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“Choosing A President”: An American Lesson for Nigeria By Dr. Wumi Akintide

February 12, 2014

Fans of this column should regard this article as a follow-up to my article titled “the Merger of Opposition parties and the emergence of APC is a welcome development.”  I see it as an antidote or the best and the right way to nullify a one party dictatorship in Nigeria”. The article was carried by ChatAfrik and Sahara. I predicted in that article that the APC  might just crash and die under its own contradictions and weight if they are not careful about the right way to engage or confront the albatross called the PDP in Nigeria.

Fans of this column should regard this article as a follow-up to my article titled “the Merger of Opposition parties and the emergence of APC is a welcome development.”  I see it as an antidote or the best and the right way to nullify a one party dictatorship in Nigeria”. The article was carried by ChatAfrik and Sahara. I predicted in that article that the APC  might just crash and die under its own contradictions and weight if they are not careful about the right way to engage or confront the albatross called the PDP in Nigeria.

I have lived too long in the United States and I have learned so much within that period to clearly see the folly of what is happening in Nigeria as the country prepares again to hold another presidential election in 2015. The A.P.C is nothing but a conglomeration of incompatible political values and ideologies who have just come together to fight a cause they believe they can win without thinking thru the discipline they would need to survive the PDP which has dominated power for more than almost two decades. Many of their members are bread and butter politicians who are in politics to ask for what the country can do for them and not what they cannot do for the country as envisaged by J.F.K. Most of their members have been so used to corruption and debauchery and reaping where they have not sown for as long as some of us can remember. They are carrying that virus to the APC without any question in my mind.

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The marriage of convenience between Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu who took his political play book from the rough and tumble politics of Chicago and General Mohamadu Buhari who is as clean as a whistle when it comes to the war on indiscipline and corruption in Nigeria,  may not last, even if they succeed in dislodging the PDP on the short run which is going to be a Herculean task if you know what I know. The fight on who to choose as their flag bearer and his or her running mate in 2015 is a struggle that can kill the merger altogether. Mark my words. A man like Oshiomhole whose state is classified as belonging to the South/South could possibly have been their best bet to run in a joint ticket with another strong candidate from the North. That is only going to happen if the North could swallow their pride and allow wiser counsel to prevail in a determined effort to save or rescue Nigeria from the stranglehold of the PDP. President Jonathan’s insistence to continue beyond 2015 is a killer whale for the PDP. The man just hasn’t a track record to run on and his First lady is a sure drag on his chances if you ask me.

President Goodluck Jonathan could not have chosen a worse time to hold the  national conference he has now agreed to as part of his political strategy to polarize the PDP weaken his opponents and perceived enemies in that party and to deflate the balloon of the APC which is trying everything possible to dislodge the PDP and Jonathan’s quest for a second or third term  despite his abysmal track record and because he has reneged on his iron-clad promise to never seek another term as President. His transforming agenda for Nigeria has become moribund or dead on arrival if we look all back on where Nigeria is supposed to be today. Youth employment has hit double digits. Power outages have remained a permanent feature of our national life and corruption has risen to astronomical levels where police at stop signs are now demanding for dollars in bribes instead of naira. The First Lady who wants to combine her role as first lady with that of an absentee Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa speaks the English language with the bombastic arrogance of Honorable Obahiagbon who has crossed carpet from the PDP to the ACN  which has now metamorphosed or merged into the APC.

Say what you like. It is my opinion that the PDP is a much weaker party today than it has ever been under Olusegun Obasanjo. By the same token, the fate of Nigeria hangs in an uneasy balance today under Jonathan than it has ever ever been under any of our compromise Heads of State of Nigeria with the possible exception of Murtala Mohammed, because of the weakness and the poor handling of President Jonathan whose Ph.D earned from  the Garden City in Port Harcourt has now become the butt of every joke among Nigerians at home and abroad. “That is not correct” is the famous response Dr. Jonathan loves to give to every question from the news media.

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I am a regular fan of Dr. Damages on Sahara TV in New York. Dr. Damages a brilliant product of the federal University of Technology, and a Jonathan-look-alike  will crack your ribs with laughter as he impersonates the Nigerian President on Youtube and the Internet. If you think Jay Leno, David Letterman or Jon Stewart was funny, you probably haven’t seen Dr. Damages make fun of the Nigerian President. It would be alright if Dr. Damages is the one poking fun at the President on the air waves. There is a young genius of a reporter named Adeola Fayeun of the same Sahara who is pretty much doing the same thing with her “Keeping it Real” with her satires and amazing  gossip on President “Do Little” of Nigeria and his megalomaniac  First lady, otherwise  known as Dame Patience or Madam Defarge.

I love Sahara and its mission statement which is captured in their cliche which says “Everything Africa” but with special emphasis on Nigeria. The young man called Omoyele Sowore the CEO and MD of Sahara is another crazy genius of a Nigerian who checked out as a one time President of Lagos University Students Unions to go take a Master’s degree from Columbia University. The man read Geography from Lagos University. You would have thought he majored in Mass Communication at Columbia or was a trained journalist from Nigeria. He was none of that. He is just an ideologically-driven Nigerian who believes he can change Nigeria and by extension the whole world by believing in himself and in courses much larger than his own enlightened self interest. He is leading a one-man battalion to clean up Nigeria and he is doing a marvelous job of it in the greatest city in the world.

An American lesson for Nigeria takes a penetrating look at the way Nigeria chooses our  leaders and  compared  to the way Americans chooses their own Presidents and leaders. The search for the next President in America begins from the date the last or current President is elected. It is a huge competition between the two major political parties with the Independents acting as the swing vote. Under no condition is any one party allowed to forever dominate the White House like the NPC, the NPN or the PDP has been allowed to do in Nigeria. Just like “America is jokingly said to run on Dunkin,” I guess you can say that Nigeria runs on a one party dictatorship from from election circle to another.

The 38 years of military rule in Nigeria is no exception. I guess you can call the Military the third rail in Nigeria. The Military is currently paralysed in Nigeria not by Nigerians but by the forces beyond their control in the International Community which is now sworn to  never co-operate with  men in boots and uniform staging a military coup for the wrong reasons at the least provocation. Habitual coup plotters like Ibrahim Babangida who have never seen a coup they did not like, and soldiers, have had their wings clipped by the international community. The Nigerian Military has therefore lost its insatiable motivation to want to plot coups in Nigeria because they are afraid America and much of the West would not go along. They fully understand that a failed coup nearly always mean death by the firing squad in much of the third world including Nigeria. They are actively watching what is currently going on in Egypt which has forever had a military rule since Gamel Abdel Nasir first showed up in that country. The Nigerian coup plotters are scared to death  about how the international community would react or respond to another coup in Nigeria. That has become a major deterrence for coups in Nigeria, but be warned because that may change if the soldiers are driven to the wall by unfolding events in Nigeria.

That is why you now hear Obasanjo and IBB tripping on each other to prove which of them is more of a democrat than the other. How for goodness could Obasanjo who opened his big mouth to say he wanted the PDP to rule Nigeria for the next hundred years?  How could Ibrahim Babangida who has participated in every coup by force and by fire in Nigeria before becoming Head of State from 1985 to 1993 claim he is now a democrat? Here was a man who annulled the most free and fair election in Nigeria just because he could and without losing any sleep for so doing? Here was a man who would have moved Nigeria closer to the two party structure but became the first to destroy the house he has figuratively built when he made sure the SDP and the NRC he had created were parties funded and macro-managed by himself as head of State.

It was a big deception because IBB could care less about Democracy and what it stood for around the world. His claiming to be a democrat was as believable as Baba Sala or Baba Mero or Fadeyio Oloro claiming to be the most serious leader in the mode of Obafemi Awolowo, Murtala Mohammed or the great Ikembe Eze Igbo Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu!

The way Nigeria chooses her leaders is what this article is all about. It is ludicrous to say the least. Let us begin with Tafawa Balewa the famous Grade two teacher from Bauchi who became the  first Prime Minister of Nigeria from an election in which the great Ogbuefi Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a candidate. It was an election in which “the greatest President Nigeria never had”  Barrister and economist Obafemi Awolowo was also a candidate. Nigerians, evidently, did not believe in the proverb that “a chain is as strong as its weakest link”. Nigeria believes the opposite and that is why the country always settles for her worst and weakest candidate in every election with the possible exception of the contest between M.K.O Abiola and Alhaji Tofa of Kano.

Sardauna Bello whose greatest ambition was to be turbaned the Sultan of Sokoto had no qualms sending his Deputy the grade 2 teacher down south to Lagos to go become the Prime Minister of Nigeria while Nnamdi Azikiwe becomes a ceremonial President whose major function at the time was attending funerals of Heads of State in other countries. It was a colossal waste of knowledge and talent America would never have tolerated or condoned.

The January 15 1966 coup had Tafawa Balewa captured and assassinated by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and his gang of Majors. Guess who took over power? It was not Major Nzeowu but General Aguiyi Ironsi who did not have any fire in his belly to lead the country at that point in time. The young man named Nzeogwu who was ready at that point to die for Nigeria and what he believed in was arrested and put in detention. Nzeogwu was the man who ordered his colleagues to bomb the house where he had gone in to personally confront Sardauna Bello, if he did not accomplish the task he went there to do at a specific time. He was that serious and determined. That was the kind of a leader Nigeria would have gotten in 1966. General Aguiyi Ironsi, as establishment man, was a far cry from the kind of leadership Nzeogwu would have provided had he been allowed to do what he wanted to do. You can count that as another major blow to Nigeria in the way and manner we choose our leaders.

There was another counter coup on July 29 the same year outwardly led by Major or Lt. Col. Theophilus Danjuma but master-minded by Murtala Mohammed who could not be named as Head of State because, he was a pure Hausa man from Kano, the epic center of the then North. He would  not have been acceptable to the South who had just lost two of their great sons in Aguiyi Ironsi, and Lt. Col Adekunle Fajuyi and were very upset about what the North had done killing a lot of  young southern officers at the Army base at Ibadan. Nigeria was on the brink of breaking up and the North saw it coming. They wisely opted for a Christian brother, the affable Jack Yakubu Gowon who had just returned from a training in Sandhurst and did not participate in the Coup but he became the compromise choice to take over from Aguiyi Ironsi for the next 8 years before he was sent parking in 1975 in a bloodless palace coup led by Joseph Garba, the Commanding officer of the Elite Brigades of Guards based at Dodan Barracks.

Joe, a man I came to know very well and who I admire very much was from the same Middle Belt with gentleman Gowon. He was the one picked to do the dirty job for the king pin behind the Coup, Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo both of who became the number one and the number 2 in that regime for the 200 days Murtala Mohammed set the pace for dynamic leadership in Nigeria arguably for the first time in Nigerian History. I was in Government at the material time. I had some shares in a private business called Unimotors Nigeria Ltd. I was making some money from the business on the sideline when Murtala Mohammed came  threatening civil servants with dismissal if you were found engaging in any other business. That was how two of us out of the four Directors of Unimotors had to quickly resign before Murtala got to know about our dealings. That man meant business and he wasn’t playing. That is the kind of leader Nigeria needs.

Murtala was assassinated by Col. Dimka. The North wanted another northerner to take over but changed their mind and allowed Olusegun Obasanjo to take over in a quid pro quo kind of arrangement where Obasanjo was more than happy to assure the North he was not going to rock the boat for the apparent domination of Nigeria by the North and he delivered on his promise when in 1979 his regime conducted another election in which Shehu Shagari from Sokoto,the least qualified and the least-experienced of the candidates but the safest to continue the “status quo” in Nigeria, was picked to succeed Obasanjo as Head of State.

The North still dominated the Nigerian military at the time and Shehu Shagari and his NPN had nothing to fear but fear itself because all the military bases in Nigeria were still very much concentrated in the North. Shehu Shagari was a weak President if you compare his pedigree to that of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo who was the runner up to Shagari in that election. Awolowo was taking his case to Court but Obasanjo who had long made up his mind to rig the election in favor of Shagari had no time to waste on the the so called 122/3 gimmicks that Awolowo as a lawyer was going to use to “dabaru” the outcome of that election or seek for the annulment. Shehu Shagari laughed all his way to Dodan Baracks  with the Hausa/Fulani shouting “Power” and  Ranka Dede. Eight years later, Awolowo went to his bed hail and hearty the previous night and he never woke up alive. That death closed the chapter for life for a man who wanted to repeat for the whole of Nigeria the virtuoso performance he has had in the old Western Region.

Mohammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon could hardly wait for 6 years to send Shehu Shagari packing. Tunde Idiagbon in retrospect and hindsight now appeared even tougher than Buhari as the obvious choice to take over from Shagari but it was Buhari the Fulani guy from Adamawa or somewhere there who got the nod of the power brokers again. He ruled from 1983 to 1985 declaring was against indiscipline and corruption like no other leader in Nigerian history. Ibrahim Babangida now felt his time had come and he struck. He gave Buhari and Idiagbon the boot and he took over picking Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe and later Rear Admiral Aikhomu as his Deputy. He ruled Nigeria for close to 9 years when he was forced by circumstances beyond his control to step aside in the hope he would be called back when Nigeria hit a cul-de-sac.

His expectation did not pan out. Ernest Sonekan the man he picked to appease the Yorubas for robbing M.K.O Abiola of his chance to lead Nigeria proved to be a transient leader at best as Sani Abacha who thought the North was born to rule, defrocked Mr. Sonekan in a split second. He took over, chose General Oladipo Diya as his Deputy and he survived in power for 5 years before his miraculous death in the company of some Indian prostitutes as they claimed. Only God knows the truth.

Then came Abdulsalam Abubakar who reigned for just one year with my friend Real Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe as his number 2. That was the time I would have have gotten another Federal appointment had I not checked out of Nigeria in 1987 because I wanted to pave the way for all of my children to have a better life. I deliberately decided to keep Okhai Mike Akhigbe in the dark about my movement at the time because I was just tired of Nigeria. By the time I changed my mind, Abdulsalam Abubakar had handed over to Obasanjo as a civilian President in a country dominated by the PDP which I don’t like because of their hatred and intolerance of the Opposition in Nigeria. I did not like a one-party dictatorship and I still don’t till now.

Obasanjo ruled from 1999 to 2007 in what was supposed to be a better government for Nigeria but Obasanjo blew his chances to redeem Nigeria because he was a smooth dictator at heart and never a democrat at all. I was glad the man did not realize his ambition to become the Secretary-general of the United Nations losing to Butro Butros Ghali of Egypt and later on to Kofi Annan. My other friend, the great Prince of Ilorin, the one and only ambassador Ibrahim Agboola Gambari a Columbia product would have been a better pick for Nigeria at the UN than crude Obasanjo who would have embarrassed Nigeria with some sex scandal in that Ivy League of an Institution.

Obasanjo quit the presidency and he would not allow Nigerians to be the one picking the person who can best lead them because he arrogated to himself the self-appointed father of the nation. The way he came about picking Goodluck Jonathan was simply laughable as I have explained in one of my articles which I am not going to repeat here. Governor Odili or Governor Duke from the same South/South zone were far better candidates than Jonathan but Obasanjo who wanted a duo he can push around and micro-manage, every step of the way, had  settled for the duo of the terminally-ill Umaru Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as his running mate. That was how Goodluck ended up becoming President after Yar Adua died in office two years into his first term. It was no way to pick a President and only in Nigeria could any President have been picked like that.

American pundits are predicting with empirical facts that Nigeria might unravel by 2015 and they are right, if you see what I see. Goodluck Jonathan with all due to respect to him is just too weak, too corrupt and incompetent to be a good and effective President just like I said in one of my articles on him which has hit the roof as one of the most popular articles on the Chatafrik website moderated or published by Martin Akindana.

You can all go read the article in the archives if Ahat Afrik or on Sahara. A President like Goodluck Jonathan could never have emerged as a presidential candidate in America talk less of becoming the  President. Not by a long shot! If you compare the problems Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is up against today, you will instinctively know that President Jonathan if nominated would not have run, and if elected, would have been impeached a long time ago for his long tolerance of Stella Oduah in his Cabinet despite public outcry against the appointment. 

He also would have been impeached long time ago for his pardon of Governor Alimiyeisegha on a quid pro quo arrangement but more so for the excesses of his first lady, the second President in his Cabinet Nigeria did not elect.

Jackie Kennedy one of the most beautiful first ladies to ever serve America could not have dared to commit half of the atrocities Dame Patience has committed in Nigeria, JFK would have called her to order longest time ago. Betty Ford could never have done some of the things Patience Jonathan has gotten away with in Nigeria. Gerald Ford would never have tolerated those indiscretions. Same thing with George Prescott Bush and his first lady, the mother of another President and the mother of a former Governor of Florida  who might still one day become President Jimmy Carter arguably the most educated and smartest President as a Nuclear Physicist by education and training would not have tolerated a Roslyn Carter getting away with some of the things Dame Jonathan had done.

Most certainly, Ronald Reagan would not have allowed his wife Mrs. Reagan to become totally uncontrollable. Hillary Clinton one of the smartest American First ladies who has been in politics for more than 50 years and has served  in various capacities as Senator of the Empire State of New York and Secretary of State could never have done some of the things Dame Jonathan has been notorious for.The matriarch of the Bush Family and Laura Bush could never have done the same thing and if they did, they would have been called to order by their respective husbands. Of course Michelle Obama, a Princeton and Harvard graduate could never have been seen insisting that a State Commissioner of Police Mr. Mbu become her hatchet man to humiliate and intimidate a Governor Amaechi whose only offense was because he dared to dream big in a P.D.P controlled by Goodluck Jonathan as President. All these observations could not have been tolerated in America.

President Jonathan has become a captive in the hands of his first lady. If the guy cannot control his wife, how much more the whole of Nigeria? If the way we choose our President is anywhere near the way it is done in America, neither Jonathan nor his First lady would have emerged.  A good many of our past Presidents would never have tasted that office for one day.

I rest my case.  


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

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