Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Who the Cap Fits" all Over Again.

In the last days of the draconian Abacha regime, there was a sham of an advertorial ran by all the major television stations (NTA and private) and Newspapers captioned: “Who the Cap Fits.” In the montage, there was a military cap morphing into an embroidered traditional northern Nigerian cap (fula) or a southern Nigerian cap (fila abeti aja) to the tagline - "Who the Cap Fits." It was all a tasteless attempt by the Abacha regime to sell the Abacha candidacy to the Nigerian populace, never minding that 99.99% of Nigerians were disgusted by the ploy and the rogue general.

The Abacha regime was so out of touch with the populace that the general requested that all religious leaders and followers across the land gathered in Abuja to pray for the Nigerian nation and the general himself. Well, God it seemed answered the prayers of this multitude of Nigerians. On June 8, 1998, the best thing that could have happened to Nigeria under the circumstances did. The 54 year-old tyrant suffered a heart attack and died. His machinations to transform from a military dictator to a civilian dictator never came to fruition.

The third term being canvassed for the Obasanjo regime is reminiscent of the sham that characterized Abacha's last year in office. Just as there was no sincerity and justice then, it is clear that proponents of the third term bid share the same warped vision as did the lackeys of Abacha. What is even more arcane is the fact that President Obasanjo, who was imprisoned by Abacha along with Shehu Musa Yar' Adua and others who were against the self perpetuation bid of Abacha, is keeping mum as all the crass politicking and moral dishonesty is going on. This lends great credence to the perception of most that Obasanjo is indeed behind all these and is interested in perpetuating himself in power.

The Abdulsalami Abubakar government that released Obasanjo from prison could easily have decided to leave him in prison and not care about the delivery of justice. Abdulsalami Abubakar could easily have decided to hold on to power and not institute the political process that ensued and eventually led to Obasanjo being elected as the president of Nigeria despite the fact that he was highly unpopular in certain sectors of Nigeria.

President Obasanjo is surely taking the wrong turn in history by allowing his lackeys to scheme for a third term for him. The signs are there that this is not only an immoral and unjust scheme, but a very unpopular and dangerous one. It is highly likely to lead to violent and prolonged civil strife between those for and against the bid, in which several tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of Nigerians would lose their lives and many more their livelihood and homes. Is a term of 4 more years really worth the risk of this happening? Even if the argument for a third term can be justified, should not the present executive office holders be exempted from benefiting from the proposed constitutional amendment so as to remove any bias from the process? This is especially so since when they were elected into office, there was a term limit of two prescribed by the constitution, which they all swore to uphold.

If Obasanjo truly loves Nigeria as he claims he does should he not come out and make a definitive statement saying that he is not interested in a third term to put paid to all the dissonance in the Nigerian polity? At 70 years of age, Obasanjo is an old man who should be retired and taking things easy. Ruling Nigeria must be tasking for one so advanced in age. Should not a younger person be there at the helm to breathe freshness and vitality into the office? Obasanjo has done a great job in getting Nigeria into the world stage as evident in the $18 billion debt forgiveness he negotiated for the country last year. The EFCC is doing a phenomenal job. This is the time to leave the stage, when the ovation is loudest. By staying an extra 4 years with so many people opposed to the bid, all the good that have been associated with Obasanjo will be eroded and the question then will be: “Who Does the Cap of the Greatest Nigerian Despot Fit?”

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ali - Democrat or Zombie?

Senator Ahmadu Ali, the PDP National chairman is reputed to have mandated party leaders and members of the National Assembly and Senate elected under the PDP umbrella to back the third term agenda or leave the party. If this is true, and PDP is an acronym for Peoples Democratic Party, then one is right to ask the question: who indeed should leave the party?

PDP is a democratic entity and not the property of one individual. What makes a democracy is the right of choice and freedom of association. Democracy has been touted as the raison d'etre of the PDP. One can not proclaim to be a democrat while at the same time lead by decrees and orders. If indeed the PDP National chairman, who is supposed to be the embodiment of the party made such a statement should that not be enough grounds for impeaching him?

Ali should appreciate that in a democracy no one has the right to coerce people into making a choice they are not in agreement with. These are not military times. Ali spent the greater part of his adult life as a soldier, and having served under the Murtala/Obasanjo led regime of the 1970s perhaps still has that soldier boy mentality of blind loyalty. The kind immortalized in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's song - "Zombie." Thanks to the death of Abacha and the dictates of the times the zombies have been sent back to the barracks where they belong in times of peace.

Undoubtedly, there are many ex-military men playing the Nigerian political field right now and it is only fair to let them do so in the burgeoning Nigerian democracy since they represent a stakeholder group in the Nigerian polity. That however does not bestow on them the audacity or right to dictate and impose their will on the rest of Nigerians. When power has been given to the people, it is "one man one vote." Ali's vote does not carry anymore weight than any other Nigerian's just like Obasanjo's does not weigh more than a talakawa's.

The common Nigerian to whom power belongs should not be bullied into doing Ali’s will. The office of the chairman of the PDP should represent the entire cross section of opinions of all Nigerians and not just those of the professional sycophants, who inspite of the fact that President Obasanjo has not explicitly said that he wants a third term are unjustly and insidiously slowly ingraining the idea into the Nigerian polity, distracting from other more beneficial salient issues.

Ali should be a true democrat and allow people to air their opinions. As difficult as this may be for a man who wore a Khaki uniform for most of his career, having traded his Khaki for a Babanriga, Ali should stop acting like a zombie and learn some political etiquette.