Olusegun Obasanjo, February 17, 2015 made world news as usual, when he finally dumped the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with an unprecedented party membership card-tearing act before the full glare of journalists at his Abeokuta home. Baba’s bidding farewell to PDP was long over-due, but the way and manner of his exit, many believe, was rather absurd and dishonourable.
At the visit of party leaders from his Ward II of Abeokuta North local government area of Ogun State, Obasanjo directed his ward chairman, Alhaji Sunmonu Oladunjoye to tear his party membership card, apparently to demonstrate his final decision to quit PDP and prefer to remain a statesman.
Some had celebrated Obasanjo’s severance from the PDP, especially the opposition – All Progressives Congress (APC), yet many others took the ex-president’s act to the cleaners for “displaying act that are contradictory to his status as a statesman of international repute and ex-leader of this country.”
Rightly, the ex-president deserves a place in the history of PDP and he cannot run away from its shadow – the good and the bad of the party. After his incarceration on the allegation of plot to overthrow General Sani Abacha regime, Obasanjo was offered the PDP presidential ticket on a platter of gold as a “settled issue between the military and political establishments to pacify the South West that was angered by the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election widely acknowledged to have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola,” whose death in custody remains a mystery.
Throughout the eight-year rule of Nigeria, the words of Obasanjo were laws and he demonstrated this, among others, with the seizure of federal allocation to Lagos local government councils even when the Supreme Court described such seizure as illegal. Those who had differences with him were not spared. PDP governors including Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau) were impeached, using federal and state agents.
His influence at the National Assembly was over-bearing such that the leadership of the two legislative chambers became the barber’s chair. It was not surprising that the senate alone produced five presidents in Obasanjo’s eight years tenure. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was alleged to be a tool in the hands of Obasanjo and perceived enemies were nailed or chased about, while others were forced out of the PDP.
The sun, however, set for the ex-president when he failed to stage-manage his third term bid in office. Even his mastermind in the amendment of the PDP constitution that only former president would be eligible to chair the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) did not last long in the power chess game and when he realised that there were plans to amend the party’s constitution, he quickly resigned as BoT chairman in 2012 which made his political ally, Chief Tony Anenih to regain his position in 2013.
More than these, Obasanjo’s stay in the PDP had been eventual. He militarized the party to the extent that internal democracy became an aberration, one of which is the K-leg saga in Rivers State. The former president however became the worst critic of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, whose ascension to the highest office in the land was almost single-handedly orchestrated by Obasanjo.
If Obasanjo was not accusing Jonathan of corruption, the former president attacked the latter of training snipers, fanning the ember of ethnicity and plotting to cling to power at all means. President Jonathan’s response to the accusation of his former boss exposed Obasanjo as a man playing the gods in the wake of national woes of which he is part of.
There was no love lost between Obasanjo and his political godson, Jonathan and every attempt at reconciling the differences always, ended in widening the gap even as the ex-president’s loyalists in the PDP national working committee (NWC) were gradually phased out.
Going by political details, it was obvious that Obasanjo, who gradually withdrew from the party activities, had lost bearing in PDP power house, coupled with the fact that Jonathan was no longer ready to take orders any more from him.
Pre-emptive of a planned expulsion, Obasanjo decided to walk out of PDP before being disgraced. Political analysts say Obasanjo’s exit from the PDP “is the climax to the irreconcilable differences between him and Jonathan.” According to the New Telegraph of February 17, 2015, Now that the bull is finally out of the China’s shop, “the PDP may be ready to get the peace it craves for taming the power of its leader in the party affairs.”
While it may not be possible to get rid of one’s history, Abimbola Adelakun (The Punch February 19, 2015), said Obasanjo’s reason for quitting his erstwhile party only reflects his nature: self-righteous, self vindicating and zero reflection. But more than that, the self-righteousness of Baba also betrays his inglorious indispensable nature that the world revolves around him.
Though, the Ogun State PDP said the party would not miss the exit of the former president whom it described as “lacking electoral value,” the national leadership of the party wondered “what manner of provocation would have led a former president to lose his composure and go to the extent of tearing the membership card of the party that he once led.” However, the PDP leadership has not forgotten that “it was the PDP’s political machinery that rescued Obasanjo after his incarceration and made a prince out of him.”
Statesmanship is earned by a person after years of noble acts to the nation, and “Obasanjo’s hyper-critical attitude to President Jonathan in recent times contradicts the clout and influence that a person of his standing should wield. It speaks volumes of personal animosity and hatred to the person of Nigeria’s current leader” (New Telegraph, February 17, 2015).
Furthermore, the newspaper wrote that the tearing act desecrates the statesmanship Obaanjo has garnered as a man of history. Lest we forget, it was Obasanjo that received the instrument of surrender by the former secessionist Biafra. He is the first Nigeria military leader to handover to a democratically-elected president and the only Nigerian to become a president after serving a prison term.
The way and manner the ex-president went about his severance from the PDP prompted Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State to describe “Obasanjo’s behavior as a manifestation of old age.” The Ijaw leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark equally berated the former president for acting irresponsibly by tearing PDP membership card – a document that brought him into power and sustained him in office.
Expectedly, the APC lauded Obasanjo’s action, saying that his dramatic exit from PDP signaled the end of the party’s influence in the Nigerian political landscape. In a statement in Akure, the Ondo APC Publicity Secretary, Omo’ba Adesanya, said Obasanjo’s action was symbolic of freedom from the PDP that Nigerians had been craving for.
But the PDP would not see anything the party stands to lose with the exit of Obasanjo from the ruling party essentially because “Obasanjo’s exit is a good riddance to bad rubbish,” as Governor Fayose said. According to him, Obasanjo shouldn’t just tear his PDP membership card; he should also relinquish the ownership of Bell University, Obasanjo Farms, Obasanjo Presidential Library and other financial benefits he got during his presidency.
It may not be for nothing that the Balogun of Owu has always dramatized his criticisms of Jonathan administration, but the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu said Obasanjo’s accusation against President Jonathan administration smacks of hypocrisy. The Lagos monarch said “all the accusations the ex-president is making now, he (Obsanjo) initiated them, nurtured them and masterminded them and now he is complaining,” adding that Nigerians cannot be fooled again by Obasanjo’s holier-than-thou attitude.
No doubt, Obasanjo worked so hard in the military to earn him an honour, but when he decided to drag the military into the country’s political waters, he got what he did not bargain for. The authorities of Defence Headquarters (DHQ) described Obasanjo as an embarrassment to the military institution. The ex-president was credited with a statement that the general elections were shifted on security excuse in order to perfect plan by the Presidency to secure tenure extension.
“Obasanjo’s utterances lately indicate an attitude of playing to the gallery or indulging in politicization of serious national security or military affairs,” the DHQ said in reaction to Obasanjo’s comments. It added that the military personnel have moved beyond the parochial and self-adulating reasoning and mindset of Obasanjo’s era in the military to today’s appreciation of the essence of democracy and its indispensability for the stable and prosperous society Nigerians cherish. (The Punch, February 17, 2015).
Whether or not ex-president Obasanjo is new to dramatising events, he is riding in the tide of history. But what is not certain, however, is whether the honour Baba is trying to protect to relish will appreciate in course of time, especially in the light of his recent actions and inactions only time will tell.
Yiaga Africa Blames Govt For Voters’ Apathy
Independent election observer group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed worry that increasing voters’ apathy as witnessed in the Anambra governorship election may not have been caused by insecurity but increasing loss of confidence in government.
A board member of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu held the view in Awka during a post-election reflection meeting with leaders of Civil Society Organizations.
Nwagwu reiterated that the ugly trend was not necessarily occasioned by insecurity that had always heralded elections in the past, but growing disconnect between the government and the masses, saying it is time populace held government to account to bridge the gap.
He said: “Election is over. Now we have to watch governance and the only way to do that is to clearly design pathways through which we can hold the government accountable.
“One of the ways is for the citizens to engage the government with budget process. Government every year estimates what it uses the people’s resources to do for them.
“Unfortunately, the people involved don’t show any interest, and four years later, the same people will start complaining that government has failed, even when there was nothing to track.
“We need to see how the Media and Civil Society groups can collaborate and produce what I call a citizen charter demand that they can hand over to the new Governor-elect.
“They can liaise with other professional bodies to conduct infrastructural assessment in the state and use that as a document to organize a town-hall meeting to engage government officials.”
Nwagwu also identified what he termed “fear and complaint industries” as major impediments to the growth and development of the state, insisting that the two factors must be shut to enable people of the state enjoy democracy dividends.
He added: “We need to close up the two industries of fear and complaint that have gripped the state, especially after the election so people can leverage the benefits of governance.
“If we continue with this scare-mongering and complaints, we will only succeed in having few persons taking over the government and dictating the pace.”
CVR: Fresh Registrations Hit 4.2m
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that fresh registration in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has hit 4,297,494.
The commission disclosed this in the second quarter, week seven, weekly update released by the commission in Abuja recently.
The commission said that as at 7 a.m. on Monday, November 22, 1,856,771 persons have completed their online and physical registration.
According to statistics provided by the commission, 1,856,771 persons who completed their registration, include 941,098 males, 915,673 females.
It also added that 741,183 persons completed their registration online, while 1,115,588 completed it through physical registration.
Saraki Visits Benue Over Presidential Ambition
A former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has visited Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State over his ambition to vie for President in 2023.
Saraki, after a close door meeting with Governor Ortom, also met with the State Working Committee members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to familiarise them with his intention to kick start consultations for his ambition to rule the country.
He said that the nationwide defection of party loyalists from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP was an indication that there might not be anyone left in the party before the next election.
“A party that cannot organise its affairs has no business leading this country. A party that has organised its affairs is ready in leading this country and that is the PDP,” he said.
Saraki added that the North Central Zone has paid its dues by working so hard in keeping the country together as one united entity just as he pointed out that, “this time we must stand for our own and charity begins at home.”
The ex -senate president, who was accompanied on the visit by former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, former National Chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje, Senator Suleiman Adokwe and Prof Iyorwuese Hagher, Chairman of Council, Saraki for President Campaign, thanked the Benue governor for standing out for the zone.
Earlier, Governor Ortom, eulogised Saraki for being one of those Nigerians that had contributed immensely to the development of democracy.
Ortom said it was time to rescue the country from bottom, a position it was placed by the APC government, to the top, adding that Saraki deserves the presidential seat to enable him salvage the country from its current mess.
On his part, the State Chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede, represented by his deputy, Isaac Mfo, said the party in the state had remained intact even as he assured the presidential hopeful that they would back his ambition to rule the country.
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