Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will handover power Tuesday to his handpicked successor Umaru Yar’Adua. When he was first elected in 1999, Nigerians hoped long years of military misrule were behind them and stable democracy ahead. But as Obasanjo leaves office, there are some Nigerians who believe the country’s democracy is in doubt with an uncertain future ahead.
President Obasanjo’s spokesperson, Remi Oyo, told VOA that Obasanjo will be remembered as a president under whose leadership Nigeria moved from a once pariah state to a country that is respected internationally.
“First of all, let me say that today is certainly one of the most memorable and historic days in Nigeria. It’s the first time that we are having a successful handing over of one civilian administration to another. It is an elected president, a fulfilled president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who will be handing over to his worthy successor, president-elect Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. And so today the president will be at Eagle Square. That is the venue of the inauguration ceremony, and thereafter the president will take his leave and go by air to Lagos, and from there he will begin his retirement,” she said.
Oyo rejects criticism by some that president Obasanjo is leaving office at a time Nigeria’s democracy is doubt.
“Nigerians understand that democracy is a process. It is not a destination. Nigerians also know that there is no democracy in the world that is perfect, not even those who started on this journey way before us. And we are the first to say that our situation is not perfect, but that we are willing to admit that, and that we are willing to work at it,” Oyo said.
President Obasanjo speaking a presidential inauguration and thanksgiving service Sunday reportedly asked Nigerians to forgive him for any imperfections during his tenure as president. But Oyo denied the president did anything wrong.
“Can you show me one perfect human being in the world? There is none. And this president is humble enough to admit that he is not a perfect person. He has taken Nigeria on the path of reform, and Nigeria is well on its way to being great. As you know, change causes some pain, and when he was being sworn in May 29, 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria will not be business as usual. And that also means that rules must obeyed and that corruption must be shunned. And that is what the president is alluding to, that he is not a perfect human being. He is also saying that if there is any way in which he has erred as a human being, he is willing to admit that,” she said.
Oyo said President Obasanjo is not disappointed by outgoing Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s decision to boycott the inauguration ceremony. She said no one will miss the vice president.
“There is a saying in our language that when you have a market, if one person does not come, nobody would notice it. Nigeria is going to celebrate today. We are going to enjoy ourselves; we are going to give gratitude to God. So if one person is not at the ceremony it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to take place or that we are going to miss whoever is not there,” Oyo said.
She said President Obasanjo would continue to serve Nigeria and Africa even after he leaves office.
“He’s going to continue to devote his time to the service of Nigeria, to the service of humanity, and certainly to the emancipation of the Black man. He is going to continue to ensure peace in Africa and in the world. He will continue to be the true farmer that he is; he intends to devote more time to his family,” Oyo said.