Obasanjo Unleashes His Vengeance

Obasanjo Unleashes His Vengeance

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Jun 29, 2006 8:12 pm

"Obasanjo's government is becoming too edgy and nervous about newspaper reports after the defeat of his third term agenda. He is now turning the heat on the press." - Gani Fawehinmi

In the wake of the defeat of the perfidious third term agenda, I had warned that various sections of the Nigerian society must be prepared for the vengeance of a badly wounded President Obasanjo. One did not need a crystal ball to read what was likely to be the response of the despot to his utter defeat by the Nigerian people, so I had said then that the political elite and the media would be particularly targeted. This was not long in coming.

Although members of the humbled Obasanjo clique had made reconciliatory noises in the wake of the calamity that befell them on May 16th, I am sure even they themselves did not believe that a rapprochement was genuinely on the cards with members of the PDP that they had systematically set out to humiliate and sideline in pursuit of the life presidency agen da of Obasanjo. The defeat of May 16th forced a new realisation upon Obasanjo and his unelected and terribly unpopular leaders of the conquered PDP party.

The reconciliation moves were actually designed to win a respite, get the gullible members to believe that something good can actually come for them, while in real terms, the Obasanjo clique was fine tuning a new set of options to deal with all the perceived enemies of Obasanjo and his entourage. From the standpoint of the Obasanjo clique, the most visible symbol of all that was unacceptable was his Vice President; but Atiku Abubakar has shown a greater political acumen, cannot be removed, but at least he can be stripped near naked, with the sack of nearly all his aides. That has played out in the last week or so. But the most annoying platform as far as Obasanjo is concerned, is the Nigerian press.

Even in the best of times, Obasanjo has never been a lover of this intrepid institution of society; as an erstwhile military dictator he had running battles with the Nigerian press and in retirement he never thought it was a useful institution. Those who felt that the role the press played in saving his life from Abacha's gallows might have brought about a change of heart, now know better, that the leopard will not change its spots.

If President Obasanjo believed that the Nigerian press was an 'enemy', he confirmed that with the way that the media provided direction and leadership for the anti-third term movement. He had not settled into a routine of licking his wounds and perhaps reconciling with the fact that he would not get the opportunity to die for Nigeria in the comfort zone of Aso Villa, when the press (oh that meddlesome Nigerian press again!) not only reported the near-mishap that befell the one-week old presidential aircraft, but one newspaper and journalist, in the very best tradition of investigative journalism, went a step further, to check out on the age of the 'new' plane and its o rigins. All hell was let loose by the authorities.

First, the irrepressible AIT anchor, Gbanga Aruleba, was pulled in, on the basis of the programme he made on television, which in turn had leaned on the investigative report that Daily Independent newspaper had done about the presidential aircraft. Aruleba was detained overnight at the SSS Gulag, and the Director-General of the security outfit, underlined the fact that he was not going to allow reports in the media that will "endanger national security." But the State Security Service went a step further to arrest the writer of the original Daily Independent story, Rotimi Durojaiye, and together with Gbenga Aruleba, has now been arraigned in court for sedition.

Although Colonel Kayode Are, the DG SSS has said that his outfit was not targeting the media, and the case is now subjudice, it is clear that a major gauntlet has been thrown by the regime in power in respect of the responsibilities of the Nigerian press as enshrined in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution. This section empowers the press to make government accountable to the Nigerian people. This is empowerment that derives from the Constitution and it is within its ambit, and in pursuit of the public good, that the media has exposed the iniquities of the third term agenda which is the real basis of the fury against the press today by the Obasanjo regime.

It is my sincere conviction that it was also in the public interest, that the media should bring to the public space, the fact that a new plane was brought into the country for the use of our President, and within a week so many controversies had emerged around that aircraft.

It appears ridiculous to carry out your responsibility, according to the Constitution, only to be in court the day after, arraigned on a six-count charge of seditious publication "with intent to bring hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the President or the government of the federati on," Gbenga Aruleba was said, in the charge sheet, to have uttered "seditious words, publish, or reproduce seditious publication using the medium of 'Focus Nigeria' programme on AIT."

As I said earlier, the case is now subjudice, and we cannot therefore comment much on it. However, it is imperative to put the event within a context; that context is the role which the media played in the defeat of the third term agenda. It seems obvious now that contrary to the protestations of Kayode Are, the media is actually being targeted by the regime of the day, as part of an elaborate process of revenge. Media freedoms are not the gift given out to the press by any government or its security agencies. The freedoms that the press enjoy have evolved as an intrinsic part of the evolution of the democratic process in society. On an incremental basis, the duty of the press is to hold government accountable, keep the business of governance as open and transparent as possible, in order to ens ure that the best interests of the people are being pursued by those in authority. It is the duty of the media to actually test the limits of the freedom in society, in order to help expand the freedoms that citizens enjoy lawfully in society. The Nigerian people defeated colonialism, checkmated the various military dictatorships and we have defeated Obasanjo's third term agenda.

These different victories were won together with the Nigerian media playing a pivotal role in the struggle. I do not think the State Security Service (SSS) will win a war to intimidate the press; no matter how badly bruised individual journalists might be in the process. Obasanjo has vowed that he would not be a lame duck President. It seems that a process of vengeance against political enemies and the media will be part of the effort to express virility by an obviously impotent and damaged presidency. A nearly-dead snake can often be the most dangerous indeed.

So over the next ten months, we must b e prepared for more acts of vengeance by Obasanjo, who saw his ambition to die in Aso Villa as a life president go up in smoke, when his manipulative agenda was defeated by the Nigerian people on May 16th. Where is the Okonjo-Iweala challenge? One of the items listed for discussion at our Editorial Board's meeting last Thursday, was the recent cabinet re-shuffle by the lame duck despot at Aso Villa, Olusegun Obasanjo. At the end of the day, I think not many people believed that there was much that was significant that the changes effected could wrought on the fabric of the Nigerian state. If anything was clear about the changes, it seemed to me that Obasanjo was bent on humiliating his Vice President further by literally stripping him bear of the essential accoutrements of office, and in the process of the movements recorded, live up to his vows on several occasions since he suffered the crippling blow to his third term agenda, that he would not be a lame duck President.

Are mu Obasanjo is determined to vacate Aso Villa, truly screaming and kicking, because in truth, it is against his "personal wish and desire" to really leave those haloed precincts. It was, unfortunately from his perspective, that the Nigerian people rejected his plan to die at Aso Villa for us. But what exactly should we make of those changes, especially the movement of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from the Finance Ministry to Foreign Affairs? Commentators such as Ocheorome Nnana of Vanguard newspaper and Ezuche Ubani of ThisDay, have been some of the earliest analysts of those changes, especially where they concerned their beloved Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Ezeuche Ubani infact referred to the media-spun kite that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was redeployed, "to roundly expose her for higher office," a non-too discreet assertion that she might infact be a likely candidate for Presidency of Nigeria, at the end of the Obasanjo tenure in 2007. The supporters of the "reforms without a human face" that this reactionary and pro-imperialist woman has led, have often dropped her name as a possible successor to Obasanjo in order to guarantee the continuity of the economic platform that has literally laid our nation to waste (if recent statistics of the Manufacturers' Association of Nigeria are useful indicators), but which a tiny band of bandit capitalists has profited from very handsomely. Lets put it this way; I have never met Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

I have nothing against her person, and it appears to me that she is a decent human being, a professional who gave her service as best she can, within the certainties of her professional competence and ideological conviction. This much we must respect about the individual. But when it comes to the public realm, it becomes a different matter, because the policy choices she makes for our country impinge upon my life and those of millions of our contemporaries.

It is our duty to mercilessly tear asunder such choices, especially whe n we also have our counter-positions about her platform, her choices and their effect on our country. I do not accept that neo-liberal capitalism, the capitalism that is known as the Washington-consensus, is the best choice for Nigeria. She implements those policies in the reform programme of the Obasanjo regime. As we all have seen over the years of the Obasanjo administration, the main planks of these reforms have included the dubious privatisation project, the retrenchment of thousands of workers, the erosion of the industrial base of the economy through acceptance of international agreements which ensure that local industry cannot compete with subsidized foreign goods thus leading to dumping of cheap goods into the economy and the strangulation of the productive base here. The list is endless.

So those who nurse the illusion that Okonjo-Iweala is the type that can be our President should be told clearly, that we shall never allow our country to be run by agents of imperi alism. If it is the Okonjo-Iweala type that would be good for the Presidency of Nigeria, we might as well hand the country back to the British, or in the context of today, the Americans to occupy the country and begin a re-colonisation project. The tragedy of contemporary life, is that people with the views of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are lionised as the experts of the times; but at the height of anti-imperialist patriotism, these individuals will not even show up in the public arena. We have reached a sorry pass, where the most reactionary technocrats who earned their metier serving the interests of imperialism are now the ones ruling the roost in a neo-colonial Nigeria, over-run by the IMF-type Presidency of Obasanjo.

These are tragic times indeed for Nigeria; but they cannot last forever. The economic choices they have made have been so full of pains, that no sane people can wish for the continuation of the hardships that Obasanjo and his imperialist-sponsored economic team h ave foistered on our country. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a future leader of our country? Perish such thought. It will NEVER happen. NATO prepares Africa's recolonisation in Cape Verde It is quite poignant that the imperialist military organisation, NATO, chose the island of Cape Verde, as the site of its first war game in Africa. Cape Verde is the homeland of Amilcar Cabral, one of the greatest fighters for Africa's independence and a major theorist of the independence development of African economic, political and cultural life.

But last week, the imperialist armies, with the active connivance of African neo-colonial regimes, chose to literally spit on the grave of an African patriot, when 7,000 colonialist NATO troops carried out manoeuvres "pounding pretend terrorist bases, grappling with rioters and separating factions in a mock war over oil." While Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary General of this colonialist organisation, was denying that NATO had no plans to be a global police men, the war games in Africa was coming in the context of other missions targeted at the continent by the imperialist powers.

The United States has been training troops in the Sahelian deserts of Africa as part of its so-called war against terror in the past couple of years. Similarly, it has declared the Gulf of Guinea a strategic zone of American interest and therefore, has been deploying troops and warships in the region. A permanent military platform is earmarked for Republic of Benin and neighbouring countries. Africa's re-colonisation is being systematically achieved in a multi-pronged manner; the military manoeuvres are a track of this project, while the implementation of neo-liberal economic reforms is another track.

So the presence of neo-colonial, IMF-governments, such as that of Obasanjo in Nigeria, has taken Africa's fate to tragically newer level of erosion of our independence and sovereignty. The war games by the imperialist organisation, NATO, in Cape Verde la st week, is a significant expression of the dangers ahead for our dear continent, Africa. World Cup 2006: Ghana's victory over the USA I write these lines the day after Ghana was defeated by Brazil at the World Cup. But my most favourite game of the tournament was Ghana's trouncing of the United States' team.

It was a metaphor that I appreciated very much, that at least on the level playing field, of footballing talent, the USA can be humbled by our own brothers. If it was to invade another country, occupy their land, carry out crimes with impunity in the process of illegal occupation of the land, who would have been able to face the USA, with its wealth, its inhumane army and its incurable arrogance? But at least, the Americans don't know how to play the beautiful game of football.

Ghana really made me so happy with that victory and are my team of the 2006 World Cup. Thanks for defeating the tean which represented the imperialists on the football field.

Daily Trust.
Richard Akindele
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