Flashback: Politics of gimmicks

By Amah Baldwin
From my Reporter’s Dairy

“When it comes to the crunch, politics is a dangerous game of mudslinging, in which he who says what he likes must accept to hear what he does not like” … Zimako Kenechukwu”

W.E.F Ward in his book- Government in West Africa said: “The aim of a politician is to gain and use power over his fellow men.”

Nigerians have been victims to arbitrary use of power by a few people, jerked up by the system to control the affairs of men.

A critical research into Nigeria’s political history will expose the shenanigans of the country’s politicians who take advantage of complacency and inertia for which the people are known.

Ward quoted Plato as stressing that, “no government will be a good government unless it is controlled by good men.”
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Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe

Only in a few cases has Nigeria enjoyed the services of a good government controlled by good men. At the national, state and council levels the story is the same.

In the struggle to acquire political power, politicians want to be acknowledged as saints, men and women of dignity and integrity, while the opponents represent the devil and all that is bad. In a deliberate efforts to lower public estimation of the one on the opposite side, they pour invectives, sling mud, and disparage them.

In the middle of the fire are the electorate, the masses and the apolitical. The gullible among them, the crumb seekers and the poverty stricken, accept the gimmick. But the clever ones regard the tricksters with derision.

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Chief MKO Abiola

In 1998 General Abdulsalam Abubakar inherited power following the sudden death of General Sani Abacha who was the hemsleman. Abacha and Chief Ernest Shonekan before him had usurped the mandate of Chief MKO Abiola who won the June 12 1993 presidential poll. General Ibrahim Babangida foisted, or rather hoisted Shonekan on Nigerians on August 26 1993. Eighty four days later, Abacha emerged from the barracks to shove the business mogul and Egba Chief aside in what is regarde as a coup.

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Alhaji Shehu Shagari

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General Olusegun Obasanjo

I recall as if it were yesterday that Abdulsalam, Babangida and General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma among others decided to take advantage of the deaths of the brutish dictator, Abacha and the incarcerated Abiola to pacify the Yorubas. At that time, the Yorubas were raving and cursing over the annulled June 12 election and the alleged state spousored killings of Abiola, his wife Kudirat and many others.

The brainstorming sessions by the generals resulted in the sudden release of Olusegun Obasanjo, earlier sent to prison by Abacha.

“You want to take a shot at the presidency,” they asked the Yorubas. The angry Oduduwa sons responded in the affirmative. “Yes, as if you don’t know,” they answered.

“Remember, we are not begging for it. It is as of right,” they further reminded the power brokers, the generals.

The man from the gulag, Obasanjo was being brushed up somewhere, as if he was coming to effect a meaningful change.
Also three political parties were in the processes of being registered to return to Nigeria’s version of democracy.
Alliance for Democracy, AD; All Peoples Party, APP and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were packaged by the military.
AD and APP teamed up to present a single  presidential candidate. For the two parties, the body language of the outgoing military generals could not be taken for granted. Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of Federation emerged candidate and Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, vice presidential candidate.

In the PDP, former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former military Head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo, former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and others slugged it out.

At the Jos Convention, Obasanjo won, thanks to the incumbent military government.

With the loss of June 12, Abiola, Kudirat among others at the back of their mind, the military donors told the Yorubas that since they insisted on having their son as Nigeria’s president, it was okay, but that they would have one which would not be their choice.
And so, I remember as if it were yesterday that Obasanjo, the one anointed by the powers that held sway emerged the president against the one chosen by the Yorubas- Olu Falae.

One intriguing feature of the exercise was Ekwueme’s snap reaction moments after he lost the primary. “This is a charade,” he cried out. The former vice president gave the impression that he was shocked by the outcome. Simply put, he was telling the world that those who midwifed the emerging civilian government rigged him out of the exercise.

It is doubtful whether Ekwueme remembered events of 1983 when his party, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN threw caution and decency to the winds, and in collaboration with Justice Ovie Whiskey’s FEDECO masterminded one of the worst electoral frauds in the history of Nigeria.
Most of the election winners were announced losers. The victims included Jim Nwobodo of the NPP, Michael Ajasin of the UPN, Bola Ige of the UPN and the Great Zik. Of Africa, Rt. Hon. Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe. Ekwueme, K.O Mbadiwe, Chuba Okadigbo, Emeka Ojukwu, Christian Onoh among others beat their chests for great accomplishment.

However, their victory dance was short-lived. The army struck, their investments lost. But before the army came, Zik described it as an inglorious victory; infact a pyrrhic victory.

So, not a few Nigerians described Ekwueme’s anger in 1998 as amusing. He wanted equity and fairness. But did he contest that primary with good conscience and clean hands.

I recall with hindsight that 1983 election rigging and the donation of the presidency to Obasanjo in 1999.

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General Sani Abacha

Anytime I listen to Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalam, my mind returns to the wasted years, the days of the locust. That was when other Nations soared in economic and political El Dorado, and Nigeria became a laughing stock. It is rather unfortunate that even when Prince Uche Secondus, PDP National chairman apologized profusely for the wreckage of Nigeria’s economy by Obasanjo and those after him, the man still parades the landscape as if nothing happened. Perhaps only in Nigeria.

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President Muhammadu Buhari

But Nigerians can really bite. In Akure, like in Enugu, the scripts were rehearsed. The actors, FEDECO, the security agencies, the NPN took positions. What the viewers saw on the screen was awful. Omoboriowo first, outsmarted his opponents, snatched the result sheet; FEDECO had engraved his name on it. Security operatives shielded him as he ran towards Govt Home, Akure with it to take over.
But the electorate, indeed the people gave them a hot chase. Not even the gun totting NPN things and police would deter them.
Just as Akin Omoboriowo and his gangsters approached the gate, the dreamer was caught by the people whom he impersonated as his voters.
As he tried to catch his breadth, the people dispossessed him of the result sheet. They call it Form EC 8. The document was handed over to Michael Ajasin, the Governor elect.

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Senator Jim Nwobodo

I recall that in Enugu, it was a different ball game. The man, Jim Nwobodo who won the governorship poll advised voters not to pursue his defeated opponent. Rather, he resorted to the courts, the Nigerian courts.

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