The Nigerian Parliament has given President Olusegun Obasanjo two weeks to resign, accusing him of incompetence and corruption, in the run-up to next year’s presidential election, which could cause widespread ethnic violence as politicians stir up regional interests.
The proposal by Parliament accuses President Obasanjo of “ineptitude, continuous scorn for the norms of law and corruption”. In 2000, the NGO Transparency International declared Nigeria the world’s most corrupt state, while in 2001 it came second, only being surpassed by Bangladesh.
However, Olusegun Obasanjo came to power on an anti-corruption promise and made this the priority of his mandate, holding an enquiry into the running of government departments and calling for an independent audit on the Presidential accounts.
He came to power in 1976 after a military coup d’etat but retired after three years to hand over to civilians. After a series of generals ruled Nigeria following a further coup, he became more and more critical of the way Nigeria was governed, which earned him a stay of three years in prison, between 1995 and 1998. He was re-elected as a civilian in 1999.
It is Nigeria’s vast mineral wealth that is the cause of so much unrest. The world’s seventh largest oil producer, Nigeria produces 2 million barrels per day, yet has 66% of its population of 126 million living below the poverty line, earning less than one USD per day, while the country is on the list of the world’s poorest 20 countries.
The foreign oil companies have exploited Nigeria’s oil reserves and at the same time have caused great damage to the environment. In Ogoniland, for example, the population’s arable land has been polluted by drilling. Local government officials are bribed to keep quiet and the system of taking commissions is endemic at every level. If the foreign multinationals which have done so much environmental damage in Nigeria did the same at home, there would be an outcry.
Meanwhile politicians stir up local rivalry in an attempt to gain support for next year’s presidential election. Ethnic unrest has caused tens of deaths this year, particularly in clashes between Moslems and Christians in northern Nigeria.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru