I watched African Independent Television (AIT) live on Wednesday afternoon January 7, 2009, and was overwhelmed as I saw former President Flt Lt John Jerry Rawlings of Ghana alight from his car into the open arms of the jubilating electorate in Accra. They chanted beautiful songs of his praise. The occasion was the inauguration of President Prof. John Attah Mill, the tested Professor of law, one time Minister of Internal Revenue, one time Vice President of Ghana and twice defeated presidential candidate by the same party- New Patriotic Party (NPP), which was swearing him in that day. The electorate had worked so hard and were happy at the turn of events. It was like the advert (OMO washes brightest and it show) by Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited!
When Jerry Rawlings first appeared in the political scene of Ghana, we had a General in Nigerian Army named Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida in Nigeria; he addressed himself as a military president and accepted such nick names as Evil Genius and Maradona among others. Then, Ghanaians flooded the entire corners of Nigeria looking for food - just food because of their poor economy. Things were far better in Nigeria then. Not so today, because even with their economic crunch, no Ghanaian looked as hungry as a typical hungry Nigerian at that inaugural ceremony. Or are there many Ghanaians ready to return to Nigeria again. A look at the film clips once more will convince you – not a visit to Ghana, seeing is believing and a good leader is known by the looks of his subjects.
To cap it all, President Obama has confirmed any which way that Ghana is the way to go if we are to expect progress in this part of the world soon. It is a shame.
The wind of change we see in world politics today was actually kick started in 1972 with that first official visit of former US President Richard Nixon to the then Communist Soviet Union -Russia or USSR (for short). That visit to the Communist President Leonid Brezhnev, broke the walls then known as IRON CURTAIN country. But Nixon was removed from office through the “Water-Gate” scandal such that his tenure could not nurture to fruition the gains of his economic and political mission to Russia. Ronald Reagan succeeded Richard Nixon as the oldest US president. Reagan, was a popular film star and a show man with highly effective communication skill. He kept Americans glued to their TV sets with fast tracked events like star war shows such as the raid of Entebbe in Idi Amin’s Uganda, the destruction of Soviet Union to the present days fragmented democratic countries of Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan etc. Americans got tired of his show which cost them Billions of Dollars, and so spoke through their votes for a change in democratic Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter won his election because Americans were tired of the hard stance of the Republicans at the end of the second term of Ronald Reagan. But Americans like winning always. So, they liked Jimmy Carter who took his peace mission to all corners of the world. United States was then threatened with recession and Chrysler Motor which employed thousands of Americans was in trouble and needed a bail out. The then company’s president Mr. Lee Leeacoca applied to the US congress for a bail out, a thing never done before. But Carter, while supporting the bail out process, had failed in his rescue mission in the Middle East which humbled and humiliated the US. Americans did not like it, thus it the major caused of the fall of Carter’s second tenure bid, but not without approving the loan for Chrysler Motor just days away to the end of his tenure. That single act proved that Americans do not lack creativity, in matters of national interest, and saving the nation from recession. What is our response to even such serious threats as Religious crisis which has become the bane of our society today? How has the nation responded to the loss of jobs by bankers and textile workers in recent changes in those sectors?
President George H.W Bush (Snr) was next elected in the United States. Bush was a war monger who saw the annexure of Saudi Arabia by late Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as not only as evil, but also a threat to world peace and political order which should be nipped in the bud. Rather than face the US domestic unemployment problem created through the earlier leadership, he preferred international politics and so, mustered France, Germany, England and some other countries to conquer Iraq in “Operation Desert Storm” in 1990. Russia the then second world power, or so it seemed, had earlier backed out of the coalition forces thinking that it would be a failed effort. But the success of the mission did not only leave the US as the undisputed No1 world power, it also left other nations jostling for distant 2nd or 3rd position with Russia sulking. US preferred once again the Democrats to the Republicans, who had spent all the country’s’ hard earned fund to promote war.
Bill Clinton won his election in 1991 with the American economy in shamble. But in matter of months, Clinton, a first class technocrat gave US government a rebound. In addition to extending arm of friendship to Group 7(group of seven first world powers) and developing nation, the US enjoyed business and trade surplus so much that its currency the Dollar became strong again. In the employment sector, the US never had it so good. Due to these successes, Clinton did not need to work hard to secure his second term. But eventful as the second term was, spanner was thrown to the work through the hand of a Monica Lewisky an intern staff of the White House. Women! Bill Clinton escaped impeachment and was able to finish his terms. He left the scene with hugh fund in the US treasury as well as unemployment coming close to zero. His Vice President Mr. Al Gore, who naturally would have succeeded Clinton in his bid to the white house distanced himself from the successes of Clinton so much that it cost the Democrats the next election where the electoral fraud in Florida gave victory to George W. Bush (jnr).
Young Bush, a voracious spender and like his father, a war monger, threw caution to the wind and spent all Americans fund which ever way he pleases. He sent Americans to continue the war started by his father in the Middle East and recorded more deaths in his search for Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) which he never found. With these misdeeds, and age against Republican candidate Mchain, it was easy to find succor in the Democratic Party once more. But never in the history or political calculation ever in the US did any one expect an Obama victory! Yet he won!
Barrack Obama, the articulate, purposeful young Africa-American senator and speaker shocked the world. With a sense of purpose he moved to exhume if possible, Adam Smith, Paul Samuelson and maybe Peter Drucker to assist and guide in the economic recovery of US which George Bush had thrown spanner to the works and brought back the 1930s recession.
In the Soviet Union, confusion was the word. In 1984-85 alone, the nation witnessed the swearing-in of five presidents who died in quick succession due to old age. But change was to come at the election of Boris Yelsin, who for his second term became the first elected president of Democratic Russia in 1991. Earlier Yuri Andropov, Valery Kuznetsov (acting), Koustantin Gromyko, Mikhail Gorbachev, had ruled in that order. Russia had been thrown into technical irrelevance due to their opposition in the fight against Sadden Hussein’s’ Iraq. The country needed a young blood that would frontally attack the US and bring Russia back to relevance in world politics. The desired qualities were found in Vladimir Putin who won the next election. Putin, a youthful, active and athletic man was raring to go. He could discuss policy issues on bicycle or while jogging in the field. To date Vladimir Putin has not disappointed Russians because he has brought Russia back to the international political main stream again.
In Britain same the wave was in the air. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher held sway as the first female prime minister in the United Kingdom. She was already being prepared for a possible third term due to her successes but ill health torpedoed the dream producing young Mr. John Major as an effective replacement.
Right here in African a model was in the making in the mold of Dr. Nelson Mandela. The new world order had forced the South African government to release him from prison after 27years. Mandela had been a president in waiting even in the prison and South African knew it. It was easy for African National Congress (ANC), a political party he belonged, to over run all other parties to produce the presidency with a Nelson Mandela ticket and he won land slide. Administratively and politically, Nelson Mandela led a first class government of reconciliation. He disappointed the white minority and the entire world, who feared that he would give the white minority, their dose of suffrage. But instead he extended hands of fellowship running only a single term government and handed over to his elected deputy Dr Tambo Mbeki.
Back in Nigeria, we had started well. The military government of General Yakubu Gowon was a vibrant one. Why not? Gowon married in office at less than 35 years old. His developmental legacies are all over Nigeria as testimonies- the National Theatre Iganmu Lagos, FESTAC 77 Hotel, most of the fly-over in Lagos, Lagos Benin Express way, Lagos Ibadan Express way, Ikorodu, Agege and Abeokuta express way etc. Governor, now King Alfred Diette-Spiff governed the Oil rich Rivers State from age 29, he turned Port Harcourt into Garden City, built the state secretariat not equaled in Nigeria to date; ditto Brigadier Samuel Ogbemudia in Mid-West and late Joseph Gomwalk in Jos. Nigeria was in the main stream of international politics and was a force to recon with. But to their shame, the military tried to give us what they did not have – stability! Not long then, corruption reared its ugly head and the nation was shaken to it foundation as the press could no longer contain the level of greed among the military governors and government officials. The governors became so rich that the state governors could not be posted back to the barracks nor could they be retired. The change initiator could not change itself. Afraid of itself, with public out cry and threat, Gen. Gowon reminded Nigerians frequently, that we were still observing a state of emergency and so would not permit public gathering and political meetings etc was allowed. He told international observers that Nigerians were not ready for Democracy. But accusations of corruption had reached the high heavens and the press was undaunted despite military intimidation. In the then Mid West, now Edo/Delta States, the senior staff writer of the then very popular newspaper the “Nigerian Observer” Mr. Minere Amakiri was flogged by military men for honest reportage. The Press went to town with “What did Amakiri do” This and many other government misdeed, easily facilitated the quick arrival of General Murtala Mohammed and his team of revolutionaries.
Murtala was a General in haste. He desired to repair the broken wall of Nigeria in the shortest possible time and bring the country back to international relevance. But he under rated his colleagues, and so in matter of months, he was killed in a coup d’état organized by one late Colonel Buka Suka Dimka and General Bissala. Gen. Sani Abachas’ sudden death paved way for General Abusalami Abubakar (who rumours had it that he was penciled for retirement few days before the formers death).
Enter General Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo was the Chief of Army staff during the reign of General Muritala Muhammed in the ‘70s. At the killing of the later in the failed military coup, the Supreme Military Council resolved to appoint Obasanjo as the Head of State. Encouraged by the likes of General Theophilus Danjuma, General Obasanjo tearfullyand fearfully accepted the challenges of leadership.
Nigeria was in urgent need for a change but Obasanjo was afraid to die in another coup. He hurriedly, packaged a return to civil rule programme and worked acidulously to its logical implementation in a faulty election that ushered in Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979. An election which defeated the Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of politics without bitterness fame, Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) in a controversial 122/3 majority vote. The country was handed to other reluctant leader in the person who wanted to be a senator but was picked against the likes of Mallam Adamu Ciroma as presidential candidate, because he was looked at as Mr. Simpleton, under whom, under current fraud c ould be perpetrated with impunity. So we had money guzzlers like the Chairman of NPN late Chief A.M.A. Akinloye who dealt with money so much that special Champaign was branded for his birthday! Dr Umaru Diko of the (of the crate fame) a former lecturer at ABU Zaria became a power broker in fact an alternate president of sort. He was in charge of Rice (an extremely essential commodity then) importation. He told the world that, while Nigerians were suffering, no one was eating from the dust bin. Nigeria to him had a clean bill of health. Another Kano indigene Alhaji Bello Maitama Yesuf was the Minister for Commerce in charge of another life blood - Import License then. Stories had it that he issued import licenses from his house in Kano even for importation of Nigerian sand and saw dust! Poor Nigerians, our government was in the hands of voracious gluttons! Thing got so bad that in September 1983, while I was watching the television and listening to the election result as a Youth Corp Member, one Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) News caster in frustration, resigned his appointment as he could not bear the fraud called election result. Alhaji Shagari second term came to its expected end dead on its third month on the 31st December 1983 with the arrival of General Muhammadu Buhari and General Tunde Idiagbon.
The government of Buhari and Idiagbon was again, one in a hurry to right the wrongs of many years and move Nigeria forward in a grand rescue mission. After enacting draconic Decrees, they jettisoned the politicians and many other public officers many of which were clamped in prison indefinitely. They introduced War Against Indiscipline (WAI) which ensured that Nigerians queued at the bus stops to joint public transport, or super markets to pay for goods etc. In quick succession, a decree was enacted to sentence to death any drug peddler/barons and they promptly executed three young men for the same offence shortly after. Nigerians became proud of themselves again as things were beginning to look good once more. But the execution of the drug barons, the imprisonment of politician (who had loyalist fighting for them outside), and a few other aspects of their high handedness in governance incurred the wrath of the press which in turn wasted no time in giving it bad publicity and so caused the end of the regime.
General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and late General Sani Abacha capitalized on the lapses of General Muhammadu Buhari and took over power in yet another military coup. Gen Tunde Idiagbon, his second in command was in far away Sandi Arabia performing the Hajj when this change occurred. He bravely returned to Nigeria and like his boss was clamped into detention. Nigerians were confused about what the new government had in mind and what they would offer better than what they had.
To receive public acceptance, the Babangida administration released all detained public officers, offered political appointments to credible Nigerian with integrity like the late Tai Solarin, introduced government with consultation and all forms of gimmick to buy the hearts of the people. The economic crunch was steering every one in the face and Babangida wanted loan from International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cushion the effect. Nigerians were divided on the issue, and it was thrown to open debate. The option was rejected. He introduced “Structural Adjustment Programme” (SAP) and told Nigerians that it had no alterative despite stout oppositions from economists like Prof Sam Aliko,industry giants like Deacon Gamaiel Onosode etc, whose options were rubbished because the government had its private focus.
Over night, on 29th September 1986, the country woke up to see a Second teir Financial Market that sold the Naira at $1.00 to N2.50 against the previous N0.80k to $1.00! The economy crashed! Nigeria was again put in reverse. Developments in the world were ignored as Nigeria was sanctioned from participating in all world events due to frequent military interventions in governance. Babangida could not travel out of Nigeria all through his reign except for the treatment of his leg for a new ailment called Radiculophaty.
Oppositions emerged and mounted pressure this time, not from political parties – there was none (the existing ones had been banned earlier). First from the radical lawyers – late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr Olu Onagoruwa Mr. Femi Falana and late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti - (then Secretary General Nigeria Medical Association), and other Civil Right groups etc. To check mate them, the government arrested and dumped their leaders/members in various prisons around the country. Protests became the order of the day and all forms of gathering were banned. Many people either got shot to death, wounded or organizers of rallies got arrested and detained. Nigerians wanted democracy and the cry had reached roof tops. But our gods in military uniform would not have any of it.
Babangida ran a government by arrangement. He destroyed the academia and industries. Sent able and suitable Nigerian he could not co-opt into exile, locked up or jailed any who offered minimum resistance and instilled fear on all else. It downed on every one that the country was being run through a cabal and paid through fire by arson, death through participating in riots or outright assaination. Yet bad as it was, the rulers knew that the game was up and must give way to constitutionally elected government.
In the face of economic sanction from international communities and pretentiously too, the Babangida administration which bastrdised the economy to the hilt hurriedly put up a Constitution Drafting Committee and gave a time table for return to civil rule. Mock elections were held several times over with winners/loosers emerging only to have the elections results cancelled for any and every reason. Babangida put Nigerians to countless shifts in his return to civil rule agenda so much that he shot himself in the legs with the June 12, 1993 debacle which the winning of Chief M.K.O. Abiola brought to bare. The seat of power became too hot for Babangida he was forced to stepped aside and fizzled out in response to public out cry, giving Nigerians an Interim National Government (ING) with Chief Earnest Shonekan as the President. Chief Shonekans’ (a seasoned technocrat) tenure was short lived. It was scuttled three months after its entry and before the country could hive a sigh of relief, with the arrival of General Sani Abacha who finally completed, indirectly, the destructive stint of IBB.
A deadlier military officer in the person of Gen. Sani Abacha was to emerge after Chief Ernest Shonekan. Abacha had been a behind the scene anchor man in the Barracks. The terrain was not new to him. He knew his “enemies” in advance and so pursued their extinction with vigour. The coalition force nick named NADECO and their members were either chased out of the country or put in perpetual pain. Some had their homes burnt. Others like Dr Olu Onagoruwa had his son killed in mysterious circumstances (even while serving as the country’s Attorney General for objecting to a constitutional advice to the head of state), Dr Beko Ransom Kuti, Dr Chris Anyanwu, Col Lawal Gwadabe were all clamped in jail for involvement in phantom coup. General Shehu Yar’adua had been killed and nothing happened attempts were being made for final on slot on the remaining prisoners including General Obasanjo and General Abdusalami Abubarkar had been penciled down tor retirement next Monday, when nemesis struck. Abacha died through some”beautiful Apple drinks”. Gen Abdusalami Abubarkar became the Head of State and within one year, he put structures in place for a hand over to civil rule. But the nation was unprepared due to the several failed attempts by previous rulers. Political Parties were formed again. Alignments and realignments became the order of the day producing strange bed fellows.
The People Democratic Party (PDP) had been formed along with Alliance for Democracy (AD), Nigeria People Party (NPP) and so on. But the PDP had swallowed the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) a movement originally founded and managed by now late General Shehu Yar’adua and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. With the juggernauts including most retired military generals, former top government functionaries and old money bag in previous governments, it was easy for the PDP to breathe life into itself and sniffed same out of the other parties. Even with the cream de’la cream of the PDP one problem remained obvious. There was no acceptable presidential candidate material. The North had been there for so long and eventless, the East was not trusted and the west was being out maneuvered by the military through ouster of Abiola and Shonekan. The political equation favoured the west. While the political calculations were going on, the ‘evil genius’ General Babangida threw up an Obasanjo ticket and sold him to the groups who were already considering Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
Given his clean bill in 1979, Obasanjo was thought to be a decent statesman whose words could be taken seriously. It was not surprising therefore that the cabal, in their desire to hang the country on someone, behind whom they would perpetuate their acts, found a ready Obasanjo. He was serving prison terms for being involved in an attempted coup which he pleaded innocent (but Prof. Sam Aluko confirmed otherwise recently). Immediately after his release from prison, the cabal in the espirit de corp manner restored his military rank and had same gazetted. They sent him on a world holiday tour to meet, and tell his story to the international community who thought they knew his pedigree and so emotionally accepted him back to the fold being a member of the International NGO Transparency International (IT), Eminent International Group (EIG) among others. Obasanjo had earlier canvassed for a government with human face during IBB regime and considering his position as a leading force in the International politics, his fight for the freedom of Nelson Mandela and the Republic of South Africa as well as the news of his conversion to Christianly while in prison, all spoke volumes about a man who in true sense of the word is very unforgiving as is catalogued by one of his former wives in her recent book. .
With the strong cash offered through the back doors and various political appointment promised, the table turned against Dr. Alex Ekwueme just before the parties national convention. That was how as a people, we lost an expert builder, an architect par excellence, with proven track record and integrity, a tested vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Alex Ekwueme in the political leadership of Nigeria.
General Obasanjo was worth less than N100,000.00 out of prison. His farm had become history and his pile of unpaid debt in the banks spoke volume. (He confirmed this to his Minister for Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir El Rufai - how much he was worth and same was disclosed to the press by the later in a number of interviews). But acceptance rather than money was the problem. He was bank rolled by General Babangida and Dr Orji Uzor Kalu. The later openly admitted to have donated up to/or over N100, 000,000.00 (One Hundred Million) Naira to Obasanjo along with other ‘generous” fellows.
PDP had no manifesto nor did any of the other political parties and their candidates. We were promised nothing and so we ought to expect nothing and that is exactly what we got eight years after NOTHING!
Today in Nigeria, other than approval of the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) (which is privately funded by corporate organisations), establishment of the them EFCC, (which is now run as an extension of the office Inspector General of Police), nothing worked all though the reign of Obasanjo who wanted a 4th term, except corruption and selling of Nigeria to few flimsy biddersand his cronies through the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE). Yet with less than One Hundred Thousand as his Net Naira worth in 1999, Obasanjo is today the owner of Bell group of schools including the Bell university, New Julius Berger refurbished Ota farm Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN), all undisclosed fund in the yet to be probed Ministry for Petroleum Resources for eight year. Mr. Godwin Elumelu of the Power Project Panel is yet to be proved wrong when he told Nigerians that there was “…no such project as Nigerian Independent Power Project (NIPP). It never existed”. And of course, we know Obasanjo has his hand in many pies in the sales of the Refineries, Steel companies, Power Projects and some private oil companies to mention but few.
We are in 2010, Thirty – eight (38) clear years away from 1972 when the political revolution in the world started in the United States and Russia! While a Tambo Mbeki could resign from office as the President of South Africa without rancour, Ghana conducted presidential election without a stone thrown at opposition members. And in Nigeria, while Chief Paul Onongo of Benue State could resign as a compromise Minister for Power and Steel in 1982 for being accused of misappropriating now paltry N300,000.00 (Three Hundred Thousand) Naira, we here today of a former Minister in the person of Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who refused to answer the National Assembly on how he has misappropriated over N2 billion unspent fund in 2008 budget! Talk about rule of law, new face EFCC, and ICPC.
General Gowon left office without a single house to his name. King Alfred Diette-Spiff had nothing to his name despite the luxury he provided Rivers people. Are these the same legacy we see today among governors, National Assembly members and Local government officials as well as presidents past and present?
While the French president is leading without a wife (his wife divorced him because she does not like the glitz that goes with the office of the president) – (she should have asked a typical Nigerian woman for tutorial), and a woman president is in Germany, we had a president in Nigeria who, with his seven point agenda could not implement his pronounced state of emergency in the power until death decided the obvious.
Now, enters a President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan! No living politicians dead or alive have ever had the luck of this Jonathan. Called to the office of Deputy Governor from civil service without a kobo to his name, became an acting Governor in Bayelsa State. Yet to settle down to the rudiments of state leadership, and without stress, he was elevated to the office of Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not done, providence threw him into the lofty highest political position in the land – the President!
The next question is what is Goodluck making out of his political good fortune? Or what is politics going to make of the good in Jonathan’s luck?
From the myriad of problems inherited by his government and given the short duration and his disposal, what is his choice? Given the time and posterity, l would choose to deal with the power sector and the electoral reform and write my name in gold. But the news now is not so much of how to govern Nigeria now, but how to win the next election!!! Poor Nigerians! When will we ever have a leader with our interest at heart? With national Assembly members busy justifying the increase of their annual income in billions and further pauperizing the docile populace; can somebody see how we got here in the same circus? Re the youths going to allow themselves to be used again and dumped as in previous elections/selections? Who are the true light bearers today?
I am calling on the electorate to braze up for a good fight come 2011ala Ekiti State. Nigeria is for all of us and this time around we will vote out sit tight politicians (apology to Gov. Ikedi Ohakim). Let us tenaciously wait patiently to have our votes casted and counted with actual results announced at the polling centers this time around. We will not be violent. It has been proved that civil disobedience is better. We shall exhume our knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi and frustrate every foe as we ensure that come next election, we the electorate will have the confidence to say this is my candidate. We must be promised something based on which we shall review our candidates performance.
Look, with the success of Gov. Adams Oshomole in Edo State, Gov Amaechi in Rivers State, Gov. Babatunde Fashola in Lagos, and with west yearning for a return to Alliance for Democracy or Action Congress, having been deceived by their kinsman Obasanjo, the dream of PDP ruling for sixty years is but a mirage. Back in Delta state, the godfather is now on the run and it is easy to see the desired change there.
Change is inevitable and unavoidable. Change is scary for most people because its effect is unpredictable, but change must occur for there to be improvement, increase and development in personal, corporate and national life of the people.
In 2011, it will never be the same again. We shall see and test the waters in Ogun state with the garrison commander in Ibadan out, and the “do or die” Ex president waiting to be humbled, the clock is ticking. It will be an aberration for us to seat and allow the blind, greedy, purposeless and selfish sit tight politicians rule us again. May the dreams of real Nigerians come true. Like Adamu Mohammed of old Daily Times would say, the struggle continues.
By: Mike Akpati
0807-233-5040 (SMS only)
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt