Book Review: A Legal Periscope to the Theatre of Democracy

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Tobi Soniyi evaluates the literary effort by Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori, who took a dispassionate look at the events that shaped the nation shortly after the return to civilian rule in 1999

One of the sentences I picked from my friend and mentor, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu is “there is plenty of information but little knowledge. Nigerian politicians continue to play the same old tricks and unfortunately, we continue to fall for them because we are not able to process information available at our disposal into knowledge.”

Clearly, this is the gap filled by co-authors, Chidi Odinkalu and Ayisha Osori in their new book, ‘Too Good to Die- Third Term and the Myth of the Indispensable Man in Africa’.

Odinkalu is a fundamental rights lawyer and senior team manager for the Africa Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative and former Chairman, the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, while Osori is also a lawyer, management consultant and the author of the widely acclaimed book, ‘Love Does Not Win Elections’.

She was recently appointed as the Executive Director, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
The protagonist in this political theatre captured in this book, former President Olusegun Obasanjo denied that he was instrumental to the botched constitutional amendment that aimed to give a third term for presidency. Hence, the book unearths facts that were hitherto hidden from the public and lends credence to the inevitable conclusion that the ‘big man’ was behind the show.

In doing this, the book leaves no one in doubt as to whether Obasanjo wanted a third term or not.
The co-authors spoke to those who took part in the scheme, directly and indirectly to dig deeper and exhume hidden facts that illuminate the grey areas around the second term bid.

They also provided fresh insights into documents that were already in public domain. It was noted that apart from the financial waste that characterised the move to amend the constitution just to allow Obasanjo’s third term ambition, the damage to the nation’s democracy would have been catastrophic had the amendment succeeded.

If we have learnt from that experience, maybe Lawal Yahaya Gamau, a Senator representing Torro Federal Constituency in Bauchi, would not have made it his mission in Senate to make Muhammadu Buhari a president for life.

The authors identified those who worked behind the scenes to foist the amendment on us. Many of them have denied playing such roles. But after reading the book, the reader will have no difficulty in arriving at same conclusion.
Anyone who desires to understand the politics of Obasanjo’s administration as a civilian president cannot find a better book.

Despite being a great scholarship thrust, the conclusions reached by the authors in the book have been largely influenced by their opinions, not necessarily facts.

For instance, the facts will suggest that Obasanjo had made up his mind to deal with his deputy, Atiku Abubakar for opposing his second term bid. Although Atiku was openly opposed to the third term bid, the plan to get rid of Atiku and ensure he did not succeed Obasanjo started long before the third term move was hatched, executed and scuttled. There was already a wedge between him and Atiku even before the election that ushered in the second term.

Nonetheless, “Too Good To Die”, which is an addition to our political and legal jurisprudential literature, has opened the pandora box that will provoke arguments and counterarguments, perhaps strong enough to be articulated in books. In this national discourse, it is ‘the more the merrier’.