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Obasan­jo, Akpabio cry­ing con­trast in demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­crep­an­cy

Imme­di­ate past Sen­ate minor­i­ty leader, Mr. Godswill Obot Akpabio, have elicit­ed close exam­i­na­tion of the stark, but dis­turb­ing real­i­ties in Nigeria’s demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance. Why is it that for­mer mil­i­tary offi­cers con­tin­ue to deter­mine the direc­tion of civil­ian rule even after twen­ty years of democ­ra­cy? Akpabio has just shown why. Nige­ri­ans saw him crawl to the Aso Vil­la, the seat of Nigeria’s Pres­i­den­cy, where he report­ed­ly con­ferred with the act­ing Pres­i­dent, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.That move helped to thick­en spec­u­la­tions that the for­mer play­mak­er of Peo­ples Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (PDP) was on his way to swim­ming against the tide of mass defec­tions in the Nation­al Assem­bly from PDP to the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC).

Ear­li­er, the Sen­a­tor had declared that any polit­i­cal par­ty could return to the Sen­ate in 2019. That was about the first hint of the planned car­pet cross­ing being con­tem­plat­ed by the for­mer gov­er­nor of Akwa Ibom State. If doubts exist­ed as to the real schemes of the bois­ter­ous politi­cian, his emer­gence at the Lon­don resort of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, where he was pic­tured in a pose depict­ing his con­fu­sion as to whether to bow or squat in syco­phan­tic gen­u­flec­tion, proved the skep­tics wrong.

Intrigu­ing­ly, Akpabio was to pay the final vis­it to the APC oper­a­tional head­quar­ters in Bour­dil­lon, where he was also pic­tured as he bade good­bye to his yes­ter­day of free­dom as he begins a fresh jour­ney to servi­tude and polit­i­cal con­tra­dic­tion. What­ev­er becomes of Godswill Akpabio or what­ev­er he becomes in his new cho­sen path, the Sen­a­tor would for­ev­er remain a foot­note in the pre­vail­ing undu­lat­ing nation­al pol­i­tics of recidi­vism. Shame is gone.

When some social com­men­ta­tors called for the tax­ing of pros­ti­tutes, it must be in allu­sion to politi­cians who change plat­forms like chameleons and mouth for­eign ide­olo­gies like Janus.

Between Akpabio and Obasan­jo
THE scrip­ture says, the good shep­herd stands to fight for the sheep, but the hireling runs away and aban­dons them. Throw back to 1998. It was indeed when the nation­al con­ven­tion of PDP gave rise to the mer­can­til­ism that has remained the lot of that polit­i­cal party.As the mil­i­tary high com­mand opened the loft of their trick­ery and dis­pensed with cash their civil­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors queued up, throw­ing deco­rum to the air as they scram­bled for ‘del­e­gate allowance’.

Did the depart­ing sol­diers force the civil­ians, who were the del­e­gates that vot­ed at the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry, to reject their leader and found­ing chair­man, Dr. Alex Ekwueme? When Gen­er­al Obasan­jo was announced as the ‘win­ner’ of the PDP pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry, did any of the chief­tains of the par­ty cry foul?

The point is that expe­ri­ence has shown that when­ev­er democ­ra­cy was tor­pe­doed in Nige­ria, the mil­i­tary always have suf­fi­cient back­ing from their civil­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors who most of the times are adept at sug­gest­ing disin­gen­u­ous strate­gies to obfus­cate free­dom of expres­sion and choice.However, the choice of Obasan­jo to berth the return of Nige­ria to democ­ra­cy has its own mer­its. In the first place, he stands out as one sol­dier whose patri­o­tism, pre­tend­ed or real, has not been rivaled.

In 1978 Obasan­jo set up the Con­stituent Assem­bly in a bid to estab­lish a durable con­sti­tu­tion and sys­tem of gov­ern­ment that could keep Nige­ria unit­ed, pros­per­ous and strong. That effort gave rise to the 1979 con­sti­tu­tion. Despite its short­com­ings, the 1979 con­sti­tu­tion raised the bar on Nige­ria nation­al­ism and birthed the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem and sec­ond repub­lic. Regard­less of the pec­ca­dil­los of the oper­a­tors of that con­sti­tu­tion, Nige­ri­ans did not have cause to com­plain of mar­gin­al­iza­tion in the scheme of things then.

Appoint­ments into posi­tions of author­i­ty, includ­ing elec­tive offices were bal­anced and spread out along the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones divides. But while the likes of Pres­i­dent She­hu Sha­gari and Ekwueme, were in the minor­i­ty, char­ac­ters in the molds of Umaru Dikko and Chief Augus­tus Akin­loye num­bered in the majority.Like PDP that suc­ceed­ed it, the Nation­al Par­ty of Nige­ria (NPN), which was in con­trol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, was, in both orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture and out­look, nation­al­is­tic with­out evi­dent traces of nepo­tism.

That Obasan­jo did not renege on his administration’s promise of hand­ing over the reins of polit­i­cal pow­er to the civil­ian was a mea­sure of the man’s stead­fast­ness, even though many a mil­i­tary offi­cer believed he was intim­i­dat­ed and wary of the pow­er play with­in the Niger­ian Armed Forces Rul­ing Council.Even while out of polit­i­cal pow­er and the mil­i­tary, Obasan­jo exper­i­ment­ed with the idea of Com­mon­wealth Elders Coun­cil and con­tin­ued to take inter­est in socio-polit­i­cal thought, par­tic­u­lar­ly on issues bor­der­ing on lead­er­ship in the third world.

When the civil­ian admin­is­tra­tion that suc­ceed­ed him decid­ed to get wan­ton, Obasan­jo spoke out through his inva­sive mis­sives. Per­haps, his posi­tion echoed the minds of Nige­ri­ans who trooped to the streets to her­ald the mil­i­tary take over that cut short the demo­c­ra­t­ic experience.Obasanjo has remained true to his fan­cies about Nige­ria: He has writ­ten, he thinks and con­tin­ues to mobilise for a bet­ter nation. From the Ibrahim Babangi­da regime that deposed the iron fist Buhari/Idiagbo jun­ta through the Sani Abacha opaque gang, Obasan­jo has been on the front­lines, speak­ing truth to pow­er.

Nige­ria does not belong to Obasan­jo. That think­ing must have informed Abacha’s deci­sion to send him to the gulag after asso­ci­at­ing him with a phan­tom coup. That Obasanjo’s ideas about nation­al­ism out­lived Abacha could be a tes­ta­ment of the man’s courage and belief in the cause of a pros­per­ous Nige­ria.

Ear­ly this year, Obasan­jo wrote, not a let­ter, as he is wont to, but a pub­lic state­ment in which he admon­ished Pres­i­dent Buhari to take a deserved rest and join the class of Niger­ian statesmen.Diverse inter­pre­ta­tions have been giv­en to the for­mer president’s inter­ven­tion, but he made his point. With that action the farmer from Ota demon­strat­ed his belief in democ­ra­cy, which is found­ed on free­dom of speech and asso­ci­a­tion.

A Sen­a­tor once observed that Obasan­jo has become a his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter more than a states­man, stress­ing that when­ev­er some­thing dies in Nige­ria, he comes up to rel­e­vance and prominence.Placed side by side with the recent defec­tion of Sen­a­tor Godswill Akpabio, it becomes obvi­ous that Niger­ian politi­cians lack sim­i­lar stay­ing pow­er, courage and nobil­i­ty of their mil­i­tary coun­ter­part in speak­ing out for the mass­es.

While Obasan­jo was not afraid to bear the scars of fight­ing for what he believes in most politi­cians in the present dis­pen­sa­tion are scared of tem­po­rary afflic­tions of pow­er.

By defect­ing from the par­ty that made him gov­er­nor, put him out as the minor­i­ty leader, Akpabio has giv­en vent to polit­i­cal dis­so­nance. He has shown that he is afraid of being under author­i­ty. Gov­er­nor Udom Emmanuel could have been his com­mis­sion­er yes­ter­day, but hav­ing become a gov­er­nor, he deserves the dig­ni­ty of that office. Akpabio’s defec­tion, like many oth­ers, becomes self serv­ing in the light of the fact that he does not seem to be chang­ing plat­form on behalf of the peo­ple.

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