Posted by By Duro Onabule on
The seeming truce between the two belligerents or among their respective forces could only have been taken by the unwary to be the end of hostilities if not all hostilities.
The seeming truce between the two belligerents or among their respective forces could only have been taken by the unwary to be the end of hostilities if not all hostilities. Otherwise, both President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar were busy mapping out their individual war plans with troops in both war camps coming up with numerous ideas, some realistic, some illusory, others suicidal or self-defeatist.
Was it not during this "armistice" that a confident-looking Obasanjo once again publicly humiliated his deputy/political enemy by demanding total military loyalty or the man should look for another job? That obviously was part of the war plan of the hawks around Obasanjo, to provoke Atiku Abubakar to resign as Vice-President so that their man could drive through easily to the start of fresh three terms of four years each with changing designations in response to sustained criticisms both at home and abroad.
It started as third term, then changed, then tenure elongation and now prolongation of tenure, all without the minutest difference.
Somehow, there might be some justification for Obasanjo’s confidence to mop up operations in an elusive final onslaught against Atiku Abubakar. After the snipings and shellings of Obasanjo’s artillery troops on Atiku Abubakar’s position, the Vice President absorbed all the aggression almost without responding, thereby giving Obasanjo the false impression of a "no contest," some sort of easy defeat. Militarily, Obasanjo could have followed up with his infantry division or even a brigade.
That was where he fell into the ambush laid for him by Atiku Abubakar who all along restrained his troops from replying fire for fire. Instead, Atiku Abubakar limited his war plan to infantry and armour personnel. Drawing Obasanjo nearer and nearer in an unsuspected suicidal bid to occupy a conquered territory, Vice President Abubakar decided to strike at the most auspicious moment. It was a "touch and go" situation.
That exactly was what the Vice President did last week and he led the operations himself. Dismissing any stiff opposition from Obasanjo, Vice President Atiku Abubakar quipped; "what will I suffer now compared to all I have suffered in the past three years?" In effect, Atiku Abubakar was saying that Obasanjo had exhausted all his ammunition and was in no position to cause any damage or win the battle for a third term, elongation of tenure or term extension.
The mood in the country and National Assembly seem to justify Atiku Abubakar’s assessment. Even, Obasanjo’s ministers, at least some of them, seem to have accepted the hopelessness of Obasanjo’s misadventure. This week, Power and Steel Minister, Liyel Imoke, launching the commencement of an electricity project in Bayelsa State, promised that the project "will be completed before the end of this (Obasanjo’s) administration in 2007." Imoke might have gaffed but he did not goof.
Leading his armour division in a surprise dawn assault on Obasanjo’s position last week, Vice President Atiku Abubakar pounded everything moving or standing in his way. So massive was his attack on the fraudulent third term agenda that the operation left the PDP hierarchy, the Presidency and undoubtedly Obasanjo himself in shock, confusion and complete disarray.
And if anybody was in doubt about Obasanjo’s certainty to lose the war for a third term, tenure elongation or extension of term, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar removed such doubts by promising in a victory speech that "when I start speaking, you will know more."
Only a few months ago, I predicted that the on-coming war between the two men would provide Nigerians a spectacle of "Roforofo fight." With a paramilitary background, it could never be conceivable that Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a retired Customs officer could outmatch President Obasanjo, a retired Army General in a political/military operation.
What Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has done is a pre-emptive strike reminiscent of Israel’s identical tactics to demolish the entire Egyptian Air-Force combat – ready in various bases to bombard Israel in the 1967 war while denying any war plans. Just as Obasanjo and his collaborators have been denying any third term plan. In fact, from Obasanjo downwards, they have been contradicting themselves.
Their blackmail instead was the tag of disloyalty maliciously woven round Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s neck. Now, in glorious victory, Atiku Abubakar has not only discredited the charge of disloyalty but has also exposed the reality of the third term illusion, thereby putting his political enemies on the defensive.
The battle is for and against third term for Obasanjo and why the man believes he can succeed against all of us is baffling. But the confusion has set in in his camp.
First, those around Obasanjo shocked by the ferocity of Atiku Abubakar’s fight-back are desperately but ignorantly, clinging to the charge of disloyalty against the Vice-President. Second, another group has threatened to go to court seeking a declaration to remove Atiku as Vice-President.
Third, those around Obasanjo, while accusing Atiku of disloyalty, immediately contradict themselves by denying the third term plan. Fourth, some PDP members including party chairman Ahmadu Alli have said the third term plan is not the party’s agenda. Fifth, Obasanjo has denied and at the same time confirmed his ambition for third term. The list is endless but these few can be critically examined to see how much Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is at fault as being alleged.
The charge of disloyalty can never be sustained. On what issue? Atiku Abubakar has not violated the principle of collective responsibility because third term agenda was not part of PDP’s manifesto for the 2003 widely rigged elections. In fact, till now, Obasanjo has not been honest or courageous enough to discuss it at the federal executive council or at PDP’s National Executive Council and National Working Committee membership of both of which Atiku Abubakar belongs.
In fact, last year, when Vice-President Atiku Abubakar tried to force the denial of third term bid from Obasanjo, he (Obasanjo) came out fighting like a wounded tiger. In short, it was and is still obvious that the third term agenda is Obasanjo’s personal plot. Is the Vice-President (or any vice president for that matter) constitutionally obliged to support Obasanjo’s personal plot against the constitution or Nigerian people? That is even after he (Obasanjo) has confided in his deputy, which he has not.
Neither is the third term plot a Federal Government policy. It is also not the policy of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. The authority for this submission is chairman Ahmadu Ali. In his confused state, he initially tried to blackmail party members by selling the third term plot as the party’s agenda. Sensing the revolt and defiance of state and National Assembly members, Ahmadu Ali, still as party chairman dramatically withdrew and asked the assembly men (state and federal) to regard his claim as his personal views.
Is he that old to remember his dramatic change of tune? Probably after being rebuked at the Presidency, Ali returned to the National Assembly and tried to regiment party members to toe the line and vote for Obasanjo’s third term or lose their nomination for re-election. By now, he must have realised more than half of the party’s members in the National Assembly are prepared to damn the consequences and vote against the third term.
A section of the PDP is just laughable in their plan to go to court to seek declaration to remove Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Under what section of the constitution? Putting that aside, when did PDP as a national party ever obey court decision? Was it not the same PDP led by Colonel Ali that took a decision to expel any member who drags the party to court without first exhausting all avenues in the party for conflict resolution?
All Vice-President Atiku Abubakar needs to do to get such a suit thrown out is to present that particular party decision. In other words, both Obasanjo and the PDP leadership realise that given the present controversy, they cannot get the party to expel Atiku Abubakar.
Oh his part, Obasanjo has been blowing hot and cold on the third term issue, leaving his deputy in a "no win" situation. Last time in the United States, Obasanjo said third term was not in his agenda. At the same time, the same Obasanjo (not too cleverly) said if the constitution was amended and a new situation arose, he (Obasanjo) might (not WOULD) consider the issue. And Obasanjo’s cohorts continue to say the man has no third term ambition?
Where does this deceit and ambiguity leave Nigerians including Vice President Atiku Abubakar? Where was Atiku Abubakar wrong in raising the third term alarm?
The most irritating is the dishonesty triggered by PDP National Secretary, Ojo Maduekwe and lately kicked up by Obasanjo that it is the duty of National Assembly to pass laws and amend the constitution. What is peculiar or educative in their submission? Is it not the same in all world democracies? What Nigerians worry about and last week picked up by Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the bait, intimidation and blackmail of assembly members with N100,000,000 choice land in Abuja etc. to suit the third term purpose.
And if my friend, Ojo Maduekwe cares, he only needs to look back and remember the fate of his kinsmen, Okwesilieze Nwodo and Vincent Ogbulafor. If the third term mistakenly goes through, Ojo Maduekwe will go the way of his predecessors. Just mark it down.
Today, Vice President Atiku Abubakar is in a stronger position than before. Accordingly, he must not resign since he has not violated any oath of office he took. Loyalty is to the nation and not to an individual. If the President is breaching the constitution especially against the people over whom he rules, the Vice President is constitutionally bound to voice out the feelings of the people. In this crisis, Atiku Abubakar has not violated the constitution. To resign therefore, at least for now, is to make things easy for Obasanjo and his henchmen.
It is encouraging as mentioned earlier that even ministers under Obasanjo are gradually resigning themselves to the futility of Obasanjo’s third term ambition after which, if he (Obasanjo) succeeds, he will drop all of them.
The two options open to Obasanjo and his tottering PDP are either to (a) expel Vice President Atiku Abubakar or (b) to impeach him, both of which will be politically suicidal for the party.
If Atiku Abubakar is expelled, (the procedure is cumbersome) all his supporters in the party will quit in sympathy and follow him to Action Congress of Democrats (ACD). Where that leaves the PDP is anybody’s guess although Obasanjo, seeing his third term ambition unfulfilled would naturally not care whatever happens to PDP.
And in their own interest, Ahmadu Ali and PDP had better not contemplate impeaching Vice-President Atiku Abubakar especially in the present circumstances where majority of Nigerians are against Obasanjo’s third term ambition. First, the party cannot command the necessary two thirds majority in the National Assembly to impeach Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Opposition to Obasanjo’s third term bid is not only so massive but also cuts across party, religious and ethnic lines.
Furthermore, any such move by the PDP, once defeated is bound to be followed by counter move of anti-third term forces in the National Assembly to impeach Obasanjo.
What is more, whether Vice President Atiku Abubakar is expelled or resigns voluntarily, he remains the Vice President under the constitution which provides for elected public officials to retain their offices provided their membership of a new party is as a result of a division in his old party.
Still on the row between President Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero must reflect on his performance. Last time, he (Ehindero) did not allow ACD members to hold their rally at Jigawa. Last week, the same Ehindero disallowed a meeting of opponents of anti-third term bid of Obasanjo.
Yet, two days later in Lagos, PDP stalwarts were unrestrained in storming the residence of Vice President Atiku Abubakar in Lagos. Ehindero’s excuse for not allowing the rally and meeting of Obasanjo’s opponents at Jigawa and Abuja respectively was that they did not obtain police permit.
Did PDP stalwarts who stormed Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s residence in Lagos obtain police permit? No. In fact, when they were asked on that issue by television reporters, the PDP members arrogantly responded that they did not need any police permit. Yet, a former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari was sent packing because he did not obtain police permit.
Police authorities have to be very careful not to open themselves to legitimate charges of ethnic bias.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar is a Fulani and an opponent of Obasanjo’s third term bid, and police allowed Obasanjo’s Yoruba supporters to storm Atiku Abubakar’s residence. Ehindero and Obasanjo are both Yorubas. On the other hand, General Buhari, a Fulani and opponent of Obasanjo’s third term bid was not allowed by the police to a peaceful meeting on the ground of not obtaining police permit.
Could Ehindero have allowed party critics to storm Obasanjo’s farm at Ota or his private home at Owu, Ogun State? These are the sensitive issues the Police Inspector-General must be careful about not to give the public the impression of ethnic bias in the discharge of his duties.
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