By Terfa Naswem,
Despite the fact that I was an ardent critic of Jonathan and his administration over corruption and insecurity, there are areas where I still applaud and eulogise Jonathan as a hero when compared with other past Nigerian leaders. Jonathan allowed corruption with impunity to fester in his government, but never showed he was power hungry like Olusegun Obasanjo, and I urge Nigerians to continue to respect him for that.
The 2003 general election which ushered in the second tenure of Obasanjo and many PDP governors was the peak of corruption in his government. It was characterized by cheating, hijacking of ballot boxes, buying and selling of votes, rigging of results, violence and so on.
Obasanjo was so hungry for power that he did everything possible to come back to power for the third time in a democratic government and began his third term agenda.
The third term agenda of Obasanjo started shortly three months after he had assumed office for the second tenure in May, 2003. On August 23, 2003, THE SUNDAY SUN published a cover story with the title: “Mandela warns Obasanjo- Don’t Try Third Term”. The paper disclosed that Mandela had a hint that Obasanjo was plotting for a third term after May 2007. On September 15, 2003, INSIDER WEEKLY Magazine came out with a cover title: “Third Term Presidency: Nigerians says no To Obasanjo”. In the main story, which was captioned 2007: Obasanjo’s Secret Game, the Magazine stated: “It started as a strong rumour. But assumed a life of its own when venerable Nelson Mandela (of blessed memory), former President of South Africa sent a warning to his friend, President Olusegun Obasanjo not to tread the path of infamy by attempting to run for a third term in office . . . .” According to INSIDER WEEKLY of September 15, 2003, P. 18, source who spoke to the Magazine said, “it was the game plan of Obasanjo to attempt an amendment of the constitution that would enable him seek a third term in office”. He wants to be life President, if possible.
Titus Terver Mamadu writes in his book titled: “CORRUPTION IN THE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE OF NIGERIAN POLITY” that for the third term plot to be effective, Obasanjo needed the endorsement of the National Assembly and two thirds of the state assemblies. This was because the section 135(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes it clear and definite that subject to the provision in this section, “the President shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years . . .” However, the corrupt mind-set Obasanjo who claimed to be fighting corruption pumped Senators and Members of House of Representatives Billions of Naira so as to make his way through and effect the amendment of the 1999 constitution to favour his third term agenda.
THE NEWS of December 5, 2005, P. 33 reports that the Movement for the Defense of Democracy (MDD) reported on November 23, 2005 that in pursuit of the third term ambition, Obasanjo budgeted more than N90 billion to entice lawmakers to facilitate the third term agenda. They gave the following details of the amount of money involved in the alleged bribe: Each member of the 360 Representatives was offered N70 million (a total of N25.2billion). Each of the 109 Senators was offered N140Million (a total of N15.2billion). Every member of each state House of Assembly in the 36 states was offered N50million.
In a survey of the bribe, THISDAY of May 5, 2006 reports that “pro-third term Senators and House of Representatives members in the defunct joint committee of the National Assembly on 1999 constitution review were alleged to have received $37,000 each to encourage them recommend a review of the tenure clause in the Constitution from two to three terms of four years each for the President. VANGUARD of April 14, 2006, P.1 also reports a similar story.
In view of the huge amount used on bribe of Senators and Members of House of Representatives, one can see how power hungry Obasanjo was.
Jonathan had the powers to force his way back through every means possible but he ignored and was soft over certain issues since he was not a power-hungry. If he were a power hungry leader, he would not care about the lives that would be lost if he forced his way through. If it were Obasanjo, I seriously doubt if he would concede defeat like Jonathan did.
I was surprised when the same Obasanjo who tried to force his way through the National Assembly back to power for the third term but could not, accused the National Assembly of corruption.
The most noticeable weaknesses Jonathan had in his administration were his negligence to the fight against corruption and his inability to foster significant development when Nigeria had so much oil wealth.
I urge all Nigerians including APC members and supporters to accord Jonathan that respect because not many leaders in his shoes would have done the same regardless of the crises that would erupt thereafter.
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