A very senior chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC recently but privately confessed that one of the greatest mistakes Nigeria made was not conceding the third term to Olusegun Obasanjo.
The APC chieftain who was also a high-flier in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was ironically, one of the inspiring forces behind the anti-third term movement that humbled the might and money of the Obasanjo era.
The Ghost of Third-Term came upon Nigeria sometime in 2005 after the Senator Omar Hambagda sub-committee on the executive of the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee recommended it to the main committee.
It turned into a money-spinning political enterprise that dusted what had until then been one of the most steadfast fights against corruption in the land.
President Obasanjo stiffly denied it. And for your correspondent, one of the very few let-downs he has of Obasanjo him denying his connection to it at a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC of the PDP.
Of course, Obasanjo was never directly connected to it. Till today, no Nigerian has been reported as saying that Obasanjo asked him to support the initiative.
However, what we do know is that some of the closest to President Obasanjo were firmly behind it.
The engine room for Obasanjo’s third term plot revolved around an APC governor in the Northwest who has now transformed as a political godson of President Muhammadu Buhari; a one time revered and feared anti-corruption fighter from the Northeast who was a Buhari agent in the 2019 election, and yes, an APC Southeast senator who was the clearing-house and paying point, for all things Third Term.
All these men who were in the engine room of President Obasanjo’s administration and the third term agenda are now also around President Buhari!
So, what stops them from cooking the same thing they did for Obasanjo for their new leader?
When Garba Shehu came out to strongly denounce what many had not even observed as a Third Term plot for President Buhari, he perhaps only spoke out of his historical opposition.
Shehu, it would be recalled was strongly on the other side, given his role as Atiku Abubakar’s spokesman at that time.
Remarkably, just as 14 years ago, when the third term ghost came around, the opposition has reacted with the same dose of skepticism to the administration’s denial.
Kola Ologbondinyan, the opposition spokesman, was 14 years ago a determined journalist who helped to uncover many of the acts of the two sides.
When he alleged mischief in the administration’s denial of involvement in a third term agenda, he only seemed to echo the terse statements of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, 14 years ago.
But come to think of it, just as the APC official intoned that Nigeria may have made a mistake in denying Obasanjo a third term, it can well be asked now whether Nigeria will be making a mistake in opposing a third term for President Buhari?
What are the reasons anyone should give for opposing an amendment to the constitution to allow Buhari to serve a third term?
Besides the usual arguments of those the Buhareedens refer to as naysayers and lovers of corruption, it would be appropriate to look beyond the usual political nuances to re-examine the appropriateness of term limits in a developing country like Nigeria.
America’s introduction of presidential term limits in the 40s was a direct response to President Fredrick Roosevelt’s four terms in office.
But President Roosevelt as history tells us was a great motivation for America’s survival of the economic depression and victory in the Second World War.
So with health issues about President Buhari now consigned to only the imagination of the naysayers and the ‘corruption infested PDP,’ the suggestion of a third term for Buhari would be a fertile idea for those who love what is happening to Nigeria.
In the case of the APC chieftain now regretting his opposition to a third term for Obasanjo, he perhaps had in view the reverses of the gains that followed Obasanjo’s exit from power.
Undoubtedly, one of the milestones of the Obasanjo years was the power sector reforms and the privatization programme as masterminded in part by Nasir El-Rufai, presently the governor of Kaduna State.
The Obasanjo administration privatized the Port-Harcourt Refinery was privatized to a company owned by Aliko Dangote. However, Obasanjo’s successor reversed it and many other gains of the Obasanjo era.
That refinery remains in comatose adding nothing to the economy despite four years of Buhari’s stewardship as minister of petroleum. Indeed, it is not until next year that the government will award the contract to revamp the refinery with the hope that it will start working when Buhari is about to finish his second term in 2022.
Besides the sense of oneness and patriotism that President Obasanjo brought to bear as president in looking beyond his Yoruba enclave to all parts of Nigeria as one, the economic loss is one reason even some APC chieftains now rue for opposition to Obasanjo’s third term.
If there are any such arguments to bring forward for Buhari in the same direction, surely there should be no reason to oppose a Third Term for President Buhari.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.