We did not need any seer to tell us that the result of the presidential election held on February 25 would be contested, however it went. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with this because the aggrieved have the right to seek legal redress. The snag in our situation is that we have terribly bad losers who would always contest anything and everything, even when it is obvious that their cases are standing on wobbly pedestals. A benign contestant like former President Goodluck Jonathan who conceded defeat even when the results were yet to be officially announced are few and far between in our kind of country.
So, we can understand the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr Peter Obi, his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, who came second and third, respectively, in the presidential race that was won by the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If the electoral umpire failed to deliver on a promise for one reason or the other, those who are aggrieved have the right to challenge the result in court. But what many people cannot understand was the call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the cancellation of the election in areas where they did not “pass the credibility and transparency test” in order to avert looming danger. How could a former leader be peddling, unsubstantiated, such pepper-soup joint rumour? Those who know Obasanjo well know he is merely talking about where his favoured candidate has not done well.
Obasanjo had written several other letters at various times, expressing his opinion on certain national issues. As a Nigerian, he is entitled to this. And as a former head of state, he is eminently so. But, to ask that the president stop an electoral process at the point of announcing the result has no place in our constitution. President Muhammadu Buhari or any Nigerian president under our extant constitution has no such powers. Obasanjo ought to know this.
But, for Obasanjo, it is one thing to know something, it is another to be guided by it. Obasanjo has never been a democrat and he has not succeeded in pretending to be one. By asking that the process be aborted at the point he did, Obasanjo merely told the world what he would have done if he was in President Buhari’s shoes. He would have cancelled the elections irrespective of the fact that he had no such power under the constitution. That would not be the first time he would be trampling on the grundnorm.
In Obasanjo’s eight years as president, at least four governors were removed unceremoniously and unconstitutionally in 2006 alone, mostly with the connivance of the Obasanjo government. In January 2006, 18 of the 32 members of Oyo State House of Assembly ‘impeached’ Governor Rashidi Ladoja. Even then Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State that Obasanjo is now championing his cause was similarly ‘impeached’ on November 2, 2006, without the requisite number of the state legislature. Barely 11 days later, on November 13, Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State was also ‘impeached’ at 6.00 a.m. by five of the 24-member legislature. Mind you, by Nigeria’s constitution, governors can only be impeached by two-thirds majority of the state assembly.
In Ekiti State, the Obasanjo presidency imposed a state of emergency and appointed Brig-Gen. Adetunji Olurin as administrator on October 19, 2006, just because the state house of assembly refused the presidency’s bidding to impeach the then governor, Ayodele Fayose. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who would have been the fifth victim of Obasanjo’s lack of respect for the constitution or rule of law was only saved by the National Assembly. Mercifully, the courts eventually quashed most of the kangaroo impeachments.
But it was not only governors that tasted the undemocratic part of Obasanjo. His party’s chairmen were also victims. Because the former president wanted everything in his own image, he changed his party’s chairmen as women change their wrapper. Not long after becoming president in 1999, Obasanjo shoved aside Chief Solomon Lar who was chairman at the time the party won the presidential election in 1999. Lar barely spent a year in office. Then came Barnabas Gemade who was similarly frustrated out of office by Obasanjo. Then Audu Ogbeh who became chairman as the party was preparing for the 2003 general elections; he suffered the same fate. Meaning that Obasanjo dispensed with the services of three party chairmen that he installed in less than four years; plus Lar that he inherited.
Of the lot, Ogbeh’s ouster was particularly dramatic. Obasanjo went to his house with fully armed security agents and requested for pounded yam. After eating, he brought out a letter that he gave his host to sign. It turned out to be Ogbeh’s resignation letter. After signing the letter, apparently under duress, Ogbeh handed it back to the president who left along with the security agents, only to return about 30 minutes later for him (Ogbeh) to date the letter of resignation written by the president himself!
But, for Obasanjo, this uncharitable and undemocratic attitude did not start from ‘abroad’. It started from home during the selection of the 14th Olowu of Owu in 2004, where the former president, sensing that his preferred candidate, Prince Adegboyega Olusanya Dosunmu, was losing to another candidate. Obasanjo tore the result sheet. The former president cannot stand seeing anyone he is supporting lose any contest. He eventually muzzled his way through.
Perhaps the height of Obasanjo’s perfidy was his attempt at third term. It was the vigilance of Nigerians and the resoluteness of the National Assembly that frustrated that inordinate ambition. Even though Obasanjo denied this, it was clear he said and did everything towards that even though he did not directly utter it. Some people paid for that failed bid because Obasanjo is like an elephant, he neither forgives nor forgets.
So, Nigerians who know Obasanjo’s antecedents must have smelt trouble when he allegedly said before the election that anyone who attempted to rig Obi out would have him to contend with. “The only thing that can stop Peter Obi from winning the 2023 election is only when they rigged him out; but I am here to show the world and Nigerians that once a soldier is always a soldier…it’s no longer Obi but me”, the former president was quoted as saying.
This is one of the reasons why we cannot blame Obi for weeping on national television claiming that he won the presidential election. Obi probably sees Obasanjo as an oracle and with such oracle supporting him, he must have felt he has arrived politically. But Obasanjo does not have the kind of political value that matches his threat. He has always lost his polling booth.
True, the former president, one must concede, has always gone overboard when it comes to elections and is almost always fanatically involved when he supports a candidate. The fact is, as an elder statesman that he should be, he ought to know the limits of such fanaticism. I always recall how he tore his membership card of the PDP in the open before the 2015 elections, to tell the world that he did not believe in the party anymore. Only people in the PDP would have problem with that. But, to go to the extent of predicting that your candidate, in whom you are well pleased and which is an open secret, could only lose an election if rigged out even when the election was yet to hold is taking both fanaticism and mischief too far.
If our youths do not know these facts, it is not their fault. Perhaps this was the kind of pervasive ignorance the former president wanted to spread in the country which made him to cancel History as a subject in our secondary schools. If the youths had the benefit of studying History, they would have known Obasanjo’s role in our democratic struggles. Now that he is posing as a democrat, it is the youths themselves who would know he is fake and tell the teacher not to teach them nonsense.
There is no doubt that Obi has done well, being a first timer in the race. But to now be claiming he won the election is, as far as I am concerned, far from it, despite the support base that he has, especially among the youths who are disenchanted with the situation of things in the country. And rightly so. But Obi would do well to be wary of such godfathers because they probably have their own motives other than free and fair elections. Indeed, Obi has President Buhari to thank for his ascendancy. Just the same way corruption and ineptitude made the Goodluck Jonathan administration to beget the Buhari presidency, the incompetence of the Buhari administration enabled the LP candidate to gain the kind of attention he had at the polls.
With due respect to the former President, he is one of the least qualified persons to be sanctimonious on democracy. He can continue to pretend to our youths that he is one of them, or that he is at least young at heart, or a democratic champion, those of us who have been around for some time know that Obasanjo has little or no regard for democracy.
I almost forgot Obasanjo’s elections of 2003 and 2007, both of which were marred with irregularities that even international observers could not but notice. The 2007 experience was particularly awful that the beneficiary, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, himself was honest enough to openly admit that there were issues with the election, necessitating his setting up of the Justice Mohammed Uwais panel to review the country’s electoral process. No former head of state carried placards calling for cancellation of that election to avert Armageddon then. They all knew the procedure. Now, see the kettle calling the pot black.
The truth of the matter is that, since 1999 when our present civil rule took off, I have not seen any incumbent president who made things difficult for his party’s presidential aspirant as President Buhari did to his party’s flagbearer, Tinubu. Is it the fuel crisis that we want to talk about? Or the self-inflicted Naira crunch? Yet, Tinubu waded through the landmines to clinch the gold medal. Interestingly, it is the same people who were applauding Buhari for starving Tinubu of money to bribe voters in Lagos (which they claimed made Tinubu lose the state) that are now crying that they have been rigged out of the election when the final presidential poll tally did not favour them.
Interestingly too, it is both the PDP and Labour Party that are now claiming victory in the presidential election. Yet, the contest could only have produced one winner! That the political parties which came second and third, respectively, are both claiming that they won is enough evidence that there are many adulterated results of the polls flying all over the place.
Well, I leave you with an online comment by a Nigerian, that we should not be surprised about Baba’s outbursts on the February 25 presidential election. That Baba is only helping his kith and kin by putting the Obi presidency on his head. The anonymous commentator said blood is thicker than water. I don’t get this. Someone help me!
•Written By Tunji Adegboyega