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Are there gentlemen left in Nigerian politics?

By Mazi Sam-Ohuabunwa

IN Africa, it is rare to find political office holders who voluntarily resign from office. African politicians cling to office against all odds. Some achieve it through changing the constitution, others through changing of political parties and a few through blatant seizure of power. Recently one Robert Mugabe, who ruled his country – Zimbabwe, for 37 years, was bent on seeking another term at age of 93 and if he failed, he would hand over to his wife -‘Gucci Grace’ until the military intervened in a most sophisticated manner to ease him out.

Some try to play God, believing that without them, the country would fail, guys like Museveni of Uganda, Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Nkurunziza of Burundi, Biya of Cameroun, Derby of Chad and Bongo of Gabon. Even in very serious and debilitating sickness, some African leaders refuse to bow out, preferring rather to rule through proxies or to die in office.

Nigeria has been unlucky (lucky?) to have seen leaders who fit into this mode. Ibrahim Babangida tried to perpetuate himself in office by force. Sani Abacha tried to perpetuate himself in office by a combination of force and constitutional manipulation. Olusegun Obasanjo attempted to get a third term through constitutional amendment which failed. Umaru Musa Yar’adua was sick before he was nominated to be president, but claimed to have been healed according to Olusegun Obasanjo; he fell ill while campaigning and refused to accept the fact and eventually became very ill while in office and yet he refused to resign from office and even at death, his gang wanted him to continue to rule through proxies.

The lure to remain office willy nilly by African politicians continues to baffle me. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was said to have agreed to do only one full term, having completed Yar’adua’s term following his death in office, but in 2015, he denied that commitment and was asking his party members to provide written evidence that he made such commitment. Of course he went on to contest in that election, prompting rebellion by some of his party members who felt offended by his denial of what they regarded was a gentleman’s agreement. This led to the formation of the “New PDP”, which combined with the ACN to form APC and the subsequent victory of Buhari at the presidential poll.

Speaking about Jonathan’s ‘gentleman’s agreement’, an associate of mine quipped that there were no gentleman in Nigerian politics. I begged to disagree and he challenged me to name one. I mentioned Senator Mao. He asked me to forget that, saying that since Senator Mao was my younger brother, I could be prejudiced in his favour. Then I mentioned President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and he went into a very long laugh.

He then sat me down to remind me of how many promises made either by PMB when he was campaigning or by his party (including matters included in the APC manifesto) which PMB had either denied or repudiated. First, PMB covenanted with Nigerians he would radically improve our healthcare system, that no Nigerian would have reason to go outside Nigeria for medical treatment.PMB himself was the first to repudiate this promise as he has made the UK his permanent medical abode. Second, they promised Nigerians that they would pay every unemployed Nigerian graduate youth, five thousand Naira monthly stipend.

They flatly denied this promise and many Nigerian graduate youths remain dependent on their parents for upkeep while they search endlessly for jobs. Third, PMB promised to make the Naira equivalent to the American dollar in value. He has denied this and we all know that today, at least 360 Naira is equal to one US dollar. Fourth they promised that no Nigerian child of school age will be out of school, but they have repudiated this and actually the number of children out of school has increased, worsened by the Boko haram activities in the North East.

Fifth, PMB and his party promised to implement the national gender policy including 35 per cent of appointive positions for women. The party has repudiated this promise and all that the women achieved in affirmative action in the past seem to have been lost. Sixth, PMB promised to continually acknowledge Nigeria’s diversity and consciously promote equality and equity in all government businesses and activities. But we can see total repudiation of this promise as no time in Nigerian history have we seen the type of lopsidedness in appointment as we have seen PMB do with scant regard to the complaints of the disenfranchised groups.

Since the end of the civil war, Nigeria has never been as divided as it is now due largely to acts of commission and omission of PMB’s government. Seventh, PMB at inauguration covenanted with Nigerians that he belonged to nobody and that he belonged to all. Now we know very clearly that he belongs to the Fulani cattle herdsmen. Eight, PMB’s party promised to restructure Nigeria and enthrone true federalism, but when Nigerians began to agitate for restructuring, PMB told them that he did not know what that meant and that any one interested in restructuring should take his matter to the National Assembly. At this point, I begged him to stop, that he had made his point, telling him that most of these promises may have been denied or repudiated by circumstances beyond his control. He seemed to reason with me for a moment.

This week, as I returned to Lagos, this associate of mine called to welcome me back to Lagos and in between thanking God for leading us safely during our mothers obsequies, he asked if I had heard that despite all the advice from Obasanjo, IBB and many other people, PMB has announced that he would go for a second term. Then he drew my attention to Femi Adesina’s comment that PMB’s promise made in 2011 to be ‘a one term president’ has expired and was no longer valid. He then asked me if I still held the view that PMB is a gentleman whose words could be relied upon? I sighed, raised up my hand and exclaimed: when it comes to perpetuation in office, all politicians are the same!’

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