Aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s Death: A Lesson to Nigerian Leaders by Muhammed Ibrahim
President Hugo Chavez, who was a renowned anti-USA figure, died in the early hours of Tuesday (5th March 2013) at the age of 58 (1954-2013). He was a charismatic leader who succeeded in transforming Venezuela’s turbulent political system to a flourishing socialist economy. His death was a great loss to many and sparked a wave of mourning not only among Venezuelans, but among people from all corners of the world. Chavez was renowned for his sympathy and he followed in the footsteps of ex-Cuban president, Fidel Castro, in fighting for the rights of the poor both as a military officer and a political leader. With enthusiastic love and pride for his country, he succeeded in uniting his people and making them realize the need to curb and eradicate the evils of imperialism. So anti-imperialist was he that he once publicly referred to former US President George Bush as a ‘donkey’.
Hugo Chavez was a social activist who was deeply concerned about transforming his country into a major player both in the Latin American region and in the world at large. His people loved him so much that the constitution was amended to allow him run for presidency an unlimited number of times. He successfully transformed Venezuela from a land of despair to a world class investment haven with economic stability and a high standard of living. He was particularly outspoken against capitalism; ‘Capitalism leads you straight to hell’ is one statement of his which would be remembered for a long time. Venezuela – the fourth largest oil producer in the world – currently has one of the highest foreign reserves.
While the ill-effects of colonialism and imperialism are still being suffered in many African countries, in Nigeria, our new colonial masters are none other than the PDP. Since the birth of this young but ailing democracy, Nigerians have been subjected to untold hardship and all acts of resistance have been met with brute force.
Yes, we have all heard tales of how our ancestors were bound by their hands and feet and taken to strange lands, but how else do we describe a group of people who not only force themselves on the majority, but also mete out undeserved punishments and make decisions without consulting them? If one thing is true, it is that the PDP operates with methods akin to those utilized by colonial masters – total denial of the people’s rights to freedom, expression, and they have even taken it a notch further by denying us of qualitative education too!
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo at the tail end of his tenure in 2007 attempted to extend his tenure by a further 4 years, forgetting that the likes of Chavez succeeded because they fought for the people and not against them. This rejection allegedly spurned him to reduce the avenues through which government made revenue by vindictively selling off various government-owned properties, and coming up with a number of economic policies which would be detrimental in the long-term; NICON was sold off, refineries were sold (and crude oil began to be exported for processing at highly inflated rates).
Chavez’s death was met by genuine tears from his people; in Nigeria when leaders die, it becomes an avenue to promote various conspiracy theories with religious and ethnic undertones, as was shown quite recently with the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa (May his soul rest in peace).
Late President Umar Musa Yar’adua’s tenure – despite being marred by illness – was one of the best that we have ever experienced as a people. That amnesty showed that true democracy could actually be revived in Nigeria and that he was a leader who cared about his people and meeting them at the point of their needs. When President Goodluck Jonathan took over however, the amnesty programme was neglected and kidnappings and pipeline vandalisation resurfaced once more. So wide was the rift between the president and the militants that they eventually proclaimed that Yar’adua’s tenure favoured them, and that they missed him greatly.
When General Sani Abacha died, the North mourned and the South celebrated. The South and the West were united in the loss of their sons – Late Ken Saro Wiwa and Late MKO Abiola, whose election had been annulled by Abacha’s predecessor, and who had been kept in detention by the Abacha regime. As a young child back in 1998, I grew up being told that General Sani Abacha was the best leader that we had ever had, and although I could not reason for myself then, I believed it. Now, I acknowledge that while he had his excesses, he did uplift Nigeria in the areas of economic reforms, job creation, and education to name a few. His regime successfully paid off debts incurred by the Babangida administration.
In Nigeria today, there are many hospitals and schools which only have equipments supplied by PTF, an initiative of the Abacha regime. Abacha was the man who came closest to achieving what Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez did. He boycotted the European and American countries to concentrate fully on Asian markets in order to revive the ailing economy which his predecessor had successfully run aground.
During the Abacha regime, petrol sold for N18 per litre; this quickly skyrocketed to N75 under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, then was reverted to N65 under Yar’adua, and now sells at N97 under Goodluck Jonathan.
A leader should be one who is worthy of emulation; in South Africa, the name ‘Nelson Mandela’ inspires confidence, and his people love him for helping them put an end to apartheid. In India, Mahatma Ghandi is still also highly venerated. In Nigeria, save for the likes of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and Obafemi Awolowo, very few leaders would be remembered for leaving good legacies behind. In fact, extremely few of those alive would elicit genuine tears of sorrow from Nigerian when they die.
If Chief Olusegun Obasanjo should pass away right now, his positive influence on the economy would be remembered, but so would his unreasonable wish to hold on to power at all cost. If its General Babangida, SAP and all its effects would be remembered, his annulment of the June 1993 election would be remembered, and of course, his loyalists (whose ranks are dwindling) would miss him.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonthan would definitely be remembered (and cursed) for the levity with which he handled issues of national security and his incomparable ability to accommodate, promote, and even pardon corruption, and for speaking from both sides of his mouth. Perhaps, in Bayelsa, he’ll be mourned.
General Muhammadu Buhari still remains the one leader who has won the hearts of many Nigerians, both as a military leader and PTF boss. If anyone would be collectively mourned – at least by Many Nigerians on both sides of the divide – then it would be him.
There is an urgent need for us all to learn to put sentiments aside, and for our leaders to begin to think about their deaths – how would Nigerian remember them, and for what?
I am @el_bonga on twitter
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