‘ RETREAT’ IS DIVERSIONARY; GO TO A ‘NATIONAL CONFERENCE’
Professor Omo Omoruyi
‘RETREAT’ IS FIRE-FIGHTING, NOT A VISION.
The recent retreat of the armed forces commanders with the President, Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defense raised many questions. One, do the two principal actors, the Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defense see themselves as role models for the officers from their past? What do they have to tell the officers from their pasts? Do they believe that how they transformed themselves from political generals to civilian leaders is worthy of emulation? Is this what they are imparting to the officers? Above all what is their conception of the nature of the armed forces and do they see the ‘retreat’ as a/the mode of changing the nature of the armed forces and as a
substitute to the National Conference? The defect in the nature of the armed forces is too fundamental, hence a ‘‘retreat’ cannot change it; only a ‘National Conference’ can.
I have argued elsewhere that General TY Danjuma a much sought after entrepreneur to adorn any board room of any major industry should have been made the Minister of Power. There he would have used his industrial prowess developed in the private
sector since he left the army in 1979 to transform the NEPA and deliver light to the Nigerian people within the original time table of Mr. President. Why did the President send him to the Defense, where he has been unable to exercise the power of cutting the armed forces to a manageable size and where his various pasts in the army could be an issue?
If President Obasanjo was interested in having a fighting force under a civilian control, he should have made a civilian with a knack for managing complex organizations such as Professor Adebayo Adedeji, Dr. Riwanu Lukman, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Professor Ladipo Adamolekun, the Minister of
Defense. One could not imagine any of these distinguished Nigerians telling off the Senate for wanting to examine the composition of the armed forces whether it is in conformity with the Federal Character provisions in the Constitution. This was what General TY Danjuma did in a highly contemptuous letter to the Senate Committee ‘commanding’ the Committee as we were in a
military government to stop its action pending in the Senate because according to him the Senate’s action was ‘dangerous and counterproductive’. I was surprised that neither the President nor the Senate President called Gen. Danjuma to order maybe out of fear that he would throw them out of government. I did not see what was ‘dangerous and counterproductive’ in
Senator Idris Abubakar’s proposed Bill titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to establish the Armed Forces Reflection of Federal Character Authority’, which was meant to introduce strict quota to the Armed Forces. This proposal resembles the kind of motion moved by Dr. Chuba Okadigbo in the Constituent Assembly and passed as part of the Draft Constitution in 1978. It also resembles the proposal for redressing the nature of the armed forces by Gen. David Ejoor. I discussed these two proposals in a conference paper in 1999.
The Minister’s letter was clearly an intimidating ploy and should have not gone unnoticed. That is Obasanjo’s democracy! The Minister under the current dispensation ought to have or
should have known that the National Assembly is a Co-equal branch and power with the Executive in matters of defense in particular and in the running of government in general. Maybe the Minister does not understands that the National Assembly has an oversight power over the Executive. If the President and the National Assembly are allowing the system to run properly, the
Minister would or should have gone to the Senate Committee to defend the position of the Ministry. I was shocked that instead, the Minister sent a contemptuous letter to the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Nnamdi Eriobuna who read the letter to the Committee. Is this democracy? And
the Senate did not cite the Minister for contempt. (See Nigerian Tribune, April 5, 2001).
The President should have learnt from his successful civilian predecessor in office as an elected President and the only bonafide member of the Council of State if he would stay out of partisan or sectarian politics. I am referring to President
Shehu Shagari who in his 5 years in office named accomplished civilians Professor Iya Abubakar and Alhaji Oniyangi as Ministers of Defense. Over now to the issue of retreat, there are troubling questions.
Why should such a retreat involve ONLY the ‘political generals’, whether in the Presidential Villa or in the Ministry of Defense or in the barracks? Why should the discussion be in secret? Has
the public not the right to know what they are talking about in a democracy just as the retreat between the President and the Governors? Does the President see this as a solution to the fundamental problem of the armed forces in a democracy operating in a plural society?
What one could make out of the retreat was that it was as usual one of those fire-fighting
measures of President Obasanjo, which are usually embarked upon devoid of vision. This is the problem with the Nigerian President who believes that a serious fundamental issue as the depoliticization of the armed forces could be pursued through
a fire-fighting measure. Why retreat? Was it in the context of the US program of reprofessionalization? Maybe the retreat must have arisen from a failure the ‘reprofessionalization’ of the armed forces under the US-Nigerian military pact. A ‘retreat’ cannot be a fundamental attention to the issues of group representation in the armed forces and depoliticization in the armed forces. What should we do?
I recall the paper I did for the pro-democracy groups in 1998 counseling the refrain "no peace in Northern Ireland without a representative police force" should remind Nigerians of the neglected aspect of the cause of the Nigerian crisis of democratization. I recall I made two points, which are still critical to the fundamental restructuring of the armed forces today. One is that a highly "ethnicized" military should not be expected to do justice to all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The other is that highly politicized armed forces should not be expected to support a free, fair and credible election in Nigeria. These two issues have been ignored since 1999 and instead of addressing
them, the President thought he resolve them by entering into a pact with the US to design a ‘defense policy’ for Nigeria. Does President Obasanjo want the US to tell Nigerians who are or should be their enemies? Won’t this violate all rules governing how a self-respecting nation should design her national strategic and tactical doctrine?
I have argued elsewhere that the ingredients of such a doctrine in a defense policy are completely alien to the US Generals in my essay published in the News of October 2, 2000. (In response to the demands from Nigerians and in order to let Nigerian know that the fine prints are worthy inquiring into, I shall cause this paper to be published again soon in WWW)
One of the issues that arose from the crisis in the Northern Ireland was how to reform the Irish Ulster Constabulary (IUC) to reflect the religious composition in Northern Ireland. The IUC was as of April 10, 1998, the day of the agreement made up of about 93% from the Protestant community where the Protestant community is less that 60 % of the population.
One should also recall that the fear of the Catholics over the years was that since they constitute about 43% of the population, the IUC made up of 93% Protestants had been involved in many acts of injustices in the past against the Catholics. Hence the Nationalists/Republicans predicated their support for the peace program only and only if the IUC was reformed
to reflect the religious composition of Northern Ireland. That still remains an issue today as a basis of even contemplating demobilization.
One would recall that one of the terms of settlements brokered by Senator George Mitchell of the US was that the IUC should be made to reflect the "ethnic" composition of Northern Ireland. This was the "compromise" position taken between total ‘demobilization’ of the Force and the status quo. ‘RECOMPOSITION’ may not mean the scrapping of the entire
force or total demobilization, which would have involved starting all over a new force, which I recommended for the solution of the Nigerian case in various publications of mine since 1993. ‘RECOMPOSITION’ means repackaging of the force to reflect the society. It means ‘reconstituting’ the force to make sure that the force is representative; this may mean that the nationalities that are over-represented may have to lose their job in excess of their percentage in the population. This means that room would be made for others.
RECOMPOSITION would have been embarked upon in Nigeria after 1999 not under General TY Danjuma who from his past could easily be misunderstood. This was what President Obasanjo failed to appreciate in 1999; he should not have removed all the Ndi Igbo officers in 1999 because they were new and few in the game of political appointment.
The Ndi Igbo with less number of officers in the armed forces compared to their population and the history of ‘ethnic cleansing in which they were victims in the past should have been allowed to keep most of their officers in the force.
To implement this compromise policy in Northern Ireland, both the Irish and the British governments were enjoined under the terms of the settlement to constitute a Commission, which should deal with the policing arrangements (new force) to reflect the new Northern Ireland. Specifically the Commission should deal with the following issues:
(i) the composition,
(ii) the recruitment,
(iii) the training,
(iv) the culture,
(v) the ethos, and
(vi) The symbols of a new Force.
What should Nigeria learn from this settlement? To answer this question we should review the characteristics of the armed forces. While the minorities ethnic nationalities were tolerated for obvious reasons, the two major ethnic nationalities were "cleansed out" by successive Federal government dominated by the
north between 1966 and 1999.
The Igbos were the first to be wiped out of the commanding heights of the armed forces beginning with the civil war. How do we explain their status since 1970 where the northern led military openly call them REBEL OFFICERS?
The second group, the Yoruba officers spearheaded the military and political operation to suppress the Ibo during the civil war. But for obvious reasons were after the June 12, 1993 Presidential election called JUNE 12 OFFICERS by the northern led military junta.
Both Igbo and the Yoruba constituting well over 60 % of the Nigerian population are excluded from the political and military leadership of the country between 1993 and 1999.
The officers from various minority ethnic nationalities in the south operate as individuals in the military administration. They consider their survival in the armed forces and in the military administration as dependent on the northern officers and on important civilian political and traditional leaders. What I observed from
the military administration of General Babangida was that minority officers from the south were supposed to be used to check the excesses of the Ibo and Yoruba officers on behalf of the northern officers.
The experiences of the past, especially the post 1993 developments remind one of the above refrain in Northern Ireland that the military cannot be trusted to do justice to all Nigerians because of its composition, leadership and orientation to politics, which constitute the nature of the armed forces. The six developments were:
(i) The annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election on June 23, 1993 was brought about and sustained because of the composition of the armed forces.
(ii) The leaders of the pro-democracy forces and the winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola suffered various violations of their human rights because that had no backers in the commanding heights of the
(iii) The second annulment of the democratic aspiration of Nigerians occurred with the announcement by the junta on April 20, 1998 canceling the planned Presidential election following the fraudulent joint nomination of General Sani Abacha by the
five political parties as the sole presidential candidate of the five political parties arose and sustained partly because the proponents had backers in the armed forces and partly because the pro-democracy forces had no backers in the top echelon of the armed forces; and now
(iv) The framing of General Olusegun Obasanjo was as a result of the nature of the leadership structure and composition of the armed forces;
(v) The coup plot involving the Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya and two other Yoruba Generals was staged managed by the junta in anticipation of the imminent death of the Head of State, General Sani Abacha who was suspected
to be ill and might not be able to continue as the Head of State for too long.
(vi) General Abacha's eventual death and the resolution of the succession crisis and the decision of his successor to continue with the Abacha's program and clam down on the pro-democracy groups were all related to the nature of the armed forces.
It should be obvious to all that one of the issues in the crisis of democratization in Nigeria was that the pro-democracy groups did not have backers in the leadership of the armed forces in Nigeria. This is not new. In the past, contrary to what people thought, the middle-belt officers abandoned the Club 19 founded by the minorities including the middle-belt politicians. As a matter of record, which I still have as a principal officer of the Club, the Nigerian Peoples Party, which grew out of the Club 19 did not have backers in the armed forces at the critical point. Also
the progressive forces in the country had no backers in the military and were actually abandoned in the past; since the annulment they were kept at arms length. The progressives from my experience in turn never knew how to cultivate the support of the men on the ‘horse back’.
I had an occasion to offer an opinion to some interested Americans in April 1998 that wanted to know of the implication of the announcement of a sole candidature of General Abacha in his self-succession project. I tried to emphasize the relationship between the event of June 23, 1993 and the event of April 20, 1998. I
emphasized that both were two annulments by the same junta and afflicting the same people and the same generation of Nigerians. I emphasized that certain developments were linked to the nature of the armed forces and the rampart the military guards. Let me identify them.
(i) the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election,
(ii) the emergence of the military strongman, General Sani Abacha on November 17, 1993, and
(iii) The decision of General Abacha to succeed himself were based on the determination of the military clique to prevent two kinds of shift of power from happening in Nigeria.
Talking of the shifts of power, the two shifts are (i) the shift of power from the NORTH to the SOUTH and (ii) the shift of power from the junta to the Nigerian people in a free and fair election.
WHAT GENERAL ABUBAKAR OUGHT HAVE DONE
It would have been up to General Abubakar to reassure Nigerians and the world community that his emergence was not part of the conspiracy against the south on the one hand and against the Nigerian people on the other. In order to make this obvious, General Abubakar would have allowed Nigerians to embark on a fundamental restructuring through a National Conference. That he did not do this made it obvious that he did not want to dispel this perception of his emergence, which his first address to the nation tended to portray. Of course, the manner of the emergence of the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the way the election was conducted simply gave the game away that the transition program was in furtherance of
the ramparts the armed forces guard.
I followed this opinion with another opinion, which I sent to many Nigerians in 1998. In this opinion I emphasized that we should depersonalize the Nigerian crisis. In this context, I argued that we should stop focusing on the persons of Generals Babangida and Abacha and go straight to the root of the crisis, which was and
still is the nature of the junta. I argued in that opinion in 1998 before General Abacha died, that if General Abacha were to resign or if he were to be thrown out of office or if he were to die in office, which was very imminent then, quoting from my paper,
"His successor would be from the north;
He would continue the same anti-democratic practices;
he would not allow an ‘autonomous’ southerner to become
an elected President of Nigeria and
become the head of the Nigerian armed forces".
This is from my memo of May 30, 1998 to the US State Department, the National Security Council when the US was planning to send a delegation to General Abacha to moderate his self-succession project announced a month earlier. I also copied the Commonwealth Secretariat.
What is important in this opinion was that I offered it unsolicited about a week before the death of General Sani Abacha. I did this then because I did not want the US to make the kind of mistake, which she had been making since 1993 after the annulment in Nigeria.
What I was canvassing for was that I really wanted the US to use her good offices to get an international coalition going on Nigeria. I wanted the US to concentrate her efforts toward the restructuring of the armed forces and make it to reflect the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria, the absence of which, I identified as the root cause of the problem. I am still waiting to be proved wrong. The effort of President Obasanjo since 1999 has been cosmetic and has been to skirt around this issue. Did he not know that it was the composition of the leadership and its orientation, which led to the Abacha regime to deny him human dignity in 1995? Did
he think that his treatment was an isolated case? What President Obasanjo has not told Nigerians is whether he had asked the Buharis, the Gowons, the Babangidas, the Danjumas etc. and some traditional rulers praising him today where they were during the period he was sent to the Abacha’s Gulag?
The President’s opening address to the armed forces at the ‘retreat’ before they went into a secret session recently demonstrates his frustration. But he does not approach the solution within a vision, unfortunately. (See the Guardian of June 25, 2001).
Those who thought that General Abdulsalam Abubakar would act according to his God given instinct and tried to address what the country had been going through were wrong. If he had decided to act contrary to the ramparts being guarded by the armed forces, his major problems would come from two sources. One would have been the political class, who have been doing well under the prevailing confusion and would want him to continue even though they knew that it would lead to a dead end as we have it today. The other would have been the military class who are scared to death of a democratic order headed by an ‘autonomous’ southerner.
A lot was expected of General Abubakar; those who thought that since General Abubakar neither schemed a coup in order to become a Head of State nor did he dream that one day he would be a Head of State, he should have taken some fundamental political decision. He should have taken some unusual steps dictated by the divine intervention of the Almighty. Nigerians thought that General Abubakar should have seen the death of General Sani Abacha as Allah's way of allowing Nigerians to begin a healing process to our land that was smeared with the blood of the innocent Nigerians for too long. The death of General Sani Abacha should have been seen by General Abubakar as the way that Allah, in His Infinite Mercy wanted to stop the
disorganization of families where parents were either detained, killed, or chased out of the country and from their ancestral homes by General Abacha.
The death of General Abacha should have offered Nigerians the opportunity to begin embarking on certain ends.
(i) the fundamental restructuring of the armed forces to make it representative;
(ii) the fundamental reorientation of the armed forces to make it accountable to a democratic order;
(iii) the fundamental restructuring of the entire society with a new units of representation;
(iv) the fundamental restructuring of the governmental system with a Constitution.
General Abubakar should have therefore seen his appointment as the Divine response to the cry of God’s people who had been denied JUSTICE since 1993. He should have quickly taken steps to reverse the course of his immediate and distant predecessors. The military jacking of the transition program including the military
jacking of the presidential election with out a constitution and without dealing with the four fundamental issues above were at variance with the yearnings of the Nigerian people and the end sought by the pro-democracy forces.
From the foregoing, it was obvious that democracy in Nigeria like peace in Northern Ireland should have been predicated on a reformed and representative army. I had argued in the past that a free, fair and credible election, which gave rise to the June 12, 1993 Presidential election would have been the most credible modality for solving the Nigerian crisis. Maybe this would have been too much for General Abubakar.
I have always been a realist. I was privy to the real reasons for the annulment of the election. I knew that the ‘deannulment’ would be impossible in Nigeria after the death of General Abacha as long as the armed forces remained dominated by a group opposed to a shift of power from the north to the south.
The emergence of Chief Obasanjo was originally thought to be a solution to the rampart being guarded by the military and a bridge between the military order and a democratic order. Were those who brought about the emergence of Obasanjo successful? I tried to address this question in various essays that it was a misplaced
faith. We should now be thinking of the answer to the question, ‘After Obasanjo, who/what?’. It is obvious that Nigeria would still have to go back to the case of the Northern Ireland, that a new and democratic Nigeria means a new type of armed forces that should be made to reflect the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
It should be noted that this is part of the position actively canvassed by the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, the Afenifere and the Union of Niger Delta, which they believe should be taken to a National Conference for discussion and resolution. I am glad too that the Edo Club recently submitted a memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the Constitution that a
fundamental restructuring of the armed forces was critical to the future of Nigeria. This is what we as Nigerians can deal with in a National Conference as we tried to do in 1977/78 in the Constituent Assembly. This is not the mission of a foreign body like the US.
After the annulment of the June 12 from what I knew as the active participants and the real reasons for that anti-Nigerian act, my position was that representative armed forces was desirable. This was needed to support a democratic Nigeria, which would be accountable to a democratic order under an elected President, Commander-in-Chief from any part of the country. My view then was that a candidate from the NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST through a free and fair election, which could only be brought about under the auspices of an international body like the UN and not under the Nigerian junta. If the junta could not do this before 1999, definitely, it was unrealistic to expect the administration installed by it to bring about a representative
military. This is the situation Nigeria finds herself today.
The terms of reference of such an international body, which I canvassed in 1998 after the death of Gen. Abacha should have taken a cue from the Northern Ireland settlement.
One was encouraged with the reported talk between the UN Secretary General and the new Head of State of Nigeria; one thought that Nigeria would accept the offer of the UN Secretary General that the UN would be willing to help Nigeria come out of her self inflicted crisis. One had thought then that the UN offer would have taken care of the political armed forces. It would appear that the UN and the international community had other ideas; they became the victims of the junta, which convinced them to mobilize to get the winner of the June 12 to sign away his mandate as a condition for moving forward.
The auspices of the UN would have been an opportunity for General Abdulsalam Abubakar to have confessed the inadequacy of the junta to deliver democracy to Nigeria. At the risk of my divulging the subjects of my communications with him when he became the new Head of State as someone I knew as a good man, I canvassed this bold action with him as soon as he became the successor
to General Abacha in 1998. I carried this advocacy to the international community. General Abubakar should have immediately called on the UN to take over the entire democratic transition and fashion a new Nigeria.
It was my advocacy then that a new Nigeria after Abacha would have been based on a sound federal system, which would have had the following characteristics.
(i) the fundamental restructuring of the armed forces;
(ii) the recreation of a new federal system for Nigeria on the basis of equality of ethnic nationalities;
(iii) the recreation of a new federal system with new units of representation: states, regions or zones; and
(iv) the return of land and minerals and oil resources and other resources to the areas of origin.
When the UN Secretary General spoke to the Nigerian Head of State, one thought that he had in mind the precedents of the UN involvement in independent countries beginning with Nicaragua and extending to Angola and Cambodia. Why did the UN not push the new Head of State after the death of Gen. Abacha to formally invite the UN to come in?
My view then was that the enormity of the problems was such as to make the scale of the UN involvement in Cambodia applicable to Nigeria. That would have relieved the military junta of its governing role; the junta would have handed over to an Interim Administration called the Government of National Unity, which would have been set up by the UN under the UN Transitional Authority.
If the international community were to pour the kind of money and materials to the Nigerian democratic transition, as was done in Cambodia and even in Angola, Nigeria would have been a pride for Africa and the black world after 1999.
My proposal then was that the composition of the Interim Administration would have taken into account the two contending forces in Nigeria's democracy barricade as of 1998: the pro-democracy forces represented by Chief MKO Abiola and the junta represented by General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Nigeria would have been different today. The
agitation from various ethnic nationalities and religious groups would have been domesticated.
History would record that General Abubakar walked away and handed over to a civilian order, not a democratic order that would not address the lingering political problems and watch the country slide further. Are we not watching President Obasanjo today unable to handle the sliding of the country into an imminent collapse?
Are we not witnesses to how he recently called on some ‘Concerned Traditional Rulers’ to bail him out? I was a witness to how he used them in 1994 to persuade Chief MKO Abiola to renounce his mandate as condition for Gen. Abacha agreeing to release him from his Gulag. Are they not playing the same game for him again misrepresenting their people? This is sad because these same traditional rulers were collaborators with Gen. Abacha when he was dealing with their citizens. My fear is that these traditional rulers are in search of relevance and not the true representatives of the people for the purpose of raising,
discussing, and resolving the lingering political problems afflicting the country since 1993.
Are we not watching the President adopting all sorts of unilateral approaches to policies? How many of us read the account of what he called the ‘retreat with the armed forces’, ‘the retreat with the Governors after the failure of the Poverty Alleviation Program’? How many of have been following the near collapse of
the university system and the health sector in the country? How many of us follow the discussion in the press in Nigeria about the lingering political problems?
One only needs to do some content analysis of the Nigerian newspapers and what one finds is that the news items in the country see Nigerians in various ethnic enclave Arewa, the Ohaneze, the Afenifere, and varieties of minorities groups in the middle-belt and in the south. In fact, Nigeria is in pieces and the President is adopting various fire-fighting tactics using bodies
not provided for in the Constitution in the absence of a vision on the part of the President. Without a vision within which to react to the lingering problems! Maybe we should remind the President of what happens to ‘People without Vision’. Maybe he wants the people to perish! This
is what we are gunning for in 2003.
If Nigeria continues like this, we are risking the possibility and maybe the inevitability that the fire fighting tactics in a complex setting like Nigeria could eventually result in many states out of Nigeria. The rate at which all the groups are developing their ethnic agenda, does the President appreciate that they are all preparing for the day Nigeria would break up? Does the President appreciate the fact that these groups want to avoid the outcome of the break up of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union? The danger with fire fighting tactics is that it could leave many problems unresolved such as what the international community is still grappling with in the Balkans.
The second lesson that we should learn from the Irish settlement is that it will be unrealistic for the world and the pro-democracy forces to expect the group party to the crisis to do justice to all groups. I strongly warned the international community in 1998 that the Nigerian military as was then constituted, led and with its prevailing orientation was no different from the
IUC of Northern Ireland or the apartheid regime in South Africa to be expected to deliver democracy to Nigeria.
The Obasanjo government installed by the military junta after the death of Gen. Abacha would not be in a position to touch the military, which everyone including President Obasanjo acknowledged as the cause of the problem. What the international community ought to have appreciated in 1998 was that to expect the junta or its surrogate to deliver democracy to the Nigerian people
was like expecting the apartheid South Africa to deliver a free, fair, credible and non-racial multiparty democracy for the people of South Africa. Was this not why the international community took over the task of delivering multiparty democracy to the people of South Africa in 1994? Nigerian people should not have expected less from the international community. General Abdulsalam Abubakar should have made the junta make history, swallow its pride.
It is sad that the junta used force to deliver democracy to the peoples of Liberia and Sierra Leone but unfortunately, it could not use the same method to deliver it to the Nigerian people for obvious and understandable reasons. There was an ego problem here. But the junta should not have been blackmailed to see it that way. General Abubakar should have, on behalf of the Nigerian junta, confessed the inadequacies of the junta and called on the UN immediately after the death of Abacha to take over the entire democratic transition process in Nigeria.
Surrendering the entire democratic transition to the UN should not have been taken as a loss of or a diminution of Nigerian sovereignty. Far from it; we are doing it indirectly today by assigning the design of the defense policy of Nigeria to the US. My view is that the internationalization of the democratic transition would have made the
country a better place for its citizens and a leader of a democratic Africa. Why should Nigeria not benefit from what is available to her from her position within the UN?
Nigeria has since 1960 been a member of the UN of good standing. Nigeria has since 1960 been involved in the various peacekeeping functions worldwide over the years. Nigeria was the prime mover of the sanction regime against the apartheid regime. Nigeria was the longest
serving member and Chairman of the UN Permanent Committee against Apartheid. Nigeria was one of those from the non-Western world who voted in the Security Council for the UN to enforce democratic rights in Haiti in 1994. This was an irony. Let me expatiate on this.
I saw the elected President of Haiti and the leader of the Haitian pro-democracy groups on CNN in an airport lounge in Nigeria expressing his apprehension about Nigeria as a member of the UN Security Council, which was to handle the Haitian case. He wondered aloud as to what position Nigeria might take at the UN Security Council partly because Nigeria was a military regime and
partly because Nigeria had just annulled a free and fair election. Even though the Nigeria delegation was asked by the military junta under Gen. Abacha to vote for the UN enforcement of the democratic rights of the Haitian people, Nigerian junta did not see the irony. It should be noted that the UN was as usual adopting a double standard; it did not support the enforcement of democratic rights of the Nigerian people who voted for Chief MKO Abiola on June 12, 1993.
This irony of the Nigerian junta did not start with Liberia and the Sierra Leone. With all these credentials, Nigeria should have been eligible to the UN sponsorship. The developed democracies, I am sure, would have seen this as a way out of the then prevailing dilemma.
From the foregoing, I also strongly urge the pro-democracy forces and the leaders of various ethnic nationalities to convince and prevail on President Obasanjo and the National Assembly that they cannot resolve the lingering political problems afflicting the country. They should urge on them that if they allow the problems to linger without a solution or a machinery for coping with the problems, the Nigerian problems would be complicated by the politics of 2003. The President and the National Assembly should hands off the restructuring of Nigeria to a National Conference. But President Obasanjo seems to be
wavering; is this pride? Is he valuing pride to resolving the crisis? What legacies does he want to leave behind? Does he want to see the country collapse after his term? Should the international community on which President Obasanjo depends not prevail on him to surrender the
entire democratic restructuring of Nigeria to the National Conference?
President Obasanjo should no longer pretend that he could solve the Nigerian political problems, which since 1993 have now spilled over to other sectors of the Nigerian society. Does it not occur to President Obasanjo that sooner or later he would gradually become a major source of the Nigerian crisis of democratization. Does
the President not appreciate the fact that his inability to resolve the lingering political problems is spilling over to his inability to deliver social services such as education and health care delivery and reverse the collapsing the public utilities in the country?
Yesterday, it was Zonal consultation to get around the National Conference; today it is ‘retreat’. One question one should leave with President Obasanjo is this. Does the President appreciate the fact that he is no longer the answer to the Nigerian crisis of democratization.
One hopes he does!