In a fiery exchange of words, the Presidency has taken aim at former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, holding him responsible for the perceived shortcomings in the country’s current democratic landscape. The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, asserted that Obasanjo played a pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s democratic framework during his tenures as military Head of State (1976-1979) and civilian President (1999-2007).
Onanuga emphasized, “Obasanjo ought to know that he brought this thing into Nigeria. He was the one who made us adopt it in 1979.” He further criticized Obasanjo’s post-presidential stance, suggesting that the former president appears to be gaining wisdom only after leaving office.
The clash of perspectives ensued after Obasanjo’s remarks at the high-level consultation on Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa. Obasanjo criticized Western democracy, contending that it has failed to deliver good governance and development in Africa. He called for a reexamination and moderation of democracy tailored to better suit African nations, proposing an “Afro democracy.”
Obasanjo argued that the Western liberal democracy had inherent weaknesses, describing it as a system where “the majority of the people are wittingly or unwittingly kept out.” He urged African countries to develop a system of government in which they actively participate in its definition and design.
In response, the Presidency rebuked Obasanjo for poorly implementing the presidential system during his tenure. Onanuga asserted, “Obasanjo also knew that he copied this presidential system very wrongly. He copied the form and structure. But he didn’t copy the spirit of it.”
The Special Adviser suggested that if Obasanjo genuinely believes in his current critiques, he should advocate for a return to the parliamentary system, which Nigeria practiced before the military intervention in 1966. According to Onanuga, “Something that should have been under him in 1999 to 2007, he even made attempts to modify the constitution.”
The exchange underscores the ongoing debate over the suitability of Western democratic models for African nations and raises questions about the evolution of Nigeria’s political landscape under the influence of its past leaders.