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AN ASSESSMENT OF CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO IN THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM OF NIGERIA
AN ASSESSMENT OF CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO IN THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM OF NIGERIA
The study made an assessment of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on the democratic system of Nigeria. Simple random sampling techniques were used to select 260 respondents from the population. The instrument used for data collection was questionnaire. The instrument was validated by two experts in evaluation and Test. Data from 260 completed questionnaire forms were used for data analysis. The data were tested using Pearson moment correlation analysis. the findings showed that there is a proportional relationship between Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1999-2007) and democratic system of Nigeria. The study recommended that the civil society organization should organize workshops, conferences, seminars aimed at sensitizing the general public on principles of democratic governance: the roles of the citizens and the government should set up a Special Malpractice Court in order to punish person or group of persons who may want to distort the democracy in Nigeria.
1.1. Background of the Study
The Fourth Republic was widely and enthusiastically embraced by Nigerians who were by this time completely frustrated, disenchanted and disillusioned with military rule. With the transition to the Fourth Republic, many Nigerians looked forward to the end of the authoritarian and tyrannical rule of the military, a constitutional democracy that would broaden popular participation in governance.
More importantly, most Nigerians felt that with the experience, and track record of General Olusegun Obasanjo (retired) who was elected president on the platform of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), Nigeria was set on a course of change for the better; and coupled with the fact that he was the Head of State that midwifed the transition to civil rule that led to the 2nd Republic in 1979. In his inaugural speech on May 29, 1999, Obasnajo stated inter alia:
Nigeria is wonderfully endowed by the Almighty with human and other resources. It does no credit either to us or the entire black race if we fail in managing our resources for quick improvement in the quality of life of our people… This is a challenge before us … Let us rise as one to face the tasks ahead and turn this daunting scene into opportunities in the new dawn. Let us make this the beginning of a genuine Renaissance (The NEWS, May 29, 2006: 14) Little did people know that Obasanjo would not match his word with action or practice what he preached – as Nigerians found themselves, in the eight years of his administration desperately plunged into patrimonial ruling system or another round of (civilian) dictatorship. In the words of Fawehinmi (2007: 28): Obasanjo’s eight years of administration was characterized by ‘self-centred disposition, deception, creating a few rich people, antimasses programmes, lack of coherent policies, so much wealth coming to the hands of government out of which Nigerians received aggravated poverty and economic pain’.
Like Machiavelli stated in his popular book – ‘The Prince’, to secure his own leadership, a dictator should not hesitate to wipe out both his opponents and his opponents’ family. He has to have recourse to the methods of ‘men’ as well as ‘beasts’ to his actions – to kill, maim, suppress, hoodwink and cheat as the situation demands (Mba, 2006; Berki, 1977). Intolerance to all forms of opposition, Obasanjo directly or indirectly opened up the insecurity of the country in November 1999 when he gave orders to shoot on sight in Odi where a lot of people in that community were slaughtered because some policemen were missing as a result of the protestation of the Odi people in Bayelsa state (The NEWS June 4, 2007).
Since then, police followed the queue; extra-judicial killings became the agenda of the government. Thousands of Nigerians within this period had been killed or maimed without recourse to the judicial process by the police and other security agencies. The roll call of assassination or politically motivated killing in Nigeria has also widened astronomically. The Bola Ige of December 23, 2001; Marshall Harry of March 5, 2003; Funsho Williams of July 27, 2006; Ayodele Daramola of August 14, 2005 (TELL Oct. 23, 2006; The NATION Aug. 15, 2006; The NEWS, March 17, 2003).
The profundity of the crime committed in Anambra state on July 11, 2003 was not in debate, nor was it something that could be wished away. It was a situation where the Executive Governor – Dr. Chris Ngige was abducted by the PDP power brokers in Anambra state. The question is, in any democracy, would a ranking police officer arrest a serving governor who has immunity without probable cause of an extreme crime and a warrant duly endorsed by a judge? What form of democracy subsists in Nigeria in which one individual and his cohorts freely arrogate to themselves the prerogative of deciding who should rule Anambra state? In fact, what happened in Anambra and the levity with which it was being treated at the highest level of government confirms one of the sorry paradoxes of our nation. It was a federal system but at a point run like a Unitary state. If not, why should a Federal Police Force be used to breach a state’s right and not draw the desirable opprobrium?
A corollary of this was the struggle to control the National Assembly which led to instability particularly in the Senate. During this period, five senators: Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and finally Ken Nnamani, came to occupy the position of president in the Senate. Most were either appointed (indirectly) by the president of the Federal Republic on the basis of their willingness to be subservient, or alternatively deposed as a result of their tendencies to assert their independence even against the wishes of the president.
Suffice it to say, that it was in the same fashion the president took complete control over his political party, the PDP, a setting where opposition against all independent-minded members or candidates of the party was mounted, using all available means in favour of those who were willing to submit to the dictates, whims and caprices of the president. Hence, the president’s insistence on a total and unalloyed loyalty from all members of his party culminated in the emergence of Umaru Musa Yar’dua as the ‘consensus’ presidential candidate under the platform of PDP in the 2007 presidential election (Vanguard, Dec. 16, 2006; Punch, Dec. 16, 2007).
In the spirit of Machiavelli- ‘The Prince’, who claims to uphold morality but not take it seriously himself, Obasanjo’s government embarked upon anti-corruption crusade whose Bill was the very first one which the president sent to the 1999 National Assembly for processing into law. The Bill, which has since become law, has hardly made a dent on corruption perhaps because the law was seen as a ‘prescription without diagnosis’ (Adejare, 2004). On the one hand, attempting to fight corruption by Obasanjo’s government was noble since it has become a social evil in the system. On the other hand, the government was perceived to be double-dealing. Sometime ago, the National Assembly discovered some hidden accounts amounting to billions of naira which were lodged by the executive of Obasanjo government. Amongst these secret accounts was the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF). Under the Act that established the Fund in 1973, one percent of all payments from oil block sales were supposed to go to fund meant for activities in man-power development for the petroleum and gas sector. However Obasanjo did not allow all accruals from the one percent to be paid to PTDF but rather pegged it at $100 million per annum. At the same, he never sought the approval of the National Assembly to divert the excess from the one percent to other matters (Newswatch January 28, 2008: 15). An observer captured the situation thus;
Under Obasanjo, the government was not run on the basis of budget. He did not consider himself bound by the budget. He was the budget. He provided figures and allocations and spent money as he liked without any evidential accountability to the National Assembly. Nobody knew what the revenue was. The national Assembly didn’t know, he was not revealing anything. How much came into the government coffers from the oil sales? Nobody knew except himself. He was the sole minister of petroleum (THE GUARDIAN, January 13, 2008: 42).
The truth is that since the return to democracy in 1999, there has been a continual looting of the federal, state and local government treasury. Public money was salted away by government officials with ‘itching palms’ as William Shakespeare puts it. The bulk of this sum was carried abroad by state governors, deputy governors, ministers with diplomatic immunities at the airports. For instance, in September 15, 2005, the former governor of Bayelsa State, Dieprieye Alamieyesigha was arrested in London on allegation of money, laundering. He was found with £1 million cash (TELL Oct 3, 2005: 28).
Buttressing this, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance under the government of Obasanjo asserted: every month immediately after the sharing of federal allocation, governors and/or their aides go abroad to stash away a good chunk of their states money in coded foreign accounts. Some who are smarter salt the money away through companies which are awarded contracts whose components are sourced abroad. This is the character profile of a wealthy country that is going cap-inhand, begging for debt relief’ (TELL Oct. 3, 2005: 29).
In 2007, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC) in a 77 page report argued that the excess proceeds account was illegal. It condemned the way the federal government was running the Federation Account particularly in the aspects of unilateral deduction and withdrawals. Corroborating this view, Farouk Lawan argued that in the last eight years it had been very difficult for the National Assembly to discover the so-called special account. Efforts were made to get the executive arm to disclose all those figures but to no avail (Newswatch January 28, 2007: 7). It is common knowledge that most personalized rulers or dictators are averse to rule of law or constitution. This also applied to Obasanjo in his war against corruption. As Nwabueze (2008) opined:
The question is not whether we should wage a war against corruption or not, my quarrel is that the fight should be waged within the context of the constitution… This is what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Nuhu Ribadu did not appreciate perhaps because Obasanjo did not believe in the constitution. Hence, the commission was viewed as an instrument vendetta. It was so selective that if you were a friend no matter how corrupt you may be nobody would touch you, and if you were an enemy – real or imaginary, the commission would go after you.
Apparently, Obasanjo’s administration was never prepared to carry out any project that would not directly or indirectly benefit its immediate clients, conies and allied political forces. A classic case was the ‘Iyabo-gate’ whereby Obasanjo’s daughter went to Russia, Australia to do business with fake names probably because her father was in the helm of affairs and ready to protect her (The Source, Feb. 25, 2008: 16). Mojisola, wife of Gbenga Obasanjo recently revealed that during Obasanjo’s administration, Gbenga collected oil allocations from Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); and had substantial investment in some oil blocks (Newswatch January 28, 2008: 20). In her (Mojisola) words:
‘Gbenga used his position to the maximum. He has the goodwill of being the son of the serving president of the largest black nation in the world which gives him access to all state governors in Nigeria… top executives in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy, and business personalities all of which he has utilized to earn considerable income’ (Newswatch January 28, 2008: 20).
Again, the government of Olusegun Obasanjo undertook what it called ‘reforms’ in various areas. The economic reform programme for instance, simply picked and chose from various sources those issues which would appeal to foreign ‘donors’ and facilitate the achievement of the economic ambitions of the few privileged Nigerians in control of the government. To be sure, the major sectors of the economy were placed on the building blocks of rapacious entrepreneurs, many of whom were in government using proxies to purchase government properties courtesy of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
A social critic puts it succinctly thus: ‘Economically, Obasanjo’s regime was one that came to empower its own friends, captains of industries whom he promoted to appropriate the collective wealth of the people in the name of commercialization and privatization’ (The NEWS June 4, 2007: 31). However, it may not be out of place to argue that his government empowered a few privileged ones in the society in order to be rewarded ‘by other means’.
To be specific, on 14 May 2005, friends of Obasanjo raised billions of naira for his library project. Despite the president’s claim that no kobo of government funds had gone in to the launching, state governors affirmed that a total sum of N360 million was donated by them to the president’s private cause. At the federal level, the ministers donated their May salaries to their boss. Aside the quantum sum donated by a consortium of banks, individuals like Mike Adenuga, Aliko Dangote and Sonny Odogwu also donated a large sum to support the president’s library project (TELL May 30, 2005: 25-27).
To further demonstrate that Obasanjo’s regime was characterized by self-centred disposition, anti-masses programmes and lack of coherent policies, rather than repay domestic debt, pay pensions, gratuities and other domestic creditors so as to inflate and enhance a more rapid growth of the economy, the regime embarked upon the repayment of external debt in order to please its foreign sponsors and its greedy foreign partners and perhaps get their support for the unconstitutional determination to perpetuate itself in office. As Aluko (2007) captured it:
‘The regime bought the bait of the western creditor nations to pay $12.5 billion of the debt at a tranch, in order to receive $18 billion debt relief, an amount which no other debtor-nation in history has ever paid at once. While some of the other debtor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are obtaining complete debt write-off, Nigeria paid such a huge ransom, because the Nigerian government has more money than sense’.
The regime completely imbibed the imposition of what has become known, as the ‘Washington consensus’, propagated by the World Bank, the IMF and the western imperialist powers, in order that they will continue to control and direct the economic policies of countries that have no independent economic policies of their own. This signifies neo-liberal, neo-colonial, market economic policies which are not meant to provide an effective framework neither for combating poverty nor for generating rapid economic growth. Instead, it is designed to tie perpetually the economies of client economies to the apron-string of the patron-metropolitan western economies (Aluko 2007).
1.2. Statement of the Problem
When President Obasanjo came to power in 1999, the government stated its desire to bring about “democratic dividends” through responsive participatory, transparent and accountable government. Many believed that democracy was going to immediately cure all of the ills of Nigeria, bring about security, stability and re-launch the nation on the path of substantial economic development.
The contradictions which have arisen from democratic transitions and processes of democratization have led to increased questioning of the relevance of the prevailing models and institutions of democracy to the reality of contemporary Nigerian political and economic development. Many have come to believe that the democratic administration of Obasanjo failed to redress the economic power of the average Nigerian. For example, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, asserted “three and a half years of elected civilian rule have created a big disillusionment to virtually all those who had staked high hope on democracy as the panacea for our national woes, and socio-economic predicament”. Some have also opined that the regime was corrupt, leaving Nigeria both in economic and political uncertainty.
Although some of these claims may be disputable, it is necessary to examine historically and dispassionately assessed the Obasanjo in the democratic system in Nigeria.
1.3. Objectives of the Study
The study shall be guided by the following objectives:
- To examine the relationship between the application of the rule of law under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on the democratic system of Nigeria
- 2. To examine the relationship between democratic practices in Nigeria under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and democratic system of Nigeria.
- 3. To examine the challenges of Nigeria’s democratic governance under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on Democratic system of Nigeria
1.4. Research questions
- What is the relationship between the applications of the rule of law under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on the democratic system of Nigeria?
- 2. What is the relationship between democratic practices in Nigeria under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and democratic system of Nigeria?
- 3. What is the relationship between the challenges of Nigeria’s democratic governance under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on Democratic system of Nigeria?
1.5. Statement of the hypothesis
- There is no significant relationship between the application of the rule of law under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on the democratic system of Nigeria
- 2. There is no significant relationship between democratic practices in Nigeria under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and democratic system of Nigeria.
- 3. There is no significant relationship between the challenges of Nigeria’s democratic governance under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on democratic system of Nigeria
1.6. Significance of the study
The coming into power by Chief Obasanjo as an elected president gave a lot of hope to many Nigerians. The then president promised the people that his government should be a people oriented and participatory government that would be beneficial to the people. This work attempts to provide insights into Obasanjo’s democratic governance and the extent it went in solving and meeting the needs of the people. The study will also stimulate more research in this area of study. The outcome of this work will help present and future politicians, economic policy planners and others.
1.7. Justification of study
In spite of the available body of literature on democratic system of Nigeria, a survey on the assessment of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo democratic practices has not been thoroughly investigated. This is the gap we want to fill. This study therefore becomes significant in making valuable contributions to the body of knowledge as it examines the performance, successes and failures of the Obasanjo`s administration
1.8 Scope/ Limitation of study
The time-span of this study is 1999 to 2007. The choice of 1999 as the beginning of the democratic rule which was terminated by the army in 1966. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo came to power as the civilian Head of State. His regime ended in May 2007 after serving as President for two terms as allowed by the Nigerian Constitution. This research will take into account the period of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. It will cover the years from 1999-2007. Nigeria’s Fourth Republic has been the longest period of Nigeria’s democratic era in which it has had three leaders under different administrations. Nigeria has conducted four elections within this period, and it is within this period that efforts are being made to strengthen Nigeria’s democratic roots in the country.
1.9 Limitation of the Study
It is inevitable that a survey research of this nature must have some constraints which impact on this study. The study was limited strictly to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in the Democratic System of Nigeria. Insufficiency in research funding reared its head to perhaps limit the researcher’s efforts and interest during typing, photocopying and binding processes.
The Nigerian culture of anti-intellectualism was another limiting factor experienced from the community residents. Initially, the researcher did not elicit the correct response when he presented his research endeavour in academic terms to the residents who were unwilling to co-operate. The irrational and unpredictable behaviour of human beings who characteristically behave and react differently to the same situation was seen when some respondents were willing to give the needed and pertinent information.
1.9 Definition of terms Study
Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
Foreign policy: also called foreign relations or foreign affairs policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu
Rule of law: the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.
Governance: the action or manner of governing a state, organization
Administrations: the management of public affairs; government.
Effect: a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.
Assessment: the action of assessing someone or something.