Nigeria’s Democracy Must Be Protected At All Cost: EX President Olusegun Obasanjo

February 21, 2015 8:54 am

In this interview with Weekly Trust 48 hours before he dumped the PDP,
spoke about the shift in dates for the elections,
politicization of military and his quest for a better .

Some believe Jonathan is not ready to leave office. Do you think he is afraid of life after office?
Obasanjo: I believe the president’s concern or fear is not life out of
office per se, because he and I have occasions to talk about this both
seriously and jovially. I believe he would want an opportunity to
disengage peacefully and have a nice, decent and glorious exit. I
believe the president’s fear is, particularly, motivated by who he sees
as his likely successor, that is General Muhammadu Buhari. 

What’s your reaction to the postponement of the elections?
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo: For me, that was a bad precedent for democracy
in Nigeria. It meant that it doesn’t matter what preparation or lack of
preparation any electoral body could make in Nigeria, the final decision
whether election will take place on the day scheduled for it, lies in
the domain of the security chiefs. It is a sad day for democracy in

And I will say this.

We must all feel concern before democracy is killed. What would appear
to be happening is that the president has a grand plan to ensure that by
hook or by crook, he wins the election or if it all fails, he scuttles
it and create chaos and confusion in the whole country. Because it is
the duty and function and responsibility of the security officers to
provide security, the President is the Chief Security Officer of the
country and he is the Commander-in-Chief and if security is required
anywhere, anytime, it is his duty to provide it. Failure is dereliction
of duty, pure and simple. 
Either the President is following his own grand plan or his aides and
associates are working a script which must have got his endorsement, if
not initiated by him. 

What again it looks to me is that the President is trying to play
Gbagbo; Gbagbo was the former President of Cote d’Ivoire who made sure
he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win
and then allowed the election to take place. He got an inconclusive
election in the first ballot and I believe this is the sort of thing
Nigeria may fall into. If I am right in what I observed as the grand
plan and then in the run-off, Gbagbo lost with 8% behind Ouattara and
then refused to hand over. All reasonable persuasion and pleading was
rebuffed by him and he unleashed horror in that country until nemesis
caught up with him. 

WT: As a security expert, what is your own view on the roles played by the security chiefs in the postponement?
Obasanjo: That’s why I said it was strange to me. It
wasn’t the duty and responsibility of security chiefs and service
chiefs to tell INEC, ‘we will not provide or we are not in the position
to provide security for you’ because it is their job. If they said they
cannot do that, they have failed. I want to believe that this was forced
on them, but whether it was or it was their initiative, it was very bad.
It was even made worse when the president in his media chat claimed not
to have knowledge or not to have authorized it. I get very worried that
if the president of Nigeria is not in charge of security, maintenance of
law and order and such a decision can be taken behind him.

WT: We understand that the decision of the service chiefs was hinged
on the fact that they needed to tackle some security challenges in the
North East. Would you say this is genuine?

Obasanjo: For me, you can give any excuse, rationalise anything. Look,
Boko Haram has been with us since 2009 and now you said what we have not
been able to achieve since 2009, we will achieve in six weeks. A
country like Syria had elections while they had full-scale war. Iraq had
elections while they had full-scale war. Afghanistan had elections
where the incumbent had its tenure and moved out. So to say that what we
have not been able to achieve in five years, we will now achieve in six
weeks, let us wait and see. 

But in any case, the argument also said that there would now be a
multinational task force made up of five countries, Nigeria, Cameroun,
Niger, Chad and Benin Republic. I happened to be at the last AU meeting
in Addis-Ababa when this issue was being discussed and Benin Republic
did not speak. The four countries concerned were talking about a force
of 7,500 and one of the presidents, not from the Lake-Chad Basin
Commission, actually from Southern , said look ‘What are we here
for? If it is to endorse these countries to have a multi-national joint
task force, that’s the easiest thing to do and let’s say yes, go ahead,
but do they really need to come here, if their sovereignty is being
threatened, to ask us for endorsement before they fight to save their
sovereignty? And if they are serious, would they be asking the UN to
come and pay for the operation of Multi-National Joint Task Force?’
That President came to me after the meeting and said look, is it really
true that Nigeria cannot fund a force of 7,500 troops if that is all
that is needed to beat Boko Haram? 

Of course, if for solidarity, I believe that a task force of that size
might be okay but if you really want to get the job done, the job will
be got done by Nigerian troops properly trained, motivated, equipped,
with high morale and properly led. 
WT: Speaking of General Buhari, what is your view on his anti-corruption stance?
Obasanjo: Corruption must not remain part of our national life. Whoever
comes in at any time in future, will fight corruption and we must even
encourage it. Judging by his track record, I believe he will try to
fight corruption. I believe he will give firm leadership, which is what
is good for a country like this.

I believe he knows the military well enough and understands the damage
that has been done to the institution, as it’s been rendered almost
impotent by a number of things that have happened. I believe he will do
something about it.
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