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Forgive me for afflicting you with Obasanjo

Posted by By Mariam Aleshinloye Agboola on 2007/07/18 | Views: 566 |

Forgive me for afflicting you with Obasanjo

Elder statesman and first chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Solomon Lar, has called on former President Olusegun Obasanjo to leave President Umaru Yar’Adua alone and allow him build a formidable presidency which he (Obasanjo) ravished during his tenure.

•Solomon Lar begs Nigerians

Elder statesman and first chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Solomon Lar, has called on former President Olusegun Obasanjo to leave President Umaru Yar’Adua alone and allow him build a formidable presidency which he (Obasanjo) ravished during his tenure.

Chief Lar, who was a member of the G18 and G 34 which transformed into the PDP, said in an interview with Daily Sun that Chief Obasanjo should learn from his own experience as those of them who brought him to power never disturbed him on how he should rule the country.

The former chairman of board of trustees of the PDP, who maintained that the party can never return to its status quo as long as Obasanjo remained the chairman of the BOT said it would have been more honourable for Obasanjo to lie low instead of interfering in the government of Yar’ Adua.
He warned that the unity government would only work in Nigeria if politicians learnt from the past and allowed dialogue to continue even after the formation.

Formation of unity government by the present administration
Unity government in Nigeria’s political system is not a new one. There was that type of government in 1960 when federal elections were conducted in 1959 and three strong political parties emerged and none of them had majority members to carry out any decision of the House of Representatives. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) which had the highest number of seats of the three, approached other political parties like the National Council of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) and Action Croup from the West and Middle Belt area.

The NCNC and the NPC went into what was known as a coalition government, in order to bring about the unity in the country and to protect democracy at that time. Tafawa Balewa was the leader at the federal level and at regional level, the chairman of the party, who was Sardauna of Sokoto, did not come to the centre. He remained in the North. The Action Group did not go into coalition and went into opposition. I was in the Nigeria Middle Belt Congress in UNBC/Action Group with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as our leader. But it happened that as soon as the coalition was formed, different things happened.

When the NPC and NCNC went into coalition, they formed a government, appointed ministers, prime minister, ambassadors, commissioners etc. As time went on, something happened and problem started to rear its head. The intention was good, but as time went on NPC started to woo the NCNC members and some of the members of the NCNC were more loyal to the NPC than to the NCNC. The leadership of the NCNC cried out that there was sabotage at the centre and some sell-out. They pointed to some strong ministers at the centre who had sold out to the NPC. There was problem in the party at the centre and in the regions. This problem was of bad faith of senior partner of the coalition (NPC). The coalition later collapsed.

In the Second Republic, the same thing happened. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) did not win election with enough majority in the two Houses – Senate and House of Representatives and was, therefore, looking for another unity government. They approached the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP). The UPN and the GNPP rejected it. But in the interest of the nation, the NPP went into a unity government with a different name this time known as ‘Accord’.

It was that accord that K.O. Mbadiwe of blessed memory used to call "accord concordia." Everybody was happy but as soon as the NPN was able to form a government in the centre, with members of the NPP approving the list of ministers, something happened again. In any unity government there must be conditions laid down. The condition was that the two parties will be holding meetings to see whether the modalities of the accord was being observed.

As soon as the members of the NPP approved all the necessary appointments including ministers, ambassadors etc, NPN never called a meeting. Even when the NPP called it, they will not attend. Like in the First Republic, the members of the NPN started to woo the NPP members to their side. Some members of the NPP in the centre were even more NPN than the original members of the NPN. This was the danger. The issue of democracy and national interest was no longer at the back of their minds. They wanted to take advantage of it. This is what people should be careful about.

This time around, the unity government that President Yar’ Adua is calling for is good. Those who said let us wait and dialogue are also right. Those who said they will have nothing to do with it are also right, because they are afraid of the past experience. The PDP can go on its own to form government without asking for government of unity. With the thing we know about the elections, presidential, senate, House of Representatives etc, and with the way the election was conducted, legitimacy will be very difficult for this government to have.

This is why I said that the president is a wise man by calling for a unity government. But in doing so, they should respect the view of those who said we should continue with dialogue. I will want to advise that they should continue with dialogue. The traditional rulers are doing their best to see that this country is united. They are pleading with presidential candidates who have filed petitions at the various tribunals. But that is also democracy.

Also the panels/tribunal /judiciary are also part of democracy to see if the election was properly done in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria or according to the law that was created to conduct elections. All these things are working to see that Nigeria remains united and remains credible in the eyes of civilized nations.

This is when we put into cognizance what the EU, the observers, have said about the election. It is still very fresh in the minds of the people. All these moves and contacts to see that we dialogue is proper. I advise both sides to continue to dialogue. At the end of the day, we will come out with a solution that will help this country to get the best way of conducting election, which will make the international community proud of us as a nation.

If it all boils down to having a unity government, won’t this lead to a one party state?
That is why I insisted we should continue to dialogue. If we take into consideration what happened in the first, and in the second republics we can guide against one-party system. Nigeria’s constitution has said Nigeria shall be a multiple-party system. So, if anybody is trying to make it a one-party system, it will not work.
I know that some people are trying to make it so by making all sorts of statements like "this election will be do-or-die thing". I think this is an unfortunate statement and not a democratic one.

Chief Alex Ekwueme is heading the reconciliation committee of the PDP. I will like to know if you have been approached and if the outcome will be fruitful?
I will not like to say anything about the reconciliation. If you do not mind, we should leave that. I do not like to pre-empt anything. It is still on. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Alex Ekwueme. He is a very respectable man. I was with him and we have worked together before. I was in various organizations including civil society with him. We were in the G18, which Dr Ekwueme headed and I was the deputy. We had a philosophy for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with aims and objectives that are different from the present PDP’s. I believe that he, who was a leading member of the founding fathers would be able to retrace the map which led to formation of the PDP.

There were so many factors that made us bring in Obasanjo. When we brought him, he never showed interest of being a too ambitious person. Even in the second tenure, he did not show interest. It was I, Solomon Lar, that led a delegation to Otta to ask him to come out to contest. I remember the insults I got from some of his opponents. I went to Otta with General T.Y Danjuma, with Tony Anenih (who he is now trying to do something with).

Tony Anenih was very supportive and happy with me. We did not know that he will ask for third term. Honestly, we did not know it. This man did not show any interest. It was some of us who asked him to continue his tenure. His action then and his action during the last year of his second tenure are very different. It showed a different person. He was not Obasanjo that we knew. It is very, very unfortunate. It showed different side of him. He hated people. There was nowhere in the world that the office of the president was ravished as it was during his time, nowhere in the whole world. I pray that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, will build up that enviable office with a lot of respect. He is already doing it by respecting his number two man, which Obasanjo did not do, which is unfortunate. He never, never, did. It is unfortunate.

Do you still see the PDP coming back to its original status?
No, it cannot come back to its status with Obasanjo, I think that was a wrong signal with him as the Chairman of Board of Trustees. If I was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, I would have kept away from active politics for some time. What does he want in the party again. This is just to expose him that he has the third term issue in mind. If he had kept quiet for some time, Nigerians would have considered him. I have never seen any leader in Nigeria, in my lifetime, with about 50 years in politics, who has been so abused and so hated like Olusegun Obansajo.

I have never seen it. Many people have come to me to say Chief Solomon Lar, it was you who brought this man. I have said it was not only me singlehandedly, it was the party. But who led the party? Is it not you? I have said yes, but I am sorry about it.
I want to say sorry to Nigerians. But I did not know he will be like that. He was not like this until during the dying years of his rule. I meant well for Nigerians. To people who have been accusing me, I say I am sorry, I should not have done that.

But will Yar’Adua be able to build a formidable Presidency with Obasanjo still behind him?
I think Yar’Adua is in a very difficult position. I believe what Chief Olusegun is doing to Yar’Adua is that: "Well, I brought you into limelight…..". But if I were him again, I would have kept quiet. I would not have shown that it was I who brought Yar’Adua. After all, he too, Olusegun Obasanjo was brought into limelight by some people. But these people lay low and allowed him to continue. He should have learnt from that. The people are still alive today – members of the PDP and some who were not even members of the party.

There were some of his colleagues in the military who are very senior and respectable members of the Armed Forces (retired) who also helped in bringing him into limelight but did not bring other things to bear on him. I think he should have done the same thing. Civilians who worked his way for him did not stand in his way, so he should leave Yar’Adua alone. He should allow him to carry on. I am sure President Yar’Adua will continue to respect him. Which respect could be more than the mother of the president going to thank him? The old woman had to go to Otta or Abeokuta to thank him. Which honour could be more than that?

With the role Abubakar Rimi and Chief Audu Ogbeh are playing in his government, don’t you feel betrayed?
No, Rimi and Audu Ogbeh are excellent people. They are very good people. These people can never ditch anybody. They know exactly what they are doing. As I said, the time now is for dialogue; talking on how we can make the country live together. Mind you, Nigeria is a very big country. If anything happens to Nigeria, (God forbid) it will be very serious. The continent cannot cope with refugees from Nigeria. Even the whole world will not be able to cope with the refugees. Whoever is trying to make the whole thing work for Nigeria and keep the county together should be commended. Rimi and Ogbeh are excellent people.

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