E. Ike Udogu is professor of African and International Politics at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.


An open letter to Nigerians in the Diaspora: The amendment of the 1999 constitution to allow a third bid by the current custodians of power.

"Our enemies are the political profiteers, swindlers, the men in high and low places who seek bribes and demand ten percent, those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as minister and VIP's of wasteŠ"

Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu (January 1966 Coup)

It is troubling that a country with such a tortured political history since 1960 should undertake such a destabilizing attempt to change the constitution to allow the incumbents to run for a third term. Indeed, do those calling for the amendment believe that Nigeria is a "banana" republic and made up of 120-150 million zombies?

Indeed, it is said that "those whom the devil wishes to destroy, it would first make mad." We saw that during the reign of Nigeria's Butcher of Baghdad, General Sani Abacha, who singularly dealt mercilessly with Nigerians opposed to his evil political machinations. He thought that Nigerians were too gullible and could be walked over ad libitum. Alas, he and his stooges discovered that sophisticated Nigerians and members of civil society organizations could not be fooled. Not even attempts to cage those opposed to his brutal regime worked.

I recalled, with joy, the valiant battles waged by numerous gallant civil society organizations in Nigeria and Diaspora (including the Association of Nigerian Scholars for Dialogue) against attempts by Abacha to succeed himself as a civilian president. He was to be the only candidate. His ploy to hire sycophants and to bribe his way through failed.

I recalled, too, how Nigerians and friends of Nigeria lobbied the US Congress and held a number of rallies to denounce the evil ambitions of General Abacha and his cohorts who misruled Nigeria.

I recalled, with great pride, the vibrant meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that brought together the likes of Professors Ihonvbere, Ekeh, Kalu, Kayode (of the Center for Democracy, London), Agbese, Onwudiwe, Uwazurike and many fine and prominent Nigerian scholars (women and men). On the American side were former UN ambassador McHenry, Civil Rights activist, Jackson, former US ambassador to Nigeria, Carrington and other important dignitaries from the US government and non-governmental agencies. The concern or question at this forum, among others, was: what was to be done to promote authentic democracy in the republic? Arguably, the result of this New York meeting and other efforts against the Nigerian oligarchs who treated the nation-state as though it was their private fiefdom was the suffocation and dislocation of the Abacha administration.

We are today witnessing political equivocations and attempts by the beneficiaries of our collective struggles to rape the constitution in order for the so-called or proclaimed political Messiahs to seek a third term in office by abrogating provisions in the constitution that would debar them from an unconstitutional act. Such an anachronistic attempt in the new millennium regardless of ideology or party affiliation of Nigerians and Nigerian politicians must be peacefully resisted through political activism. For those of us in America the US Congress and the Bush administration must be informed of our opposition to the Obasanjo administration rubbishing the national constitution for the sake of a few greedy politicians. In Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere, similar attempts must be made to stop this political madness in Abuja, and to hold President Obasanjo to his promises that he would go back to his farm in Abeokuta when his term is over in 2007 and become, I hope, a respected statesman after 10 years (2 as a military officers and 8 as civilian president) of governing the Nigerian polity. Perhaps, he could borrow a leaf from President Carter and offer his services to Nigeria and Africa.