The Proposed 3rd Term: How Objective was New York Times Editorial Warning?

The Proposed 3rd Term: How Objective was New York Times Editorial Warning?


Emeka Oraetoka

Two events took place two weeks or so ago, over President Obasanjo’s proposed tenure extension bid. One of the actions took place in far away USA, the second occurred in Asaba, Delta State. While New York Times insisted that 3rd term would ruin Nigeria in its editorial comment, Senator Ahamadu Ali, the chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic party (PDP), in Asaba, Delta State Capital, made it abundantly clear that PDP now wants tenure extension for performing office holders in the Party, in apparent response to the huge success recorded at the zonal public hearing on constitution amendments, where Nigerians rejected the operational Military imposed constitution. He criticized journalists for being alarmist on the issue of 3rd term bid [fresh term shot after constitution amendments]. This is how Ali puts it, “there is no backlash. It’s just some editors in some 10 -12 papers that are trying to force the nation to accept their views. All the Newspaper columnists are writing what they like”.

Ali’s position on 3rd term runs counter to the view of New York Times editorial. The implication of these positions [Ali vs. New York Times] is that either Ahamadu Ali or New York Times is being economical with the truth as far as the effect of 3rd term bid on stability of Nigeria is concerned. In determining which of the parties is being genuinely economical with the truth, one fact about Ali led PDP should be well understood. For Ahmadu Ali led PDP that controls more than 2/3 majority of the State Governments in the Federation, more than 2/3 majority of the members in the States Houses of Assembly, and more them 2/3 majority of members in the Two Chambers of the National Assembly, a near one party state, so to speak, nothing will be more satisfying to them than to “carry go” as far as constitution amendments for tenure extension is concerned, that is the basic truth. Democratically speaking, PDP has the constitutional ability to effect whatever amendments it desires. What Ali led PDP has to ensure is stability in the Party, simpliciter.

As for the New York Times, as far as it is concerned, tenure extension for Obasanjo will ruin Nigeria. The posers here remain: [1] How objective is their view, considering the fact that Obasanjo’s Party, PDP has the required wherewithal to effect constitution amendments? [2] Considering also the fact that Nigeria practices multi- party democracy and as such other parties will surely benefit from Obasanjo’s unpopularity, if eventually, he stands for election? I think, it is much more civilized for anti-tenure extension protagonists to show the world that indeed, PDP and Obasanjo, are now unpopular through the ballot box, than what appears like oppositions’ sponsored editorial from Times. The only apparent snag in the 3rd term for Obasanjo and other performing office holders is the fact that PDP could still present other candidates, who could still win elections, why not that option? The position being advanced by proponents of 3rd term in return to this poser is that the fundamental factors that led to Obasanjo’s miraculous return to power in 99, as the only one who could bring about stability in Nigeria then, is still with us. They contended that if he goes without solving these fundamental problems, we would still be hunted. According to them, what is paramount in Nigeria today is the delicate issue of finding a genuine patriot in mold of Obasanjo capable of solving vexed issues like: [1] zoning of the office of the President among the six [6] geo-political zones in the country, constitutionally. [2] The problematic issue of what should be the appropriate derivation for the Niger Delta region, which, not too long ago, nearly tore the National Political Reform Conference [NPRC] to pieces. [3] The issue of creation of one more State in the Southeast zone, for equity and fair play. Since this task [finding Obasanjo’s substitute in PDP is almost impossible based on the itemized issues], the best bet is to allow him a 3rd term bid in office. They contended that only a Nationalist in Obasanjo’s mold cold ensures the fixing of all these fundamental concerns without compromising the sovereignty of Nigeria. They further declared that Obasanjo is a first class Nationalist whose belief in Nigeria project is unwavering. To further drive home their point, they readily point to his, “From Prison To Presidency” feat as a selling point that makes him presentable for 3rd term bid in PDP.

Many anti-3rd term opponents have hailed New York Times editorial for its timely warning to Obasanjo. But the only shortcoming in Times position, according to experts in News reporting, is the assumption by New York Times that democracy and party politics started and ended with Obsanjo and PDP. Put differently, Obasanjo is one and the same with democracy in Nigeria. How else can one explain this extract from the editorial, seen by many as an attempt by the Times at insulting the collective intelligence of Nigerians? It reads: “and it is incumbent on President Bush to tell Mr. Obasanjo that changing his country constitution so that he can remain in office is foolhardy. Another four years is not worth a Nigerian civil war”. Is New York Times implying that president Bush, for instance, can willfully change the constitution of USA so that he can remain in office, experts in Newspaper reports queried? They conclude that just as Bush cannot change the constitution of US without the consent of Americans, Obasanjo cannot do it in Nigeria without the go ahead of Nigerians.

These experts reminded Nigerians, Americans and friends of Nigeria of Time tested sayings [Quotes], by former US President and other intellectuals on the fallacy in wholesale reliance on Newspapers reports. Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the USA, has these to say on Newspapers: The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing, but NEWSPAPERS. Hear Jefferson again: “I do not take a single Newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely happier for it”. Still on Jefferson’s quotes: “The advertisements are the most truthful part of a newspaper”. Aneurin Bevan, a British Labour politician, said this about Newspaper: “I read newspaper avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction”. American Lawyer, politician, Adlai E. Stevenson has this to say about Newspaper: “Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print retraction”. Perhaps, it was American Newspaperman, Novelist and playwright Ben Hecht quote that captures the unreliability of Newspaper as a better gauge of event[s]/ issue[s], it reads: Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading NEWSPAPERS is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

A closer look at the content of Times editorial revealed sharp contradictions that suggested syndicated comment, probably articulated with the anti-3rd termers, or how can one explain this comment from the editorial as one of the backlash of 3rd term agenda of President Obasanjo: “Nigeria lost more than 1000 people in tit-for tat sectarian rioting over Danish caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. In the North, Muslims attacked and killed Christians. In the South, Christian mobs wielding machetes and knives set upon their Muslim neighbours in retaliation”…Objectively, if as claimed here, that Obasanjo’s perceived ambition is partly to blame for enflaming political tensions among polarized ethnic groups, there would not have been basis for the Muslim in the North, picking up arms against their brothers in South over an event that did not take place in Nigeria, in the first place; at least for the simple reason that they [Christians and Moslems] have a common enemy in Obasanjo. At best, they should have joined forces to fight President Obasanjo’s so-called 3rd team ambition.

The only plausible reason for the carton riot in the North was that political extremists instigated it against the Igbos leaving there, probably because the Southeast supported a “fresh term shot via PDP after constitution amendments”. To lend credence to this view, many believed that the retaliation of Christians’ massacre in the North should have been evenly spread in the South, but it took place only in the Southeast, why? Some have even insinuated that the carton riot was targeted at the Igbos in the North, so that there will be pressure on Obasango from southeast to drop his perceived ambition. For Times editorial to admit that the ethnic groups in Nigeria are polarized, they should have known that the main reason for the polarization is not Obasanjo’s perceived ambition, but which part of the country should produce his successor.

On the restiveness in the Niger Delta Region, experts believe that it was politically motivated from outside the region. They reasoned that were it not for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s valid interest in solving the problems in the Niger Delta Region, the issue of increase in derivation would not have seen the light of the day from Adams. They point to the problems he, Obasanjo, encountered in the course of convoking the conference, as a cogent reason that would have dissuaded him from the project, yet he was not deterred. In the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) proper, when the issue of derivation came up, it is on record that the southeast and southwest supported the Niger delta in their demand for upward review of derivation from the current 13% to 25% for a start. The opposition to this noble position surprisingly emanated from the North. What is not clear to experts now is the rationale behind the militant’s attacks on expatriate only. What position has those freedom fighters, as they [militants] called themselves, articulated against those opposed to increment in derivation to south-south at the NPRC? If they are sincere in their struggle, they should articulate a powerful position against those that opposed 25% derivation at the NPRC. For now the only succor for them as regards derivation, is Senator Mantu led JCRC recommendation that jerked derivation from 13% to 8%. Pundits believe that the interest of South-South would be better served if they [South-south] support People Democratic Party (PDP), position on 3rd term after constitution amendments, as the only guarantee for the retentions of 18% derivation as a starting point.

In the event of PDP losing out in the power game in 2007, the guarantee that the government in power then, will not throw away 18% derivation is very negligible, in-fact, non-existent. On the issue of South-South presidency, political pundits still believe that it will amount to sheer political naivety on the part of South-South to expect that those opposed to 25% derivation to them at NPRC, will open their eyes and allowed PDP zone presidency to that zone-South-South. On this score, it will be safe to conclude that New York Times editorial was not properly informed or briefed by those they relied on for information on Nigeria, otherwise, the editorial could be said to be base minded on intention

On the issue of selective application of anti corruption which the Times accused Obasanjo government of promoting, the believe of right thinking Nigerians, is that the onus is those being prosecuted of corruption to proved to Nigerians and indeed the world, that they are being victimized for their opposition to 3rd term bid. After all, they are not being prosecuted in camera.

If the death of Rimi’s wife was politically motivated, then it is barbaric and condemnable. Political gladiators must in attempt at apportioning blames exercise care. It should be borne in mind that an interesting event followed the death of Mrs. Rimi. A week or two after the demise of Hajia Rimi, the first Son of Alhaji Rimi died. The insinuation after the death of Rimi Junior was that, the death of the two powerful members of Rimi family could have been function of deadly family crisis. The task before relevant security agents in Nigeria therefore, is to urgently unmask those behind the death of Hajiya Rimi, and possibly Rimi Junior. Times Comment on this [politically motivated death?] could not be faulted, except that they should have tasked the Nigerian Police to unmask the Killer of Hajiya Rimi, instead of prematurely linking it to politics.

Emeka Oraetoka

Information Management Consultant

Wrote from Garki-Abuja

E-mail: oramekllis@lycos .com

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