Controversial letter: Chukwumerije flays Obasanjo

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President Jonathan and Chief Obasanjo

President Jonathan and Chief Obasanjo

*Says 2nd term for Jonathan ‘ll strengthen Nigeria


Senator Uche  Chukwumerije, yesterday, dismissed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s advice to President Goodluck Jonathan not to seek a second term as one laced with traps against the president.

Chukwumerije in a commentary on the letter by Obasanjo to President Jonathan, dated December 20, 2013, and obtained by Vanguard, yesterday, said: “We, on the wrong side of Nigeria’s political divide, must thank the powers-that-be for up-dating us on the mood of the establishment and the current thinking of Nigerian system.

General Obasanjo, our revered ex-president, is obviously a major pillar of the powers-that-be or the one-man-powers-that-be or so he sees himself. He has, since after his first stint in Aso Villa, consistently played the role of the Praetorian Guard, pontificating to every successor and awarding marks like a headmaster to each pupil-president.
Every regime, from Shagari through Buhari to Babangida and Abacha, has benefited (or suffered) from the corrective tongue-lashes of the Guard.

Two Key Principles
This time, in a tutorial to Jonathan, ostensibly on the short-comings of -his administration, OBJ expanded every prescription with elaborate postulations on the democratic prerequisites of System Nigeria.

At the base of the Do’s and Don’ts are two key principles. One is the process of selection of what OBJ calls Nigeria’s CEO, a process which he insists must be guided by “the best interests of Nigeria”.

The second is the system’s irreducible demand of a liberal all-inclusive temperament  from a CEO, the pre-requisite of a one-Nigeria and all-Nigerian outlook hospitable to all ethnic indigenes, tolerant of criticisms and open to the demands of transparency in resources management and economic development.

The main concern of this short comment is OBJ’s process of selection of Nigeria’s President. Before I dwell on this, may I briefly comment on his choice of a good leader, especially a good national leader of Nigeria in this phase of her development. It is difficult to fault the wisdom of OBJ’s precepts and the validity of the integrative strength of an accommodating and de-tribalized approach to the management of the federal union. The possession, indeed articulation, of honour, integrity, trust and democratic spirit must be the character signature of any leader who wants to successfully lead the multi-ethnic federation through this phase of transformation to a nation.

Although critics have a point that examples are better than precepts and that OBJ’s long sermon was illuminated more by examples from the sad consequences of his anti-democracy assaults during his rule than the alleged short-comings of President Jonathan’s Administration, the fact of consistency of OBJ’s obsession with the unity and stability of Nigeria cannot be faulted. This sermon is replete with familiar refrains:

He protect and defend our fledgling democracy”,  “with common identity as Nigerians, there is more that binds us than separates us …

“No one knows whose blood would be the last
to drop … in such a situation Nigeria may be adversely effected” … “do not mar (Nigeria’s) history …etc, etc.

History will always remember and appreciate Obasanjo for stoutly  standing – at least in theory – and for consistently shouting from the  rooftops for the birth of a prosperous strong Nigerian nation and the  dawn of Africa’s renaissance.

The Selection Principle
But practice is another matter. To this, I return promise of a fruitful road map to his (indeed our) ideal goals of unity and stability is encapsulated in OBJ’s principle of selection of Nigeria’s President.

Through its apocalyptic messiahship, OBJ’s tutorial seems to be teaching us as follows: North-South (regional) dichotomy should remain the mode of selection for election of national leadership. This in his view will foster Nigeria’s best interests.

The mode of final choice of a CEO? Hear OBJ: “It is now not a matter of the turn of any section or geographical area but the best interest of Nigeria and all Nigerians”.

We extract these two points from the generosity of OBl’s expansive apologia pro vita lecture.
When OBJ made a point of praising POP’s selection formula, as “the only party that enshrines federal character, zoning and rotation… and (through this) brought stability and substantial predictability to the polity and to the system …and when he cited this to reinforce a point which he made earlier that “you (President Jonathan) had accepted a one-term presidency to allow for ease of getting support across the board in the North”, OBJ’s delineation of North and South as units of rotation for Nigerian President comes into a bolder relief.

We must also assume that the second point – that is, the challenge of final choice of a leader from a selected region – reserves the pride of place for Guard Obasanjo. This is so because in this letter, the ex-President generously refreshed our memories with history of his key roles in the emergence of his successors as democratic choices, from
Shagari through Yar’ Adua to Jonathan.

In summary, OBJ’s view is that a major component of the recipe for the unity and stability of Nigeria is retention of North-South (regional) dichotomy in selection of the federation’s CEO and the continuation of
his key role as the eternally wise King Solomon. Against the background of his North-South dichotomy, the choice of the king-maker is clear …as he solemnly proclaims:

“I do not know who will be President of Nigeria after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. That is in the hand of God. But with POP policy  and practice, I can reasonably guess from where, in term of section of the country. The successor to President Jonathan will come.

But will this mode of selection serve the purpose of lasting stability for Nigeria?

No doubt, the former regions will live in popular mind as one of many points of collective identification (just as religion, etc) and progressively wane as the arteries and veins of constitutional democracy in a big  plural community take root.

No doubt too, outstanding individuals like OBJ will leave impressive imprints in the twists and turns of contemporary history.

But we must purposefully nudge the movement of the society along the direction of lasting stability. This is the path of  institutionalization of rules and procedures. Ad hoc and ad hominem approaches must begin to give way. This is why the nation and OBJ must review the merits of North-South dichotomy and weigh its limitations.

The Merits of Six Administrative Zones
The formula of North-South (regional) dichotomy cannot serve in the long term the interests of Nigeria’s stability. The dichotomy is too general to guarantee access of feasible constituents of the federation to the post of CEO.
A formula that will guarantee OBJ’s assurance to all groups that “if Obasanjo could be there, Yar’ Adua could get there and Jonathan can get there, any Nigerian can” should delineate a less unwieldy territorial swathe than the former region.

The current six-zonal administrative structure offers a surer guarantee of access to all than the former regions.
The turbulent history of Nigeria suggests the six-zone format as a dialectical necessity in the current phase of our nation-building. It will bring all the sectors of the federation nearer to a level playing ground.

The reference to dialectical movement is to the history of the dynamics of power relationships among regions, ethnic blocs and under-girding hegemonies.

The direction of Nigeria’s political evolution since 1962 has been the inexorable pace of disintegration ofn hegemonic strongholds in favour of progressive democratization of the political space.

Seen from this view, a second tenure for Jonathan is a necessity. It strengthens the precedent of a six-zone structure and reinforces a new convention/formula that adopts this rotation format for the Presidency as the recipe of national stability.

South East Zone
A major ethnic group like Ndigbo (residing mainly in South East zone) have since independence been excluded from Nigeria’ selected presidency. The official name of the competition ruleis “democracy is a game of numbers”.
But the buzz code of the system is “exclusion of the Igbos for the meantime”.

Obasanjo has allegedly said as much a long time ago, warning that it was an insult to the system for Ndigbo to expect access to the presidency in less than 100 years from end ofthe civil war.

OBJ’s choice of use of regions as rotation units to warehouse manipulation of selection of presidential materials gives credence to this allegation.

We do not of course underrate the magnitude of the task in the new formula. An enabling legislation is required to make the six-zone structure the base of the Federal Union and to make the zone the unit of rotation of office of the President (preferably for a specified transitional period).

Alternatively, all political parties should be  persuaded to voluntarily include the zone-based format in their  constitutions. Ndigbo and all other deprived groups on the wrong side  of the political divide have also a herculean task of purging themselves  of sanctimonious self-righteousness and bracing themselves for hard  bargains and strategic negotiations with other power blocs.

For system Nigeria, a period of almost half a century of silent ostracization of a group in political wilderness should be enough of a part of the total reparation exacted from Ndigbo since the end of the civil war. This major ethnic nationality has never produced an elected  President of Nigeria.

Still on the future of Nigeria (and specifically fate of Igbo ethnic nationality) in the dark shadows of new but predictable hazards of replay of ancient systemic uncertainties.

The lengthy loud ambiguities of our Delphic Oracle reek with offensive smells – innuendos of betrayals and lurking disasters, of cyclical visitations of ignored history, of clear blinks of danger signs from 1966 milepost.

I consider most unfortunate and alarmist this warning: “Let me put it that talks, loose and serious, abound about possible abuse and misuse  of the military and the legitimate security apparatus for unwholesome personal and  political interest to the detriment of the honour, dignity, oath and professionalism of these honourable and patriotic forces.

Let me urge the authorities not to embark on such destructive  path for an important element of our national  makeup. The roles of the military and the security agencies should be held sacrosanct in the best  interest of the nation. Again, let not history repeat itself here.

I believe that with what Nigeria has gone through in the past, the worst should have already happened. It must be your responsibility as the captain of the ship to prevent the ship from going aground or from a shipwreck”.
When such an alarm comes from a revered leader, it is an invitation to a shipwreck from familiar quarters.

Predictably, rehearsed but hollow threats of impeachment was a logical fall-out of the alarm. Timely counter threats of treasonable felony followed.

We must avert this disaster. For Ndigbo, System Nigeria can never  make us again the sacrificial lamb of its fractured history. Never again.

If to foster a sense of participation of all ethnic components in the  management of Nigeria is the prime purpose of rotation of the  presidency, the formal acceptance of the current six-zone structure, (the successor to the former regions), should be the most effective mode of implementation of the formula.

A second term for Jonathan is important to establish this necessity. This gives to the federal edifice the solid foundation.

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