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Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2018

2019: Obasanjo should give Nigeria a break

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By Ignatius Arinze

The public letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the 23rdof January, 2018 in which he called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re- election for second term, and where he called for a third political force to seek power in 2019 and beyond, is self- serving and done in bad faith.
To all intents and purposes, the letter was meant to scandalize President Buhari and second, to cause chaos by creating in the mind of Nigerians a rejection of the existing political parties in the country. It is suspicious that a former President of Nigeria in the person of Chief Obasanjo, who was President for two terms on the platform of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and which is now the leading party in opposition, could turn round and not only discredit the PDP but cast aspersion on the entire party system in the country.
Nigeria at the moment has more than 65 registered political parties duly recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC on its part is recognized and provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. Therefore, if Nigerians heed Obasanjo’s call for a third force, shunning the two leading parties, the APC and the PDP, it then means that the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo wants Nigerians to go outside the Constitution to seek for political platforms on which to elect its leaders. This is not only undemocratic but a display of impunity which to a large extent, was the hallmark of Obasanjo’s stewardship when he was a President.
Obasanjo’s letter and similar ones he has written in the past castigating the country’s leaders and advising them against seeking re- election on the grounds of poor performance is typical of this former soldier and farmer whom providence has given so much. However, it should be stated and known to all and sundry that this man, Obasanjo is arrogant and selfish, and sees nothing good in other people except himself. Also, Obasanjo strenuously tries and works to be the sole determinant of who should lead Nigeria, after he used his own two terms of eight years, 1999- 2007 and was never for once put on the spotlight.
In fact, some concerned Nigerians have opined that the greatest tragedy that befell democracy in Nigeria at the latter’s restoration in 1999, is the fact that Olusegun Obasanjo was the person given the mantle of leadership by the departing military class. All the impunity and lack of accountability that came to characterize the country’s democracy, are traceable to Obasanjo.
If as Obasanjo claims in his letter that President Muhammadu Buhari has not performed, Obasanjo is part of the problem. President Buhari on coming to power inherited so many problems in the economy compounded by unbridled corruption and waste which were the legacy of the Goodluck Jonathan years. Nigerians will not forget that the events leading to the emergence of the disaster known as Jonathan administration had the imprimatur of this man, Obasanjo, who deliberately supports the emergence as leaders of the country, people who will not outperform him.
The road to the sorry state of Nigeria today, was paved by Obasanjo’s know –it- all attitude. When he left office in 2007, Obasanjo against the wish of Nigerians but in accordance with his own agenda, forcefully selected the late President, Umaru Yar’ Adua, a terminally ill man to be President and followed it up with a very badly organized election that was notorious for its mammoth irregularities. The 2007 election organized by Obasanjo to bring the late Yar’ Adua to power was the most unfree and unfair in Nigeria’s history to the extent that the EU observer mission gave the polls the thumbs down! The gentle man that he was, the beneficiary of Obasanjo’s impunity and brigandage, the late Umaru Yar’ Adua even acknowledged that the process that brought him to power was hugely flawed, and asked for forgiveness and understanding. To complete the landmine that would later bring Nigeria to a sorry pass, Obasanjo went ahead to pick single- handedly, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who was a deputy governor of small Bayelsa State and a man who would later show that he has a poor knowledge of the geography and complexity of the Nigerian State.
In all that he did above, Obasanjo was motivated by the desire to be in control of Nigeria by being the God father of whosoever was in power. Later, Umaru Yar’ Adua died and Obasanjo ensured through his scheming and impunity that Goodluck Jonathan succeeded his late boss. Anyway, while we blame Obasanjo for foisting a sickly, weak and shallow leadership on Nigeria through Yar’ Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, in fairness to Obasanjo he was aided and abetted by a spineless and self –serving political class that stands for nothing but what it can get from the country. It needs to be noted that a sickly and weak Yar’ Adua and a shallow minded and feeble Jonathan was an experiment bound to fail and it did in that the Jonathan administration which handed over to Muhammadu Buhari laid economic, security and socio- political mine fields which Buhari used most parts of his first three years to try to navigate and overcome.
We said above that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is the least qualified person to criticize President Buhari or any other Nigeria leader for that matter. First, Obasanjo is not a democrat rather he is cantankerous by nature. Nigerians should not forget that the man, Obasanjo employed political blackmail and open financial inducement to try to get a third term in office when the Constitution prescribes only two terms of eight years for a President of Nigeria. One of those who employed his democratic credentials and best endeavours to frustrate this Constitutional coup, Obasanjo’s then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was hounded and harassed by Obasanjo and called all sorts of names. Till this day, the unforgiven Obasanjo still bears grudge against Atiku Abubakar and has employed every trick in the books to frustrate the latter’s ambition to be President of Nigeria. Second, despite his superiority complex, Obasanjo’s stewardship as President of Nigeria was not fantastic. He spent the better part of his second term fighting his deputy, Atiku Abubakar.
Third, Obasanjo has a lot to answer for the poverty and unemployment that afflicts Nigeria today. During his rule, 16 billion Dollars was earmarked for improving the power sector and to ensure that Nigerians have improved electricity for domestic and industrial use, all to no avail. The money was apparently spent while the Nigerian people got more hours of darkness than light! No one has called the man to account. A move by the House of Representatives to get him to render account on this matter, was rebuffed.
On President Buhari, Obasanjo has seriously misfired. In view of the mess which his protégé, Goodluck Jonathan left behind, Buhari has not done badly. Perhaps on account of age and health status, Buhari might consider not contesting the 2019 elections. He should be allowed to decide for himself, anyhow.
However, in terms of achievement, Buhari has not done badly. Aside the success in the area of security and fighting insurgency which has been a strong point of the Buhari administration, the Buhari administration has made remarkable progress in economic diversification and the revolution in agriculture.
Thousands of people went into agriculture with the cultivation of rice as a focus. Within the year, the production of rice has so grown that Nigeria’s import bill for the commodity fell drastically with the country becoming a significant exporter to its neighbors. Most states of the federation now have their own rice brands. The result, the country was able to exit the economic recession that had ravaged it since the beginning of 2016.
Power generation and supply, an area where in eight years of his leadership Obasanjo recorded zero achievement, Buhari has recorded modest improvement on the back of the launching by the Federal Government of a 701 billion naira power intervention fund, known as Payment Assurance Programme (PAP). Following the confidence engendered by the PAP, the amount of power being distributed is now steady at 4000 megawatts, out of 7,000 megawatts being generated, the highest by the country in so many years.
The business climate in the country under Buhari’s watch improved tremendously according to World Bank data. Nigeria’s ease of doing business position improved radically after President Buhari gave his economic team marching orders to make the country more business friendly. Nigeria jumped 24 places from her previous ranking to occupy one of the first ten positions in the World.
Finally, having quit partisan politics, as he recently stated publicly, one thinks that it is also high time that former President Obasanjo should quit mischievous letter writing and public political discourse that create distraction and tension in the polity.
Ignatius Arinze is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.

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