Atiku/Obj Feud Responsible For 3rd Term – Dr. Ardo
A PDP Chieftain and a three-time gubernatorial aspirant from Adamawa State, Dr. Umar Ardo, has said that the quarrel between former Vice President Atiku and his boss President Olusegun Obasanjo which started since September 2001 was mainly responsible for the I’ll-fated 3rd term debacle.
Speaking at the review of a book titled “Long Walk of the Progress in Nigeria: Political Cases in Perspective” written by Barrister Sylvester Imhanobe, a Special Assistant to President Mohammad Buhari on Research and Special Projects on November 13th at the Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, Dr. Ardo maintains that the author was wrong in imputing that Atiku was fighting Obasanjo because of the latter’s attempt to perpetuate himself in office through the 3rd term agenda.
The book, written to celebrate the victory of President Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, had Dr. Ardo as the reviewer while Alh. Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf, the east while National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Movement (PDM), as the chairman and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) as the Chief Host of the occasion.
Read the full review of the Book below by Dr. Ardo
“I duly and respectfully submit myself to the already established protocols.
The book under review is titled:
LONG WALK OF THE PROGRESSIVES IN NIGERIA: POLITICAL CASES IN PERSPECTIVE
AUTHOR: SYLVESTER O. IMHANOBE
PUBLISHERS: IMHANOBE LAW BOOKS LTD.
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2015
PRINTERS: AMFITOP NIGERIA LTD.
REVIEWER: UMAR ARDO, Ph.D
Mr. Sylvester Imhanobe’s undertaking to write this book in its present form is both complex and delicate, given that the book has three-dimensional thrusts – historical, political and legal! Now, when a lawyer undertakes such a task, the effort can only be described as exploratory. Imhanobe is no doubt a very well-trained and skillful lawyer, but historiography is also an entirely different subject with its unique skills, just as dynamics of political actions are best understood by the actors themselves. Therefore when a lawyer (even a good one like Imhanobe) picks certain legal cases of political nature, such as is done in this book, and tries to give them historical perspectives he will most likely run into serious trouble easily, especially against the backdrop of an intricate process of nation-building such as Nigeria’s. To do justice to such a book, therefore, one needs the possession and utilization of a wide range of skills in law, in historiography and a primary knowledge of the actual political dynamics and their dialectical waves and circumstances. It is only then that a lawyer can veer into history and politics and produce a book of the quality and standard that reflects the true essence of the cases treated. How an untrained historiographer and a marginal political actor like the author can come up with a book of such merit is what I will endevour to dig out in this review. But let me say from the onset that Imhanobe did just that in this book! Though his style is exploratory and novel, yet the final outcome is inspiring and edifying in a direct and significant sense.
Arranging the book into ten unequal chapters, the author adopted two methods in making his presentations and reaching his conclusions. The first is narrative, in which he attempts to give account of the historical events leading to the political cases under review. The second is reproducing the judgments of those cases themselves verbatim. In my opinion, these two are necessarily complimentary. For one to be able to reach an accurate conclusion on any particular matter one does need the stimulus of a good, insightful analysis. And for one to make a worthy instinctual analysis, one needs to have the narratives of the raw data of the social ambiance in which the events emanate. The author has been successful in coming up with a good balance between the two, thus helpfully guiding the reader to make analysis and reach conclusions. This is basically the crux of academics. On this notch I score the author above average.
However, all is not smothered in a feather bed; for as l pointed out earlier, in coming up with a book of this kind, a writer in the nature of the author can easily run into trouble if care is not taken. And true to prediction, Mr. Imhanobe very quickly ran into many troubles, some of which are extremely serious. The first concern is with his definition of progressives and the ascribing of personalities that personify this classification. To quote the author in his first page of the preface:
“‘progressives’ is used to refer to politicians who subscribe to left-wing or centre-left political ideology; the primary focus of the progressives is to promote social democratic ideology. They seek to change of [sic] the status quo and to use state resources to promote equality and egalitarian society for citizens through free education, health, workers’ rights and general better social welfare.”
And pointedly, according to him, the opposite of the progressives are the ‘conservatives’, i.e. politicians who subscribe to right-wing or centre-right political ideology.
The author then went ahead and identified three leaders who to him personify this classification of progressive politicians in Nigeria’s history. From pre-independence to the 2nd Republic, he named the famous nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN. In the aborted 3rd Republic, he named a foremost philanthropist, Chief MKO Abiola. And in the present 4th Republic, he named President Mohammadu Buhari. Now, I am hard pressed to accept any of the three as progressives, even going by the author’s explanation. I concede that during his Premiership of Western Nigeria, Chief Awolowo formulated and implemented far-reaching peoples-oriented policies and programmes such as education and healthcare, but so also did the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir. Ahmadu Bello, who is seen by all, including the author himself, as a hardcore conservative. So where lies the difference?
Besides, can a politician whose ideology was ethnocentric and who formed his political party on the basis of such ideology in a multicultural and heterogeneous society like ours be acceptably labeled as a progressive? I think not. Chief Awolowo’s first political party, the Action Group, which gave rise to the Unity Party of Nigeria in the 2nd Republic, was an offshoot of his ethno-cultural organization, Egbe Omo Oduduwa. This influenced two political developments of grave consequences that subsequently shaped Nigeria’s national politics. First, to counter this seeming threat, it prompted the creation in the North of a political organization that was also regionally/culturally based: Jam’iyan Mutanen Arewa which, like the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, later metamorphosed into a political party called Northern Peoples’ Congress. Secondly, it directly influenced the famous (or infamous) 1951 cross-carpeting of 20 Yoruba NCNC members in the Western House of Assembly to the newly formed Action Group, forcing the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe to abandon his political base in Lagos and move to Enugu. These two episodes laid the foundation of ethnic and regional politics in Nigeria henceforth. On the basis of this argument, therefore, Chief Awolowo, great as he was, cannot be considered as a progressive.
In like manner, I cannot in all honesty also accept Chief Abiola as progressive any more than say Alh. Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s president of the 2nd Republic. In the first place, Abiola was a member and the major financier of the then governing National Party of Nigeria, and had wanted to be its presidential flag-bearer. Having later contested and won the presidential election of June 12th, 1993 Abiola would have most likely remained within his former ‘NPN conservative fold’ had his election not been annulled. The annulment of the election and his struggle to reverse it cannot thus translate him from his conservative background into a progressive. Though a philanthropist, but unlike Chief Awolowo, Abiola did not hold public office in which he formulated and implemented welfarist policies and programmes to earn him a progressive garment.
In the same vein, based on the definition of the author, President Buhari himself cannot be said to qualify as a progressive any more than President Ibrahim Babangida. In the first place, the military coup that brought Buhari to power in 1983 is generally viewed in the academic cycle as a revisionist coup; meaning that it was carried out by the conservative wing of the military to save the status quo that was threatened by the failing civilian Shagari administration.
Secondly, during the course of the regime, no outstanding welfairst policies such as free and compulsory education or healthcare programmes or increase in wages and labour rights were undertaken. And when he became a democrat, Buhari first contested the presidential election under a viewed conservative party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, with President Shagari’s Political Adviser as his Running Mate. Although Buhari has subsequently contested twice under political parties with ‘progressive’ appellates, this by itself hardly made him a progressive. Granted his current party carries progressive title, but it is so composed of all sorts of critical members that the meaning of ‘progressive’ seems to be lost. The simple truth is that Buhari was and is still viewed as a man of personal and professional integrity with mass public support, but this does not equally qualify him as a progressive. So much on the personalities!
On the reproduced judgments of the political cases themselves, I have two issues with the author. In all there are seven cases in which eleven judgments were entered – seven lead majority judgments and four dissenting minority ones. These are: 1. the Chief Awolowo Treasonable Felony Case, 1962; 2. Chief Obafemi Awolowo vs Alh. Shehu Shagari & 2 Ors, 1979; 3. Mohammadu Buhari & 2 Ors vs Olusegun Obasanjo & 264 Ors, 2003; 4. Action Congress & Another vs INEC & Ors, 2007; 5. Atiku Abubakar vs Musa Yar’Adua & 4 Ors, 2007; 6. General Mohammadu Buhari vs INEC & Ors, 2007; and 7. Congress for Progressive Change vs INEC & 41 Ors, 2011. According to Mr. Imhanobe, these are the main political cases of the progressives in perspective.
The first issue I have with this is that the author made no contrasting analysis of the lead majority judgments and the dissenting minority judgments, as if this does not matter, whereas this is what actually matters. For example, reading through the lead majority judgment of Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams and the sole dissenting judgment of Justice Kayode Eso in the Awolowo vs Shagari case of 1979, at once it will be apparent that the logic of Justice Eso’s argument is superior to that of the lead judgment of Justice Williams. The same can also be said of the dissenting minority judgment of Justice Walter Onnoghen against that of the lead majority judgment of Justice Niki Tobi in the 2007 General Mohammadu Buhari vs INEC & Ors’ case. The failure of the author to make contrasting analysis and offer opinion on the merits and/or demerits of these conflicting judgments is a big minus to the book. Such analysis would have afforded the author the chance to justify his conclusion that ‘on the whole, the judiciary has not been fair to the progressives’. As it is, in my view, this conclusion though justifiable has however not been justified.
The second issue is the inclusion of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s cases to the list of judgments reproduced. In his general analysis of the political divides of the country, the Peoples’ Democratic Party was categorized by the author within the conservative fold. Yet, in listing judgments of political cases of the progressives he included Atiku’s in pages 302 – 525. This seems to me as contradictory since Atiku was the Vice President of the PDP-led federal government. His cases should have been left out as they actually belong to the category of in-house fight within the fold of the conservatives, with no place on the list of progressives!
Furthermore, in a related matter, the author fell into the general misconception of most Nigerians with regards to the Atiku-Obasanjo fight, especially as it concerned the 3rd term controversy. In page 300, the author reported the scuffle in this way:
“Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, as Vice President opposed President Obasanjo’s third term agenda. Most Nigerians believe, rightly or wrongly, that the face-off between Obasanjo and Atiku in the buildup to the 2007 presidential election is as a result of Atiku’s opposition to Obasanjo’s third term agenda”.
Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, the reverse is the case; i.e. the 3rd term crisis was a fallout of the Atiku-Obasanjo fight which started since September, 2001. Indeed, I can evidentially state that without this fight in the first place, there would not have been the 3rd term debacle.
As a lawyer, the author certainly knows the indispensable role of the judiciary in nation-building, and this he tries to espouse in the pages of the book. For any serious politician who is truly committed to advancing the cause of society, a strong and independent judiciary is non-negotiable. It underscores the point that if the court, either by design or default, fails in its duty then society will per-forcefully collapse and even go into a crunch; for as I have always maintained, the court is to the society what the spinal cord is to the human being – holding all parts of the body neat and firm! An injured court, or putting it differently, a compromised or a complacent judiciary, inevitably results to societal collapse in the same way as an injured spinal cord results in the paralysis of the human being. The only difference is that the latter is easy to relate while the former takes deeper understanding. Evidently, therefore, given the defining role of the court in the society and, more specifically, in a democratic settings, we cannot in the least afford to find the court wanting in the due discharge of its duty. Hence it is a civic obligation on all responsible citizens to help see to it that the court, as the final hub of rule of law, not only uprightly stands up to its responsibilities but also is seen to be sufficiently doing so. There is nothing more fruitful to society than the entrenchment of constitutionalism and rule of law in public affairs. It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people. On this score, too, as the author so clearly demonstrated in the book, the three nationalists have paid their dues to the nation.
In conclusion, the total picture painted by the author in this book is that of progressives in constant struggle with the conservatives, the latter aided by a reactionary judiciary, to install a more just and egalitarian society for Nigeria. The three key personalities of Awolowo, Abiola and Buhari had been critical to this struggle which took a long period from pre-independence culminating in the victory of Buhari in 2015. Many Nigerians, including my humble self, will have additional views to this, but no Nigerian can deny the crucial roles played by this triumvirate in the struggle to build a better Nigeria for all generations. No doubt, the three personalities have contributed to the building of nationalist ideology and their names invoke extreme feelings from different segments of the Nigerian society.
I therefore join the erudite Prince Tony Momoh, who volunteered the foreword, to commend the effort of Barrister Sylvester Imhanobe in producing this huge volume within so short a time. Only a very hardworking, intelligent, dedicated, devoted and patriotic scholar can undertake such a gigantic task. The book will be of immense value to our scholars, politicians and professionals, and to all those who are interested in and committed to a New Nigeria of our dream.
Thank you very much for your kind attention
Dr. Umar Ardo
(Abuja, 13th December, 2016)