Umaru’s Second Term – by Sam Nda-Isaiah
Last week, I sat down with a Lagos-based newspaper publisher who was in Abuja for a few business meetings. My friend and colleague, quite accomplished in his own right, told me he had just had a breakfast meeting with some Southern elite groups
and one of the conclusions reached was that it would be in their interest to support Umaru's second term bid.
According to him, Umaru's second term in office, irrespective of whatever havoc that would wreak to the fabrics of the nation, was the only sure-fire way to prevent the North from enjoying three consecutive terms. He did not tell me whether he shared that view himself and I have no way of knowing if, in fact, he was not the initiator of the scheme, given his affinities and sympathies.
How will the originators of this great idea achieve their plot against the Nigerian people? I enquired, keeping my cool. His reply was that all that Umaru needs is to garner only 30% of the votes of the North –– and he was certain the president could –– as he was sure they would deliver the entire South to the president.
This is obviously the kind of nonsense that some people have already started selling to Umaru since they believe, as they always do, that they will be able to rig quite effortlessly as they have done so many times in the past. But I was also amused to know, even from these pro-Umaru exponents, that Umaru is no longer a candidate of the North.
For starters, I told my friend that Umaru cannot get 2% of the North's votes, much less 30%. He vehemently disagreed with me, and even though there was a third party with us - another mutual friend of ours from Bauchi who vigorously corroborated my position - my publisher friend, who is a Southerner and should not claim to know about the North more than the two of us together, kept arguing with us. Our mutual friend from Bauchi, who is in fact not a politician, does not think that Umaru can get the 2% of the North's votes I allocated to him. I reminded our Lagos friend that if they were going to rely on their rigging skills, they (Umaru and his second termers) should wait until we get there. Let's not worry about that just yet. Let's simply discuss democracy for now. And, if any crook thinks he can continue to rig elections in this country using the police and INEC officials, and then go back home to sleep peacefully with his family... let's get there first.
On another level, unlike my friend and colleague, I do not think that the majority of Southerners hate their country so much that they would want Umaru to continue for six more years for whatever reasons. Many Southerners have, in fact, discussed the issue with me very angrily and blamed the North for not taking the first step of removing Umaru from power right away to pave way for the reversal of the current hopelessness that has engulfed the nation. So, I do not believe my friend when he said the South would vote for Umaru's continuation for some perceived parochial interests. No, most Southerners are too educated and too enlightened to think that way. And, as I write, I am also aware that some influential members of the Southern intelligentsia are currently regrouping into formations to prevent Umaru from getting a second term. Everyone is doing this in the overall interest of the country.
All anyone needs to do to prevent six more years of the current hopelessness is to stop Umaru's rigging machine, because the president is so unbelievably unpopular that almost every PDP member would vote against him in a secret ballot. That is why all we should be doing between now and the D-Day of 2011 is perfecting the strategy of putting election riggers out of business.
In 2011, elections are going to be won on the field and not in the courts, because, even in the very few instances where the judiciary gave justice in electoral cases, it took too long to come; even as I write now, there are still some 2007 election petition cases in the courts. So, any 2011 contestant who is still factoring the judiciary into the equation should keep off. Since Umaru is not going to provide Nigerians with electoral reforms as he promised, most Nigerians have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Also, the trash about rotational presidency, which by the way is not in the constitution, has no place in our democracy. What was the advantage that any Southerner had during Obasanjo's eight years of kleptocracy? That was even at a time the international price of oil was maintained at around $120 per barrel. What special advantage did the Southerners or, particularly, the South-West get from that period? In fact, Obasanjo made sure that Lagos State, a strategic South-West state, did not receive its legitimate local government funds because he had an axe to grind with the governor. So, what is this rubbish about rotational presidency? Whose interest does it serve anyway? Power shift came about in 1999 because those in power then felt that with the annulment of Chief MKO Abiola's electoral victory in 1993, and with the continuing agitation from the South-West elites who wrongly interpreted this as a deliberate anti-Yoruba action, there was a need for appeasement by electing a Yoruba president. That was why the powers that be ensured that the two presidential candidates for the 1999 elections were both from the South-West. But rotational presidency died with the 1999 election. If the PDP or any other party elects to enshrine rotational presidency in its own party's constitution, it will be the problem of the party. But all we are going to ensure now is that elections must be free and fair. Nigerians should choose to be in the company of Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and other true democracies and not in the league of Zimbabwe. And we are not just going to sit there and allow our collective destiny to be determined by a band of bandits.
But again, my publisher friend didn't tell me which jokers from the South sat down with him for that breakfast meeting last week. Are they, like the Obasanjo third termers, those who have been benefiting from the clueless government of the day? I was told that one of the bank CEOs recently sacked by the CBN blamed Obasanjo for their predicament. If only Obasanjo had insisted on remaining in power, there is no way this would be happening today. She is right. It would have been interesting to know the kind of useless people that would be discussing granting a second term to Umaru despite everything we are seeing. As Obasanjo's third term fraud showed, Nigeria is bigger than anybody, even though it doesn't always seem so.
I have nothing against those who say Umaru should be allowed to go on till 2011 even though the right thing would have been to remove him from power on the grounds of a scandalous non-performance. In a serious country, Umaru would have long been impeached. Our best bet was actually for the Justice Idris Kutigi-led judiciary to have risen to the exigency of that moment, but it didn't. We will leave Kutigi on the side of the history of his choosing. We have gone beyond that now but we will never forget.
It is clear to everyone that Umaru is too sick to be an effective president. We pray to God to grant him divine healing, but it is a country we are talking about here. The thing is too glaring for everyone to see now and it is always a pitiful sight watching his handlers lying to themselves about the state of the president's health. You don't have to be a doctor to see this. It is already in plain view. But Umaru doesn't have to step down on grounds of ill-health. All that we need are free and fair elections. And let Nigerians decide who should govern them.
For all intents and purposes, we have already lost the African slot of the United Nations Security Council seat which should have been ours for the asking, because our president cannot engage the world. Nigeria has also gone down in several spheres and lost influence in several other areas of international engagement. We are no longer mentioned in several serious meetings. Umaru became president only because of the fecundity of Obasanjo's criminal mind; he himself now regrets, but only because his original scheme has not worked.
We are going to insist that elections are free and fair and that votes must count. That is the only correct way to go. It will be better to achieve that peacefully but, if need be, everyone should be ready to go to war to achieve that.
E A R S H O T
Bilateral Treaty With Terrorists
Now that Umaru's amnesty deadline has expired, the time has come for us to see what happens next. If Umaru and his men think that the terrorists have surrendered up to 10% of their armoury, then the reality of the calibre of those who rule us today must be worse than we thought. It was quite alarming to watch an ecstatic and misguided Umaru welcoming Chief Tom Ateke and Chief Government Tompolo into the presidential villa last week. It was a very shameful sight. Tompolo, with whom Umaru has now entered into a bilateral relation, could hardly express himself in English.