May 29 is symbolic in the chequered history of Nigeria. The day is only rivaled insignificance by October 1st and perhaps June 12. These two days-May 29 and October 1st–speak of freedom. One speaks of the freedom from the clutches of colonialism and the beginning of self-rule while the other speaks of an end to militarism and the return of democratic rule or what some people call the beginning of ‘the fourth republic’.
On May 29,1999, in an exuberant ceremony of martial music and marches Nigeria was ushered into democracy as General Abdusalami Abubakar handed the reins of power to Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo ( 20 years after he did the same thing to the late Shehu Shagari). The historic event signaled the culmination of tumultuous military interregnum whose end started with the sudden death of Sanni Abacha.
However, 20 years of seamless transition from one democratic administration to the other have been characterized with the good- often few and far between, the bad and the ugly( which is the order of the day) and the stuff of the Nigerian brand of politics.
In the spirit of democracy day, we present you four things, of all the numerous things, that happened in each democratic administration.
Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007)
He was the second executive president of Nigeria. Obasanjo once ruled as the military head of state from February 1976 to October 1979. He was plucked from the gulag, where he was thrown by the Abacha-led junta for the trumped up charge of treason, to contest on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) against Oluyemisi Falae of the Alliance For Democracy(AD)/All People’s Party. He defeated Olu Falae to become the second executive president.
Four Things Obasanjo’s Administration Will Be Remembered For
1. Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and also strengthened the Code of Conduct Bureau to fight corruption in Nigeria. Corrupt politicians and public office holders like Tafa Balogun, Bode George and swindlers and internet fraudsters have been sent to jail by these agencies.
2. He secured an $18 billion debt relief from the Paris and London clubs.
3. He originated the “do or die” politics in Nigeria. His desperate efforts, in the build-up to the 2007 election, to install his political godson and younger brother of his friend and second-in-command during his military reign (Shehu Musa Yar’adua), Obasanjo perpetrated one of the violent electoral heists in the history of Nigeria.
4. Obasanjo used his position to ‘corner’ considerable shares of Transcorp, a blue chip company that was formed overnight, to corner juicy contracts and make unlawful company acquisitions. The former President used his influence to sway the purchase of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) in favor of Transcorp.
5. He wanted tenure elongation through his “Third Term Agenda” but his selfish and unconstitutional wish did not come to fruition. Though he keeps denying this but there have ‘confessions’ from his erstwhile allies and confidants to put the lie to his claim.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua( 2007-2010)
He was the president of Nigeria from May 2007 to May 5, 2010, when he died in office after a protracted illness.
Four Things About His Administration
1. The first president in the history of Nigeria to declare his assets before assuming office; he also accepted publicly that the election that brought him into power was marred with violence, irregularities, and manipulations.
2. He released the N10 billion Lagos state local government council funds withheld by the Obasanjo administration because of political differences with the then governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
3. In a flagrant violation of constitutional stipulation, he refused to relinquish power to Goodluck Jonathan, his second-in-command when he was leaving the shores of the country for medical treatment in Saudi-Arabia. It took the intervention of patriotic activists and other influential Nigerians under the auspices of Save Nigeria Group(SNG) to correct the anomaly and ensure Jonathan’s ascendancy to the presidency.
4. Yar’adua brought to an end the militancy in the Niger Delta region when he invited the militants to Aso Rock and urged them to lay down their arms. He also kick-started the amnesty program which re-absorbed the militants into the society and rehabilitated them ending the years of crisis in the region.
Goodluck Jonathan( 2010-2015)
He became the president of Nigeria after the demise of Umaru Yar’adua. Jonathan remains the first and only president to have come from the South-South geopolitical zone in Nigeria.
Four Things About Jonathan’s Administration
1. He granted presidential pardon to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State, who was convicted of money laundering. He also shielded Stella Uduah, former Aviation Minister, who bought two armored BMW cars for N255 million from prosecution. When he eventually acted, he only removed the former minister from office.
2. Jonathan inherited as much as $60 billion in foreign reserve but plundered it to as low as $40 billion in five years. The country’s external debt rose by 40 percent to $9.377 billion and domestic debt of $ 47.653billion in June 2014.
3. More than 100 girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014 when Jonathan was in power.
4. He lost the 2015 election to the perennial contestant, Muhammad Buhari. He remains the first incumbent president to lose an election to his opponent. However, he was gracious in defeat, he conceded defeat to Buhari. Jonathan said, in his post-defeat statement, “My Ambition Is Not Worth The Blood Of Any Nigerian”.
He became president in 2015 after losing in his bid to become president in 2003, 2007 and 2011. He defeated the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. He contested again in February 2019 and won.
Things His First Tenure Will Be Remembered For
1. Nigeria has become a massive killing field with marauding Fulani herdsmen, which Global Terrorism Index named the fourth deadliest terror in the world, wreaking havoc, especially on southerners.
2. Selective fight against corruption, cases of corruption against Buhari’s loyalists and APC members are treated with kid’s glove while prosecution of people other than his loyalists and party members are often carried out promptly. The case of Ayo Fayose, former governor of Ekiti and Musiliu Obanikoro is a good example.
3. He will go down in Nigerian history as the president that spent more days outside the country. As of April this year, Buhari had spent 217 days outside the country on health grounds and meeting of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government.
4. The administration implemented the Treasury Single Account (TSA) proposed by the Goodluck Jonathan in 2012. The financial policy is to consolidate all inflows from all agencies of the Federal Government into a single account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).