Obasanjo could Face Trial at International Criminal Court

Obasanjo presided over the worst elections ever conducted in the political history of Nigeria

Olusegun ObasanjoThe International Criminal Court (ICC) will prosecute politicians who rig elections and those who use the power of incumbency to fraudulently stay in power, a top prosecutor of The Hague-based court has warned.

Many Nigerians believe former President Olusegun Obasanjo presided over the worst elections ever conducted in the political history of not only Nigeria but also in the African continent.

Mr Louis Moreno Ocampo told politicians drawn from across the globe who are attending a curtain-raiser conference ahead of Monday’s crunch ICC review meeting in Kampala that election violence would open the door to a prison cell for those found culpable of fanning atrocities against humanity.

The Commonwealth and African Union Observer teams described the 2007 election under Obasanjo as one of worst in Africa and the world. In fact, the condemnation was so unmistakable and overwhelming that President Yar’adua himself admitted during his inauguration that the election, which brought him to power, was significantly flawed and promised electoral reforms to salvage Nigeria’s democratic image. (The reforms are still a matter of public debate).

“If they [politicians] have to commit crimes to get into office,” said Mr Ocampo, “They will get to the Hague. That is the message.” The ICC top-man said rigging elections is often the root cause of violent conflicts and the ensuing commission of atrocities against innocent civilians in the contest for political power, a matter for which the court is moving to deal with.

He said the court was drawing from experiences in Kenya and Zimbabwe where the contest of election results in November 2007 and March 2008 respectively, led to violent clashes and unlawful killings. “What happened in Kenya and Zimbabwe should not happen again. People should understand that elections have to be respected,” said Mr Ocampo. “Politicians should know that if you commit those crimes, you get a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket to Cabinet.”

Former President Obasanjo introduced the culture of “imposition”, “affirmation”, “consensus” and “anointment” at the expense of voters’ sovereignty. His do-or-die politics sent the wrong signals across the country to the extent that politicians took the license to kill their rivals or perceived opponents. Freedom of choice, which is one of the key elements of genuine democratic system, received a kiss of death under former President Obasanjo’s rule.

The International court is currently investigating the role of politicians in Kenya’s post-election chaos which claimed more than 1,000 lives. Mr Ocampo separately told reporters that he would conclude investigations by the end of the year and submit a report detailing which individuals should be prosecuted.

Kenyan MP Musa Sirma said until the court installs structures to prosecute “riggers of elections, we don’t think this issue of atrocities against humanity will end.”

*Bashir’s dilemma* “It is the battle of leadership that brings about greed and mayhem,” Mr Sirma said.

Mr Ocampo, however, said the court is keeping a watchful eye on more than a dozen elections across the African continent expected to take place in 2011 alone.

Ugandans go to the polls next year in a crunch general election where President Museveni is expected to run for a fourth term in office amid accusations from the opposition of an uneven level playing field.

Delegates at yesterday’s discussions conducted in Parliament’s conference hall found moment to field questions to Mr Ocampo, the highlight of which hinged on the court’s failure to effect arrest warrants for wanted criminals and the status of indictments hovering over Sudan leader Omar el-Bashir following his re-election.

In his response, Mr Ocampo said he was “optimistic” that President Bashir would be apprehended. “He is still trying to escape from us but his destiny is clear,” said Mr Ocampo. “He will face justice.”

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Obasanjo is an enemy of democracy. He attempted but woefully failed to tamper with the constitution in order to extend his term limit in office in 2006. The third term agenda was so obviously unpopular that its ultimate collapse was just a matter of time. Billions of public funds were deployed to achieve the ambition but the National Assembly threw out the attempted amendment because of the high political risk of swimming against the tide.

The spate of political assassinations in Nigeria was a consequence of the dangerous do-or-die politics former President Obasanjo introduced in our political culture. As a result, the sovereignty of the voters no longer counted; unpopular candidates were imposed on the people. Where leaders govern without mandate, can Nigeria boast of practicing democracy? Convinced that they lost the power to elect leaders of their choice, the electorate retreated into the cocoon of despondency and apathy.

Throughout his autocratic rule, former President Obasanjo had no respect for court orders. Despite an unambiguous Supreme Court ruling, which told him he had no power to withhold more than N30 billion belonging to the Lagos State Local government councils, the former President flagrantly ignored the decision of the apex court. He frequently used the EFCC to blackmail and frustrate the ambition of his perceived political enemies.

Obasanjo is a failure and one cannot understand why a man with this awful record in office should be the major power broker today under President Jonathan Goodluck.

The political confusion in Nigeria that trailed Late Umaru Yar’adua’s failed presidency was caused by Obasanjo. He assumed that President Yar’adua was a dunce whom he could bend to his wishes. However, when Yar’adua began to assert himself, Obasanjo tried to use his sickness to stampede him out of office.

It is sad that today, Obasanjo tours the globe as election monitor in such places as Togo and South Africa. This role as election monitor is the greatest insult to the democratic sensibilities of Nigerians and other black Africans who are struggling to free our democracy from civilian dictatorship for which former President Obasanjo became a notorious symbol.