Nigeria, always in the news, is making more news on democracy as the office of the President admitted that the party in power rigged an election in one state, and as a court ruled that the presidential election in the president's home state was rigged. First, we have below Soyinka's view. Next to it is that of Prof. Onasanya who calls for a new leadership
The Guardian, Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Soyinka wants caretaker role for Obasanjo, insists on confab
From Laolu Akande, New York
NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka in New York, United States (U.S) described the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led government as a lame duck following the revelation of monumental fraud in the 2003 polls.
He, therefore, insisted on the immediate convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) in which the government will act as a caretaker team detached from any interference in the conference.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian in New York, the literary icon said: "This government should understand that every day it stays in power, it is there on sufferance.''
Soyinka, who was in New York to attend a meeting of the International Parliament of Writers, added that he was not calling for the dissolution of the government.
He noted that he had a different agenda from those who might want to take advantage of the current situation to foment a "very destabilising agenda."
According to him: "Nigeria is a very large, complex place. There are opportunists in the polity, frustrated politicians looking for opportunities to foment trouble. They have their own agenda. We have to be so cautious. Their agenda is not the same as mine. I am absolutely committed to democratic principles, an egalitarian society where privileges are reduced to minimum,"
The playwright added that while it was gratifying that Nigeria was moving towards a national conference under a different name, "this regime is just coasting along."
He offered that "the last thing it (the Obasanjo government) owes the nation is to ensure that a genuine, and independent national conference is held."
On the plan by the Federal Government to convoke a national dialogue, Soyinka said that the Obasanjo government should not only stay away but also be seen to wash its hands completely off any interference; of any manipulation of the national conference.
To him, today's Nigeria is a reverse of what happened in 1999, when as an exile he met with the then military ruler, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Soyinka had at the meeting handed over to Abubakar a document demanding, among others, the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference while a Government of National Unity was put in place.
The Nobel Laureate said that even at that time, he was willing to accept Obasanjo as head of that interim arrangement while the conference was in place. He lamented that the then military government rejected the idea.
"We are taken back to the proposition of the United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN) as well as the democratic body, which met to team up before Abacha's death," he said.
He added that "we are back to that situation now; that there should be a Government of National Unity, which will manage the affairs of the nation while the SNC determines the future of the nation. So the present government can continue to function in that sense."
The social crusader said he would change his position on the non-dissolution of the government if it's seen to be interfering with and manipulating the proceedings of the national conference, trying to fill the conference with its people.
Soyinka advised the government to regard itself as that of national unity and play a very neutral and constructive role, especially the provision of logistics.
He said: "This government had better not be seen to be involved in manipulating. In other words, we are not in a situation where the constituent assembly takes a very reasoned position and they pass it on to a military government and then the military says this is not acceptable. That is no longer acceptable."
Soyinka disclosed that the Citizens' Forum would meet on January 24 before the meeting of Chief Anthony Enahoro. On the cards is the possible formation of a "new Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), if you like, the new coalition" to advocate the position he and others have taken on the way forward for the country.
But he did not mince words on the fate of the government, saying it has "lost all credibility and no one will accept its participation in the direction of that national conference. "
Soyinka declared that nothing could be more generous to the government than to regard itself as a caretaker government.
On the People's Democratic Party (PDP) decision to address the Anambra State crisis, and the suspension of Governor Chris Ngige and his political sponsor, Mr. Chris Uba, Soyinka said it was entirely a PDP affair. "But the PDP is different from other parties because it is the governing party, that is where it is therefore the concern of the nation," he said.
He restated his claim that " elements in the PDP are responsible for atrocities in the country. Whether internal discipline within the PDP is cosmetic or real is of no interest to me, whether the high level members are descended, whether the chairman is dethroned, suspended or expelled; it is of no interest to me."
He urged President Obasanjo not to always take national matters as personal or describe them as party affairs.
"Obasanjo must move away from the notion that certain events which happen in the country are PDP affairs, like the Anambra saga. Obasanjo said the crisis in the party is a family affair, but I said very distinctly that it is a national affair, any assault on democracy anywhere is a national affair. The Anambra issue must be taken out of the context of the party, it is an assault on democracy," he added.
Soyinka said the consequences of the PDP crisis were enormous for the country.
According to him: "If we take what is happening in Anambra in tandem with the judgment of the court, that is about the Buhari appeal, from the very highest levels, both from the presidential level and judicial level, what we have been saying since the election has been abundantly confirmed; that elections of 2003 were no elections. This has now been proved beyond all possible doubts, the president has confirmed it, the judiciary has confirmed it."
He said the next issue is "what does the nation do about it? What is the president ready to do about it? What is the so-called victorious party going to do about it? And the people, the electorate, what do they want to do about it?"`
Thanks for the USA/Africa Dialogue materials. I admire your indefatigability, and wish to encourage you to continue in that regard.
However, as Nigerians, I think we have a critical issue ahead of us; after Gen. Obasanjo, who is next in 2007?
As you probably know, a lot of names are being thrown into the ring: Babangaida, Atiku, Marwa, Mu'azu, Gambari, Ishaya Audu, etc. >From my perspective, the debate about possible candidates should start forthwith. It is my belief that Nigerians in the diaspora, "victims" of the shameful inadequacies of the different administrations that ruled Nigeria for the past few decades, must provide the leadership in this debate.
We must provide the leadership, not only as victims, but as beneficiaries of the types of "changes" that need to occur in that country, if Nigeria is to attain its rightful place in the community of nations. In other words, we must be agents and catalysts of a "MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE."
Please, whoever receives the e-mail should endeavour to send it to as many friends as possible. This will enable us to help our fellow countrymen in identifying candidates with the right stuff for Nigeria.
Personally, I hold the following to be important considerations:
a) it is about time, "real" civilians [not recycled uniform materials] showed up to run the country; Gen Obasanjo should be the last of these;
b) ethnic minorities need to be offered the opportunity to bring something to the table; the Binis, Kwarans, Efik, Ijaws, etc.
c) in this era of globalisation, Nigeria needs a leader that is credible internationally, otherwise we will not garner the type of opportunities for development that we so badly need; and
d) we need a leader with a vision, a mission, proven integrity, honesty, truthfulness and unflinching loyalty to God and Nigeria, plus a record of unprecedented accomplishments [personally, and as a Nigerian].
My humble submissions ladies and gentlemen. Let the debates begin! Throw in as many names, and give us the benefit of your knowledge as to their qualifications for this critical leadership position!