When President Olusegun Obasanjo declared in April, in a very grand ceremony, his interest in a second term in 2003, he appeared unbearable. But six months later, he began to appear unelectable. His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now split down the middle between those who want him for another four years and those who do not. Obasanjo's second term ambition has thrown the party into a crisis that has seen many members joining the rival All Nigerian Peoples' Party (ANPP). The crisis climaxed for Obasanjo with the impeachment process started by the House of Representatives last August (see, NA Sept).
On 13 August, the House (the lower house of parliament) gave him a two-week ultimatum to resign or be impeached. Obasanjo dismissed it as "a joke gone too far". When the ultimatum expired, the House reeled out 17 grounds of impeachment. High on the list were Obasanjo's failure to implement the Appropriation Acts of 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, and spending money that was not approved by the National Assembly. In October, the list grew to 32. Then the Senate (the upper house of parliament) added its own 37 impeachable offences against Obasanjo. That was when the president took the threat seriously.
His initial strategy (via his handlers) was to portray the impeachment threat as sheer blackmail for money. It did not work.
The effort to divide the ranks of the legislators by turning the table against the leadership of the National Assembly was fiercely resisted. Both the Senate president and the speaker of the House quickly removed Obasanjo's sympathisers from their positions in the House and Senate committees.
Senator Arthur Nzeribe who helped truncate Chief Abiola's 1993 electoral victory, was suspended indefinitely from the Senate on charges of fraud, forgery and stealing N22m. His real offence was that he was allegedly funded by Obasanjo's office to remove the Senate president and scuttle the impeachment move. Nzeribe had claimed that he had the support of 84 senators to abort the impeachment. Incidentally, the first impeachment motion against Obasanjo on 15 April 2000 was moved by Senator Nzeribe himself. It was because of Nzeribe's 15-point motion that Obasanjo moved against the former Senate president, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, for allowing Nzeribe's motion in the first place. To sue for peace, the PDP leadership and two former heads of state, Gen Yakubu Gowon and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, intervened in the matter. The legislators gave two major...