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Jonathan and the endless line of stop-gap leaders

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor

Perhaps, God Almighty, in his infinite mercy decided that a breed of Nigerians would be made to serve destiny in a manner that they would merely fill blank spaces.

For, how else would you describe a leader whose main calling is just to fill out the remainder of another’s tenure of office?

This may not be palatable and Nigerians have been made to understand that a man who is made a stop gap leader would one day crave to prove that he is his own man.  However, the way he proves it is what history would decide on its content and context.

And, therefore, JTU Aguyi-Ironsi was Nigeria’s first stop-gap leader.

His emergence came about as a consequence of the bungled coup of January 15, 1966, by the group led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogu.  The coup failed and Ironsi, at that time was the most senior military officer in Nigeria.  He simply appropriated the coup and took over.

But what success did he make of his regime?  He attempted to grapple with the challenges of governance but got burnt in the process.  The self_same unitary government he attempted to impose, and for which Nigerians have been made to suffer in the hands of successive administration since then, was the major reason why he was toppled.

Next came Olusegun Obasanjo.

General Murtala Ramat Muhammed became Head of State on July 25, 1975 after a coup which ousted General Yakubu Gowon.

But Murtala himself was to be killed in a bloody coup on Friday, February 13, 1976.

Following the death of Murtala, Obasanjo was called upon by members of the Supreme Military Council, SMC, to take charge.

It was a sobbing Obasanjo who took over and that was how Nigeria became blessed with a compound administration, the Murtala/Obasanjo administration.

Obasanjo simply ran on the steam of that regime and handed over in 1979 as promised by Murtala in an earlier speech before his death.

But there was to be another stop-gap administration in 1993.

It came about after a successful presidential election organised by then military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

Owing to the self-imposed strictures of his administration and governance, Babangida annulled the presidential elections won by Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.

In the heat that followed, Babangida told a bewildered nation that he was stepping aside.
Not after he had instituted a new contraption called Interim National Government, ING.
ING was headed by Ernest Adegunle Sonekan, referred to as Head of Interim National Government, HING.

But HING Sonekan’s ING did not last beyond a mere three months before General Sani Abacha, the most senior public officer after HING, took over.

Interestingly, after Abacha took Nigerians for a five year ride, he died unexpectedly and a little known General Abdulsalami Abubakar simply called politicians to a meeting and made it clear that he would be handing over to them on May 29, 1999.  He did. And that has made him a political super star on the globe.

Today, it is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who after serving as Vice President, became Acting President and has now become President and Commander-in-Chief.

But his is also a stop gap as he would only be completing the remainder of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure.  Some gaps; some completion!


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