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26.12.2006 Feature Article

A Healthy Boost To Nigerian And African Democracy

A Healthy Boost To Nigerian And African Democracy
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There has, predictably, developed an interesting dimension to Nigeria's fledgling democratic culture in a manner that should make all democracy-loving Ghanaians, for example, feel very proud. The gracefully tactical ability of party and cabinet members to stoutly stand up to and against the creeping, pathological tendency of elected premiers towards “constitutional dictatorship” is one that ought to be thunderously applauded wherever such exemplary feats occur. And this is particularly a healthy boost for Ghanaian democracy, as, whether we overtly or covertly admit to such, needless to say, whatever political developments occur in the geopolitical sphere of Ghana's giant eastern neighbor has an eerily peculiar tendency to determining the shape and tenor of our own political landscape and vice-versa.

Thus early this year (2006), when there was excited talk about the alleged, tacit, attempt of President Olusegun Obasanjo to extend his tenure of two four-year terms by a third term, Ghana's President Kufuor, who had then, reportedly, just attended an official banquet with his Nigerian counterpart, was also reported to be rather bizarrely and belatedly complaining about the “highly strictured span” of a single presidential term. Back then, yours truly mordantly decried such gripe, on the quite plausible grounds that it unwisely opened the sluice-gates for reckless and murderous adventurers like Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings to both seek to legitimize and canonize “Presidential Gun-boating.”
It, therefore, came as hardly any surprise that shortly thereafter, President Kufuor, as well as other ranking members of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), began intimating to Ghanaians at large that, indeed, Mr. Rawlings had attempted to solicit capital assistance from the leader of a foreign country in an unpardonably regressive bit to staging a third bloody comeback.

For me, however, the preceding came as, perhaps, too good to be true; for in the grim and irritable absence of getting the odious Indemnity Clauses protecting many a P/NDC political operative abrogated, yours truly had been coolly biding his time, waiting for an opportunity of temporary statal anomie in order for those of us who believe in unalloyed democracy to set about our work of thoroughly exorcizing our country of these demonic tar-babies. Thus, for many of us, it could not be all that baneful to be handed a windfall by Mr. Rawlings, assuming that, indeed, the career coup-plotter had recently been on the verge of attempting to destabilize our country, to deal a “permanently horizontal” blow, as it were, to this politically cancerous tumor that continues to retard Ghana's socioeconomic, intellectual and cultural development.

Consequently, when President Kufuor, while addressing some of his constituents in the lead-up to a parliamentary bye-election in the Offinso District of the Asante-Region, uncharacteristically, albeit quite refreshingly, warned Mr. Rawlings that any dastardly attempt by the latter to operationalizing his wild dream, would see him “smelling alligator-pepper-powder,” we could not concur more with the proverbial “Gentle Giant.” Even so, we also quite painfully and uncomfortably were forced to demand to know just what President Obasanjo might have fed his Ghanaian counterpart in Abuja, for Mr. Kufuor to have begun talking like a barely more diplomatically refined Mr. Rawlings.
Interestingly, like other “controversial” pieces that yours truly has composed in the past, the article in question never made headline news in Ghana, except, as usual, on the Berlin-based Internet bulletin-board called And though understandably disappointed, we felt solaced by the fact that the New Patriotic Party was no Verandah-leaning Provisional National Democratic Congress (P/NDC).

Regarding the Nigerian story, reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-World Service), on December 24, 2006, an Abuja (or Aso Rock) spokesman of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) announced that Mr. Obasanjo was in the process of replacing his deputy since 1999, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, because the latter, by recently attending a convocation of the opposition Action Congress Party (ACP) and allowing himself to be elected the latter's presidential candidate for next April's general elections, Mr. Abubakar had, technically, resigned his post.

Interestingly, however, even though the Nigerian Vice-Premier was reportedly suspended from membership of the ruling People's Democratic Party in September 2006, allegedly in the wake of having been indicted on charges of corruption by that country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, it does appear that about the same time, nobody, including President Obasanjo, had reckoned it necessary to demand the prompt resignation of Vice-President Abubakar, which makes the latter's threat of seeking to judicially “challenge the illegality” of his summary removal by President Obasanjo ring quite sound. More so, because in September when he was brought up on charges of corruption, according to the aforementioned BBC report, Vice-President Abubakar had also been “indicted,” which judicial move, assuming that the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is judicially empowered, should automatically have witnessed the prompt dismissal of the Vice-President, or at least the latter's temporary suspension from the government, until such a time that Mr. Abubakar had been duly accorded a fair hearing and judicial clearance.

As it stands, it almost appears as if somebody, or even a group of individuals, in the top-echelons of the PDP government had something to gain by not promptly relieving the Vice-President of his official duties. In sum, any impartial attempt at scrutinizing circumstances ensuring that Mr. Abubakar would still retain political power even after the Vice-President had been “indicted” on serious charges of “corruption,” would have to, perforce, also examine the motives of those entrusted with disciplinary responsibilities who, inexplicably, apparently at least, failed to promptly bring the Vice-President to book.

On the other hand is the fact that in defecting into the camp of the opposition Action Congress Party (ACP), Vice-President Abubakar, indeed, might have made a prompt, wise, deft and tactical move, in view of the fact that his strong and bold resistance to President Obasanjo's rather unwise attempt at extending his tenure, an egregious constitutional breach, had likely not endeared Mr. Abubakar to the teeming disciples of Mr. Obasanjo, particularly those cynics and lackeys who had actually engineered Mr. Obasanjo's brazen third-term move.

In essence, had Mr. Abubakar remained among the membership of the ruling People's Democratic Party, there is every reason to believe that, come Election 2007, the Vice-President would have found his chances of an electoral victory being seriously undermined by President Obasanjo's wing of the Party.

In sum, Vice-President Abubakar's defection into the camp of the Action Congress Party (ACP) achieves two strategic feats. One it increases his chances of clinching an electoral victory, since by his rather, predictably, dictatorial behavior, President Obasanjo might have done more harm to the electoral credibility of the ruling PDP than the retired career soldier may appreciate or might be willing to publicly acknowledge. And second, by boldly standing up to his boss, in the unimpeachable name of “Democracy,” Mr. Abubakar might, actually, have gained more political credibility, and capital, than any of the other major presidential contenders.

Still, as to whether he actually rises to the occasion, given a presidential victory, may be rather too early to predict, particularly when one recalls the similar, immediate background of Gen. Obasanjo in the lead-up to the latter's assumption of elective leadership.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., Department of English, Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. E-mail: [email protected]