Presidential Succession and NationalStability following 2007 Nigeria
By Dr. CHIDI AMUTA
Special to USAfricaonline.com,CLASSmagazine, USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
TheBlack Business Journal and the globale-list/blog IgboEvents
April 5, 2007: The job description of the next president ofNigeria (from May 29, 2007) has been clearly outlined by the existingthreats to national security and stability. The fear that unitesNigerians and interested external observers alike is that theNigerian federation is in perpetual danger of unravelling under theweight of its inherent contradictions.That sense of ominous foreboding came to the fore in the recentconfrontation with Nigeria's two-term president, retired Gen.Olusegun Obasanjo's tenure elongation gamble. The fear then was thatthe tenure elongation project, if allowed to carry through, wouldunleash all the latent pressures on national cohesion and produce anasty upheaval of a scope that would dwarf most bloody conflicts intoday's Africa.
These pressures have persisted and have become even more fearsomein spite of the termination of the tenure elongation ploy. Anundeclared insurgency war in the Niger Delta, separatist rhetoric andrecurrent flirtations with separatist anarchy in parts of the SouthEast, sectarian disquiet in parts of the north as well as a loomingsense of social upheaval occasioned by excruciating hunger andgrinding poverty among vast stretches of the populace make this placeextremely unhappy and a fertile ground for multiple conflagration.
By and large then, Nigeria's 2007 presidential election is, tomy mind, first a search for a strong leader who has both theexperience and proven capacity to take charge of Nigeria andpermanently put to rest the fears and schisms that constantlythreaten the survival of the nation. Put simply, the priority issuethat ought to inform the search for and choice of the next presidentis national security and stability in their fullest meaning.
The reason is that recurrent fears of national disintegration andperennial insecurity rank perhaps highest among the fears thattorment most Nigerians high and low today. The sense of physicalinsecurity is only aggravated by dire economic hardship. And thatfear has heightened in the last seven years more than ever before inour national history. An overrated pretender regime has used themasquerade of democratic legitimacy to ruin whatever semblance oforder previous dispensations had managed to cobble together.
The consequences have been every where in evidence through out thelast seven years. Frequent outbursts of sectarian violence, the easyand frequent recourse to primordial schisms, the use of violence andintimidation to drive political interests, selective politicalassassinations etc. All these have only been magnified by a neartotal collapse of the machinery of enforcement of any semblance oflaw, not to talk of order. Impudent insurgency complemented again andagain by the amateurish reprisals of a gangster state have promptedrepeated travel warnings by concerned foreign countries.
And today, we have on our hands a nation in the throes of terminalasphyxia, haunted by a spectre of clear and present unravelling. Butprovidence would once again seem to have intervened through the veryauspicious scuttling of the tenure elongation gambit of Mr. Obasanjo.And yet, in the blessing of the defeat of the tenure elongationproject lurks even more frightening possibilities.
Having been roundly trounced in his bid for a life presidency, thematador of Owu has quickly appropriated and privatised the collectivedemocratic responsibility of choosing his own successor. Theseptuagenarian mascot has mandated the very governors of his rulingparty most of whom he had marked down for mass imprisonment tohurriedly fish among their ranks for a successor to his throne. Heinitially, in a hardly disguised display of reflexive vendetta,excluded certain sections of the country from the contest to producethe next president. Tragically, each of these gestures holds in itsbowels the potent seeds of further instability and insecurity. Not tomention the arrogant presupposition that it is the right of theruling PDP and its prime pontiff to select and anoint a succession ofpresidents in perpetuity.
While conceding that you cannot easily write off an Africanincumbent in the choice of his successor, the truth however is thatthe historic burden of deciding who assumes the presidency next maybe slipping out of Obasanjo's hands as the days roll by. An incumbentwho could not secure tenure elongation for himself may not be thebest guarantor of the job for a successor. Without doubt, the forcesthat froze his thirst for self perpetuation remain on permanentsentry to smash any undemocratic manipulations to impose a presidentof his choosing on Nigerians.
Already the incumbent has, in the obsession with self perpetuationlaid all the booby traps that render current flirtations withselective succession dead on arrival. The third term gambit hasunited some of the most fearsome gladiators from the northernprecinct. Coming from an eight year sojourn in political Siberia,this behemoth of military clout and moneyed muscle is literallymassed at the city gates of Abuja, ready to invade. Worse still, theincumbent in the absolutist belief in his 'divine right' to rule inperpetuity left strewn on his path numerous land mines of omissionand commission that are likely to return to haunt his reluctantretirement.
There are human rights issues: Odi, Zaki Biam, Anambra etc. Andthere are untidy ghosts that may return from the recent past to askquestions as well: Bola Ige, Marshall Harry, Dikibo etc. There arealso nagging issues of book keeping: the NNPC accounts, the foreignreserve debate, the untidy withdrawals from the excess crude accountetc. There may be nothing in these issues, at a factual level, but aninexperienced successor can buckle under pressure of public opinionto ask Obasanjo to mount the rostrum and address these issueshimself, thus aggravating the national security situation.
Given this huge credibility overdraft, the choices for theincumbent are limited. All that public talk about searching for whowill continue with the reforms is political correctness scripted forpublic consumption. The real search, to my mind, is for a toweringnational figure who can guarantee the Owu warrior a painless exit, arestful retirement and access to an executive jet to travel the worldin his favourite club of elder statesmen. This is perhaps the bestthat Obasanjo can hope for and strive for in the presentcircumstances.
Our quest therefore must focus on the task of collective selfpreservation through the choice of a leadership that understandsnational security and can carry the entire nation along to confrontthe myriad social and economic issues that confront us.
First, the next president must possess the strength of characterto take charge of Nigeria and protect every inch of its territoryfrom the forces of instability. He or she must have an unmistakableknowledge and firm grip of the command and control machinery of thenation's security and armed forces while commanding their respect.This would permanently discourage flirtations with undemocratic ideasof political change in the barracks.
More importantly, the next president must understand Nigeria, itscomplexity and the true character and aspirations of its people.Through that understanding, the ideal leader must be able to strikethose compromises upon which liberal democracy in a multi ethnicstate depends to survive and thrive. That leader must possess therequisite experience through having been actively engaged with ourtortuous march through an untidy history. Experience and a trackrecord of performance are needed to address the social and economicheadaches that aggravate national instability. The solutions we seekare urgent and clear cut, leaving no room for an apprenticepresident.
Above all, the new leader must recognise and respect the diversityof views, talents, dispositions and aspirations that make Nigeriadifferent from any other country. In embracing the imperative ofurgent modernisation and deeper reform of our economy and society, hemust also embody that compassion without which the state ossifiesinto a heartless machinery of policies and programmes, indifferent tothe well being of the commonest denominator of our nationalhumanity.
Thus, the search for an appropriate president for 2007 is also,incidentally, a search for a different Nigeria from what currentlyobtains. We need a more secure, kinder, gentler and modern state.This is an inclusive state that leaves no one out of the process ofdevelopment and democratic participation.
Dr. Amuta, Lagos-based Executive Editor of Houston-basedUSAfricaonline.com and USAfrica multimedia networks, is author of thebook, 'The Theory of African Literature: Implications for PracticalCriticism'
LITERATURE: Why Chinua Achebe, theEagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century.By Chido Nwangwu. Summary: Africa's mostacclaimed and fluent writer of the English Language, the mosttranslated writer of Black heritage in the world, broadcasterextraordinaire, social conscience of millions, cultural custodian andelevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwill ambassador and man ofprogressive rock-ribbed principles, the Eagleon the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor Chinua Achebe,has recently been selected by a distinguished jury of scholars andcritics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) as thewriter of the Best book (Things Fall Apart, 1958) written in thetwentieth century regarding Africa. Reasonably, Achebe's message hasbeen neither dimmed nor dulled by time and clime. He's ourpathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans andlovers of the fineart of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once,pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literarycontextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igboor Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of thetrue essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! Therehas never been one like you!
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.' His failing health has contin raised questions about his fitness to be president. He left Nigeria six weeks before the country's presidential elections in April 2007 He reportedly fainted in Abuja earlier and was rushed out of the country. The PDP has tried to give it a smooth face by claiming he's merely took a "break " for a "regular check up..." He is the handpicked favorite of Nigeria's soon-to-go-president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. He's a muslim and the incumbent governor of Nigeria's northern state, Katsina. The Governor's late brother, Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua was Obasanjo's deputy between 1976-1979, during Obasanjo's rule as a military dictator. Obasanjo also secured a special clause for himself as the influential chairman of the board of trustees of the PDP. Yar'Adua, the 55-year-old governor of Katsina state, easily defeated 11 other "contestants" after all the PDP Governors running for the presidential slot were "encouraged" to step down for General Obasanjo's"consensus choice", Yar'Adua. The Governor will carry the mantle of the party during the April 2007 elections. Obasanjo has already annointed him as "my brother who will be my worthy successor." The PDP, like most parties in Nigeria, is especially notorious for rigging and violence. Special report by Chido Nwangwu, USAfricaonline.com "This is our moment to stand up for what's right,'' U2 lead singer Bono told the audience in London. ``We can't fix every problem, but those we can, we must,'' he said, mentioning malaria, AIDS and deaths caused by dirty water. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, host of the G-8 summit, is making African poverty reduction a focus of the meeting. Performers at "Live 8'' -- including Paul McCartney, Cold Play, Madonna and REM -- want to raise popular awareness of the continent's economic deprivation. The concerts will reach a potential global audience of 5.5 billion people through television, Internet and other media, organizer Bob Geldof said. They occur 20 years after the Live Aid concerts that Geldof also arranged to combat African poverty. Africa is the only continent to have become poorer in the last 25 years, according to the United Nations. More than 300 million Africans live on less than $1 a day, and less than half of children on the continent complete primary school. In the last 50 years, there have been 186 coups and 26 wars in Africa, with more than 7 million people killed, the UN says.
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Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
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CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on February 19, 2002. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.
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These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
His failing health has contin raised questions about his fitness to be president. He left Nigeria six weeks before the country's presidential elections in April 2007 He reportedly fainted in Abuja earlier and was rushed out of the country. The PDP has tried to give it a smooth face by claiming he's merely took a "break " for a "regular check up..." He is the handpicked favorite of Nigeria's soon-to-go-president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. He's a muslim and the incumbent governor of Nigeria's northern state, Katsina.
The Governor's late brother, Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua was Obasanjo's deputy between 1976-1979, during Obasanjo's rule as a military dictator. Obasanjo also secured a special clause for himself as the influential chairman of the board of trustees of the PDP.
Yar'Adua, the 55-year-old governor of Katsina state, easily defeated 11 other "contestants" after all the PDP Governors running for the presidential slot were "encouraged" to step down for General Obasanjo's"consensus choice", Yar'Adua. The Governor will carry the mantle of the party during the April 2007 elections. Obasanjo has already annointed him as "my brother who will be my worthy successor." The PDP, like most parties in Nigeria, is especially notorious for rigging and violence. Special report by Chido Nwangwu, USAfricaonline.com
"This is our moment to stand up for what's right,'' U2 lead singer Bono told the audience in London. ``We can't fix every problem, but those we can, we must,'' he said, mentioning malaria, AIDS and deaths caused by dirty water. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, host of the G-8 summit, is making African poverty reduction a focus of the meeting. Performers at "Live 8'' -- including Paul McCartney, Cold Play, Madonna and REM -- want to raise popular awareness of the continent's economic deprivation.
The concerts will reach a potential global audience of 5.5 billion people through television, Internet and other media, organizer Bob Geldof said. They occur 20 years after the Live Aid concerts that Geldof also arranged to combat African poverty. Africa is the only continent to have become poorer in the last 25 years, according to the United Nations. More than 300 million Africans live on less than $1 a day, and less than half of children on the continent complete primary school. In the last 50 years, there have been 186 coups and 26 wars in Africa, with more than 7 million people killed, the UN says.