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Obasanjo’s greatest mistake,by his ex-minister

Posted by By TERWASE TYOBAN, Birnin Kebbi on 2008/04/22 | Views: 709 |

Obasanjo’s greatest mistake,by his ex-minister


Dr. Bello Haliru, Communications minister during General Olusegun Obas-anjo’s first term, has sensationally revealed how the former president’s inordinate ambition for third term in office became his greatest undoing.

Dr. Bello Haliru, Communications minister during General Olusegun Obas-anjo’s first term, has sensationally revealed how the former president’s inordinate ambition for third term in office became his greatest undoing.

He said until the contentious issue came up, Obasanjo’s standing with the Nigerian populace was the envy of many other world leaders.

The Kebbi State-born Haliru, who is also the deputy national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spoke to Daily Sun in Birnin Kebbi against the backdrop of the trenchant criticisms and widespread bashing of the former president since he left office.

He said the decision by Obasanjo to seek tenure extension was a mistake, noting that it did not only hurt his image, but negatively impacted on the party.

“I believe it was the issue of third term which came up towards the end of that government that really caused all the ill-feelings against the person of Obasanjo, the PDP, and the government itself. In the process of third term, there was this misunderstanding between the leaders of the party, the two top shots, Obasanjo and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and that resulted in a lot of acrimony and the party was caught in the middle,” he said.

Haliru is, however, unhappy that despite all the achievements recorded during the eight years’ tenure, the only things Nigerians readily remember are the bad ones.

He also had reason to join issues with Gen. Theophilus Danjuma for describing President Umaru Yar’Adua as a weak leader and stooge to former president Obasanjo. He said rather than being anybody’s lackey, the President is actually implementing the PDP manifesto religiously.

The former minister also took a swipe at other political parties that he accused of crying foul since the last general elections, and had been boycotting the council elections being organised by states across the country.

Excerpts:
Yar Adua not a stooge
I will tell you that Yar’Adua is his own man. He is nobody’s puppet, and I have seen Yar’Adua at a close range in operation in Katsina State for eight years as the leader of the party in the zone. Yar’Adua has got his ideas and he is somebody who is a stickler for due process, a stickler for openness and probity, he cannot be anybody’s puppet. What Yar’Adua is doing is adhering to the policies of the party, because he is an experienced politician.

You remember Yar’Adua has been in politics since his contest for governorship of Katsina State under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He is a party man and he respects the party. Therefore, what he is doing is trying to implement the manifesto of the party. In the process, a lot of people feel he should have a reversal of the policies of the last eight years. But that cannot be possible because he is operating a party manifesto which is very similar to what Obasanjo was supposed to operate.

The only area where Yar’Adua will deviate from Obasanjo is when things are done wrongly or due process is not adhered to. The feeling that he should turn his back completely against the policies of the last eight years is wrong because that means turning his back against his party.
On the issue of election, Yar’Adua is an honest man.

He knows that in some states of the Federation, there were excesses during the last general elections, but that is not to say that it was enough to affect the result of the election. Whatever excesses there were in those states were not enough to annul the election. What the President was saying was acknowledging that in some states, he knew there were excesses by political operators and he is ready and willing to rectify some of these anomalies that allow for these excesses.

That is why he has set up a committee for electoral reforms and that is why when he noticed that in some of the states, the same attitude towards the election continued to prevail in the conduct of the local government council elections with violence and other abuses, he read the riot act to the governors. And I’m glad to say since that meeting, all the elections that held in the various states, including that of Kebbi State, were peaceful with minimal complaints.

Grouse about Danjuma
It is a pity that Gen. Danjuma did not take his time to understand what Yar’Adua was trying to do. Yar’Adua as a party man is implementing the manifesto of his party even as Obasanjo also based his government on the party manifesto.

What the President is doing is consolidating on what the party has achieved during the Obasanjo era. Yar’Adua being a different person, has a different pattern of approach in fine-tuning these policies.
These fine-tunings can be seen in the area of his reversal of the sale of refineries, government secondary schools, but as a party man, he cannot completely jump out of PDP’s policies. I think this is what Danjuma meant by the President being in Obasanjo’s pockets.

What people are seeing the President doing is just the planning stage. When these policies are matured to be implemented, people would begin to notice radically different policies from those of Obasanjo.

Opinion on the Obasanjo administration
I think as every past government of Nigeria, the PDP government under president Obasanjo had set out to do good jobs. In the process, inevitably, some mistakes must have been made and some decisions must have been taken, which if you look at them out of context, will look anomalous. I was a member of that government. But essentially, that government set out to do good and where there were mistakes, efforts were made to correct them.

I believe it was towards the end of that government, when the third term issue came in, that caused all the ill-feelings against the person of Obasanjo, the PDP and the government itself. In the process of third term, there was this misunderstanding between the leaders of the party, that’s the two topshots, Obasanjo and Atiku and that resulted in a lot of acrimony and the party was caught in the middle, in the process. There can only be one president, so the party went with the president and a lot of feet were stepped on, and all these things resulted in people looking at the negative aspect of what happened in the last two years of the government, forgetting all the good things that happened during the first term of Obasanjo and at the beginning of the second term.

The bad blood is the result of acrimony between the two topshots in the government, Obasanjo and Atiku. I wouldn’t like people to forget all the good things that had happened in all the reforms that went on during Obasanjo’s regime. In fact, when Obasanjo came in 1999, Nigeria was wallowing in debt, the economy was in trouble, the polity was turbulent. In fact, there were even whispers of breaking up the country and the PDP under the leadership of Obasanjo confronted these problems, maintained the unity of the country, worked on the economy, built up the reserve to what it is now in tens of billions.

When Obasanjo came in, the economy was negligible, it was in single figures, not in double digits. Now we have foreign reserves going into $50 billion, we had debts of trillions of naira, all those debts Nigeria had worked and restructured the economy to the satisfaction of their trading partners to the point that they forgave us our debts and we started on a clean slate.

You cannot say all these were not achievements, and a lot of work was being done on poverty alleviation. You remember the condition of this country during the military regime. The problem is that we have inherited a lot of decay and decline under the military and because it was not democratic, people were not free to talk about it.

Now that democracy has come, people can look at what went wrong and complain and criticize and of course, Obasanjo being the first democratic leader, all the complaints and criticisms were heaped on him. I think that is not fair, because a lot of the decay that still pervades the political and economic fields in this country was inherited after a long period of abuse and undemocratic rule.

I am not saying that Obasanjo is an angel. He made his own mistakes, but government is a continuous process, especially where the same political party is using the same manifesto, that is why Umaru Yar’Adua is out to correct some of the past mistakes. That is why people are saying he is reversing Obasanjo’s policies.

It is not reversing. It is just adjustments and fine-tuning to make sure that the results aimed at are achieved. Because Obasanjo might have set up a policy to achieve certain results, even if Obasanjo was still in government, if he noticed that some of the policies were not driving towards the expected results, he would fine-tune them to make sure they maintain the right direction where the expected results are achieved.

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