V Adefemi Isumonah. Africa Today. Volume 59, Issue 1. Fall 2012.
Political competition and participation are crucial to democratic consolidation. Thus, the debate among scholars is about the effect of the sequence of their occurrence on long-term democratic stability (Dix 1994). However, this paper is concerned with the way in which an imperial presidency fostered one-party domination and affected political competition and participation provided for by formal rules. Consequently, it represents an examination of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s strategies for retaining political power and bolstering personal political influence.
An immunity clause in the constitution, intended to protect the president from frivolous legal proceedings while in office, is interpreted, in reality, to mean that the president is above the law in weak presidential democracies. Presidential immunity in such democracies has amounted to censorship of criticism of the president. These features predispose these democracies to the emergence of one-party rule. The argument pursued in this paper is that there is a connection between an imperial presidency and one-party domination in Nigeria, especially under President Obasanjo, control of the electoral process granted by the constitution being the key tool of the imperial president. In this regard, the paper explores the tendencies toward one-party rule in Nigeria in the following areas: infiltration of opposition political parties with the aim of destabilizing them; decamping or redecamping through exploiting constitutional loopholes; election rigging; and strong-arm tactics within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the pursuit of one-party domination.
This introduction is followed by a theoretical statement, an overview of the institutional structure of the fourth republic, historical background to one-party domination in the immediate postindependence years that led to the second liberation movement in Africa in the 1980s, the importance of PDP as a political structure, the rise and strategies of Obasanjo’s imperial presidency, the institutional response to imperial presidency, and the conclusion.
Imperial Presidency and Democratic Consolidation
As the United States of America was evolving the presidential system of government, two views contended for a place regarding the proper scope of the powers of the president: one view was that these powers are clearly listed in the constitution; the other, which won eventually, was that the president can “take whatever actions he deems in the public interest so long as those actions are not actually prohibited by the Constitution” (Rudalevige 2006:507). Thus, U.S. presidents have acted on the notion of prerogative to extend their powers. According to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1973), the imperial presidency emerged from the “demand or pretext of an emergency” (Wolfensberger 2002:37). Enormous crises, such as World War II, the Cold War, and the attacks of September 11, 2001, have given rise to an imperial presidency in the United States. Imperial presidency-making elements of such situations are the sluggishness and selfishness and/or partisanship of the Congress. As Schlesinger puts it, imperial presidency is as “much a matter of congressional abdication as of presidential usurpation” (quoted in Wolfensberger 2002:37). Also, “broad delegation of power during an emergency can be used by a president in ways legislators may not have anticipated” (Rudalevige 2006:516).
A key feature of an imperial presidency is the right of self-sided interpretation of the law or the constitution. This includes the self-acclaimed right to chart the destiny of others-peoples, countries, or sections of them. If it is the imperial presidency of a powerful country, such as the United States, this is done for the benefit of a section or whole of her people. It can be granted that this imperial presidency is mostly driven by some national interest. To be sure, there are times when America or some Americans suffer because of the actions of their imperial presidency. Examples are the economically costly imperialist war in Iraq and the subjection of American citizens being investigated in the American war against terrorism to unlawful treatment. But the imperial presidency of a puny African country has only its own people to manipulate and exploit; thus, the people of this country always bear the cost of imperial presidency. This is the difference between the imperial presidency of a superpower and a puny power.
Africa offers many examples where the failure of constitutionalism has been attributed to an imperial presidency (Okoth-Ogendo 1991). Under the African imperial presidency, the leader is committed to having a constitution while rejecting constitutionalism for two reasons: first, the imperial president’s interest in the constitution lies in its usefulness for demonstrating sovereignty; second, the constitution can stand as the basic law of the state for application as is convenient. Thus, the constitution has been used as a political instrument to achieve recentralization of political power and the inherited disjoined legal and constitutional order, to extend the executive’s appointive power, to subject all political appointments to party sponsorship, to extend the coercive powers of the state “by permitting it to derogate extensively from the Bill of Rights wherever this was justiciable” (Okoth- Ogendo 1991:12), and to revise the political map to conform to the legal order. Consequently, the office of the president is treated as supreme with full immunity. Added to this is the indefinite eligibility of the president for reelection wherever possible.
The African imperial president has no stomach for the rule of law or constitutionalism, even if his rise to power has derived from the constitution. Governance is personalized. “At a time when he was told that certain actions embarked upon by PDP would not be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Obasanjo asked,’Is INEC going to run our party for us?’ ” (interview with former Governor Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State, The Nation, Lagos, 2 October 2011, p. 10). Obasanjo assumed that he had the power to determine the fate of an elected governor. Thus, it was with this belief that he could intervene in the dispute between Governor Ladoja and his state’s House of Assembly in 2006, that he, governors Agagu, Oyinlola, and Daniel met him (Obasanjo) in his Ota private home. According to Ladoja, “Obasanjo asked whether I came to beg. I said no. He said I should go and resign. I said no. He said I will be impeached. I said you cannot get two-thirds [of the House, as required by the Constitution]. He said twothirds my foot” (The Nation, Lagos, 2 October 2011, p. 10). His grouse with Ladoja was that he did not support his third-term-in-office ambition. True to his vaunting, he had the House illegally remove Ladoja from office, and he held back from enforcing the court’s decision to reinstate him as long as he could. Such disregard for the rule of law was frequently a source of friction between Obasanjo and the National Assembly, composed of individuals in whose election he had played no role. To gain unlimited latitude for imperial choices, he took control of representation in 2003.
Imperial presidency or any other imperial power essentially denies universal principles or same treatment for self and others. For example, the American imperial presidency has many a time devised definitions of crime to free itself from the charge of “war crime” or “crime against humanity” contained in American statutes or international law. This is a kind of selfimmunization from the law, as a Canadian constitutional lawyer, Michael Mandel, put it (cited in Chomsky 2005:6).
The concept of imperial presidency does not rule out opposition, nor does it suggest absolute power. Even totalitarian systems sometimes fail to have their way. Indeed, popular reactions have restrained the imperial presidency in the United States, to the extent that it turned from open imperialist wars to ” ‘clandestine war,’ employing murderous security forces and a huge international terror network” (Chomsky 2004:2), and “even the clandestine war so called has been met with popular reaction” (Chomsky 2004:2). So, too, the Obasanjo imperial presidency was resisted and had to back offcertain courses. For example, when the National Assembly voted against his third-term agenda, he abandoned the amendment of the 1999 constitution. A change of course does not mean a change of cause, and in turn does not necessarily redefine imperial presidency as something else. It goes without saying that constitutional reforms conceded by the colonial states did not derogate from their imperialist status.
According to Richard Sandbrook (1996:85), democratic consolidation is “the institutionalization of a myriad of organizations and procedures that facilitate the transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of governance” while institutionalization occurs when “all major political actors come to value, and hence defend, the rules that underpin democratic organizations and procedures.” Against this background, Beetham used “political parties and independent organizations of mass communication” to measure democratic consolidation in Ghana, Niger, Mali, Zambia, Tanzania, and Madagascar. Such measurement criteria are without prejudice to the differences between political systems. They thus recognize that democratic consolidation depends on the “severity of the circumstances that democratic reformers face” and the “ingenuity and commitment of political leaders and movements as they struggle, or fail to struggle, to consolidate effective democratic governance” (Beetham 1994:70).
Robert A. Dahl, a distinguished scholar of democracy, recalls that democracy spread through diffusion, invention, and reinvention wherever conditions existed. Measuring elements or the logic of measuring democratization could be found in such conditions. They are, historically, the claim to equality or “the logic of equality” and political participation (Dahl 2000:10). Political participation finds appropriate expression in popular sovereignty in democracy. In representative democracy, this involves not only the ability of the people to choose their rulers, but also the power to exercise control over them. Popular control means “control over decision-makers rather than directly over decision-making through a variety of intermediaries acting on a people’s behalf (parliament, the courts, financial auditors, journalists, etc.) as well as electoral choices and the ongoing influence of freely formed public opinion” (Beetham 1994:159). There is equality if “decision-making is controlled by all members of the group” (Beetham 1994:157).
Participation can be measured, first and foremost, by the choices open to the electorate in terms of the range of candidates and manifestos or specifically the possibility that the choice of the people will be respected. Ake (1992) wrote, even at the dawn of democratic wave in Africa in 1992, that Africans are voting without choosing-a phenomenon he aptly characterized as the “democratization of disempowerment.” Participation can also be measured by the intensity and quality of debate between office seekers in their engagement with the people they want to represent and serve and the quality of internal democracy of democratic platforms, that is, political parties.
With the above yardsticks, some countries-the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and so forth- are today regarded as democratic despite significant deficiencies in their politics. Nigeria is on another level, if you will-a lower level of democracy, as unfinished business, given the benchmarks of democratization.
The Making of the Fourth Republic
Nigeria returned to civil rule after the transitional general elections in 1999, which ended the cynical permanent transition embarked upon by Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. On the basis of performance of the political associations in the 5 December 1998 local council elections, the military government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the midwife of the transition to the fourth republic, registered three of them as political parties: PDP, All Peoples Party (APP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD). Of the three, AD was registered not on the basis of its geographical spread (the major qualification for registration), but to avoid further alienating its Yoruba owners, who gave it a sweeping presence in their southwest homeland. PDP, the transitional and still dominant political party, was formed by a coalition of retired military rulers and their civilian apologists. It established a presence in a wider part of Nigeria than any other political party initially through consensus among power brokers in the northern part of Nigeria and southerners of mainstream politics to retain control of enormous federal power with a Yoruba man as president. The main support base of APP at the foundational elections was the conservative north; this part of the country was soon joined by other states of the north, which differed from it in political alignment, to adopt the Shari’a penal code in direct confrontation with the constitutional proclamation of Nigeria as a secular state, bringing into bold relief the sharp religious divisions in Nigeria. Thus, the fourth republic took off in an ethnically and religiously divided country.
Ethnoregional clashes, mostly triggered by the adoption of Shari’a by twelve northern states, rejuvenated the national question early in the life of Obasanjo’s first tenure, so calls for a national or sovereign national conference were not only heard from southern groups, as before, but also from the conservative north, which had dominated Nigeria until then.
The elected representatives had the same goal, notwithstanding their political and ethnoreligious backgrounds. Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate for literature, with his characteristic perspicacity, captures it as follows.
Democracy had arrived for them from the moment it became possible, as their first act of self-accreditation, to look after Priority No. 1-their own very selves. The field was wide open. The wages, allowances, perquisites, fringe benefits, travel allowances, servant allowances, furniture, toilet and air-freshener allowances, etc. that the legislators voted for themselves in validation of their role as torch-bearers of democracy constitute, till today, the most insensate apportionment of a nation’s resources that we have encountered in this nation for decades. (Soyinka 2002:4)
They could be divided into regional and sectional groups outside, not in the “caucuses of the legislative assembly” (Soyinka 2002:7). There were enough spoils for feasting, given the inherited overcentralized system of government and economic resources. The nature of political representation defined by those allowances would affect executive-legislative relations, and consequently, Nigeria’s democratic progress and consolidation. At issue, then, is the character of the first eight years under Obasanjo’s administration, here characterized as an imperial presidency.
The Journey to One-Party Domination in Africa
African people gained political independence, hoping to use it to effect rapid progress and economic development. Kwame Nkrumah, who led his country, Ghana, then known as Gold Coast, to independence, is famous for saying, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto you.” Political leaders had no illusion that Africa as a continent had a lot of ground to cover, given her position in the spectrum of development among nations. This was the background to the emergence of one-party domination in Ghana, Togo, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Tanzania, Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), Senegal, Rwanda, Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Gabon, Guinea, Tunisia, Algeria, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, and Central African Republic within Africa’s first decade of independence. Most African states were under single-party and military authoritarian rule until 1989. In precise terms, “42 African countries had authoritarian one-party or military regimes on January 1, 1990, whilst only nine- Botswana, The Gambia, Mauritius, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Madagascar, South Africa and Sudan-were ruled under some form of democratic system restricted or attenuated in one way or another” (Nwabueze 2003:4). Thus, the single party “justified itself by the necessity of accomplishing some historical task” (A Discussion 1972:20). The one-party state rejected criticism and dissent.
In an African one-party state, “the essence of the single party … was the claim to the monopoly of political representation” under the presumption that the single party would create the nation (A Discussion 1972:21). According to Arthur Lewis, “the single party ran the risk of making impossible the creation of a unified nation if there was no political representation” (A Discussion 1972:21). This is not hard to appreciate, since one-party rule thrives on elimination of political competition by denying political representation to certain groups. Those excluded would not have a sense of belonging to the nation. The fragmentation that nearly or actually tore some of these one-party states, even many years after one-party domination, is a fulfillment of Lewis’s prediction. Those that held sway into the 1990s gave way to the demand of their people that legitimacy should derive from them in the struggles sagaciously depicted as second-liberation struggles (Ekeh 1997). Besides, rapid economic development did not materialize under oneparty domination. Most of the one-party rulers who turned out to be corrupt merely cloaked self-perpetuation in office with the quest for national economic development. Even before assuming the presidency in 1999, Obasanjo conveyed his mind’s framework. He pontificated:
In some countries, it seems to me that their one-party structure has been responsible for the enduring political and governmental continuity they are enjoying. It also enabled them to move along a path of harmony, political stability, political unanimity and unity of purpose with a durable structure … The one-party system like a knife is a technique. I am sure we will all agree that a knife is a knife, whether in the hand of a butcher, carver or farmer. It is a technique for achieving a set goal. It is the use to which we put it that matters. Too much opposition that is opposition that is pushed to the extremes will tear the political system apart … My insistence is that one-party system as our national rallying point would give us continuity and structural change, continuity and stability as regards fundamental policies and objectives and dramatic (but peaceful) change of our dramatis personae. (Quoted in Coomassie 1998:88)
With enormous powers of appointment, gratification, and patronage, Obasanjo was inclined to manipulate political structures, including the party, to realize his personal interests, including self-perpetuation in office.
Unlike the first generation African political leaders, rapid development did not feature even as propaganda in Obasanjo’s political speeches and campaigns. At a campaign rally in Akure on 3 February 2007, Obasanjo told his audience that he urged Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, a former minister in his administration and 2007 Ondo State Labor Party gubernatorial candidate, not to leave PDP, “since there is enough to share.” Obasanjo thus indicated that the PDP stood for the politics of spoils, not the development of Nigeria.
Importance of PDP
Political structure-national, state, and local offices and officers embodied by the political party-is, historically, crucial to electoral victory. A political structure is necessary for a successful campaign. It is no surprise, then, that the best outing in the U.S. presidential race by an independent candidate was by Theodore Roosevelt, with 27.4 percent of the popular vote in 1912. In 1992, the second-best run was made by H. Ross Perot, who received 19 percent of the popular vote. Political structure is even more important in the outcome of elections in Nigeria. As witness-bearers and defenders of the interest of their candidates, party agents are part of the political structure that counts heavily in the success or failure of a candidate in elections. Political parties that have no agents at polling places have been treated unfairly. This is because agents have been useful for facilitating or preventing election rigging for or against a party’s candidate. The physical presence of agents is important because the conduct of elections does not allow the personality of contestants for elective office to speak to the electorate for them.
Because most Nigerian politicians love to belong to the party in power, they have been attracted to PDP, the ruling party since the birth of the fourth republic, in 1999. It began barely two years after the inauguration of the Obasanjo presidency, when three AD senators, Wahab Dosunmu, Yusuf Brimo, and Fidelis Okoro, decamped to the PDP, hiding under the highly subjective provision of the 1999 Constitution. Section 68(1g) states that an elected person can decamp
Being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;
Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.
Governors who have taken advantage of this provision to protect their personal interests are those of Kebbi, Jigawa, Abia, and Enugu, decamping to PDP in hordes with their officials. More importantly, politicians were attracted to PDP because it had the political structures for delivering victories at elections. Indeed, PDP, according to one of its eight chairmen in eleven years, Dr. Okwesili Nwodo, had become “a winning machine where we win elections without winning the hearts of the people” (Channels Television, 10:13 p.m., 19 January 2011). Part of this structure was in the control of INEC.
Under Obasanjo, PDP used its control of the federal government and huge patronage resources it offers-political and administrative appointments-to expand and consolidate its presence in Nigeria. Hence, when the then PDP chair, Vincent Ogbulafor, boasted that “PDP will rule Nigeria for the next 60 years,” or when former President Obasanjo boasted that PDP would capture Lagos, the stronghold of Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), which the PDP former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation Mr. Michael Aondoakaa and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Maduekwe lauded for development strides, they were confident that patronage and its appeal to the political class would continue to sustain its growing political structure, which delivered its electoral victories (Aondoakaa 2011).
The large numbers of PDP governorship aspirants says much about how they perceive the ticket of the PDP. Two examples suffice: in 2007, there were as many as thirty PDP governorship aspirants in Osun State; fortyseven people vied for the PDP ticket for the 2010 Anambra governorship election (Tell, Lagos, 26 October 2009, p. 28).
How Obasanjo Won Control
Obasanjo came to power by an election in which his southwest home base voted against him. He was thus the first Nigerian, even the first African leader, to win an election to the foremost national political office without the votes of the people of his ethnic group. As shown in table 1, his best performance was in Ogun, his home state, where he got 30.2 percent of the votes. It is often the case in Africa that the votes of one’s ethnic group are the primary victory vessel. Northern power brokers often used the fact of Obasanjo’s lack of “home support” to disparage him when they complained of political marginalization soon after he was sworn in. He then thought it wise to begin in earnest to build his support base toward a second-term ambition. He started by seizing control of his party, instigating changes in its leadership to suit him. For example, the position of the national chairman during his eight years in the saddle changed four times (an average of two years in office per chairman), from Chief Solomon Lar, Engineer Barnabas Gemade, and Chief Audu Ogbeh, to retired Colonel Ahmadu Ali. The one who seemed to have stayed longest in office as chairman, Ali, his former military colleague, enjoyed a smooth relationship with him because they obviously displayed the same desultory attitude to power.
Obasanjo’s expectation of absolute deference to him was dramatized on the National Television Authority (NTA), when he sat in sultanate regalia receiving homage from his deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, during a Muslim festival, early on in his administration. He later, in his first national day address, acknowledged, with satisfaction, his deputy’s “loyalty.” It was true to type that he interpreted as disloyalty Abubakar’s opposition to his desire for a third term in office through a constitutional amendment. His emphasis on loyalty and “supremacy of the party” as President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PDP clearly meant absolute support for his preference (Tenuche 2009). Ahmadu Ali demanded such absolute loyalty to whoever was in charge at any level. He worked as far as he could to use the party machinery under his chairmanship to coerce the members of the PDP in the national assembly to support Obasanjo’s third-term agenda. He enjoined Governor Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State to obey Chief Lamidi Adedibu as the “garrison commander” of Ibadan, the state capital.
With the party machinery and INEC firmly in his grip, he could manipulate the electoral process to win elections for himself and party loyalists. By 2006, it had become “increasingly obvious that Obasanjo was building the party’s future on his personal political preferences” (Barrett 2006:57). He “seemed to be saying that the real dividends of democracy were to be gained from heeding his own decisions rather than from depending on the choice of the people since those whom he regarded as his best collaborators were those who[m] he had personally hand-picked to serve without any political linkage between them and the elective process” (Barrett 2006:59). Where necessary, he used rules and regulations to enforce compliance with his personal preferences. This is why he attempted to manipulate the constitution to secure a third term in office.
A strategy that had been used by Nigerian politicians to gain electoral advantage is winning the support and approval of key grassroots political actors. One such influential local political actor from his Yoruba ethnic group, whom Obasanjo successfully courted, was the late Chief Lamidi Adedibu. The channels of political control and mobilization of Adedibu that must have attracted him to Obasanjo were “established networks of traditional compounds in the indigenous inner core of Ibadan[,] as well as its networks of markets, artisans, and associations” (Agbaje 2003:13). Obasanjo went about employing the strategy of cultivating the support of such key grassroots actors by vesting their channels of political control and mobilization with federal might. It was thus not so much the original political clout of Adedibu that gave him the status of “strongman of Ibadan politics” by the time of his death (in June 2008), but his brigandage, fully backed and protected by federal agencies of force (Adegbamigbe 2007). One needs to recall the fact that Adebibu lost in his ward, as an APP key supporter, to the AD in the December 1998 local government elections (Agboola 2001).
His third-term ambition dashed, Obasanjo leftno one in doubt that he desired to remain a political force, deciding who would succeed him as president and who would become governor of which state of the federation. Would-be challengers to his aims were threatened with indictment for corrupt enrichment. Among the south-south governors who entertained presidential ambition were governors Peter Odili (Rivers State), Donald Duke (Cross River State), and Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom State). They abandoned it for fear of indictment by the EFCC, a few days before the PDP primaries for the 2007 presidential election. Coerced to accept Obasanjo’s wish, all PDP governors announced to the world that they were adopting his anointed heir apparent, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua, as their consensus candidate for the primaries. In a statement signed and read on their behalf by Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion, they declared: “After due consideration of all the presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP, we have resolved to support the candidature of Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua. He now becomes the party’s consensus candidate” (The Guardian, Lagos, 16 December 2006, p. 1). Obasanjo’s use of EFCC for the persecution of anyone perceived or found to be opposed to his aims finds no greater testimony than his comment on Mr. Olusegun Mimiko at a campaign rally: “I begged and begged him not to leave the party [PDP] and not to resign. He said if he did not go, his people would kill him. Now he has gone, the EFCC is looking for him everywhere. Let me see how he will become governor with the EFCC looking for him” (quoted in Adebayo 2007:17). Among other political opponents Obasanjo hounded with EFCC were governors Ali Amodu Sherrif, Ibrahim Shekarau, Ahmed Tinubu, Jolly Nyame, and Urji Uzor Kalu of Kano, Borno, Lagos, Taraba, and Abia states, respectively (Tenuche 2009).
Through the attorney general, Obasanjo usurped the power of the court, giving an “administrative directive” on the court’s decisions on electoral petitions that were unfavorable to PDP. Whereas the law provided that a person declared the winner in an electoral petition by the appellate court should assume office immediately, he refused to reinstate Governor Rasheed Ladoja, who, the court declared, had illegally been impeached and removed from office. It was three days after the Supreme Court had pronounced on the issue that Ladoja was reinstated. Also, Obasanjo allegedly backed the impeachment of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State for refusing to support his third-term agenda.
Strategies of Obasanjo’s Imperial Presidency
A system of party domination is a system of strongmen headed by the strongest man, who expects to be obeyed. With demonstrable capacity to have his way, his actions or whims and caprices are hardly separable from those of his party. His wishes are those of the party. He can act directly or indirectly through the party. Indeed, the strongman of the party often prefers chicanery. Consider two pre- and post-Obasanjo presidency strongman influences in party decisions.
In 1998, General Sani Abacha got all five political parties to announce him as the sole presidential candidate. He had used intimidation to get Olusola Saraki (Congress for National Consensus) and Don Etiebet (National Centre Party of Nigeria) to renounce their presidential ambition. Given the knowledge of Abacha’s self-succession plan, using, of course, coercion, to think that the decision of the parties was their internal affair would be absolutely ludicrous.
On 19 November 2011, PDP’s National Working Committee announced the disqualification of Timipreye Sylva from participating in the Bayelsa State PDP gubernatorial primaries. No watchers of PDP would finger President Goodluck Jonathan in that decision. His hand in it became crystal clear from his remarks and those of other PDP bigwigs at a campaign rally in Yenagoa on 3 February 2012. President Jonathan claimed that Governor Sylva had lost his favor for poor performance, but knowledgeable commentators on public affairs revealed that the actual reason was that Sylva had worked against the emergence of Jonathan as acting president while his boss, President Umar Shehu Yar’Adua, was on his deathbed. At the same campaign rally, the former board of trustees chairman of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, gave insight into the actual reason. According to him, Sylva had lost his return bid for reelection to enforce discipline among PDP members:
The party stood firm to enforce discipline. What you are seeing here is the result of that discipline. You can never grow older than your parents. When you grow older than your parents, you will never grow old. When a child insisted on eating the vulture and the father tried to convince him not to and he insisted [sic]. It will be better you tell the child that those that have eaten the vulture in the past are no more. I am happy that the President is from the South-South … It is sad to hear that someone we don’t know can challenge him. It will not happen again. All is well. (The Vanguard, Lagos 4 February 2012; emphasis added)
These statements, in which President Jonathan is depicted as an emperor, are instructive. They confirm the link between the influence of personalities and party actions or decisions. A single person’s preference can, indeed, become the decision of the party, but when the decision is announced, it is presented as that of the party. Taking such an announcement on face value misses the overarching influence of personality in a party of strong men.
The aim of one-party domination is, if possible, absolute control over the polity. Overwhelming victory at the polls becomes imperative for party stalwarts, who believe that their party cannot and must not lose its existing elective offices. For such people of power, elective offices being occupied by the opposition parties must be taken at any cost. At no time in Nigeria’s political history was this belief so brazenly espoused and pursued than under the Obasanjo-PDP presidency. Tony Anenih, Chair of the PDP Board of Trustees, declared a year before the 2003 general elections that “there were no vacancies in Aso Rock and the PDP-controlled government houses throughout the country” (Newswatch, Lagos 22 February 2010, p. 5). It happened more grandly than he averred.
How electoral victory for one-party domination is achieved has varied historically. During the second republic, winning strategies have included violence, rigging, punitive control, obstructionism, patronage, voter overregistration, and tribal political campaigns. In 1983, the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) used its control of the voter-registration process to increase its support base by nearly 33 percent to 12.3 percent of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), its closest rival (Joseph 1991). In his campaign at Daura, a town in his northern support base, President Shehu Shagari told the voters that a vote for any other party was a vote for the infidels (Miles 1988).
The Obasanjo-PDP presidency used similar strategies in the 2003 general elections, which, in the opinion of local and foreign observers, were the most rigged in Nigeria’s history. According to the European Union Observer Mission, “the National Assembly, the Presidential and Governorship Elections were marred by serious irregularities and fraud in 11 states” (Ologbenla 2003:93). Rigging was eased by card-carrying members who served as electoral officers and security agents (Onuoha 2003).
PDP’s culpability for election malpractices is discernible in many ways. The first indication is PDP’s overwhelming victories in all elections. Through the 2003 elections, PDP increased its governorship seats from twenty-one to twenty-eight. Its victories in elections in state and national assemblies in southwestern states (Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo), strongholds of AD, as shown in table 3, which represents a mechanical reversal of its electoral performance four years earlier, as shown in table 2, are hard to situate in logic. It won virtually all the House of Assembly seats that AD had overwhelmingly claimed just four years earlier. For example, it took all twenty-six seats of Ondo State, twenty-four out of twenty-six seats of Ekiti State, and twenty-five of twenty-six seats of Ogun State.
If at all AD governments underperformed, the result certainly did not amount to total preference for the PDP, which the outcome of the elections depicted. PDP’s 2003 presidential campaign slogan was Continuity. As a perceptive observer put it, this slogan “definitely could not have convinced the voters who would have wondered why they should continue with a government whose performance in four years leftmuch to be desired” (The Guardian, Lagos, 26 June 2003, p. 9).
In his second tenure inauguration address, on 29 May 2003, President Obasanjo promised: “We intend to construct more roads and maintain old ones, to improve transportation and ease movement of goods throughout the country.” A traveler on Nigerian roads will have no difficulty agreeing that his administration did not deliver on this promise. Besides, he himself confessed toward the end of that tenure that he was ashamed of the condition of Nigerian roads. The failure of the government in this respect is further attested by the then Minister of Transport, Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke, in the Cabinet of Obasanjo’s successor, Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Soon after assuming office in 2007, Mrs. Allison-Madueke was televised, kneeling down and apologizing to Nigerians on the only link road between the west and east, that is, Benin-Ore road, over its horrible condition.
Obasanjo became more confident with his party’s controlling majority of the National Assembly and most of the state houses of assembly he used his executive powers to procure through the 2003 elections-so much so that he began to seek tenure elongation through a constitutional amendment, halfway into his second term. He did not personally demand tenure elongation, otherwise known as third-term agenda. Suspense, subterfuge, intimidation, and bribery were his tactics. His public campaigners were Senator Arthur Nzeribe; Mr. Charles Ugwu, Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; Ahmadu Ali, Chairman of PDP; and Femi Fani-Kayode, Presidential Special Assistant on Public Affairs. Ali and Fani- Kayode called on the PDP members of the National Assembly to support the third-term agenda, projecting it as a party position. A subtle campaign went on simultaneously, in the form of exhortations to party discipline at PDP National Assembly caucus, Governors’ Forum, and other PDP forums. The late popular lawyer and human-rights activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi told the Nigerian public that the clampdown on human rights and leaders of ethnic militias was part of the third term agenda.
Thus, Obasanjo has been able to deny responsibility for the origin of the third-term agenda. In an interview broadcast by Channels TV on 7 April 2012, he claimed that the third-term proposal was the idea of the National Assembly, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He explicitly and implicitly desired a third term in office. Condoleezza Rice, a former U.S. Secretary of State, in her memoirs published in 2011 revealed: “In 2006 when President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria sidled up to President Bush and suggested that he (Obasanjo) might change the constitution so that he could serve a third term, President Bush told him not to do it” (Rice 2011:638). In separate reactions to his denial of responsibility for the third-term agenda, Ken Nnamani and Femi Gbajabiamila, the Senate president and minority leader of the House of Representatives respectively, revealed that Obasanjo used bribery and lobbying to get members of the National Assembly to support the third-term agenda. According to Gbajabiamila, Obasanjo used Mrs. Florence Ita-Giwa, his Special Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs, and Ibrahim Mantu, Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, to lobby him to consent to tenure elongation for him:
I recall vividly that people were being given N50million, some N100million to support third term. The money totaled over N10billion. How could N10billion be taken out of the national treasury for a project when you were the sitting president, yet that project was not your idea? Where did the money come from? (The Punch, 8 April 2012, p. 2)
The greatest implicit evidence of Obasanjo’s desire for tenure elongation is his silence. He kept silent while the campaign for his tenure elongation raged, but the polity and political aspirants did not escape its clutches. The campaign halted political activities, including preparations for general elections, which were due in 2007. Niyi Akinnaso (2006) writes, “When I asked a friend last week about his plans to run for the Senate seat in my Senatorial District, he told me what a prospective gubernatorial aspirant had told me earlier: ‘We are still waiting for signals from Baba (father-figure in Yoruba).’ ” It was not until the third-term proposal had been defeated on the floor of the Senate on 16 May 2006 and Obasanjo’s volte-face that declarations of presidential ambitions in PDP were made and preparations for the 2007 general elections were commenced. With implicit and explicit evidence of Obasanjo’s interest in tenure elongation, it is unwarranted to absolve him of responsibility for the third-term agenda on the basis of his recent disclaimer. Political chicaneries are not marketplace actions.
When Obasanjo failed to actualize his tenure elongation ambition, he sought by coercion to have his party support Umar Musa Yar’Adua as its presidential candidate. The bad state of roads and particularly that of power supply notwithstanding, PDP once again swept the 2007 polls (see table 4). The outcome was hardly surprising, since Obasanjo regarded the 2007 general elections as “a do or die affair for him and the PDP,” and he stated categorically, “This election is a matter of life and death for the PDP and Nigeria” (quoted in Tenuche 2009:2). In two other speeches, he affirmed that “it would be a calamity for Nigerians if the PDP lost the 2007 Elections” and said, “no PDP, no Nigeria” (quoted in Tenuche 2009:5). As Tenuche has written, “by likening politics to warfare, as well as [a] power game, Obasanjo tends naturally to see political opposition groups not as worthy competitors, but as enemies to be crushed” (2009:2).
Rawlence and Albin-Lackey describe the 2007 election as “a stolen election” (2007:496), given, for example, that “impossibly high numbers of people were claimed to have voted for the ruling party in places such as in large swathes of Rivers and Anambra states during the state elections and large sections of Gombe and Katsina states in the national polls” (2007:498).
The pattern of the ruling party’s claim to victory in elections into the national legislative houses in the history of Nigeria’s elections under the presidential system is geometric. From thirty-six senate members, representing 38.0 percent in 1979, the ruling NPN increased its senate members to sixty, representing 63.2 percent in 1983. And from 168 members of the House of Representatives, representing 37.4 percent in 1979, NPN increased its members to 306, representing 68 percent in 1983. The performance of the PDP at the two elections (2003 and 2007) conducted under Obasanjo followed a similar pattern: it increased its membership in the Senate from 54.1 percent in 1999 to 69.7 percent and 79.8 percent in 2003 and 2007, respectively. Similarly, it increased its membership of the House of Representatives from 57.2 percent in 1999 to 62.0 percent and 73.1 percent in 2003 and 2007, respectively.
Judicial pronouncements on some of the 2003 elections provide a useful lens for perceiving elections as an instrument for achieving dominance of the political space by the PDP. After almost two and a half years in office, the court overturned the election of Chris Ngige, Anambra State PDP candidate in the 2003 gubernatorial election. The actions of key players in the election rigging in Anambra State provided enough insight into the true outcome of the election. For just six weeks in office, Governor Ngige’s private and government backers attempted to remove him from office for breach of contract. Fifty armed policemen, led by an Assistant Inspector General of Police, abducted him, put him under house arrest, and installed his deputy as governor. PDP leadership had to back offwhen it realized that it could not uphold the coup against Ngige. Thus, it was no surprise when the court pronounced Ngige’s opponent, Mr. Peter Obi, as the winner.
Conflicts over the conduct of the 2007 general elections, in which PDP again claimed twenty-eight governorship and more legislative seats nationwide, reveal the determination of the imperial Obasanjo presidency to foist PDP one-party domination on Nigeria by electoral fraud. According to the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Abdullahi Umaru, 1,527 petitions were made against the elections; he reasoned that the manner by which the 2007 general elections were conducted might have given room for the avalanche of petitions. International and local observers declared the elections to have been the worst in Nigeria’s electoral history-a verdict their foremost beneficiary, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, adjudged correct. Hence, he set up an electoral commission to explore ways of ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections in the future.
Judicial decisions on the 2007 general elections confirm PDP’s manipulation of the electoral process. By 2010 and on the eve of preparation for another general election in April 2011, nine of the twenty-eight PDP gubernatorial victories of 2007 had been called into question, either as an order for rerun or outright declaration of the opponent as the winner. Between 2007 and 2009, reruns were ordered in Cross River, Bayelsa, Kogi, and Adamawa- which were nevertheless won by PDP expectedly, under Professor Morris Iwu, the highly partisan and discredited head of INEC. In late 2010, a rerun ordered in Delta State was won by PDP under the leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega, the highly respected new head of INEC, this time without chattering and suspicion of the duplicity of INEC in the exercise. PDP indisputably lost to opposition parties four governorship seats: three (Edo, Ekiti, Osun) to ACN and one (Ondo) to LP at the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court’s indictment of the lower court in some of the gubernatorial cases lends credence to the widely suspected acts of corruption and compromise that may have culminated in reruns it ordered where outright declaration of the opponent of the PDP candidate as winner would have better served the course of justice with insights from Amaechi’s Supreme Court decision (see below).
Judicial decisions on other elections in Ondo State serve as additional proof of the flawed character of the 2007 general elections. Barely a year after the elections in 2008, PDP lost six House of Assembly seats, five House of Representatives seats, and one Senate seat, to LP in court decisions. It could have lost many more elective offices to LP but for issues of technicalities and the onus on petitioners to prove that they had been robbed of victory-on which many judges based their decision. Irregularities, corrupt practices, inflation of results, signing of results by political officeholders, and use of unauthorized stamps were some of the reasons for the nullification of PDP victories. In some PDP rigging flash, votes were allocated to political parties that had not contested certain elective offices, while voter register cloning in parts of Ondo State had the names and pictures of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan as registered voters.
As Suberu and Diamond have written, political exclusion is a characteristic of suppression: its instrument is self-imposition by the group that does not believe in political equality. This is illustrated by the “degeneration of military rule from the regime of hegemonic exchange” in which individuals from different ethnic and religious backgrounds took turns, in the 1966-1979 period, to head the Nigerian military governments, “to a system of steep hegemonic repression,” in which all the Nigerian military governments of 31 December 1983 to 29 May 1999 were headed by northern Muslims (Suberu and Diamond n.d.:8).
Before the 2003 and 2007 elections, the Obasanjo presidency employed the strategies of exclusion and denial of political space to strong opponents within and outside the PDP. At the approach of the 2003 general elections, this presidency sought to exclude three sitting and aspiring governors of the opposition parties-Segun Osoba of AD (Ogun State), Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe State), and Abubakar Audu (Kogi State), the latter two of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)-by invoking Section 182-1(b) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that “No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.” Osoba, Ibrahim, and Audu had served as elected governors of their states between 1991 and 1993. If the 1999 Constitution took effect on 29 May 1999, commonsense interpretation would certainly not apply Section 182-1(b) to them. Thus, the court came to their rescue and stopped Obasanjo from using the constitution maliciously against these opponents.
What Obasanjo failed to achieve by simple denial of participation in the elections he achieved by the manipulation of the electoral process to ensure that Osoba and Audu were not returned to office. Governor Ibrahim was returned to office, surviving the manipulation of the electoral process, because of Yobe State’s enduring anticenter politics, which his party, ANPP, symbolized in the current political dispensation as the Great Nigeria Peoples Party had in the Second Republic (1979-1983). Also, the difference of outcome may have derived from the concentration of conservative Muslims in Yobe State, which, together with eleven other northern states, “challenged the federal government by adopting a criminal justice system based on Islamic law” (LeVan, Pitso, and Adebo 2003:38). Others the imperial presidency denied reelection because of their opposition to its style of governance were Senator Joseph Waku and Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’ Abba. The presidency caused them to be defeated, apparently because of their campaigns to impeach Obasanjo (LeVan, Pitso, and Adebo 2003:38; Tell, Lagos, 13 October 2003, pp. 26 & 28).
The most-studied case of attempted exclusion of Obasanjo concerned Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who defected from the PDP to contest election for the office of president on the platform of ACN, which he cofounded, on realizing that Obasanjo would use his presidential powers to obstruct his ambition within PDP. Obasanjo initially sought to use administrative indictment to disqualify him. While the court had yet to determine the relief Abubakar sought from it, Obasanjo went ahead to print paper ballots for the presidential election without Abubakar’s name on them. Obasanjo had to order a reprint of the ballots in South Africa a few days before the presidential election to accommodate Abubakar, in line with the court’s decision that he could stand for the presidential election. The hurry with which the ballot papers were reprinted was responsible for mixups in the listing of the names of candidates and their party logos. Other, less dramatic, cases of exclusion involved Theodore Urji and Sullivan Chime of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), governorship candidates of Abia and Enugu states, respectively; Ibrahim Bapetel, ACN governorship candidate of Plateau State; and Nasamu Dankingari, ANPP governorship candidate for Kebbi State.
Those whose nomination Obasanjo could not stop within the PDP it refused to feature for elections. Notable examples are Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, who pursued his right to stand for the governorship election on the platform of PDP for Imo State successfully to the Supreme Court, and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who won the PDP governorship primaries for Rivers State. While Obasanjo refused to enlist a PDP candidate for the 2007 gubernatorial election in Abia State, he simply replaced Amaechi’s candidature with Mr. Celestine Omehia, who went on to win the election, of course, with PDP’s winning arsenal. The Supreme Court gave Amaechi greater relief than he had sought by awarding him the governorship seat of Rivers State. Amaechi had only challenged his substitution in the election with Omehia as PDP gubernatorial candidate for Rivers State in the court. The judicial supremacy claimed by the Supreme Court in the Amaechi-PDP case has to be understood as a vengeful act for the contempt for it by the PDP in respect of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume.
Another potent strategy of domination that Obasanjo employed was the infiltration of opposition parties with a view to dividing and weakening them. Nomination by the opposition parties to the proposed Government of National Unity expectedly caused some riftin their ranks. For example, the AD chair, Yusuf Mamman, complained that he had not been consulted about the nomination of its members; nevertheless, Obasanjo got Chief Bola Ige and Mrs. Dupe Adelaja, both of AD, and Mrs. Joy Emordi, Mr. Usman Sani, and Mrs. Salome Audu, all of ANPP, to join him in his first cabinet (Newswatch, Lagos, 21 June 1999, p. 25). Worse political chicaneries were yet to befall AD. Obasanjo’s next move was to plant a renegade in AD. According to Chief Bisi Akande, the former governor of Osun State and AD stalwart, Obasanjo sponsored their loyalist from the northern part of the country, Alhaji Abdulkadir, to gain the leadership of AD (Akande 2011).
In pursuit of his quest for a political base in his southwestern place of origin, Obasanjo conned the leadership of Afenifere, the primordial base of AD, to postpone the creation of political structures for effective electoral competition. He told this leadership that their political interests-“National Conference; Proper handling of the Census; Restructuring of the country; and Electoral Reforms”-were also dear to his heart, and that they only needed to join hands with him to actualize them (Akande 2011). On the basis of his assurance that he would not only work to meet their four-point demand, but also support their desire for reelection in 2003, all but one (Lagos State) of the six AD governors shelved their plan to conduct local government elections. Had the AD governors of Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Ogun, and Oyo conducted local government elections before the 2003 general elections, they might have been able to restrain the incursion of the PDP into their states with their people in the political structures, which local councils represent in political contest in Nigeria, as Lagos State Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu successfully did (Akande 2011).
True to type, Abdulkadir led fourteen opposition parties under the banner of the National Consensus Forum to embrace PDP in the quest for an all-inclusive government while domestic and foreign observers were still bemoaning the massive fraud that had characterized the 2003 elections. These were elections in which AD had just lost five of its six governorship seats, fourteen senate seats and thirty-four House of Representatives seats to the PDP without proof of better performance or indication of alternative programs for improvement of the lot of the electorate. Not surprisingly, it was after the landslide victory of PDP that its chair, Chief Audu Ogbe, unfolded a ten-point agenda for improving the lot of ordinary Nigerians. Ogbe evidently admitted PDP’s failure when he declared: “It is unfair that our employers, the voters, should be living in such a state of penury while we, whom they employ, are living in all the affluence” (The Guardian, Lagos, 26 June 2003, p. 9).
How Other Institutions Responded
We cannot allow the violation of the constitution because the president says he means well. (Umar Ghali Na’Abba, then Speaker, House of Representatives, The Comet, 28 March 2000)
The judiciary in several landmark judgments declared Obasanjo’s actions unconstitutional or illegal, but without enforcement, judicial decisions are a nullity. Cases in point are the refusal of Obasanjo to release N10 billion Naira local council funds to the Lagos State government, a continuation of first-line charges in the disbursement of the federation account, and refusal to implement the court decision on the candidature of Ifeanyi Ararume in the Imo State gubernatorial elections.
How did the National Assembly fare in serving as a check on Obasanjo? This question is most pertinent because, of all the institutions of government, this was the most empowered by the constitution to act as a check on the presidency. With a preoccupation with self-enrichment as their action framework, however, such constitutional powers would be used mostly to their material advantage. The second Senate president during Obasanjo presidency, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, is reported as saying that the legislators were not in Abuja (Nigeria’s capital) to “spread poverty,” in response to public outcry over their extravagance (Tell, no. 14, April 2005, p. 36). The legislators used their power of appropriation not to ensure service delivery, but simultaneously to call into question and make use of the illegalities of the president to plunder the national treasury. This can be most clearly seen in the way they handled the budget during the period in focus. They took bribes to pass budgets. The most publicized-but by no means the most atrocious-was the N55 million Naira bribe the Minister of Education, Professor Fabian Osuji, gave the Senate president, Adolphus Wabara, and other senators to pass the 2005 education budget. The National Assembly raised budget estimates to accommodate their expensive lifestyle. Thus, according to annual reports of the Central Bank of Nigeria, their budget increase from 25 percent in 2001 and 30.2 percent in 2002, peaked at 36 percent in 2003, during the first legislative session of the fourth republic. From all indications, members of the National Assembly and state legislative houses have turned their oversight function into a tool for self-enrichment.
In a letter to the president by the senate president, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the National Assembly vowed that they would not consider the 2000 budget proposals until the president offered satisfactory explanations for the implementation of the 1999 supplementary appropriation. The letter listed several unconstitutional acts of the president, including diversion of funds, unauthorized expenditures, and nonimplementation of aspects of the 1999 supplementary budget (The Comet, 28 March 2000, p. 25). They backed offat popular outcry. While they were considering the proposals, the president made eighteen additional requests, totaling N112.24 billion. “Despite the outcry that greeted these requests, many of them were approved by the Assembly. But the presidential requests apparently inspired the leadership of the Assembly to allot equally scandalous sums to themselves. In the approved budget, the national assembly made provision for the purchase of six new bullet proof limousines (Benz S-500) for themselves. Others included two 4-wheel drive vehicles, 30 buses and other exotic cars” (The News, Lagos, 10 April 2000, p. 44).
It is alleged that the leadership of the national assembly connived with the president to insert section 80 in the electoral bill, which sought to disallow some political parties from participating in some of the 2003 elections; however, the National Assembly expunged it before passing the bill into the 2002 Electoral Act in response to the protest from the affected political parties and civil-society groups.
In late 2000, the National Assembly catalogued several impeachable offenses against the president, but “after weeks of cliff-hanging melodrama, the protagonists of [impeachment] were seen dancing cheek to cheek in an orgy of reconciliation” (Soyinka 2002:14). Indeed, some senators alleged that impeachment was a means of extorting the threatened chief executive (The Punch, Lagos, 10 December 2000, p. 12). With full knowledge of the effectiveness of bribery and corruption for compromising the National Assembly, the president went ahead during his second tenure to commit more obnoxious illegalities that went unchallenged.
President Obasanjo had declared a state of emergency in Ekiti State before seeking the approval of the National Assembly in 2006. He withdrew US $17,290,067 from excess crude-oil funds in March 2006 for the extended census without approval. It was when the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation turned its gaze on him that he offered an explanation. Femi Falana, a lawyer and human-rights activist, in a suit alleged that between 1999 and 2007, President Obasanjo had withdrawn more than N1 trillion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and the Federation Account without the authorization by the National Assembly. In 2002, he unconstitutionally revised the revenue-allocation formula without the approval of the National Assembly. He unilaterally granted Ghana and the Republic of São Tome and Principe US $45 million loans and attempted explanations to the National Assembly after questions had been raised. He withdrew US $12.4 billion from the Federation Account instead of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which the Senate had recommended for the settlement of Nigeria’s debt to the Paris Club, and US $2.4 billion from the Power Sector Development Scheme Fund without the approval of the National Assembly. The National Assembly just bemoaned these and numerous other illegalities. As Senator Daniel Saror, former Senate Minority Leader, put it:
Obasanjo was dipping his hand into the Federation Account to execute many projects, including the power stations in the Niger Delta. Billions of dollars are being spent on those projects without the approval of the relevant agencies. No senator can exercise oversight function over them because nobody at the National Assembly knows about the contracts and the companies handling them. (Adegbamigbe 2011)
When Senator Farouk Bello Bunza of the ANPP tried to draw the attention of the Senate to some of those anomalies, the PDP senators shouted him down.
Obasanjo’s preoccupation with the politics of survival, in which he spent most of his time building his power base, led him to neglect the construction and consolidation of the country’s nascent democracy, reinvigoration, and turning of its economy into a productive one for uplifting the life of Nigerians (Agbaje 2004). The electorate could not redirect him because elections played little or no role in restraining executive power. The civil society could not either, because there were no supportive state structures. Popular empowerment with state structures, including potent rules and regulations, are necessary for growing a civil society that can restrain executive power.
Imperial powers impact electoral processes of a fledgling democracy- candidate selection (primaries) and conduct of elections-negatively. Under such a regime, victories are tied to the disposition of the president. Under Obasanjo, belonging to the ruling party at the center carried a high premium for aspirants and those wishing to retain their elective positions. This can be seen from the high incidence of decamping into the PDP. It is instructive that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who left the PDP for ACN to contest the 2007 presidential election, decamped to PDP in the belief that in PDP lay electoral success.