners), with time, can as well lead Nigeria and, maybe, have their hands at the till too.

Isn’t it disturbing that Mr. President couldn’t understand that in a situation where he gives much to his own and goes around throwing crumbs to a few states leaders and ethnic groups with the hope to ensure his perpetuity, to the exclusion of others, can only strengthen alienation and acrimony among the abandoned ethnic groups?

General Obasanjo’s emergence as a leader
No man since the formation of Nigeria by the British has been so fortunate to lead the country twice as President Obasanjo. This man who does not compare any better than ordinary Nigerian masses started in the army with no particular gifts, except doing well for the Gowons whom the British indirectly used in their attempt to exterminate Ndigbo in 1966 and beyond, and milk Nigeria for ever. Yet, he has been propped up to rule Nigeria as a military man and as a civilian - a feat no Nigerian may dare again.

After the British handed power to the northerners (who facilitated their indirect rule of Nigeria), with the deceased Ahmadu Bello as the chief custodian, Nigeria started to disintegrate as the northern and western winds blew at cross purposes.

At this point, the British who were not ready to give up on Nigeria saw the dangers, and became political consultants advising the Sarduanas while grooming the military busboys, like the Gowons, in readiness for the civil war that engulfed Nigeria.

As the pogroms that led to the civil war forced the remaining Igbos in the then Nigerian territory, some of whom were young Obasanjo’s superiors in the Nigerian army, to flee back to the east, the young man then blossomed. In the end, with Ndigbo defeated and Biafra left as a mere dream by the joint efforts of the British, the USSR, the Egyptian pilots, and American deliberate indecision encouraged by Secretary Kissinger, young Obasanjo went on to rub salt on the wounds of the defeated people - probably to show the northerners that he was a better candidate to lead the ruination of Ndigbo.

For thirty-something years since the war ended, general Obasanjo dined and wined with the northerners, even as the latter were bankrupting and destroying the country.

In the high stake game of wealth - the version played only by the northerners and their military thieves - the northern military gang took turns at the tower of power to do their thing. And in one of the turns, General Obasanjo emerged, as General Murtala Mohamad was assassinated.

General Obasanjo ruled Nigeria then - and I must say - giving his best. He is now ruling Nigeria again, and he his giving his level best again; yet Nigeria is falling apart. Is this beloved leader of Nigeria not at his level of incompetence now? Why then are people asking him to contest again for the presidency when all he is now delivering are in diminishing returns?

Nigeria is more than 100 million rich in population. If only the loafing Obasanjo sycophants would permit, good leaders are plentiful in the country. They exist among the new breeds, intellectuals, civil rights firebrands, and the Diaspora ones who have operated in the thick of the white people’s world and have known their ways. Nigerians must send President Obasanjo home with his recycled yo-yos come 2003 for the sake of peace and the progress of Nigeria.

If the president’s leadership is a form of civilization to some Nigerians, it is meet they realized that "things have their day, and their beauties...It would be preposterous to expect any one civilization to last forever." George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States.

President Obasanjo has had his days. He and his military sponsors have civilized Nigeria for too long. And since Nigeria is not going to become a monarchy, which is what President Obasanjo seems to prefer, judging from his unitary government, Nigerians should not continue to encourage him to wave the banner of democracy in vain. Let him retire come 2003.

Leading as a soldier and a civilian
During the President’s days as a military head of state, his venture was short. His known achievement mainly was handing power back to civilians. But the act that actually became his trademark was the World Bank loan of $2.8 billion, which he forced Nigeria to secure for "them."

That money (which later compounded to $30 billion today), according to my sources, did not reach Nigeria. Facts abound that the money stayed in some secret accounts and yielded interests (which, also, did not reach Nigeria) until the Buharis, the IBBs and the Abachas came up to maximize the theft - the knowhow having been established by someone other than them, and whom they could conveniently blame.

General Obasanjo’s first foray into governance, as a head of state, did not deviate from the military main thrust, namely, the continuation of the mind war against Nidgbo. Just like the northern soldiers were wont to do, forgiving the Biafrans and restituting them was not in General Obasanjo’s lexicon; and reconciling the nation, and planning for a better future for the country, which probably could have prepared a platform for the illiterate Gowon boys to stand on, were ignored. Surprisingly, with this performance, the international community gave Obasanjo kudos.

One thing the President’s international friends seem to like very much about Nigeria is his unitary government, in a so-called democracy. The military perfected the unitary idea, and the President is following suit. News had it that the multinationals also like the system because it enables them to operate off-limits, as they could easily bribe the sole authority to have their way.

Since the military unitary governments made it easier for the international conspirators to rip Nigeria off, those who ran the illegal governments have continued to be in their good books. Now that the truth about the military shortcomings has come to the fore and Nigerians are agitating, they are assisting President Obasanjo, a military man with military yearnings, to push forward his unitary government program in the name of a democracy whose practice is not known even by the Greeks who most propagated the system.

As President Obasanjo leads Nigeria and maintains a bloated bureaucracy, he never appointed a petroleum minister. Since crude oil is what keeps Nigeria ticking, he has made it known that he is the custodian. No one in Nigeria knows how much the industry makes each day. But he is in control; and anybody who wants a better life or a piece of the oil wealth would better cue and listen to him.

The truth one must know is that since President Obasanjo controls the Nigerian oil industry, he controls the purse - not the legislature. Because of the petro-naira at his command, all arms of government - the legislature, judiciary and the press - are under his executive arm. Is there anything more unitary in government than this? Nigerians must decide quickly. Because evil events always spring from evil causes, to paraphrase Aristophanes.

The ‘complex’ problem and the effect
When the military ruled Nigeria, soldiers were believed to be haunted by inferiority complex which had been nursed in their ranks since the British era. A lot of the atrocities they committed were attributable to the impairment. This appeared to be the primary reason the soldiers took possession of the country and continued their mind war against Ndigbo, since 1967.

According to available information, when General Ojukwu joined the Nigerian army, things took a different turn and made an orderly institution to suddenly become charged. Reportedly, as the military was formed with rag-tags since the British era, who lacked the education to do any other thing, those of them who rose to become officers developed sickening inferiority complex on dealing with the educated officers in their ranks.

At that time, Gowon was said to have been very hateful of Ojukwu and other officers of Igbo descent till he got himself noticed by the British. This explains how Gowon came to rule Nigeria, as it gives credence to the wisdom of Lord Chesterfield, stated in his book entitled: Letters to His Son, that "people hate those who make them feel their own inferiority."

As an Oxford trained graduate, General Ojukwu joined the Nigerian army and maintained the same rank with nomads, busboys, petty thieves and murderers who then populated the force. Instead of the soldiers becoming grateful that they could at least rise without education to hobnob with the best, they turned around to be hateful, pitifully jealous and envious of a man they could never be. General Ojukwu’s involvement gave the entire Nigerian army a lasting inferiority complex.

It was that inferiority complex that made General Gowon to go back to school, at Warwick, after having served as a head of state of Nigeria for nine years. Can anybody ponder what harm this man did to Nigeria since his young days as a British larky with his inferiority complex? And he is not alone!

All others operate and behave in his vein; and the ramifications are hydra-headed. I must assert that it was this complex thing that informed General Abubarka in his malady. Otherwise, why would he give millions of dollars to a state university in Chicago while some of his people are milling around, covering themselves with leaves in this 21st century? And, by the way, did President Obasanjo care to know how Abubarka got the millions of dollars he donated to the school? Or was the money from Abubarka’s retirement benefit?

Can anybody recall that President Obasanjo listens more to the IMF and World Bank than Nigerians - just like his military predecessors?

News abound that President Obasanjo never believes the people under him to know more than he does. Could it be recalled that he did not think that Emeagwali could tell him better about fast calculating computers, let alone fixing Nigeria’s high-tech problems? What causes these things? Should we then continue to field soldiers, or recycled ones (since one is always a soldier, once a soldier), as Nigerian leaders after they have been tested and found wanting time and time again?

Nigeria must let President Obasanjo go, come 2003. For if with all the oil windfall that the country has been blessed with, Mr. President cannot do one good and lasting thing for the country - not a steady electricity, not clean water, not good roads, not good telephone system, etc. - what qualifies this man for another term?

Reasoning with William Jennings Bryan, "Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." Nigerians must make the choice for their wellbeing by electing tested and sound new leaders come year 2003.

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Published with the permission of Ignatius Nnaekpe

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