Adebimpe Onifade, Ph.D.
Thoughts on Courageous Presidency:
Impeachment Imbroglio Vs. Mandela's Model
ne of the commonest traits of African and many Third World political leadership is their misapplication, misjudgment and misadventure into demonstration of tenacity of purpose. Students of leadership and management principles will agree that tenacity of purpose is one of the major characteristics of effective leaders. Yes, while this is incontrovertible, the opening statement in this article is premised on the misapplication of this principle in the context of the tenacious entanglement and or enticement of African leadership and their apparent inability or capacity to employ the lateral approach of leaving the stage while the ovation is highest. I must quickly state in this article that in full consonance with the caption, this message is directed to the Presidency, which encompasses the President and C-in-C, the VP, and all the major stakeholders / advisers to the President. It is a collective message to the political class to rethink the whole issue and forge a selfless, progressive trajectory for Nigeria's development. We all should be ready to lead by example, and more so be ready to sacrifice our respective ambitions for the betterment of the future of Nigeria.
It goes without saying that even if President Obasanjo wins the next election, the shape of things to come are already apparent in the present imbroglio. We do not need a seer or prophet to foretell the continuation of the suboptimal performance and avoidable frictions between the executive and legislative arms of government, as we are currently experiencing. It confronts common sense and conventional wisdom that a party in majority is planning to impeach a President that emerged from their own party. Although I am not a political historian, but in the contemporary human history, it is not very common to find similar consistent frictions between the current Nigerian executive and legislative arms of government since they both belong to the same party- PDP. It inherently shows the entire world that we are a bunch of people who cannot learn to tolerate each other even within a majority party talk less of an opposition. (This sufficed to buttress the assertion that a septuagenarian British family I met at McDonalds at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 told me that the Nigerian political leaders, then after independence, claimed that they could not tolerate opposition. The husband worked in Bauchi, they left Nigeria in 1961, and they even asked me of Alhaji Maitama Sule). In the latest Harvard Management Update (August 2002), David Stuaffer discussed the need for leaders to learn how to integrate the contradictory forces of individualism and interdependence. According to this author, diversity talks about our uniqueness, but the times demand interdependence, which speaks of mutuality: a focus on common interests and values, and how we all need each other. African political leadership and our dear Nigerian leaders should strive to emulate this. Personalities who could integrate these attitudes are regarded as "Connective leaders". Could our leaders stop, think and change for better?
Understandably, executives and legislators conflicts from the same party do seriously occur at the local government level for various reasons. This could be explained because of their relative inexperience or "local" status. However, when such behavior is been consistently demonstrated at the national level, it is certainly difficult to understand since it tantamount to collective and apparently self-destructive model of governance. Indeed, how best could we have described a situation where impeachment of the President has become a singsong? The action of our bicameral legislature conforms entirely to the description of parliamentary crowd by Gustave Le Bon in his book "The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind. The book indicated that the general characteristics of the crowd are found in parliamentary assemblies. These include intellectual simplicity, irritability; suggestibility, the exaggeration of sentiments and the preponderating influence of a few leaders, House Speaker Ghali and Anyanwus, in Nigerian context. Indeed, the overall performance of our legislators comprising their obsession with budgetary allocation to the legislature rather than their communities, permanent conflict with the executive and propensity to see themselves larger than life have been assessed as ludicrous by many outside observers. We have shamelessly and unconsciously made our nascent democracy a laughing stock even among small countries regionally and globally. I was talking with a Diplomat recently, and he asked me what is the problem with your country? Could it be that your legislators want money from the Presidency like it is reported that when elections are near both arms of government are always at loggerhead in your country? Please note that your country is not setting good example for other new democracies in sub-Sahara Africa. The diplomat further stated that however, there is always a "Nigerian way" to settle the scores as boiling as it may appear to the outside world in agreement with Nigeria's categorization as the second most corrupt country after Bangladesh by the Transparency International. I was not surprised by these comments from an outsider, but I was worried because our political leaders do not care about such image. This especially applies to the presidency that dominantly supports NEPAD and half-heartedly pursues anti-corruption crusade.
Coming specifically to the topic of this discussion, I will like to revisit the core issue in my second article on this website, which advised the desirability of a one-term presidency for Chief Obasanjo. I wish to refer to the one-term option as Mandela's Model. Recounting from the article, one of the major reasons that the President would like to continue in office may be because it is in human behavior as well as physical bodies to want to continue in a state of motion unless an implied force acts upon it. Sure, everyone remembers this as the Newton's first law of motion. Applying this principle, the president just like any other person will like to continue to occupy the position unless he is "forced" out of it- this is what we are seeing by the impeachment imbroglio. Could we ask why the impeachment it being considered a potential tool and related to that why should the majority party flagrantly pursue the constitutional replacement of their own candidate? The answers based on my little understanding as are follows. It has become compulsory and or exigent for the some "disgruntled elements" (as they are wont to be called by those in power) within PDP to search for by all means and or constitutional means to replace a "guest-personality-and-not-even-a-politician" that is exhibiting pseudo-democratic and "militaritocratic" presidency.
Furthermore, it has dawned on the political class that the inaction and actions of President Obasanjo were antithetical to their primordial assumptions. Nevertheless, he has fulfilled a major objective of the "pilot test" by his sponsors, which is the acceptability of the retired military officers in the senior political offices in Nigeria including the presidency. We should be conscious to the fact that the resurgence of political interests and the blatantly arrogant or boldness of some former military officers in the political arena was derived from the public electoral acceptance of President Obasanjo. For instance, General Buhari would probably never have contemplated a democratic attempt at presidency, if not for the electoral victory of President Obasanjo. Another major problem is that the political class within and outside the PDP could not manipulate President Obasanjo, and they found him as an albatross that has to be dispensed with for various reasons. Perhaps, I may quickly make a tangential digression by suggesting that one of the possible reasons why CBI was cold-bloodedly assassinated was that he had become too big and too overwhelming for his political colleagues within and outside his party. This same reason could be attributed to the current imbroglio with the Presidency. The justification for the frustration of the political class with the presidency could be found in the untoward comments, which have been made by the Arewa Consultative Forum, South east and other individual politicians. For instance, Governor Rimi Abubakar had to renounce he did not mean that President Obasanjo should be removed by all means. Nevertheless, the current ongoing within the political system signposts an all-out attempt and efforts to get him out of the Presidency. It can be reasoned that with the declaration of President Obasanjo to contest the next election there are real problems for those with similar ambition especially the likes of IBB, and the South East region who are conscious and impatient of the prolongation of their waiting period. For obvious reason however, the only exception among possible contenders for President Obasanjo's position is the current VP who will have profound benefits, if he remains the VP or even if the President is ousted.
But could we search for other reasons why the President's party would want to remove him and who will his removal benefit? It is possible that if he is removed surely, there will more people that will declare their interests in the Presidency come the annual convention of the party. I have not studied the constitution, but drawing from the impeachment of Governor Balarabe Musa, it would certainly take some time before the process is completed. At this period of impeachment proceedings, will the President still be eligible to indicate his willingness to contest and participate in the selection process? I do not have answer to this question, and it indeed raises another question, which is why the timing of the impeachment? It is for constitutional experts to discuss. This article intends to explore scenarios regarding the principal interests in the impeachment of the president. With this in mind, the first query is will the impeachment not favor the incumbent VP? No doubt, and reiteratively, the VP will gain either way, i.e., if the president stays on to choose him as his running mate or is impeached. Since we are operating a presidential democracy, the VP will automatically ascend a vacant position in case the President is impeached. This represents the first scenario of possible origin of the impeachment threats. Therefore, could the VP surreptitiously be one of the mastermind and why would one wildly suggest that the VP could also be a part to the impeachment imbroglio? It could be reasoned that the VP might be fighting for his own ambition more especially against the fear of "espirit de corp" among the retired generals that are equally interested in the position. More so the VP is not a novice to presidential ambition and he must be quite conscious of how he was skillfully ousted from the primaries in Jos convention of SDP in 1992. There may also be a preemptive strategic effort to foreclose the clamor that he should dropped as the VP. The justification for this hypothesis derives from the 180 degrees turnaround by President Obasanjo to announce their joint ticket for 2003 as against the obscure role given the VP at the event of the declaration of the bid for second term. From another perspective, if the president is impeached, it nullifies one of the perceptible reasons why he wants to stay behind, which is to nurture the VP to full presidential status beyond any reasonable doubt. Agreeably, it is good political strategy and solid succession program that the VP is kept for 8-year tenure under President Obasanjo. At the end of this period, he would have sufficiently established himself, and indeed most of the interested candidate especially IBB would have been fairly too old to contest again. Politicians are equally strategic and calculating as their military counterparts.
We must realize however, that the president is entangled in a dilemma of either keeping his "fraternal" attachment to Yar Adua's political machine dominantly represented by the current VP or "professional" attachment to former younger military colleagues preeminently represented by IBBs, Buharis, Nwachukwus and Georges. It is an open secret that President Obasanjo was nominated and fully supported by the retired military generals notably IBB. Common sense fully appreciates the implications of such actions more so the brilliant former president just "stepped aside". Implicitly, the waiting viable candidates perceive that their future chances at presidency is precariously inextricably tied to a one-term presidency for Chief Obasanjo lest he confer on them geriatric obsolescence, strategic irrelevance and positional inferiority compared to the VP Atiku. Everyone understands that this is one the major reasons why the President is being confronted by this intra-party crisis and impeachment imbroglio. This represents Scenario II of the possible origin of the impeachment. Therefore, we could reason that there is substantial extra-presidential masterminds, but we may not strategically ruled out a within presidency tactics as scenario I suggests.
To hypothesize scenario III of the origin of the impeachment, we have to go back to my previous submission in the article, If I could advice the President Part I. Therein, it was discussed that even if President Obasanjo steps down, the Northern Nigerian candidate would be primarily VP Atiku and General IBB, though other remote candidates can not be ruled out. Scenario III queries whether there could be a working agreement among all the constituencies and interests to post-Obasanjo presidency to foment constitutional / democratic crisis that may yield eventual inauguration of impeachment process of President Obasanjo? Yes, there are theoretical possibilities for across the board (and party aisles) partnership and synergistic antagonism against the second term, and third opportunity of Chief Obasanjo at the position of first power. Indeed, cross-party, cross- ethnic synergy could be espoused by all those interested in post-Obasanjo presidency, mainly the South East, the Arewa Consultative Forum and other anti-Obasanjo personalities. Let me quickly mention here that, it will be a disservice and myopic for anyone to think that the House of Representatives could not successfully institute impeachment of the President. Please check out the grounds upon which former President Clinton was impeached, and how it went through the US House of Representative. It is not impossible that similar outcome can be predicted in the more chaotic Nigerian environment more so since it appears that within Nigeria, the only ethnic group that are now siding with the President are the Yorubas- his kinsmen who originally did not vote for him, but who now wants to enjoy their "full term" of the Presidency.
Having discussed the three scenarios, let us look at some questions. Could Mandela's Model have being a better way to go for President Obasanjo? Why is it difficult for President Obasanjo to emulate a worthy regional exemplary leadership? Why is the President adopting a somewhat similar model of Robert Mugabes and Daniel Mois of Africa? Admonishingly to the President, I humbly recommend a sound think-over of his decision to contest a second term in spite of his much vaunted constitutional eligibility. It is a more respectable way; it is an exemplary way, it is a democracy friendly way; it a personally healthful way; it will be a gracious and courageous decision, it will be a demonstration of gratefulness to God. He should avoid exhibition of the African die-hard or rather do-or-die megalomaniac attachment to office. The President should charter a more glorious way to go and he should not listen to most of the sycophants and cronies around him. In fact, he could even draw example from the intelligent exit of IBB, when his own military constituency masterminded by Abacha internally revolted against him in 1993. Indeed, his option to "step aside" was one of the most intelligent decisions he took, which actually saved his life, kept him ambitious and relevant till date. Abacha himself could not have taken the same decision had it been he was in IBB's position. It is understandable that most of political patrons of the current presidency from Kashim Immams, Ibrahim Ayagis, Mr. Fix It, several cronies and children of erstwhile political office holders are only superficially supportive, since they are capable of amorphous existence as "political dealers" and "political leaders". Many of these personalities will not care so much, whether the president continued or impeached since they will always remain "AGIP- Any Government in Power". It is most likely that this category of personalities will not discuss the wisdom and desirability of one-term presidency and the implications of the unnecessary adventure into a second term. The President should be ready to listen to and welcome unpleasant news. The first lesson in leadership discussed Leadership Strategies, August 2002, was that wise leaders welcome bad news. The important lesson was that Winston Churchill created the back channel to ensure that he heard bad news and the unvarnished facts, and the office was outside the chains of command of his WW II Generals. President Obasanjo deserves similar office, and this is one of the major objectives of this article- to tell the uncommon truth and the real truth to the president.
One is intellectually perplexed because of the poor understanding of the differential ambitions of then Head of State Obasanjo and his hurriedness to transfer power even at a younger age in 1979 compared to the tenacity to the occupation of the position of "first power" and abhorrence of a one-term 4 year Presidency of the older democratically elected President Obasanjo. Sure, there is a fundamental reasons behind the diametrically opposite behaviors. May be President Obasanjo feels more secure under democratic environment compared to the situation that obtained in those days when the army was very mutinous. Whichever way, his present disposition to power confronts simple logical reasoning and chronological tendencies of humans. At young age there is exuberance, energy, enamoring and extravagance, and at old age there is gained hindsight, transparent and humble tendency to right wrongs committed at younger ages, full perception of temporariness of earthly positions and inevitable mortality, and greater reverence to God. Contrarily, the current disposition and the somewhat emotional attachment of the President to his "guest" and finitely tenured office does not strictly correlate with the expectations more so from a veteran leader. Anyway, if he can not tell us, God knows why?
Continuing our discussion on voice of reason and path of wisdom, again, the President needs to rethink his ambition to contest the Presidency. Adopting Mandela's Model does not in any way indicate softness or cowardice. It rather indicates courage, intelligence, and commitment to national survival, national interest and personal interest. Without being an alarmist, and with strong conviction that nothing happens without God's knowledge, and without any spirit of cowardice, it appears more honorable for the president to take a critical look at the Mandela's model lest he be "molested" in all ramifications of the word by the vastly acrimonious and belligerent members of the lower house. It is also important that the President should unshackle himself of the believe that he is the only one that can solve Nigerian problem, and that he is divinely called to redirect Nigeria to path of progress. His approach, efforts and accomplishments since his ascension to the Presidency would have shown him as he also clearly said, "the Nigerian problem was more than he anticipated". Mr. President Sir, it may be useful that you take a leave of the office, watch from the sideline, and contribute to national development rather than the constant threats of impeachment and other executive-legislative imbroglio that your administration has witnessed since the beginning of your administration. Indeed, if the current situation is linear progressed, the next presidency even if President Obasanjo is returned may likely be equally volatile. This can only be avoided by drastic changes to the way and means of governing, programs and objectives, strategy and tactics of governmental operations. In short, there will be the need for overhauling, reinventing and reprogramming of the government. The achievement of the foregoing will put Nigeria on a trajectory to democratic progress and social achievements. I shall be discussing some of these approaches in my future article.
Could we further discuss the realities and choices that may face the president eventually? He may have to craft out an active exit strategy or be prepared for more turbulence even if he wins the next election. It is important for him to start crafting an exit strategy that is not disgraceful whether or not he contests / wins the next election. Such exit strategy could be similar to the signed resignation letters of his Ministers at their inauguration. The President should realize that his popularity even within his party has plummeted, he apparently has outlived the usefulness of his political sponsors and his enemies and potential competitors have swollen in numbers and are increasingly restless. Indeed, as political guest, it is better for Mr. President to announce when he is going rather than allowing his host to push him out disgracefully or frivolously. He should also note that many believed he had had his best time and fairest chances, and that willful relinquishing of power is the most assured option for him to have a good place in history. In the worst case scenario, God forbid, there may be violent and or democratic change of government in the near future, and all possibilities should be fully considered by the presidency.
To many observers, there should be no difficulty for two-time occupant of the position of "first power" in Nigeria to forego a possible third chance. A gracious reversal of his decision appears a magnanimous and courageous option, which many old and contemporary leaders in government and industry have exercised. For instance, President of Samsung, Kun-Hee Lee changed his mind and even paid $2 billion of his own money to shareholders when his sole-driven misadventure of the company into car manufacturing resulted into a big loss. There are other examples of political leaders who have tempered or reversed their ambition. A vivid example was General Collin Powell, who did not get carry away by his popularity, and thus avoided contesting the position of President of the US. The tenacity of former President Clinton in the face of the House Impeachment did not bear any contextual relevance to the situation in Nigeria in case the protagonist of 8-year full-term may want to cite this as an example. For the records, the impeachment of Governor Balarabe Musa somewhat approximates with the imbroglio on Obasanjo's presidency expect that this is an "internal war" within the PDP.
Towards closing of this article could we brainstorm on the possibility of political respite and accruable opportunities, if the President steps down or successfully impeached? Putting this in another way, would the country be more politically stable if the VP becomes the President? The answer is presumptively Yes or No. Yes, because the government will change in character and focus. More so, the political North (ACF) would be pacified. Nevertheless, there may still be great problem, especially if the other interested personalities do not subjugate their ambition to the national interest. We could recall that the permanent irreconcilable ambitions of politicians in the first republic and as lately demonstrated among Abacha, Yar Adu'a and MKO Abiola contributed in great way to the incursion and prolongation of military governments in Nigeria. This should serve as a lesson to the current leaders. They should bear in mind the self-destructive and implosive implications of insatiable hunger for power and they can not afford to discountenance the ephemeral nature of the position of power. Should the VP become the President, the Southeast may reasonably aggressively clamor for one-term presidency for him, which ipso facto, could afford the SE the next slot in 2007, although they will equally be compelled to leave after a term in 2011. In a way, this is congruous with democracy friendly initiative of a one-term presidency for each of the six regions, in the first instance. This could be a fair, judicious use of political space that becomes available, if the President is impeached or graciously bow out. It appears useful to explore this option for national survival and stability and, its workability rests with the incumbent Presidency. The need for selfless, courageous, far-sighted, sustainable political bargaining and agreement with profound national interest is the core message of this article. It is a clarion call on the political leadership to come together to collectively and selflessly contrive a progressive pathway for Nigeria's future. This should be done with full appreciation of and commitment to equitable and fair distribution of opportunities for all major regions to occupy the position of "first power", rotationally, at least in the first instance.
In summary, this article centers on the dilemma facing the president on whether to stay on in power and expects endless frictions with his legislatures or adopt the Mandela's Model, which will impact positively on the nation's political health and his personal health. Three possible scenarios on the sources of the impeachment threats were discussed, and it was submitted that the trends might even continue into the next presidency. Nevertheless, the need for optimization of a one-term presidency giving equitable chances to all the six regions as a salutary corollary to a gracious exit of the president from office was posited as lateral thought. The message of courage in this article is principally addressed to the Nigerian political leadership though with particular reference to the incumbent presidency. May God bless Nigeria, guide our leaders right and grant us articulate followership.
Dr. Onifade biography had been published in Who's Who in the World since 17th Edition, 2000 (Marquis Publishers, USA), recognized as International Man of the Year by International Biographical Center, 2001 (UK) and American Biographical Institute (2002). He presently works for the United Nations.