Friday, May 19, 2006

Third Term Bid Dead, But not yet Uhuru for Nigerians

Kudos to the few members of the Nigerian Senate and National Assembly opposed to the third term bid for thwarting the attempt to impose on the good people of Nigeria the ill-intentioned will of a powerful minority of politicians in the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in particular the PDP Chairman, Ahmadu Ali, Chief Aneni and other higher echelon party stalwarts. This goes to show that there might be some hope for democracy after all in Nigeria. Amidst threats of excommunication from the party, amongst other methods of intimidation, these members of the legislative arm of government have nevertheless been able to uphold the will of the common masses of Nigeria.

Obasanjo’s address yesterday morning asking that the Nigerian people accept the decision of the senate and national assembly not to amend the constitution to increase the two term limit of elected executive government officials to three strikes any discerning observer as an acceptance of defeat by the president and his cohort.
It confirms everyone’s suspicion that the bid for the third term, if not orchestrated by Obasanjo, at least had the consent of the president. To have remarked earlier that he would make his decision to run for a third term known only if there was a constitutional amendment indicates that Obasanjo had perhaps been nursing the idea of holding on to power after the completion of his second term in 2007. Well, the senate has spared him the trouble, and made the decision for Obasanjo. He will not be vying for election in 2007

Power indeed corrupts absolutely. Obasanjo practically had power handed over to him in 1999, having been released from prison in late June of 1998 clueless and disheveled; he was groomed and sold to the Nigerian people as a consensus candidate. Despite his gross unpopularity in Southern Nigeria (especially in Southwestern Nigeria), he was able to win the elections largely because of the support he got from the Northern politicians, in particular from what was then dubbed the Yar-Adua political machine headed up by Abubakar Atiku, hence the latter’s nomination as Obasanjo’s running mate. One wonders therefore why Obasanjo and Atiku seem to have fallen out despite the latter’s pivotal role in securing the presidency for the former. But of course politics in Nigeria, and indeed the world over, is a game of deceit, betrayal, intrigue and back-stabbing. Perhaps there was a pact that Atiku will take over from his boss after the second term. The third term bid was clearly an impediment to such a pact, if indeed it existed.

Now that it is clear that Obasanjo is not eligible to vie for the presidency in 2007, the road is clear for Atiku. Alas it is not yet Uhuru for Nigerians. Let’s allow conjecture to run wild a little here. If Atiku were to inherit the presidency from his boss should Nigerians expect any real difference in the quality of governance? Probably not. No doubt, all the ardent Obasanjo men and apologists would be relieved of their positions, shooed from the Rock and replaced with the new president’s men and apologists. There would be window dressing hither and thither, but the DNA of the Nigerian way of governance would remain intact. No one should expect any patent difference in the way business is conducted in Aso Rock and the two legislative chambers. Horse trading will still go on, calumny, cavil and intrigue will continue to prevail. Threats of impeachment and appeasement by monetary awards and bribery will continue. It will be business as usual so long as a large proportion of the class of 2007 legislators or their protégées transform to the class of 2011 legislators and worse if Atiku acts true to type and enfranchise corruption as have been variously alleged in the popular press media. Alas, it’s not yet Uhuru for Nigerians.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Constitutional Amendment Proceedings – The Senators’ Biggest Job Interview Yet.

The constitutional amendment finally tabled before the senate last week is sure to spark an interesting debate. Among the issues for deliberation are a proposal to create more states, derivation formula, rotational presidency and term limit change amongst others. Of the one hundred and sixteen proposals for deliberation, the matter of term limit amendment is anticipated to generate the most controversy and tension in the proceedings. Thus far, about twenty nine senators have lent their voices to deliberations on the matter and while some have made clear statements on their stand on the matter, others are tongue-in-check and equivocal.

It is no surprise that this is so since senators are politicians, whose stock in trade is double speak, and prevarication. Added to this is the allegation that some persons representing incumbent chiefs executive of the states and the powers that be in Aso Rock are lobbying these senators and making offers of gifts of millions of Naira, some of which have been purportedly paid into the bank accounts of these senators in Abuja. If this is true, then what we have is a situation where these tongue-in-cheek senators are either dancing to the tune of the piper, or signaling to the agents of the chiefs executive their availability for sale by dithering on the issue.

The proceeding is being televised live by the African Independent Television Network, giving the Nigerian populace instantaneous updates. Some people have requested that this be disallowed as it might hamper some senators from taking their true positions. How can this be? The amendment of the constitution is an epoch making event in the life of democracy in Nigeria, and as such, it is only proper to capture it live and on audio-visual record for posterity. It is suspected that those who advocate for a media-blackout want this for ulterior motives. Without live update and public scrutiny enabled by the live television coverage, proponents of the third term think they might be able to engineer the outcome of the proceedings in their favour.

As Abraham Lincoln remarked in his November 19, 1863 Gettysburg address, democracy is the “government of the people, by the people for the people.” The Nigerian people, for whom the Nigerian government is constituted, and whose representatives make up the Nigerian senate, have every right to be updated in real time what their representatives are deliberating on, and how properly they are being represented. In fact, there should be more television stations covering the proceedings to increase the reach and improve the openness and “transparency” of the process. It is the biggest job interview yet for the senators, so it would serve them well to be on their best behaviour.

How they comport themselves and vote will determine what path their political careers will take. The sellouts will most likely lose their seats in the next elections, if the electorate is discerning enough, having failed to do the bid of their constituencies and therefore botching the job interview that the constitutional amendment is. Let us hope that the senators keep this in perspective as they deliberate on the term limit and the one hundred and fifteen other proposals before them.