Some Nigerians have expressed indignation over the reported moves by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) and former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), to select possible candidates from the North and the South to replace President Muhammadu Buhari and run in the 2019 presidential election.
The trio were said to have held a meeting to consider some names on both sides of the Niger. News of the said meeting and the outcome has continue to draw sharp reactions from Nigerians incensed by the seeming disregard of the people in the 2019 permutations.
Outspoken Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church International, Archbishop Joseph Ojo, in a telephone chat with Sunday Sun advised the duo of Obasanjo, Ibrahim, both of whom he particularly blamed for several ills in the society, to simply fade away into retirement so that the people’s memory of them would be of good and not opprobrium.
“I think that these people, with the exception of Abdulsalami Abubakar who is a nice gentleman, the other two, Obasanjo and Babangida, should try to think of how they can have a peaceful exit from the political process, so that their memory will be a good one, like the good memory the people have of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some other past leaders. They should be grateful that God had given them the privilege to lead this country. They should also realise that there are other people who have the wherewithal to fix this country without them and make Nigeria become a better place.
“I just believe that they should respectfully bow out of this quest to continue to call the shots in the affairs of this country. When the ovation is loudest, that is when to quit the stage. They should respect themselves and give way to younger people who can lead this country out of the woods. Obasanjo and Babangida should look for one place to go and hide their heads, now that they still have some honour left. They should disengage and bow out.
On the previous missteps of Obasanjo and IBB in trying to influence the leadership selection process, Archbishop Ojo recalled the case of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and echoed what Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose said recently that Obasanjo always put weaklings in office so that he could teleguide them. “I think Nigerians should learn from past experience and vote against candidates that these people have endorsed. Voting for any candidate supported by Obasanjo and Babangida is voting for evil. That amounts to voting for the status quo; that would signify our determination to suffer for long,” he said.
Ojo added: “If we are true to our hearts, we should disappoint them by voting against the candidate they support. They are not the ones that would determine what we would do in the polling booth, we are mature enough. We should vote against whoever they support. No matter how clean and green the person is, we should vote against the person, so that they will know that they cannot always call the shots in Nigeria. In very simple language, Nigerians who don’t like what is happening should take the destiny of Nigeria in their hands. That is my position.”
Weighing in on the discourse, spokesman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Ango Abdullahi said that no group or individuals should impose a candidate on Nigerians as far as democracy is concerned.
Prof Abdullahi told Sunday Sun that Obasanjo, Babangida and Abdulsalami, who are all retired generals and were at various times military heads of state cannot continue to impose presidential candidates on Nigerians.
Dismissing the report in the media about the clandestine moves by the trio to influence the emergence of the 2019 presidential candidate, he said: “Not at all. The decision as to who leads Nigeria if indeed we are in a democracy must be the exclusive duty and right of the people of Nigeria.”
Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony N. Z. Sani, who concurred with the view of Prof Abdullahi, emphasised that the former heads of state would not be able to impose their anointed presidential candidate on Nigerians in 2019.
The ACF scribe rhetorically asked: “Do the Generals you have listed constitute the voters? The Generals’ votes cannot produce a president in a democracy where majority have both their way and their say.”
He added: ”But if Nigerians define democracy to be of the Generals, for the same Generals and by the same Generals whom you have listed, then they have themselves to blame and not to blame the Generals who have their right to canvass for their preferences in a democracy.
“All that is needed is for Nigerians to make judicious use of their democratic right and ensure that their votes count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable.”
Legal practitioner and President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwumadu, also frowned at the regrouping of the past leaders and what he described as their “unstopping quest to determine leadership in Nigeria,”
Ugwumadu said that it must be noted that the Nigerian people remain the repository of Nigeria’s sovereignty as enshrined in Section 14, subsection 2A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said that the definition and characteristics of leadership must, therefore, be their ultimate decision, which cannot be abdicated to “a selected group of individuals, however powerful, in their inordinate quest to continually perpetuate themselves by subverting that and overreaching the collective will of the people.”
While acknowledging that there was nothing wrong in past leaders gathering together and associating to respond to national issues, he however, stated that “anything about Nigerians without the involvement of Nigerians is not for Nigeria and cannot be for Nigeria.”
He spoke further: “The point must be enforced by the poverty of the legacy of these people who are ganging up, after destroying the foundation of our corporate existence. I am saying that their decision to continually arrogate to themselves the supremacy of knowledge and the certainty of their inordinate powers to perpetuate things endlessly is further rendered mischievous and perfidious by the fact that they are the same people that destroyed the structural foundation of this country.
“It was Babangida who flouted and destroyed the ethos of democracy when he annulled the June 12, 1993 election; it was Obasanjo who derailed this country and sold the commanding heights of our economy; Abdulsalami Abubakar is the author of the decree, which became the 1999 Constitution and is now the greatest headache of the country.
“I am making the point that Nigeria of today is no longer the Nigeria of their days, when their arrogant military attitude superseded the will of the people. They destroyed the country and cannot be part of the solution, except they first of all purge themselves of the crimes they committed against the country and then make retributions. They can also individually and collectively take proactive steps to mobilize the energy of their constituencies to support progressive politics of the day and create new vistas of hope, rather than telling us that they want to impose another leader on the country. In any case, they have been in the business of imposing leadership and none of the ‘leaders’ they foisted on the country ever worked.
“Babangida bequeathed General Sani Abacha to Nigeria, and we suffered that holocaust, which his regime turned out to be for more than five years, with unimaginable killings everywhere. The case of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola can be easily called back to mind. The death of Olu Onagoruwa is clearly associated with assassination of his son. Obasanjo cannot tell us anything about democracy because his entire tenure left us with the endless darkness we have in the power sector. Few days ago SERAP came out with a book entitled, From Darkness To Darkness.
“So we must continue to emphasise the negativities about these characters that say they want to continually impose leadership on the country. They should be rendered inconsequential in the decision regarding who becomes the next president. They must be rendered inconsequential by the superiority of our position, and the determination of the Nigerian people to recover the space that have been yielded to these people. They should be rendered inconsequential by exposing the inadequacies that characterized their tenure. They should be rendered inconsequential by our cohesion in the campaign and our resolve to oppose the machination of these people.
“Democracy itself is a marketplace of ideas and a platform for plurality, a centre where you synthesize divergent opinions. However, we must ensure that people with dubious tendencies do not take the upper hand. To do otherwise means that sovereignty no longer lies in the hands of the people. That would be dangerous.”
In the same vein, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Anambra State and Lagos based legal practitioner, Chief Pat Anyadubalu, argued that the trio of Obasanjo, Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, have a stake in who becomes the president, adding that ordinarily some people would not bother if they play a role in getting Nigeria a good leader.
“Unfortunately, he said, “we have not gotten a good leader through them. That has been our problem. If you are the one that has been partaking in choosing the national leader of the country and we have not gotten it right, then you lack moral right to want to continue to determine who the next leader should be. That is why Nigerians are perturbed that these people are coming together again to choose and determine who would become the president in 2019.
Anyadubalu posited that the trio of past leaders should take their hands off the 2019 political process that has subtly taken off and allow Nigerians to freely choose their own leader.
“If we find that anybody they endorse is not satisfactory to us, we should use our vote to stop them from getting to Aso Rock. We should mobilise and vote against their candidate who is found not to be satisfactory or competent. We can vote against the person and also protect our votes,” he said.
Adding to the gathering storm of opposition to the seeming renewal of the intervention of the trio, General Overseer of Wordbase Assembly, Bishop Humphrey Erumaka said that the country needs to return to the past in the 60s and 1979 election, when the contest for power was intellectually robust and not characterized by the present system tainted by godfatherism and the imposition by a cabal of past heads of state.
His words: “Even if they choose a young, healthy person, he will be running with old people’s mentality to please those who put him there. The younger people should not be dependent on the cabal represented by the small group of past heads of state. The cabal syndrome should not continue. It is no more based on who merits the position of president but who is in their good books. Even if a weakling or person with questionable character pleases them, they front the person and the darkness continues. I would rather say that the parties in truth and spirit, should openly decide who runs on their platform through transparent democratic process and rigorous convincing campaign leading up to a proper ballot. That way, what will occur will be a true case of ndoro-ndoro ochichi (open, legal contest for power) and not nyere-nyere ochichi (murky hand over of power on a platter of gold to a preferred candidate). What we need in Nigeria is ndoro-ndoro ochichi, not nyere-nyere ochichi.
“These people who are enjoying their fabulous and stupendous pension with horrendous amount of perks at the expense of the Nigerian tax payer should just retire and leave the country to move on.
They destroyed the foundation of the country and created the problem, they cannot be part of the solution.”
Moreover, Anyadubalu bemoaned the fact that the majority of Nigerians show apathy to the political process. “How many of us bothered to register and obtain the voters card?” he queried.
He added: “Every year, teenagers reach the age of 18 and become eligible to be enrolled on the voters register. How many of us bother to get involved at the ward level and mobilise these young people to register to vote. How many of us consciously educate them on the political process and also mobilise them to vote. If we do this, we will be able to counter whoever these past leaders endorse, if we feel they are not competent or qualified to rule. Nigerians have to rise up and take back the country to themselves. Enough is enough. Like Charly Boy said, “Our mumu don do.” The Sun