President Obasanjo Our Ultimate Democrat!
Wednesday, 09 March 2005
An attribute of a true democrat is responsiveness to the will and yearnings of the majority
“Only a very foolish person never changes his view despite new evidence or as newer facts emerge …President Bill Clinton,” while commenting on the accusations against Senator John Kerry the defeated candidate of Democratic Party as flip-flopper because Kerry has changed policy positions according to Bush and Republican Party in the American presidential elections.
As an epitome and pillar of democratic leader, Mr. Obasanjo has repeatedly defied his critics and detractors, who have had a penchant and history of under-estimating the president. Since his first coming as the head of state of Nigeria, on the heels of the assassination of Mr. Murtala Mohammed in February 1976, Mr. Obasanjo has repeatedly demonstrated his tenacity of purpose and dedication to the service of Nigeria.
His voluntary and willing relinquishment of power as head of state, to a duly elected civilian president, Mr. Shagari in October 1979, left indelible imprints in the minds of many, including myself, that Mr. Obasanjo accentuates the positives about all that is truly Nigerian, statesman stature and patriotic.
Secondly, since happenstance of his second coming as leader of Nigeria, he has demonstrated such grace under the acerbic and the most bellicose of environments and situations! Mr. Obasanjo, as a sitting president of Nigeria, humbly attended the Oputa Panel while Mr. Bush Mr. Obasanjo’s peer in the United States, invited the September 11, 2001 commission to meet with him in the White House, instead of attending the public hearing of the 911 Commission. And Mr. Obasanjo’s contemporaries in Nigeria sneered at the Oputa Panel contemptuously and refused to attend the hearings and national reconciliation or healing efforts.
Since the inception of Mr. Obasanjo’s second coming as the president of our dear republic, he has done some remarkable things, including the firing or dismissals and prosecutions of some serving federal ministers and permanent secretaries and an inspector general of police! And he has as well been known to have been in the hot-pursuits of high profile criminals among “eminent” Nigerians. This is not a common occurrence in any part of the world, not particularly in Nigeria and Africa.
Some Nigerians, including Mr. Obasanjo himself, have publicly stated that the president is quite a stubborn person, well, those who possess core values, as the president frequently demonstrates, deserve a right to be stubborn or even self-righteous, so that their convictions are not frivolously swayed by persons who are devoid of core values or and morals, not swayed by persons who are not moved by any deep rooted affection for our fatherland, similar to the level of dedication and passion of commitment frequently exhibited in the president obeisance to the rule of law, due process and sundry reforms to which he has steered for our nation in the past several years of his second coming in 1999 as a leader of Nigeria.
Some of us have been opposed to the idea of a sovereign national conference hinging our objections and oppositions on the idea, that Nigeria currently possess machineries and apparatus of government that are most suited and qualified to pursue constitutional amendments, repeal or reform, ditto all other reforms! Nigeria currently has a national assembly of elected representatives, of senators and members of the lower house, the House of representatives, and regardless of the usual refrain of imperfect and flawed process of elections from whence Nigeria’s current crop of elected representatives were derived, we have argued that these representatives are still, even still, more representative that any other nominations, selections or appointments to a talk shop or a Sovereign National Conference, National Dialogue or National Political Reform Conference or PRONACO or any such conference in whatever guise.
We had argued that it was infinitely better to engage in law reforms, economic and social reforms, electoral reforms etc, otherwise, nothing would really change, the flaws and imperfections in the elections and democratic processes would remain, as we reasoned that flawed elections to national duties, are quite appreciably better and preferable to selections, nominations or appointments to such law making bodies or constitutional duties, especially where such appointments, selections or nominations are based solely or principally, on the connections or private friendships of the appointees with current political leadership. And also that the nominations, selections or appointments to the conference is undertaken by the president and governors, whose imperfect elections, have been used as a factor or major reason for not allowing the national assembly as currently constituted to conduct the business of reforms, or such other functions for which the confab attendees are presently scheduled to deal with or deliberate on.
Our second argument, was based on our concerns or even fear, that a national conference of the sorts that was being canvassed and contemplated, would lead Nigeria to national ruination similar to what happened to Afghanistan, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and even more recently, the intractable crises in Ivory Coast! In these countries mentioned, national meetings or conferences aimed at openly discussing political differences, with the aim of allaying the fears of the various component groups, have unfortunately spiraled out of control, into national disintegrations and failed country statuses resulted instead, for most nations under review. And some of these disintegration concerns have been heightened by some inflammatory comments that have been made by some persons in Nigeria, particularly, the ethnic champions who are angling for political relevance and rehabilitations from political oblivion and orphanage, in which they have wallowed in since the new dispensations of democratic government in Nigeria in 1999.
I am immensely impressed, that Mr. Obasanjo, who was strenuously opposed to the idea of a Sovereign National Conference for the inception of the agitation, loud agitation for such, has been magnanimously responsive to the yearnings of the majority, to the shocked and flummoxed advocates and loud agitators for such a conference.
In a society where honest arguments and debates are had on public policies by intelligent men and women, credit is given, even to political and ideological opponents.
In Nigeria, instead of being praised for upholding a key democratic tradition, tenet or ideal, anchored on enlightened leadership reactions to public debates, and caving to the demand of the citizenry, some have found it possible to ascribe dishonorable motives to Mr. Obasanjo’s willingness to accept what appeared to be the public verdict, and majority demand for a national conference, sovereign or not.
Mr. Obasanjo’s critics now insists that he has acceded to a national conference only because he hope to dilute the original purpose, for his self-serving interests and for the interests of his political friends
From my perspective President Obasanjo possess better national and international credentials among the candidates who had the probability of winning any elections in Nigeria, particularly, the elections in 1999. Mr. Obasanjo was a compromise candidate with special circumstances that existed in Nigeria at the time, then even in 2003 elections, who were his real opponents or meaningful opponents/challenger?
Nigeria opposition these days are the journalists and public affairs commentators are now the opposition? Where is the opposition now? Sleeping or out to lunch? Nigeria just as other good democracies need and deserve a vibrant and vigorous opposition to check the government of the day, but where is the opposition and spokespersons for the opposition? What have they articulated for the economic, political and social reforms that are so attractive and make them compelling alternative to today's government in Nigeria?
On the foreign affairs front, President Obasanjo has done Nigeria and Africa proud, he has done remarkably and demonstrably well, even phenomenally so! In Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and more recently, in the Gasingbe country, formerly known as Togo.
Mr. Obasanjo is not perfect, but there are certainly indices of his good works and evidence of his democratic credentials. He has been responsive to the demand of Nigerians and there tons of policies reflecting his responsiveness. A recent case in point, President Obasanjo, even though he was initially vigorously opposed to the SNC, he caved to public opinions..(as the democrat that he is) and the SNC is now holding; Suddenly however, President Obasanjo's critics now find faults with the selection process and the persons selected or neglected or kept out of the national conference?
I particularly do not care for the conference, but he gave the people what they sought and clamored or agitated for and yet, he is being vilified! None of Mr. Obasanjo's millions of critics are EVER APPEASED! Haba! What does the constitution of Nigeria say about an SNC? NOTHING! How would the outcome, or result, or recommendation be implemented? What if someone challenges the legality or constitutionality of the whole process? Would the entire exercise not have been in vain? It is extra-legal, and a court may rule as such, that there is no constitutional basis for such a conference and no further basis for implementing ideas that may arise from it! No foundation, no structure where do you put the roof?
President Obasanjo never seems to satisfy his millions of detractors and destructive critics! Too many are too quick to forget that Nigeria was abandoned, neglected in decadence for more than twenty years and only naive children or mischief makers would expect miracles overnight! I want the current government to do MORE and FAST, but I am also keenly aware of what the myriad challenges are. Help President Obasanjo repair Nigeria and we will all be happy when we succeed; Nigeria is a big tough country to govern! President Bush is not my favorite leader, but I have made peace with his re-election for another term of four years, President Obasanjo may not be favorite person to some, but they ought to make peace with the fact that he remains president of Nigeria until 2007, and Nigerians and all those who wish Nigeria well, ought to help him to succeed in the reforms and transformation of Nigeria. The war is long over!
President Obasanjo is among those few and rare Nigerians who believe in due process and the ideals and tenets of the rule of law. He believes that the EFCC investigations, among others, should go full-speed ahead, unhindered by the presidency or me; Perhaps Mr. Balogun will eventually be charged! Our extreme cynicism and pessimism would not change or subvert any of that. Do Nigerians want Balogun executed publicly and in full nakedness, because there are strong suspicions that he has committed heinous crimes? Shall we hang him before the all the facts are known, and without fair trial? Is that the type of Nigeria we want? Do we seek a Nigeria where once you are accused if corruption, that is it! You are tied to a tree naked to humiliate you or to add titillating quality to your punishment and publicly executed without trial... sounds like a nightmare of a movie!
I get impatient with able-bodied Nigerian persons who are paralyzed by their negative thinking and siege mentality regarding Nigeria, these persons may not suffer physical paralysis, but, a paralysis in other ways, disabling nonetheless.
On corruption in America, for instance, there is WorldCom, Enron, Tyco, Halliburton Company, Marsh and McClennan /Jeff Greenberg and yet, we hear Nigeria is most corrupt? How much money is involved in Nigeria corrupt practices? And how much money is involved in the sundry corrupt practices by the mega-conglomerate American corporations? I do not like the scourge that is corruption because it is devastatingly debilitating effects. The corruption label, toga and castigation Nigerians must question and reject! Corruption is devastating and debilitating scourge on any organization, institution, nations or systems and for those reasons, I do not like corruption, no reasonable person should. However, Nigerians must stop engaging into auto-negative response regarding Nigeria, there are virtues and vices in Nigeria, as elsewhere!
Unfortunately, it is the case worldwide, that corruption is a pervasive practice that permeates governments and institutions and systems, particularly in commerce oriented activities in capitalist economies; Hence you would find frequent corrupt practices n the United States as exemplified by the scandalous corporate corruption and extraordinary greed involving WorldCom, Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing , Martha Stewart, Halliburton etc, these cases clearly demonstrates ample sleaze, amply demonstrated in numerous corporate scandals in the last 12 months
Each time that Transparency International labels Nigeria as most corrupt nation, or almost the most corrupt, some Nigerians seem to throw their hands in air or clap ceaselessly as they proclaim millions of I-told-you-so, instead of questioning the meaning of the so-called corruption “perception” index! How about the corruption reality index, based on hard data of the empirical sort? How many persons or institutions are corrupt? How much money is involved and compared with what? USA compared with Nigeria?
How do we or TI measure perception? How many perceptions are counted and who are perceivers? Who exactly is doing the perceiving whom and what? Who is indexing the US and its corporate giants…. How much money is involved and lost in Nigeria and in the US annually or frequently.
How did TI decide that the numerous corporate corruption scandals of the past twelve months in the US are less than the incidents in Nigeria, during the same period? Why does TI assert erroneously that Nigeria is not tackling corruption? Nigeria is prosecuting corruption, Nigeria signed UN protocols on corruption the United States did not!
Why won’t TI join forces with Nigeria or well-meaning Nigerians in trying to retrieve monies from Western Banks and institutions where stolen treasures are hidden?
What is the use of this annual charade of eloquently describing the corruption perception or “corruption perception index”? And doing nothing about it, other than self-serving public proclamations and badgering lectures?
Will Nigerians ever acknowledge President Obasanjo’s sustained efforts at loot recovery?
President Obasanjo and his administration should continue to make best efforts for Nigeria’s greatness, history or posterity will judge and perhaps, generations of Nigerians ahead of us all, will in hindsight appreciate the value of current efforts and the reforms.
I love Nigeria, change and reform begins, with me!