Sunday, May 14, 2006

Obasanjo: not George Washington

Desperate to maintain his Presidency into a third term, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has finally begun to make public declarations of his interest in doing so.

Up until now, Obasanjo has maintained complete silence on the issue, ostensibly waiting silently for Nigerian lawmakers to put forward a constitutional amendment that would grant him the right to run again. But a two-thirds majority would be required in both Nigerian houses to pass that amendment, and, thus far, whip counts indicate that both houses are at best evenly split.

On Thursday, seeing his case fall into crisis, the president made his first plea to lawmakers to pass the amendment (Reuters):

"He told them to find a way to get it through and save the project," a senior National Assembly source told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the delicacy of the matter.

"Everyone told him he doesn't have the votes."

The third term campaign has been unsurprisingly marred by large-scale bribery, adding Obasanjo to the growing list of Africa's "new leaders," whose campaign promises regarding democracy and the rule of law have largely turned to dust.

The US government has urged Obasanjo to turn away from his third-term pursuits, predicting major turmoil if he elected to another term, while Brits have taken the politically safe stance of supporting a change to the constitution only if it is free and fair.

A growing list of Nigerian religious leaders have denounced Obasanjo's third-term campaign. The latest is Primate Peter Akinola (Anglican Communion), who, on Saturday, was quoted in the Vanguard (Nigeria) as saying:
They are at it again. No clear political manifesto, clear vision or set goals have been announced. For goodness sake, what do we owe these shameless political opportunists? People who ordinarily ought to be languishing in jail. It is time we told them to go back to the farm or find something else to do. The current political climate portends enough danger for our nation’s future. Nigeria deserves better than these evil men can offer.
Akinola's statement is significant given his only other statement on the third-term campaign, given to the Guardian (Nigeria) [emphasis mine]:
For me, that's an illusion. People are talking about third term but has the President ever said he was going for third term? He has even denied it several times both at home and abroad.

The Constitution does not allow it. And he is not just a Nigerian leader but a world leader. So, you think he will want to tarnish his own image? He is a force to be reckoned with in the affairs of the world today. Those who are talking about it are gaining from it. There are many Nigerians who specialize in fomenting trouble. And they feed fat in chaos. To me it's a non-issue. He has denied it several times. If the man comes out and asks Nigerians to give him another chance, that is when I can comment. For now, I have no comment about third term. Other than to warn those orchestrating it to be careful.

Well, at least Akinola has kept his promise.

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