Can a civilian run Nigeria?
Beleaguered Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo has been rarely out of the news in recent months. Before the recent debacle concerning Charles Taylor, he was under pressure for attempts by his sycophants to remove the two-term limit on the presidency. Obasanjo is in his second term under the present constitution (he was a military ruler in the late 1970s).
The Nigerian Vanguard paper reported an article with the headline: 3rd term not on the cards —OBASANJO.
But a more careful reading of the president's words still leave room for reasonable skepticism. He said that a third term “is not on the card” for now. He did not categorically say, "I will not under any circumstance seek a third term."
Other African leaders, such as Guinea's Gen. Lansana Conté and the late Gnassingbé Éyadéma of Togo, have used such obfuscation intended to imply a categorical denial of third term desires when they had every intention of doing the opposite. When you hear sycophants proclaiming that Nigeria needs Obasanjo and that the country would fall apart without his luminous leadership, it makes you wonder if Nigeria is really a stable democracy with viable institutions or if it's heading down the road of becoming yet another cult of personality-based dictatorship.
In 2003, Obasanjo ran against another ex-military leader Muhammadu Buhari. Former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida is also widely believed to have 2007 presidential intentions. If he and Obasanjo run against each other, it will beg the question: is any civilian capable of running Nigeria? Or perhaps more accurately: is any civilian capable of rising through the party ranks to become a viable presidential candidate?
Given how badly the military men have done in most of the country's four and a half decades of independance, maybe they should be given a chance. Given that Nigeria has already had many military coups, an insane civil war, endemic corruption on an unimaginable scale and one particular dictatorship of savage brutality, it's hard to imagine that civilians could do any worse.