Stop meddling in Nigerian politics, Bugaje, Akinyemi tell Obasanjo

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Two Nigerian intellectuals, Dr Usman Bugaje and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi have faulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s meddling in Nigerian politics, by endorsing a particular candidate.

Bugaje and Akinyemi spoke in an interview with Seun Okinbaloye on Channels TV programme, Politics Today on Sunday Night.

Akinyemi, a former foreign minister of Nigeria and pro-democracy activist, slammed Obasanjo’s meddling and described him as part of the foundation of the problems in the country.

“Once you have occupied the post of president and served your term, go home, be quiet, be like General Gowon, General Abdulsalami. You have had your term, you have had your innings, to use a cricket language. Let others get on.

“For you to create problems for us and then you come back and present yourself as a problem solver, I find it difficult to swallow.

“Some people say it is not the messenger, focus on the message. That doesn’t rub with me as political scientist. Whoever says that must be a politician, who does not want people to look into his record,” Prof Akinyemi said.

Bugaje, a former adviser to Obasanjo and a former member of the National Assembly, said he does not understand what objective criteria Obasanjo used to arrive at his decision.

He warned that Nigerians should not just swallow what he said , without looking at Obasanjo’s record.

“His (Obasanjo’s) record doesn’t encourage me to take whatever he says objectively. I was in the National Assembly when he tried to extend his tenure by changing the constitution. We have to stand up to him in that respect.

“I won’t find him as a person to trust on things he says. He is free to say those things. What we need to do is to guide voters to make the right decision.

“We are at the precipice. We need a leadership that can pull us back from the precipice. A leader that can strengthen the institutions, by fostering more cohesion. A leadership that can build elite consensus around which direction the country could go.

“Part of the problem is that every part of the country is pulling in its own direction. We need a leadership that can unite us, that can focus on where the country should go in the next 10 or 20 years. We are in the 21st century, a very competitive century. The consensus is not there at present,” Bugaje said.

Although Akinyemi agreed with Bugaje that getting elite consensus will be a major step forward, he said the partisan politics we practise today is not designed to engender elite consensus, as advocated by Bugaje.

“Of the growing economies in the world, how many of them are practising competitive partisan politics?, Akinyemi asked as he recalled the frustrations leaders have with the establishment or the civil service, that he said a former leader described as ‘evil service’.

He also faulted Obasanjo’s presidential choice on the basis of character.

“The system we have now is capable of defeating a man of character,” Akinyemi declared..

He cited how the recommendations of Justice Uwais panel on electoral reforms were put on ice by the establishment. He also cited how the recommendation of another panel on the need to establish a Marshall Plan for the whole country was distorted.

“The economy of the country was in tatters in 2013. We recommended a Marshall Plan. But what came out was North East Development Commission,” he said.

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