Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s military chief of state from 1976 to 1979 and its civilian president from 1999 to 2007, has published a thirteen-page statement, “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement” [sic]. He is sharply critical of the politics of Nigeria today, comparing their state to that of lice-infested clothes. Specifically, he identified “poor performance in government—poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed—if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality.” These, according to the former president, “are very much with us today.”
Obasanjo recalls his earlier criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan, and he is highly critical of the current president, Muhammadu Buhari. He urges Buhari not to run for re-election in 2019. He is also critical of Nigeria’s two principal parties, the PDP and the APC, contending that neither “is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time.”
Obasanjo’s suggestion is to break the mold of contemporary Nigerian politics by establishing a Coalition for Nigeria (CN). He envisages it as a movement, not a conventional political party, though he does hold out the possibility that it might run candidates for office. “That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress.”
How the CN would exactly function is not clear, but Obasanjo sees it as a means of transforming Nigeria’s political elites and their dysfunctional politics. Much earlier in his career, Obasanjo favored a one-party state; perhaps that could be his model for non-partisan democracy.
Obasanjo’s statement is significant for its apparently clear-eyed assessment of the current state of Nigerian governance, as well as its harsh criticism of his successors, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. It is also indicative of the widespread reassessment of Nigeria’s political institutions now underway across the country. However, it is unclear how or in what way this ferment will translate into concrete action.