STAR RECOMMENDATIONS: Ways to Throw A Spanner into the Third Term/Life-Term Agenda
Cover Story : How To Stop OBJ
As president Olusegun perfects his strategies to sit tight, these are ways to throw spanner in his works.
You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
- Oliver Cromwell [Addressing the Rump Parliament, 20 April 1653].
There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny
For many politicians, political and interest groups around the country, the desperate bid by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his hirelings to amend the Constitution to enable him to run for a third term in office is a wish waiting to be fulfilled in the weeks ahead. Accepting it as a fait accompli, some of them have given up, with a few of the regional groupings and political groups constituting secret committees to look into what could be done to maximize the gains of their ethnic group, regional bloc or political association during Obasanjo's third term in office. Yet, despite the limited space and time left, there are some that are committed to ensuring that Obasanjo is stopped from violating the spirit of the constitution and elongating the tenure of his under-performing and crisis-prone administration. As Obasanjo himself said during the Babangida days in a TELL interview, "when I talk of the cost of staying (in power) being higher than the cost of not staying (in power), it is that challenge that I believe will make the difference."
Perhaps the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has already given the needed signal that shows that it is possible to challenge and confront the retrogressive forces ranged around the recalcitrant president from plunging Nigeria into another spectre of war. When the Bar called out its members all over the federation last week for a court-boycott to protest the flagrant disregard for court orders, by the various governments of the federation, which chief culprit being the federal government, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Bayo Ojo, himself the immediate past president of the Bar made desperate moves to stop the boycott. Informed sources told The News that Ojo was given an order to ensure that the boycott never happened. Why was a government that has little or no regard for the rule of law and even contempt for the judiciary and law officers eager to stop a two-day court boycott by lawyers? The magazine learnt that the implications of the successful boycott are more far-reaching than even the Bar could imagine. The boycott sent a clear message to the international community that the government in Nigeria is no longer a government that can be regarded as a respecter of the rule of law and the Constitution. The United States and Britain particularly, sources revealed, took note of the boycott, in ways that tug at the legitimacy and integrity of the Obasanjo administration. The implication for the third term agenda is what scared the increasingly deaf government. Yet, the third term coalition is proceeding with the plans, as the next stage of the battle is the National Assembly.
When Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, came to Nigeria recently for the Murtala Muhammed Memorial Lecture, The News sources in Aso Rock Villa revealed that he delivered a message to President Obasanjo from the Queen of England the Head of the Commonwealth. The message strongly expressed the British Crown's advice against Obasanjo's plan to perpetuate himself in power. But Obasanjo was said to have shrugged off the Queen's Counsel, telling Straw that he would discuss the matter with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to desist from the path to perdition, has also approached Obasanjo, being an advocate of peer review measures in Africa. The South African leader was in Nigeria last week solely to convince his friend to stop the mess. He assured Obasanjo that whatever his fears in the post-office era, the international community were there to guarantee his safety and comfort. Mbeki already set a glowing example. Despite the fact that if the latter wanted a third term, he can easily get it given the fact that his party has a clear majority in the parliament. He would not need sacks of "Ghana-Must-Go" so as not to go. But, he chose the path of honour and quickly repudiated the move.
Despite repeated warnings from the United States and other European countries in addition to expressed local fears on the possibility of Nigeria's descent into crisis and war if Obasanjo goes ahead, those who know the president well say that, unlike General Ibrahim Babangida and very much like the late General Sani Abacha, he is not the type who fights and runs away to fight another day. Imbued with a messianic ethos that is uncommon in the Nigerian political firmament, Obasanjo considers his self-counsel and personal convictions as the iron law of society. Aso Rock sources say he plans to travel to the United States shortly to "explain the imperative" of the third term to the Americans. The News' sources revealed that Obasanjo is convinced that once the National Assembly amends the constitution British and American opposition to his third term bid, though firm, will diminish, given their preoccupation with legality. Even if immoral, the international community, will sooner reconcile itself with legality than concern itself with immorality, Obasanjo's strategists reason.
Therefore, as informed sources told The News last week, "to be or not to be" is out of the question. President Obasanjo is ready to risk the peace and harmony of the country and the territorial integrity of Nigeria for his personal ambition to be Nigeria's first President-for-Life.
Against the backdrop of the first major salvo fired by the NBA, how then can Obasanjo be stopped from destroying the hard-won democracy and plunging the nation into a needless crisis? The News spoke with some well-placed political operatives, both insiders and outsiders to the third term bid on what can be done.
According to our sources, the first and initial step to stop Obasanjo from his destabilizing bid is to unveil the real Olusegun Obasanjo. In the last, few years' attempts have been made to understand the Obasanjo persona. People have asked all sorts of questions on why the man is like this; why he relishes inflicting pain on people, friends and foes alike; why he is deeply contemptuous of his intellectual, moral and social superiors; why, despite all these and in spite of his limitations, fate always favors him.
The task of unveiling Obasanjo is crucial because this is the crucial task that would lay him bare as a virulent and amoral leader who takes no hostages. Because, for long Obasanjo has achieved fame and regard as an international statesman, a warrior against corruption, and a detribalized and pan-Nigeria leader, he has often been able to get away with blue murder. Therefore, the first step to stop him from riding roughshod over the country is to de-robe him and expose him as a man who has absolutely no regard for the Constitution, rules, and even gentleman's agreement. It must also be shown that he is not as clean as he pretends to be. In seven years, the president has shown that unlike what is expected of an officer and gentleman, his word is not his bond. The evidence abound.
Odia Ofeimun, essayist and poet, fired a major salvo to unmask Obasanjo in as essay in The Guardian of Sunday, March 5, 2006. In an attempt to read Obasanjo's mind so that he would not go the "fatuous route" of refusing to yield power, Ofeimun argues: "The source of the fervour motivating the mind-readers is the prior existence of a very elaborate industry of deceit and huge lies that the Presidency and proximate spin-doctors and fixers have established to confuse and divert Nigerians from seeing what is coming for themŠ The truth is that the Constitution, with all its imperfections, is standing in Obasanjo's way. After the self-tutoring that he gave himself in his Ota Farm Leadership Forum in preparation for higher duties, Obasanjo knows that a Constitution is not to be shunted aside in the way thugs in military uniform are wont to do. So, what to do? Through various spokespersons, the Presidency set out to clear the air in a way that has since managed to confuse things even more. The officially taken position was that this President has never considered the idea of a Third Term and would not do anything that would traduce or tarnish the Constitution of the Federal Republic. But if he would not traduce the Constitution, would he amend or review it?"
Through subterfuge, denials and double-talk, Obasanjo and his wards sedated Nigerians to what was in store for them. Now, not one among them says that Obasanjo has absolutely no interest in self-perpetuation given the Constitutional limitation on his term. Not even the garrulous Femi Fani-Kayode, the young man who first said he couldn't die for his boss, and perhaps when told that his loyalty was in doubt, returned to deny such disavowal and to affirm that he can lose his head for his boss.
Throughout much of his adult life, given his humble background, Obasanjo has always been underrated. And woe betides anyone who underrates the mercurial general. With Muhammadu Buhari, you knew you were dealing with an unyielding and narrow-minded dictator. With Ibrahim Babangida, you knew you had a genial, mercurial, but devastating soldier. With Sani Abacha, you had no illusion about his final and murderous instinct. But, with Obasanjo, the matter is different. The most people say about him is that he is stubborn, even that is said almost affectionately. Now, it is important, before he takes the nation into the gallows with his ambition, that Obasanjo be unveiled by democratic forces as a painstaking, methodical, mercurial power-monger who can do everything and anything to take and have power.
From the time he diverted attention from himself after his release from jail by asking "how many president you want to make out of me?", to his firm promise to those who recruited him to run in 1999, particularly General Babangida and the Yar' Adua political family led by Atiku Abubakar, that he would do only one term so as to allow them to take power thereafter, Obasanjo must be seen as a masterful politician who plays it as rough and as dirty as any. Take the way in which he gave a firm promise, on his honour, to the Alliance for Democracy governors and Afenifere leaders in early 2003 in the presence of respected clergymen and a traditional ruler, Right Revd. Gbonigi and Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu and the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, that he would ensure that they were not rigged out of office in the AD states if they cooperated in ensuring that they helped him to win the presidential election, only for him to tell the PDP gubernatorial candidates in the same states who expressed reservations on this promise a few weeks later that, "The A.D. governors would be politically naïve not to know that winning the six states in the South-west is a priority and of interest to me (Obasanjo)". The man has to be unmasked as a cunning, old fox who can con his political opponents. Clearly, one of the most important measures to stop Obasanjo, indeed, the first step is to bring to the notice of Nigerians and the world that this is one man who cannot be trusted.
LIFE PRESIDENCY, NOT THIRD TERM
Another major step to stop Obasanjo is to reveal to Nigerians and the international community that it is not only a third term that Obasanjo wants, he wants Life Presidency. It is important to convince those who might see this as propaganda that so they said about the Third Term before it became real. Many had described the idea of third term as "insane rumour" and "terrible blackmail" when it was first raised in a muted way in political circles before Obasanjo even completed his first term. But, now it is clear. Therefore, it is important that the world must be made to see that the Life Presidency is the ultimate target.
The first indication that Obasanjo may have his eyes beyond 2003 emerged early in the life of his first term, but even the most astute politicians from the west of Nigeria missed it. When some leaders in Yorubaland met Obasanjo in the early months of his rule when he appeared to be reversing the unfair advantages held for years by the conservative power elite of the north, he raised the spectre of long years in power. The leaders were effusive with their praise, but an unusually unimpressed Obasanjo told them that their concern ought not to be what he had achieved, but what happens to the Yoruba after he would have left power in 2003. At this stage, everyone thought he would run for one term. Now, Obasanjo is selling the dummy to many a Yoruba irredentist that he has to ensure that major changes in the Constitution, which will neutralize the Fulani hegemony in Nigeria, are consolidated in his third term. Already, commentators have given a lie to this line, asking what happens to the Yoruba after Obasanjo leaves power, even if he were to spend the next 30 years. At any rate, many Yoruba cannot find anything that Obasanjo has done for his people in the last seven years beyond soiling their national pride as a people who has produced the man widely acknowledged to be perhaps the finest administrator that Africa has ever produced, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Citizen Johnson, a Yoruba, writes in the Nigerian Tribune of March 14, 2005: "What has the Yoruba benefited in the last seven years to warrant destroying a legacy built over four decades? A trip round the Southwest geo-political zone shows that pauperization is advancing rather than receding. Unemployment is deepening and service in the Federal Government has brought sorrow and anguish to many leading families. Yorubas are poorer today than pre-1999. The infrastructures are downŠThe Obasanjo presidency is to many Yoruba, a curse rather than a blessingŠ What good will another four years do to this otherwise proud race now reeling under the jackboots of an emerging dictator".
Telling the world that Obasanjo is another Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the late President for Life of the Central African Republic or Hastings Banda, the late Life President of Malawi, in-the-making might help in stopping the charade going on in the name of review of the Constitution.
CONSTRAINING HIS SPACE
One of the leading politicians in the PDP in Yorubaland who is virulently opposed to the Third Term told The News last week that the "the most important factor that has made it possible for Obasanjo to go this far is because we have allowed him too much political space". His advice: To stop Obasanjo from clinging to power perpetually, but first through another term, constrains the space around him. This involves the first step discussed, which is unveiling the president. The next step is anticipating the president and moving to checkmate him. For instance, if many of the key politicians who are now railing against Obasanjo had been converted much earlier to the project of stopping an incipient authoritarianism, Obasanjo could not have had as much space as he had had to play chess with the destiny of Nigeria. Therefore, every method in the books that can be deployed to stop him must not be deferred to a latter date for it will be too late.
The South-South People's Assembly has led the way in addressing a press conference to reject the so-called National Consensus which the pro-Third Term legislators led by its Chairman and Deputy Senate President, Mantu, imposed on the National Assembly Joint Constitution Review Committee. The SSPA declared that the position forced on the Review Committee by Mantu and company is one of the greatest frauds practised on democratic rights of Nigerians to collectively decide their own future. On behalf of the Niger Delta people, the SSPA rejected, in its entirety, the bid to amend the constitution to accommodate the desperadoes canvassing for the third term. The Afenifere has also spoken to reject the so-called national consensus. But, the organization needs to gather its leading members at a world press conference to announce the rejection formally. The other four regions of the country should also follow through. After this, the six regions should hold a joint world press conference to reject the fraud and announce to the world that if Olusegun Obasanjo does not vacate power by May 29, 2007, whatever the guise and guile he adopts to self-perpetuate, the Nigerian people shall exercise their sovereign rights to decide who should be their leader. The world must be reminded that a people who fought gallantly to win independence from Britain, who rejected the perfidy of politicians in the Western Region in the sixties, who came through a Civil War and remained a united people, who defeated all forms of military dictatorship from the 1960s through to the 1990s, will not stand by and allow a civilian tyrant to rubbish their collective destiny. They should then dare Obasanjo to turn the country into a jail, so that he can detain all the leaders in the zones.
Part of the way in which he can be constrained is to shed all assumptions of his good faith, political decency or political good sense, in the end. Here, those still doubting Obasanjo's sit-tight plans are part of the problem. They are either ignoramuses or mischievous people who are sold on the self-perpetuation. So, they doubted Babangida's "Hidden Agenda"; so they doubted Abacha's murderous self-perpetuation project. Even if Obasanjo were to find that he cannot go on and therefore pretends that he never wanted the Third Term in the first place, it would be better to have assumed the worst and fight him squarely than to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to defeat democracy as he had defeated his opponents.
One major way to circumscribe Obasanjo is that politicians should stop making noise; rather, they should do something. Politicians who are serious about power should go beyond forming parties, parties which will eventually be thoroughly defeated in rigged elections. It is clear from the 2003 elections that the current party in power will use every agency, from the police to the electoral body, to ensure even illicit victory over its opponents. So, the matter at stake is not about elections. Any elections in which Olusegun Obasanjo is standing cannot be free and fair. Therefore, those who want power must ensure that the last time Obasanjo will stand for an election in Nigeria is 2003. Consequently, it is not parties that matter now, but candidates. In his interview with TELL in 1993 while Babangida was playing with the destiny of the nation, Obasanjo himself provided a pathway for future battles with sit-tight leaders. Said Obasanjo: "I believe that now, we've passed the stage of appeal to the stage where Babangida needs to be challenged. It's not individual challenge. It's a challenge by Nigerians, a challenge by the international community".
PRODUCE THE CANDIDATES URGENTLY TO GALVANIZE THE PEOPLE
Part of the political space, which Obasanjo has been allowed to dominate, is the space of candidacy. He is the only one man people are talking about seriously as a candidate; he is the man to beat. How can a man, who, at least up to this point, is legally precluded from running, be the candidate to run against? Therefore, one way to shift the focus from him while also taking the battle to him is for credible (read: serious and courageous) candidates to emerge. The old and the emerging parties can, obviously, not conduct primaries in the next few weeks before Obasanjo contrives the possibility of his running through the amendment of the Constitution. But, candidates need not be the party candidates, they just need to be part members who are interested in the presidency and cannot be cowed by either their membership of the PDP or their fear of persecution. What is needed is a man to say Obasanjo lacks vision. Here is the scenario: Imagine a Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who has sworn to run, anyhow, picking up the needed courage. After all, Museveni's physician ran against him in the Ugandan presidential election of 2006. Atiku Abubakar addresses a world press conference in the couple of weeks before the expected charade in the National Assembly over the amendment of the Constitution conference where he states that he is offering himself for service as president in the 2007 elections. At the press conference, he tells the world that he is convinced that Nigeria needs a fresh hand as president and commends Obasanjo for his "patriotic service" to Nigeria over the years and wishes him well in his deserved retirement come next year. He adds that he hopes Obasanjo will still be available for the country to tap from his wealth of experience after retiring to Ota and would not allow a preoccupation with preventing bird-flu to preclude him from offering advice from time to time. He then goes ahead to unveil his agenda in various sectors: Economy, Education, Health, Agriculture, Electricity, Foreign Policy, etc., etc.
He also elaborates what is to be done to save Nigeria from collapse. Even while acknowledging the wonderful measures taken by the administration of which he is a part, Abubakar, admits that millions of Nigerians are still hungry and millions of children of school age are roaming the streets. He then states, fact-by-fact, the statistics and what are to be done. In the days after the conference, he starts a high-profile courtesy calls on traditional rulers and prominent Nigerians to solicit support for his bid, assuring Nigerians that the president has sworn to him that he will respect the Constitution. What will be the result of these?
President Obasanjo will be as livid as they come. He would set the EFCC and his running dogs on Atiku Abubakar. The man would be declared "deeply corrupt" and "totally unfit for high office", but Nigerians would ask if Obasanjo discovered this before or after Abubakar's press conference. Atiku Abubakar will then become the issue. Obasanjo will temporarily lift Atiku's immunity, as he did in the case of the FBI, giving the EFCC the leeway to invite him for a chat. They will try to present the EFCC "findings" to Senator Ibrahim Mantu and other self-loathing legislators, who will begin a process of impeachment. While all these are going on, Atiku would have become a hero; the international community will express anxieties about Nigeria and so on. More important, Atiku Abubakar will also be driven to self-vindication by endless vilification. He will go to court and cases will be clashing with cases. In all these, the VP will release his own dossier on Obasanjo and the world will be left to judge who is clean. At the end of this, Obasanjo and his camp would have been diverted from their own tasks and be given new duties.
If Atiku Abubukar chickens out of such a historic duty, other courageous people who have even been publicly certified to be clean can pick up the gauntlet. A credible candidate from the Niger Delta or the Igbo East, who have been clamouring for the presidency, should stand now and announce to the world "enough is enough". Take a Donald Duke, the present governor of Cross Rivers State, whom Corporate Nigeria wants as an alternative, in case the third term bid fails. He can be encouraged to stand up and be counted. Armed with the historic injustice perpetrated against the people of his region, he can address a world press conference to formally announce his candidacy. Or an Adams Oshiomole, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Oshiomole already carries with him the experience of battles against Obasanjo. He can also be encouraged to take up the mantle of battler against the ascendant impunity. Lech Walesa, in Poland, led the workers movement and pro-democracy coalition, Solidarity, which helped in defeating communism. He was later elected President of Poland. The announcement of Oshiomole's candidacy would include a thorough and painstaking detailing of the crimes against Nigeria and Nigerians that the Obasanjo regime has committed with reckless abandon in the last seven years. That such a man would attempt to continue is power, Oshiomole would declare, constitutes the greatest insult on the sensibilities of Nigerians. The labour leader would then present his own agenda for moving Nigeria forward.
Another person who can lead such challenge is Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. He has the international status and the respect and pose of a leader. Imagine Anyaoku addressing a world press conference where he states that, ordinarily, he would not be running for the presidency, but this is a time when all men of courage must stand up and be counted. Why is he running? The political class seems, by default, to be considering the presidency to the Southwest by standing by as Obasanjo moves to ensure his continuation in office. This is not only unfair, it is unjust. He then announces his agenda for the nation. He elaborates on how Obasanjo was handed out collective faith in 1999 and how he has taken the country over and laundered it dry. He takes the sectors one by one, asking Nigerians to say, in all honesty, if their lives are better now than it was when Obasanjo took over in 1999 and if this is the kind of country of their dream. He asks: "Is this why we fought to give even Obasanjo himself freedom from Abacha's clutches? Is this why we allowed our children and youths to confront Babangida and Abacha as Army tanks on the streets mauled them? Is this why Moshood Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Shehu Musa Yar' Adua and countless others paid the supreme price? Should we surrender our collective wisdom to the caprices and temper of one man?" He concludes by asking Nigerians to rise up to the occasion by reminding the president that he is not bigger than the polity.
Upon this, the Obasanjo camp is likely to be in disarray, as Emeka Anyaoku, Adams Oshiomole or Donald Duke becomes the new rallying point. The Obasanjo camp will not expect this kind of opposition, as the EFCC cannot be set on the trail of Anyaoku or Oshiomole. Meanwhile, the new candidate jets out to Britain, United States and Canada to meet world leaders to explain the Nigerian situation to them, while he continues to attack the mess that Obasanjo has made of Nigeria in seven years. The Third Termers have a different task on their hands as Oshiolole or any of the other two brands Obasanjo "the Emperor Bokassa that we will NEVER have!"
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Despite all the efforts of the Third Term coalition, as at press time, they were unsure that they already have the needed two-thirds majority in the two chambers to pass the amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, those opposed to the project must step up their activities in the NA. The Northwest zone, for one, which perhaps has the largest number of anti-third term legislators, should devise new methods of ensuring that their representatives reject the fraud. Other zones and interest groups and political parties, such as the ANPP and AD, must also ensure that their representatives vote against the amendment. While they are at that, the move to impeach Mantu, who helped in supervising the fraud, is also in order. Senator Sule Yari Gabdi of the ANPP has already disclosed a plan that is at advanced stage to kick out this ignoble Senator. If the move to remove Mantu is given much impetus, it is likely to divert attention and delay the amendment while the anti-amendment forces consolidate their gains.
THE NIGER DELTA CHALLENGE
One zone in the federation that can lead the challenge against Obasanjo, as the South West led the challenge against Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, is the Niger Delta region. The militants have already shown that Obasanjo has no solution to the crisis in the Delta. It is important that it be emphasized that a president under whom the hostage crisis in the Niger Delta has become a constant problem cannot and will not be allowed to hold on to power. Already, the hostage crisis in the region has forced a cutback in daily production of crude to 556, 000 barrels. The Niger Delta remains a war zone while the president embarks on an ill-fated impunity.
SCRUTINIZING HIS "LEGACIES"
There is nothing President Obasanjo loves like being acknowledged as an international statesman and an effective and efficient president. Therefore, those who are against the third term and life presidency project argue that, targeting his "legacies" and "achievements" will be a most potent way of dissuading him from continuing. But, this has to be well choreographed and amplified. Take his fight on corruption. Yes, it should be admitted that President Obasanjo has fought corruption. Indeed, the setting up of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the hyperactive EFCC is laudable - forget about the use of the latter to fight enemies. However, it must be asserted that while Obasanjo has fought corruption, his government, more than any other before it, has generated and mobilized corruption. The man himself had to wonder what happened to the N30 billion disbursed to the Works Ministry under Anenih during his first term. To win elections in 2003, his party had to hijack every resource in sight, thereby forcing the embattled Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, to confess that he gave part of the supposedly stolen ecological fund, N100m, to the campaign fund of the Obasanjo/Atiku ticket. The president and his vice have allegedly jointly refunded the money. So much for fighting corruption!
Take power (electricity). When he got to power, Chief Bola Ige promised on behalf of the government that they would cut power outage first by 25% and then 50% and that by the end of two years, Nigerians would no longer experience power cut, at all. Ige was thoroughly messed up in the ministry, with, as informed sources say, Obasanjo's connivance. Ige was later removed from the ministry. Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Obasanjo's Man Friday, took over the ministry after Ige. While the Power Ministry, announces regularly that more and more megawatts of electricity have been generated, the citizens experience less and less power supply. The darkness that is the lot of Nigerian cities, towns and villages every night is only comparable to the darkness that will envelop the country if Obasanjo remains recalcitrant. Indeed, what are the achievements in the power sector when Bayelsa, part of the nation's honey-pot, is not connected to the national grid? On the eve of his departure from power, Obasanjo now plans a N50 billion power integration project, which will include tapping 39, 000 megawatts from Congo, DRC. The earlier target of his government was 10, 000 megawatts. Yet, power generation stagnated at 3,000 megawatts; even that has dropped to 2, 150 megawatts in the last few weeks.
Recently, Dr, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the administration's Finance Minister, who works hard to foist the IMF agenda on the Nigerian economy, stated that unprecedented private sector participation in the economy is one of the benefits of the Federal Government's on-going reform. She was hopeful that the economy would soon grow! It is such hope as this that the Third Term advocates say Obasanjo must be allowed to harness. Yet, millions of Nigerians go to bed hungry every night as Obasanjo and his reformist congratulate themselves on bogus reforms. Penury, power failure, bad roads, insecurity of lives and property, absence of welfare for the young, unpaid pension for the old, exorbitant school fees, etc., etc., have been the lot of Nigerians in the last seven years.
Better, still it would be important to show that Obasanjo has no clear-cut economic program, he is just blundering into "solutions". When he came to power in 1999, he did not announce any elaborate economic plans until a few years later, when he announced the National Economic Programme (NEP). Nothing happened, no word was heard about NEP a little while after it was started. In his second coming, he started NEEDS. CERDERT, headed by the late Bala Usman, did an elaborate critique of NEEDS, invalidating its major assumptions. Obasanjo's security goons recently besieged CERDERT.
The Railway is another sector where Obasanjo's incompetence becomes glaring. After pumping billions of naira into the sector, the project seems derailed as the only thing that is heard are rumours making the rounds that the Chairman of the railway board, Waziri, who died in the Bellview plane crash was keeping the billions meant to ensure that the third term sailed through. The educational sector, on its part, is a disaster zone under Obasanjo's presidency.
With Obasanjo's so-called achievements properly scrutinized, one-by-one, there will be no way to press these "achievements" in the service of his continuation in office.
KILL THE "CONTINUITY" INSULT
"Continuity" is one of the strongest arguments made for the self-perpetuation project. When he was sacked recently as Works Minister, Adeseye Ogunlewe, attempting poorly to save himself from ignominy, begged to be Obasanjo's campaign manager for the third term because of the many roads which his boss could not construct in seven years with more than N300 billion (under Anenih's headship of the ministry), but has since decided to construct in the years ahead. Because of these phantom roads, Ogunlewe says Obasanjo must rule forever. Observers say that there is no need trying to counter the continuity argument, because Obasanjo himself has long described such argument beneath the dignity of any self-respecting person, let alone a people. In stating that "we have had a caricature of democracy" under the Babangida transition process, Obasanjo told, TELL magazine in 1993 regarding continuity that: "I don't know what they mean by that. That sounds like the story of a friend of mine in government in another African country who said that he would not handover until he eradicates poverty. I said to him that it will take the likes of his children and his children's children for him to continue to remain as the president of his country before that happened".
INTERNATIONALISE THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THIRD TERM
Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy activist, Professor Wole Soyinka, after announcing a few months ago that Nigerians had to return to the barricades, has taken up the battle by touring the West to sensitise world leaders to the incipient dictatorship in Nigeria. According to Ocherome Nnanna, a columnist for Vanguard, Soyinka, Professor Chinua Achebe, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Anthony Enahoro and Professor Ben Nwabueze should lead what he describes as "a grand coalition of eminent Nigerians of world renown drawn from a broad base" to internationalise the campaign against the Obasanjo illegality. To quote Nnanna: "Third term will only take place if we do not make enough effort to stop it. It will surely take place if we underestimate the level of determination and desperation in the camp of the enemies of our democracy. We need to tell the world that the expression: 'constitutional amendment', is a far-fetched misnomer for what is taking place in Nigeria. What we are seeing is enactment of barefaced impunity; a celebration of false pretences (political 419) and charade by a power-drunk leader, who has permitted renowned political criminals to rape the democratic processes in order to enable him remain in office after expiry of his lawful term". The pro-democracy movement of old should reactivate itself, raising the campaign to new heights. Their messages should arrive in the West ahead of Obasanjo's visits to convince world leaders. Letters should be written to editors of leading newspapers in the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, etc., etc. to alert their governments that Nigeria is again in the throes of a nation-ending crisis. The world cannot manage the refugee crisis that would result from an outbreak of crisis in Nigeria. World leaders like Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, the Pope, etc., should be convinced to speak to Obasanjo and speak out on the illicit ambition. Since even the US National Security apparatus is aware of the possibility of total collapse in Nigeria, the sooner they make it clear to Obasanjo that his time was up, the better.
However, internationalizing the campaign must be based against the backdrop of serious internal ferment. US, UK and other foreign countries will do nothing until they are convinced that Nigerians are ready to resist. Last week Thursday, for instance, United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell said during a teleconference briefing that, "Should Nigeria choose to amend her constitution, Nigerians themselves will decide. We will, however, watch carefully if due process was followed. By this, we mean that such amendment must be open, transparent and according to the rule of law''.
PRESS ODI AND ZAKI-BIAM MASSACRES
Some informed sources told The News that one other way to stop Obasanjo is to press for his trial before the UN International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague for the massacre of unarmed civilians, which he ordered in Odi and Zaki-Biam. Odi and Zaki-Biam, as many local and foreign human rights groups have noted, is a crime against humanity. Therefore asking the United States or any other major country to lead the campaign to capture Obasanjo if he refuses to surrender himself for trial at The Hague after May 29, 2007, informed sources say, should become one of the major planks of the campaign to stop the president from continuing in power.
RESTART PIRATE RADIO AND GUERILLA JOURNALISM
Fortunately, the progressive and radical press is no stranger to underground battles against tyrants. Professor Segun Gbadegesin recently announced plans to re-start Radio Kudirat Nigeria International, the pirate radio station that gave Abacha the horrors. It was so effective that Abacha lied that if the station were folded up, he would consider releasing Abiola. What this involves is removing the media away from the zones patrolled by the State and its agencies. This is important because Obasanjo would have to set his security agencies on the media soon, when the opposition to his self-perpetuation becomes stronger. It is useful for the opposition to take steps ahead of tyranny. Right now, to quote Ochereme Nnanna again: "The authorities are now turning on the media and publishing houses. A moribund tax law that could cripple the entire newspaper industry is now being dusted up. Inputs, such as newsprint, are scarce and expensive. There seems a calculated effort to muzzle the only avenue through which Nigerians boldly but lawfully voice their feelings." If the mainstream media are muzzled, the alternative press, including the blogging media (pirate journalism on the world wide web) should swing into action.
The press also has a duty to unveil those members of Corporate Nigeria who are funding the third term project and remind them of the consequence to their businesses when the project fails. They should ask FAN, Nigeria what its experience was like during the June 12 crisis when many thought it was an acronym for Francis Arthur Nzeribe, the loathsome operative who Babangida used in helping to truncate democracy.
HUMANIZE THE STORY, RAISE THE RHETORICS
The story of the opposition to Obasanjo's self-succession needs to be humanized for it to have great resonance in the international community. Human rights and environmental rights issues get the attention of the world. The opposition needs to link the Cartoon riots in the north with the hostage crisis in the Niger Delta. They are all manifestations of frustration with the system and the absence of civil, legal means of registering such disaffection and grievances with the system. What the Niger Delta needs is a "Marshall Plan" that transcends the percentage of derivation or some corrupt agencies. Only a responsive and legitimate democratic government can do this. That Obasanjo's administration has been unable to do this is a statement on the regime's abilities. The anti-Third Term coalition needs to use these stories and link them to present to the world, the story of an endangered humanity under Obasanjo. The world must be told that the Abacha spirit is already upon Obasanjo and Nigeria must be saved from him.
In the end, the key message is this: Nigerians must tell the world that OBJ is not qualified by whatever argument in the world to be in power beyond May 29, 2007.
A TRULY BRILLIANT AND COMPREHENSIVE SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS TO STOP THIS MAD DASH TO INFAMY...
HOWEVER, ONE HOPES THAT TOO MUCH OF THE BATTLE PLAN HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN AWAY....
By TheNEWS Editors