3.5.06

If you can’t win the game, then change the rules

Over here in the UK, the entire political esthablishment is in turmoil ahead of a local government election tomorrow. The Home Office is in chaos, over the release of foreign prisoners without considering them for deportation, and now, it has emerged that a few of them have reoffended since being released. The Deputy Prime minister was caught with his trousers down, and is now invovled in a kiss and tell battle with his secretary, with whom he had a 2 year affair. And finally, as the NHS seems to be falling to pieces, The Health minister and the Prime Minister want us to believe that things have never been better. All this has led to many asking Mr. Blair to stand down. Tomorrow's election results will go a long way in deciding how long he has left.

But for political drama, I'll have to say my home country Nigeria beats the UK hands down. Next year, Nigerians will go to the polls to decide on their president. Who is going to stand in that election is the subject of the most intense debate and politiking seen on this planet. Well, this picture of a 'debate' in the House of Representatives sums up what is happening Nationwide.

 
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The third term debate in the House of Representatives yesterday turned into a fist fight

 

In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo took over as president of Nigeria. The first civilian president since 1983. At the end of his first term, he won another election in 2003, however, this election was marred by serious allegations of electoral fraud. However, as it was to be his final term in office, all allegations have since died down, with politicians looking to 2007. Well, from about last year, there have been moves in the political class to change the constitution, to allow a president to run for 3 terms instead of 2. And while President Obasanjo has not publicly stated that he is interested in running for a third term, it is becoming clearer with each passing day that he is behind the moves to change the constitution and rule the country for another 4 years.


 
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Demola Yaya (center) was arrested for carrying an anti-third term placard at the Workers' Day celebration in Abuja. Several politicians who have been arrested or targeted for corruption have alledged that their refusal to support Obasanjo's third term bid is the reason behind their persecution 

 

Almost every Nigerian you meet is against the third term agenda. The political class however is divided. A lot of politicians are against it, although with most of them, you have to question their motives, as they are all looking to run for office, and know that if Obasanjo runs again, this will harm their chances. The Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has publicly stated that he is against the moves, and is accusing the president of wanting to remain in power for life. However, power to change the constitution lies in the hands of the senate, and several of them are backing the move, and it looks like the constitution will be changed.


So why don't people allow this to happen and vote against Obasanjo in the election next year? Well:


1. If he gets to run, he's going to win the election. In Nigeria, elections aren't won by the people with the most votes, you have to 'out-rig'(i.e. chet) the other person to win. And when it comes to cheating, Obasanjo's PDP (People's Democratic Party) have no rivals. so if he runs, he will win. End of story.


2. This will set a very dangerous precendent. Like Obasanjo, most of Nigeria's top politicians have actually ruled the country before, as military dictators. In the last election, he ran against General Buhari, who ruled Nigeria from 1983-1985. Next year's election is going to be contested by General IB Babangida, who ruled Nigeria from 1985 till 1992, and Col. B. Marwa, who has been military governor of 2 states in the country. If Obasanjo is seen to manipulate the political process for his own benefits, then whenever he decides to leave, any one of these people will finally get into office, and who knows what they'll do? Babangida was responsible for plunging Nigeria into debt, and it was under him that corruption became institutionalised, Nigeria has previously been ranked as the second most corrupt country in the world. Marwa stole BILLIONS while he was governor of Lagos State, Nigeria's commercial capital. The mere fact that these two morons can actually think about running for political office is despicable, but the truth is that they have a real chance of winning, which is just sad, and shows how impotent the political process in Nigeria is. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. And the richest men in Nigeria are our former military rulers who have amassed vast amounts of 'public wealth'.


To be fair, Obasanjo has done a brilliant job. He has tackled corruption bravely, and has gone a long way in winning the battle against thieving public officials. Nigeria has become the first African nation to become debt free. There is massive foreign investment, jobs are being created and while there is a long way to go, people are beginning to believe in Nigeria again. And to be fair, I don't think there is anyone to take over from Obasanjo and continue the reform of the nation.


But all this could tarnish his image and destory his legacy. Obasanjo should respect the rule of law, and retire in 2007. He will be known as the forst military leader to hand over power to an elected government (1976), the first man to rule Nigeria twice, and the man who began the revolution that changed changed the country(hopefully). If he continues down this road, not only will he drag his name into the mud, he may destroy the country altogether, as this matter is beginning to have ethnic and religious implications, and is beginning to look like a battle of the Christian South versus the Muslim North. To me, that spells only one thing, civil war.


My heart bleeds.

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