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Obasanjo is the cause of Nigeria democracy downfall – Amb Maisule

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Says Nigerians and not ex-President will decide Buhari’s successor

The 2019 presidential election is more than two years away, but politicians are already engaged in “mosquito politicking”, a coinage made popular by the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. But former President Olusegun Obasanjo appears to have let the cat out of the bag when he indicated in a media report that he would, like he had done in the past, to have a hand in who emerges Nigeria’s president in 2019.

But Ambassador Ibrahim Maisule diplomat and politician during Obasanjo’s tenure says the nation has had enough of the former military and civilian ruler foisting unprepared and ineffectual leadership on the country. He also spoke on the democratic journey so far, the fight against corruption and internal party democracy, among other issues. Nigerians had expectantly hoped that with the return of democracy in 1999, the nation and its peoples will be the better for it. What is your assessment of our democracy? Nigeria’s democracy is sick.

This chronic ill health destroying our democracy springs from the very mistake of the exiting military authorities and their political allies who planted President Olusegun Obasanjo, fresh from prison, in the Presidential villa where he caused more harm than good for eight years. Our democracy was undermined by two dangerous factors: Corruption and lack of political party discipline and internal democracy.

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They also endangered the independence of the legislature in our democracy. Nigerians had high expectations on the advent of our democracy and even greater hopes that it would offer good life and promote culture of good governance in Nigeria. Amb Maisule But President Obasanjo on the 3rd of June 1999 corrupted the process of electing the leadership of the National Assembly. Money from the Obasanjo Presidency was used to produce the late Senator Evan Enwerem as Senate President against the preferred and popular candidacy of Dr Chuba Okadigbo. It was a dangerous precedent. This singular event did the greatest harm to our democracy.

It introduced corruption to our democratic polity and undermined political party discipline because President Obasanjo used his Alliance for Democracy (AD) kinsmen and senators from All Peoples Party (APP) to do “coup” in the red chamber. Obasanjo did same harm in the House of Representatives where an unqualified person was elected Speaker Salisu Buhari. These were sad developments that indicated early enough that Nigeria’s democracy was endangered. Throughout President Obasanjo’s years, the National Assembly never elected their own leaders except they were approved by the Presidency. Opposition parties were corrupted and left in disarray, while the ruling political party produced new leadership every year.

The PDP, the ruling party then, had Chief Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh and Ahmadu Ali as chairmen of PDP within eight years. It was terrible! Obasanjo created a jungle out of Nigeria’s democracy. That is what we are suffering today! But Obasanjo claims he fought corruption? It is debatable if he did with the sincerity it deserved. The following check list puts a question mark on the anti-corruption policy of the Obasanjo administration: Was it a war against corruption or war against political opponents? Despite his publicly declared policy to fight corruption, former President Obasanjo abused public trust by using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to deal with perceived political enemies.

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The political interference got so bad that the House of Representatives threatened to amend the EFCC Act to remove the agencies from the control of the President. In fact, the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms, set up by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, had recommended that the power to appoint the EFCC Chairman should be exercised by the Chief Justice of the Federation. Obasanjo didn’t stop there.

He manufactured the so-called EFCC indictment list, which contained names of politicians he wanted disqualified from contesting the 2007 polls. Independent National Electoral Commission used the indictment list to disqualify former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from contesting the election. The courts however told Iwu that INEC had no power to disqualify candidates and that only the courts had such power. Obasanjo also used EFCC to impeach governors who fell out of favour with him. Peter Odili would have been the PDP candidate in 2007, but Obasanjo used the EFCC to disqualify him. Obasanjo also sent EFCC after a bank in Lagos and Abuja in search of the so-called billions Atiku allegedly stole.

At the end of the raids, the EFCC didn’t tell Nigerians how much of Atiku’s alleged stolen billions they recovered. Obasanjo’s third term project was also financed through alleged corruption. Some lawmakers were allegedly bribed to vote in favour of his ambition to continue in office by amending the Constitution to remove term limits. The bid was defeated on May 16, 2006, despite the alleged bribes. A former governor of Jigawa State alleged that he gave N10billion to the Obasanjo third term project out of the N30billion he was alleged to have diverted from the state. Obasanjo used alleged corruption to remove principal officers of the National Assembly such as Dr. Chuba Okadigbo but failed to remove Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba from office. In fact, the famous Ghana-must-go saga in the House of Representatives cannot be forgotten in a hurry.

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Those were bags of money allegedly offered by Obasanjo’s proxies to the members of the House to have their leadership removed. Despite his pretence to fighting corruption, Obasanjo, in 2002, unceremoniously removed a former acting Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Vincent Azi, because of his unfavourable report on the Obasanjo Presidency.

The withdrawal of corruption charges against a former federal permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Julius Makanjuola, through a nolle prosequi notwithstanding public outcry, was part of the hypocrisy of the Obasanjo anti-corruption war. On the whole, Obasanjo anti-corruption effort was intended to fool Nigerians and the international community.

He started fighting Atiku because he didn’t support his third term ambition. It appears that even though the next election is more than two years away, Obasanjo has given indication that he is disposed to having a hand in determining Nigeria’s next president. That won’t be the first time, but is the country better for it? To start with, it is unconstitutional and a travesty of democracy, if, for any reason, one man, in a country of 180 million people, is allowed to install the country’s leaders.

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However, this has happened a couple of times in our recent history as a democratic country as Obasanjo, as a former military Head of State and former civilian President, has played a more than casual role in the emergence of former Presidents. The result, however, is that the country is worse for it, because Obasanjo, in exercising this influence, has not been guided by the best interest of the country. Obasanjo was instrumental to the emergence of former President Goodluck Jonathan as Yar’Adua’s successor. It was Obasanjo that ensured that Jonathan was catapulted to the exalted position of the Vice President. Before then, Jonathan was deputy governor of Bayelsa State.

Obasanjo ensured the elevation of the inexperienced Jonathan as a political favour done to the people of the South-South from where the country derived huge chunk of its national revenue. However, you would expect that if selecting Jonathan was for the benefit of the Niger Delta people, it would have been appropriate if the opinion leaders of the area were consulted and allowed to make an input. Rather, in his usual all-knowing manner, Obasanjo acted unilaterally and foisted a reluctant leader on a big and complex country like Nigeria. The rest like we all know is history.

The impact of Jonathan five years leadership on the economy of Nigeria and the alleged looting of national revenue and corruption under his watch, going by the exposure by the Muhammadu Buhari government, shows that, as Nigeria’s leader, Jonathan was a disaster, for which Obasanjo should be blamed. It is important that the Nigerian people endeavour to take their political destiny in their own hands and reject the meddlesomeness of Obasanjo as the nation looks forward to the 2019 general elections. What did we get from all those Obasanjo chose for us? His meddlesome in our national politics has brought us to where we’ve found ourselves.

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All Nigerian presidents since Obasanjo’s exit 10 years ago have had his imprimatur. And what have we gotten from all of that except pain, hardship, stagflation, recession, hunger and starvation? Therefore, he should not be allowed or encouraged to select future leaders for the country, if we, as a people, are to escape from the recurring cycle of regret and failure which has been the lot of our political experience.

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