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Who shall we bully? Who shall we buy?

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Olusegun Obasanjo


Soldiers: Here we are sir! Send us!! Civilians: We dey kampe!!!In his ground-breaking history doctoral thesis on trade and politics in the Niger Delta Kenneth Dike concludes that any one with trade interests in a place cannot be indifferent to the politics of the place. If you own 200 million shares in Transcorp which owns 71% of NITEL, owns Nixon-Noga Hilton Hotel, owns a concession for 400,000-barrel per day refinery at the Lekki Free Trade Zone, and owns power plants, all in Nigeria, you cannot but be forever interested in the politics of Nigeria.

General Olusegun Obasanjo, the hero of Too Good to Die is the owner of Transcorp. TOO GOOD TO DIE – Third Term and the Myth of the Indispensable Man in Africa is Nigeria’s book of 2018 as well as the book of the year 2019. Because why? Because this book, we are going to be hearing about it in the next months and in the years to come. For now, this book deserves the widest circulation possible in a paperback edition.

The book is a detailed exposé of the attempt by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to extend his tenure as president of Nigeria. What makes the book even more in demand is the fact that Chief Obasanjo is on record saying he never asked for, nor demanded for, the extension of his tenure as president of Nigeria. Herein lies the drama of the Third Term Agenda: The eternal wrestling between Truth and Falsehood.

The details which make the case for the Truth has to be read to be believed. They cannot be summarised. What can be done in a review of this type is to set out the personalities on the two sides; give the gist of the actions they took for their side; and show what happened. But even this would still be inadequate. This is because even the ultimate loser praised the outcome as a victory for democracy!

The military were identified by Shehu Shagari, towards the end of his first term, as the political party he had to beat, not Awolowo’s UPN. The army could no longer trust a civilian to head any government in Nigeria. To prepare the military for civilianisation of political life in Nigeria, the Nigerian army took advice from Egypt where there is military area of business not open to anybody not from the military. “President Babangida directed the army chief, General Abacha, ‘to issue a circular to all military state governors and the federal ministers in seven key federal ministries requesting them to award contracts to senior military personnel who were now in retirement.’” (page 46). By 1999, former military officers were in business and sitting on traditional stools, both crucial to politics in Nigeria.

The book narrates the efforts of General Obasanjo not to give up power in 1979. He had to because there were strong objections from some members of the self-appointed stakeholders of Nigeria Ltd (plc). That attempt presaged the third term agenda of May 2006. By that time Chief Obasanjo had retired soldiers available to do his biddings. There were also civilians who were “favoured servants of soldiers in power” (page 203) answering to his call of “who shall we send?” and “who will go for us?”

As for the National Assembly made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, there were those who were opposed to the third term agenda, there were those who were supportive of the agenda and there were those who were “persuadable.” Leading the opposition to Chief Obasanjo’s Third Term agenda was his Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a civilian. In Senate there was a loud group led by Comrade Uche Chukumerije. There were also retired generals opposed to the agenda, identical with those opposed to not handing over power to civilians in 1979.

The weapons of the coming war are six in all. The election umpire was the Independent National Electoral Commission. The President was in control of it. The ruling party, which had been formed when General Obasanjo was still a prisoner, was brought to him by Atiku. The security cluster of police, army, and SSS were under the President. Thugs and agents of violence were part and parcel of Nigeria party politics. Then the Judiciary, corrupted by being the deciders of poll winners, were no longer independent. Finally money. Here, in the matter of money, the authors of this book have outdone themselves. So detailed are the money raising and money collecting that the Third Term Agenda must be seen as a major commercial enterprise which our Economists have ignored to the detriment of our national Economy.

Anybody reading the detailed secret history of Nigeria must come to the conclusion that Nigeria has a mind of its own, a logic of its own, which morally upright leadership and followership will one day discover and sync into. If not so, how do you interpret the outcome of the Tofa-Abiola election of 1992? Tofa was expected to win. Tofa has registered with a woman’s membership card of the NRC (National Republican Convention), the party a little to the right, of which Tofa was not a member. The generals knew this. They planned to use the knowledge to nullify his election. Instead Abiola won, creating a ‘biggable’ headache for Babangida.On May 16, 2006, the Senate voted against changing the constitution to allow Chief Obasanjo to extend his tenure as president of the country.

But the fight was not over yet. Chief Obasanjo, having trade interest in Nigeria, must continue to have interest in the politics of Nigeria. This interest must be expressed in choosing who runs the affairs of the country. What resulted was the elections of 2007, run by out-going President Obasanjo, considered the worst run elections in the history of elections in the country since 1922.

On February 16, there will be another presidential election. For the first time the military stakeholders are not in agreement on one candidate. Some are backing a civilian against a former general, one of their own. If Buhari defeats Atiku, whom Obasanjo is supporting to beat Buhari, would this be the end of military occupation of Nigerian politics?
bankole.omotoso@elizadeuniversity.edu.ng


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