Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has been accused of deliberately destroying the political party system in Nigeria during his tenure in a desperate bid to perpetuate himself in power.
Erstwhile Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who made the accusation in an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph, said the heavy blow Obasanjo dealt on the party system is largely responsible for the weakness of the political parties today.
According to Odinkalu, the former President, who was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), perfected a system of poaching the other political parties in order to cripple these parties. Obasanjo, he said, did not also spare his own party, as he also enthroned the garrison command structure circumstances, which destroyed internal democracy in the party.
“There is one thing Obasanjo did among many. He destroyed the party system in Nigeria and the reason we are where we are is because Obasanjo took hold of the party system and destroyed it between 2003 and 2006 in his bid to become a life president through the Third Term Agenda.
“In his first term as President, Obasanjo cannibalized talents in the other parties and that was how Bola Ige came into government from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Alhaji Waziri joined from the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). He poached these people without going through the party structure and this meant that a crisis of confidence began to brew within those parties. This crisis of confidence was never resolved. Chief Bola Ige got assassinated while trying to go back to the AD and then you had this orgy of assassinations in the run up to the Third Term aspiration, which obviously did not succeed.
“At some point, he got into this arrangement with APGA by which the elections in 2003 held under an Electoral Act whose constitutionality has been questioned by the Court of Appeal.
“Obasanjo got into this arrangement with APGA by which the Supreme Court Appeal by APGA and Odumegwu Ojukwu was suborned and that subordination ultimately led to the splattering of APGA. By the time he was finished with the parties, ANPP was dead, APGA was splintered and in trouble and the AD was gone because he had chased all the governors out of their seats in the South-West.
“At the end of the day, the PDP was the only party left and he then began his re-registration and de-registration which he used to dislodge anybody he did not want; took over the party and installed retired generals to be in charge of the party structure and PDP was gone.
“So the reason why we are where we are today is Obasanjo and it is unfortunate that in the twilight of his life, he is now beginning to talk about things that he destroyed when he had the opportunity to build a credible political system,” he said.
Odinkalu expressed disappointment at what he described as Obasanjo’s “arrogant, omniscience attitude” towards political issues in Nigeria and said he ought to take a break and allow people with fresh ideas to lead political discourse.
Alluding to Obasanjo’s recent negative verdict that neither the PDP nor the APC is good enough to take Nigeria to its Promised land, Odinkalu said the former leader has expressed his own opinion but the final decision must be reserved for the Nigerian electorate.
Read full interview on pages 22 and 27
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