By ENYERIBE EJIOGU (Lagos) and Noah Ebije (Kaduna)
some Nigerians have expressed indignation over the reported moves by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) and former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), to select possible candidates from the North and the South to replace President Muhammadu Buhari and run in the 2019 presidential election.
The trio were said to have held a meeting to consider some names on both sides of the Niger. News of the said meeting and the outcome has continue to draw sharp reactions from Nigerians incensed by the seeming disregard of the people in the 2019 permutations.
Outspoken Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church International, Archbishop Joseph Ojo, in a chat he advised the duo of Obasanjo, Ibrahim, both of whom he particularly blamed for several ills in the society, to simply fade away into retirement so that the people’s memory of them would be of good and not opprobrium.
“I think that these people, with the exception of Abdulsalami Abubakar who is a nice gentleman, the other two, Obasanjo and Babangida, should try to think of how they can have a peaceful exit from the political process, so that their memory will be a good one, like the good memory the people have of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some other past leaders. They should be grateful that God had given them the privilege to lead this country. They should also realise that there are other people who have the wherewithal to fix this country without them and make Nigeria become a better place.
“I just believe that they should respectfully bow out of this quest to continue to call the shots in the affairs of this country. When the ovation is loudest, that is when to quit the stage. They should respect themselves and give way to younger people who can lead this country out of the woods. Obasanjo and Babangida should look for one place to go and hide their heads, now that they still have some honour left. They should disengage and bow out.
On the previous missteps of Obasanjo and IBB in trying to influence the leadership selection process, Archbishop Ojo recalled the case of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and echoed what Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose said recently that Obasanjo always put weaklings in office so that he could teleguide them. “I think Nigerians should learn from past experience and vote against candidates that these people have endorsed. Voting for any candidate supported by Obasanjo and Babangida is voting for evil. That amounts to voting for the status quo; that would signify our determination to suffer for long,” he said.
Ojo added: “If we are true to our hearts, we should disappoint them by voting against the candidate they support. They are not the ones that would determine what we would do in the polling booth, we are mature enough. We should vote against whoever they support. No matter how clean and green the person is, we should vote against the person, so that they will know that they cannot always call the shots in Nigeria. In very simple language, Nigerians who don’t like what is happening should take the destiny of Nigeria in their hands. That is my position.”
Weighing in on the discourse, spokesman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Ango Abdullahi said that no group or individuals should impose a candidate on Nigerians as far as democracy is concerned.
Prof Abdullahi told Obasanjo, Babangida and Abdulsalami, who are all retired generals and were at various times military heads of state cannot continue to impose presidential candidates on Nigerians.
Dismissing the report in the media about the clandestine moves by the trio to influence the emergence of the 2019 presidential candidate, he said: “Not at all. The decision as to who leads Nigeria if indeed we are in a democracy must be the exclusive duty and right of the people of Nigeria.”
Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony N. Z. Sani, who concurred with the view of Prof Abdullahi, emphasised that the former heads of state would not be able to impose their anointed presidential candidate on Nigerians in 2019.
The ACF scribe rhetorically asked: “Do the Generals you have listed constitute the voters? The Generals’ votes cannot produce a president in a democracy where majority have both their way and their say.”
He added: ”But if Nigerians define democracy to be of the Generals, for the same Generals and by the same Generals whom you have listed, then they have themselves to blame and not to blame the Generals who have their right to canvass for their preferences in a democracy.
“All that is needed is for Nigerians to make judicious use of their democratic right and ensure that their votes count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable.”
Legal practitioner and President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwumadu, also frowned at the regrouping of the past leaders and what he described as their “unstopping quest to determine leadership in Nigeria,”
Ugwumadu said that it must be noted that the Nigerian people remain the repository of Nigeria’s sovereignty as enshrined in Section 14, subsection 2A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said that the definition and characteristics of leadership must, therefore, be their ultimate decision, which cannot be abdicated to “a selected group of individuals, however powerful, in their inordinate quest to continually perpetuate themselves by subverting that and overreaching the collective will of the people.”
While acknowledging that there was nothing wrong in past leaders gathering together and associating to respond to national issues, he however, stated that “anything about Nigerians without the involvement of Nigerians is not for Nigeria and cannot be for Nigeria.”
He spoke further: “The point must be enforced by the poverty of the legacy of these people who are ganging up, after destroying the foundation of our corporate existence. I am saying that their decision to continually arrogate to themselves the supremacy of knowledge and the certainty of their inordinate powers to perpetuate things endlessly is further rendered mischievous and perfidious by the fact that they are the same.(Sunday Sun)