By Harris-Okon Emmanuel & Chioma Onuegbu

Bishop Matthew Kukah, yesterday, criticised  former President Olusegun Obasanjo for his inability to manage divergent views and opposition.

Bishop Matthew Kukah

Kukah spoke at the 80th birthday symposium organized in honour of Obong Victor Attah,  a  former governor of Akwa Ibom State under the theme: ‘Leadership for Sustainable Democratic Culture in Africa’.

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The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto  said the country was yet to practice true and sustainable democracy given the fact that elections are not free, fair and credible because the results are known even before official announcement by the electoral body.

His words: ‘’Obasanjo is somebody I have associated with, but I tried to explain to people and I think it is something that we must understand, that if you spend over 50 years of your life in army barracks as a soldier, merely getting a ballot box  and ballot paper doesn’t make you think in any other way other  than the fact that outcomes can always be absolutely be controlled and, of course, President Obasanjo, being a Yoruba man and an old man, naturally, he needs everybody to call him Baba.

Of course, if you call Buhari  Baba, if you are a northerner, you know that it doesn’t have the same result.

As a  result of this, it was very difficult for Obasanjo to manage differences, disagreements or opposition.  ‘’

But he expressed the optimism that the country fledgling democracy would deepen with time and called for patience and hard work.

Kukah added, “We are in a civilian administration, but we are nowhere near a democracy yet. And this is why when we conduct elections, we already know the outcomes. And when a man wins election as governor, as senator, as President, in Nigeria, it is, naturally, expected that the opposition should go to sleep and sleep for eight years, it is taken for granted.

‘’What you call governance therefore, is a contrivance. Within that perimeter, you need to do anything that is possible to ensure that this continuity is taken for granted. Now we will get to that point and I think we will get there soon, pretty soon.”

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Kukah noted that the political system was in a state of flux because of lack of continuity and sustainability by politicians which have resulted in frequent  defections  by politicians.

“The whole question of sustainability is tied to political culture and a certain level of continuity. But we find that in the same state, in the same country, within the same political party. Yesterday’s governor is today’s opponent and today’s governor will be tomorrow’s  opponent and a lot of these things touch ordinary people lives”, he said.

A  lead discussant at the occasion, Labaran Maku, explained why democracy was not thriving in  Africa  and blamed the ugly trend on bad leadership, values and weak institution.

He noted that the country electoral system was a major hindrance to the evolution of sustainable democratic culture.

On  his part,   a veteran journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of NewsWatch Magazine, Mr Ray Ekpu,  painted a gloomy picture of democractic practice in Africa, noting that only four countries were practicing what   he described as “semblance of democracy and listed the countries to include, Botswana, Ghana, South Africa and   Rwanda”.

According to him, Nigeria’s democracy is governed by what he called the courage to do nonsense, the litany of impunity that had bedeviled the  political system.

He, however, challenged the youth to take their destiny in their hands, stressing as, according to him, the young people should be the ones fighting this wars for ‘’our democracy.”

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Governor Udom Emmanuel  called on the people of  Akwa Ibom to unite irrespective of their political affiliations, stressing the need to play the game in line with the rule of law, adding that everything must be done to sanitize the polity.

The celebrant, Obong Victor Attah, in his remarks, commended Emmanuel  for the peace and security being experienced in the state.

He said, “I will say honestly I count myself very very lucky to have a governor like Deacon Udom Emmanuel. And I will state why I say so. There were times when this would have not been possible, there are times when this would have been prohibited. Let me today say thanks to the Chairman who had to leave because he had a flight to catch.

Attah, who spoke on wide ranging issues, took  his audience through his time as governor, the struggle for resource control and maintained that true federalism was the best way to go if the country is to be developed.


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