Augustine C. OhanweSunday, May 21, 2006



here is an overwhelming jubilation in Nigeria due to the killing of what is widely regarded as the "Third Term Plot". It is hoped that such a roller-coaster euphoria will not blindfold Nigerians from seeing other unsolved political issues that hang over the nation's political landscape like the mythical sword of Domocles.

President Obasanjo's tenure finishes in 2007. We are not well equipped to offer an accurate political situation that will envelope Nigeria before or after 2007 when the next president takes over. This realm of knowledge belongs to prophets. Political analysts, weaving together observable trends in a political landscape can only come out with probable future scenarios. Chemistry scholars and physicists are better placed and equipped to offer an accurate result of a chemical reaction under a given condition. For example, a cube of sugar dissolves in a cup of tea. The result of coming together of a specific molecules of hydrogen and carbondioxide can be known in advance, but in a political situation it is not always easy to nail the outcome. The reason is that in political terrain we are dealing with beings who are not steady but down to earth capricious and foxy.

This writer is neither a prophet nor a physicist and would therefore confine himself to the domain of probabilities.

Yes, the so-called "3rd term plot" is dead and President Obasanjo has informed the nation of his intention to abide by the National Assembly's rejection of his 3rd term proposal and to leave office at the end of his tenure. While Nigerians celebrate the triumph of Democracy they must be wary of the Somali scenario replicating in Nigeria. The departure of Siad Barre of Somalia created a political vaccum that should have been filled via democratic process. Instead of uniting to fulfil this democratic obligation, the coalition that removed Siad Barre splintered into fiefdoms derived along clans, sub-clans and cross clan factions under the command and control of brutal war lords whose narrow interests took ascendancy over national unity and interest.

The first Somali war was geared towards removing Barre from power. The second conflict that engulfed Somalia was to determine who, amongst the splintered factions of the former coalition that would control the mantle of political power. The tussle for power robbed Somalia a good opportunity to chart a new political direction.The golden opportunity actually slipped away. Anarchy reigned and Somalia became awashed with AK-47. Faction war lords and multiple urban freelance militias inflicted and continue uptil today, to inflict unimaginable arson and mayhem to their citizens and their nation's psyche.

The Somali situation is now out of the frying pan into fire. It has become a humpty-dumpty case. As we are reading this article now, the former splintered war lords who once fought against themselves have formed a new coalition against a newly mushroomed force - an Islamist faction bent on establishing the Sharia law. Somalia is a no-go area and the most dangerous country in Africa today because of lack of central government. Looking at the present situation in Somalia, and comparing it with reign of Siad Barre, one would make the former hated dictator a political saint.

Having gleaned some lessons from Somalia, one is tempted to ask whether the coalition that killed the "3rd term plot" would continue to work together for the future well-being of the nation. Would the same political coalition force that fought against the 3rd time war, be able to create a conducive political space for a transparent election in Nigeria or would there a disintegration based on narrow selfish interests, a situation where we observe old acquaintances in new political garments?

Another worrisome political issue is the smouldering grievances that remain latent beneath the political surface - the MOSOB, MOSOP, ODUA, SHARIA. What impacts would they exert on the nation's political body?

Furthermore, would the unresolved Niger Delta issue manifest with renewed vigour? Darkness is known to summon menagerie of creatures that slither, leap and buzz through the forest. On the other hand, it is anarchy in the polical landscape that had in the past, invited the military to sieze power in order "to save the nation" from the edge. Yes, the period of military regime is over, one might argue, but one is safe to query if there are out there, a group of military officers that lie in wait ready to exploit any kind of turbulence in order to stage a comeback, throwing the nation back to the unbearable dark years of socio-politico and economic stagnation?

The above political variables have generated two schools of thought. They are those who are fond of quick and cosy generalisation and see a beautiful rainbow ahead. This scholl of thought feels that all the political tensions in Nigeria today are linked to the Presidency's bid to elongate his tenure. They further contend that since the idea of the 3rd term issue has been torpedoed, the political tensions that had hitherto bedevilled Nigeria would everporate. Having reduced the situations to this level of ridiculous simplicity, they finally assert that it is too much analytical ado dwelling on the notion of future political conflagration.

The other school of thought differs markedly and delinks the Niger Delta and other issues from the on-going 3rd term tenure extension. For members of this school of thought, the Niger Delta imbroglio is in no way a reaction to the 3rd term proposal. It is an eruption of long simmering grievance, ignored until pressure became more powerful than restraint previously effective. It is under the Obasanjo presidency that Niger Delta issue became a wasp that petches on the groin region. It is a dangerous landmine that should be upgraded to a front-burner issue and solved if the nation wants to move ahead.

President Obasanjo has accomplished a lot compared to his predecsssors. The Niger Delta issue demands his urgent attention. It should not be left for the passage of time to solve. Nigeria is unfortunate to have oil as its main source of revenue. Should the Niger Delta distubances be allowed to continue, Nigeria's economy might be placed on life-support.

When we weave together all the unresolved political quagmires, one has the right to define Nigeria's political terrain as a dangerous quicksand that can ensnare. One would also state that the situation is difficult but not impossible to reverse.