Nigeria’s Most Exclusive Club



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Different clubs
have different criteria for admitting members. People belong to clubs either
because they registered as members or because their

parents, other family
members, associates or acquaintances did on their behalf. 

Most clubs have age
limits for membership. Not so in Nigeria’s most exclusive club because, at one
time or the other, each member led the nation. They remain members for life.
This very
interesting club has as members former or serving military and civilian leaders
– they were once heads of state or presidents. Though members of the same club,
they are not truly together: they don’t have a lot of things in common. 
The Club
Nigeria’s most exclusive club is made up of former presidents
who are still alive.
 This
club is considered “exclusive” because of the perks which come with it –
palatial homes, huge pensions, far-reaching influence, almost constant visits
to the Aso Villa, decisive decision-making, a near-eternal relevance (as far as
they are still alive), a “life membership” status, social appeal and many
others. It is understandable why many are angling to get into this club through
any means they can.
These men, as
surprising as it may seem, are still having a huge hold on the nation, because
they sit on the National Council of State to make far-reaching decisions which,
many a time, are perceived by onlookers to be those of the president.
Sadly, they
rarely agree on a particular course of action. This is the reason, perhaps, why
our nation has found itself at a crossroads as far as education, security,
economy, commerce and other sectors are concerned.
What our
nation stands to achieve and its position in the comity of nations can only be
imagined if the men of this club could agree and become the very proverbial
“good heads”.
For all its
53 years of Nigeria’s nationhood, this club has just eight members with no
leader, not because an election that would have made any one of them the leader
was conducted or rigged, but because they are all “big boys” and have no need
for leadership. These members include General Yakubu “Jack” Dan-Yumma Gowon
(rtd), General Olusegun Matthew Aremu Obasanjo (rtd), Shehu Usman Aliyu
Shagari, and Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). Others are General Ibrahim
Badamasi Babangida (rtd), Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, General
Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar (rtd) and Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.
It is
important to note here that while some became members either because there was
coup
d’etat,
 others became members via elections or because their
principals died while ruling the nation. Obasanjo, who ruled the nation on two
different occasions, has a record to be proud of as he is both a military and
civilian member. 
Gowon
A
much-respected gentleman, Gowon ruled the nation for nine years. He is the
youngest head of state ever to rule Nigeria to date. He became a member of the
club in 1966 when he came to power on the crest of the “anger years” that had
seen the murder of his two predecessors in office. Gowon has the record of
being the oldest member of the club, not because he is older than his mates but
because he served the nation before them.
His natural
ability as a bridge builder not only on land but among people has made him a
voice in the nation. He has, severally, formed part of the most formidable
leaders of the country. Gowon has a good relationship with most members of the
club. He appears not to be in good terms with Obasanjo, maybe because he sees
Obasanjo as disrespectful and for being part of the group that ousted him.
Obasanjo once asked him what he forgot at the State House when he briefly ran
for president.
Obasanjo 
Until his
second coming, he was one of the most respected people in Nigeria, as he was
the first military head of state to transfer power peacefully to a civilian
regime in Nigeria. A man of many controversies, Obasanjo has the unbeaten
record of being at loggerheads with almost all the members of the club.
Though he has
the longest reign as a leader, members of the club merely tolerate him.
Obasanjo is not in good terms with almost all other members and each of them
has, at one time or the other, been subjected to his caustic remarks.
Shagari
Very
respected in the nation, he became a member of the club in 1979 when he was
elected as the first executive president of Nigeria. “One Nation, One Destiny”
was the mantra of his party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). 
The party
best represented Nigeria’s diversity. 
Shagari is at
peace with all members of the club except Buhari, who toppled his government.
He made housing, industries, transportation and agriculture the major goals of
his administration. Prominent politicians hovered like a cloud on his projects.
 In transportation, he launched road networks across the country. He also
initiated a programme to foster the use of machinery in farming. It favoured
large-scale farmers in order to produce mass products. However, it was hampered
by the prevalence of retired military officers, who had acquired land as
parting gift under the previous administration. Shagari was overthrown by
General Muhammadu Buhari on New Year’s Eve – December 31, 1983.
Buhari
A dependable
leader and distinguished gentleman, Buhari got registered in Nigeria’s most
exclusive club on December 31, 1983, and has since defined what a good leader
should be. His fight against corruption won the hearts of the Nigerian masses,
but the political class is not at peace with him.
 
One thing
that stands him out is his consistency in fighting for the masses. Though he
ruled as a military man, his programmes were accommodating. He may not have
been in good terms with IBB, but they are trying to mend fences in their
relationship.
Babangida
The only
Nigerian military president, Babangida was admitted into the club on August 27,
1985. He changed the political scope of the nation by making everyone part of
the process. Although he ran a military government, his government appeared to
be consultative: issues were subjected to public debate. Babangida kicked off
what was intended to be a national debate on the political way forward for
Nigeria.
He is a force
to reckon with in the political history of the nation. IBB and Abdulsalami are
like brothers, they have mutual respect for each other. 
Shonekan
A complete
gentleman, he became a member when he was appointed interim head of state of
Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 26, 1993. Though a member who
served for a few days (72) in office, he tried to create a new timetable for
the nation’s return to democracy. Shonekan’s administration introduced a bill
to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government.
Nigeria had
been ruled by military leaders since Muhammadu Buhari seized power from Shehu
Shagari in a 1983 coup. Although democratic elections had been held in 1993,
they were annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida.
Abdulsalami
Abdulsalami
Abubakar was sworn in as president on June 9, 1998, after the unexpected death
of the head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha. He declared a weeklong period of
national mourning. Reported to have been initially reluctant to accept the
position, Abdulsalami is one man that politicians are rightly proud of. He has
given the nation an uninterrupted civilian dispensation. A few days after
assuming office, Abdulsalami promised to hold elections within a year and
transfer power to an elected president. He established the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC), appointing former Supreme Court justice Ephraim
Akpata as chairman. The INEC held a series of elections first for local
government areas in December 1998, then for state assemblies and governors,
National Assembly and finally for the president on February 27, 1999. Although
efforts were made to ensure that the elections were free and fair, there were
widespread irregularities that drew criticism from foreign observers. 
Surprising
some critics of the country’s military, Abdulsalami kept his word and
transferred power to an elected president Obasanjo on May 29, 1999. Under him,
Nigeria adopted its new constitution on May 5, 1999, which went into effect
when Obasanjo became president.
Jonathan
The latest
entrant into the club, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, joined the train on May 6, 2010,
becoming Nigeria’s 14th head of state. He is the man of the moment but, instead
of listening to those who were there before him, he has issues with most of
them.
Jonathan has
an “outstanding record” of not keeping promises. He came with a promise of
“fresh air” to truly transform the nation, but what is on ground is a far cry
from that. This has however made other members of the club see him as
unserious.
By Paul Chiama and Adah Abah
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Source: Leadership
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