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DR. ABDULLAHI DAHIRU: Tandja’s Tazarce is another example of predilection of African leaders to perpetuate themselves in power beyond their mandatory terms of office. The…

DR. ABDULLAHI DAHIRU: Tandja’s Tazarce is another example of predilection of African leaders to perpetuate themselves in power beyond their mandatory terms of office. The soldiers may strike any moment again thus returning the country into military dictatorship.

MUHAMMAD YAHAYA: Tandja’s Tazarce? Has he not learnt from the experiences of others? He who does heed to warnings will live to regret it one day. Wanda bai ji bari ba ya ji hoho!

ALHAJI ISA MUHAMMAD KATSINA, CON: Impressive write-up on Tandja’s Tazarce, but you completely omitted the Ibrahim Ba’are Mainasara scenario. Kindly revisit the matter next week.

IRO MAMMAN: You talked about the composition of Niger Republic, but did not elaborate much on the current situation: the why’s and how’s of the political crisis in the country. You must do a Part Two.

ABBA ANWAR: ‘Tandja’s Tazarce’ is an executive summary of Niger’s political history. I think Tandja will have some sad stories to tell, if he survives to tell it. We wait.

USMAN K/SHEKA: Good piece on Tandja. But what are the reasons for the Tazarce and the persons behind it? There were omitted bits on civil war, killing of Mainasara and role of (late?) Dauda Malam Wanke.

First question to ask: What does Tandja want after ten years as President of Niger Republic? Is it only the sit-tight bug of African leaders that is afflicting him? (We must be quick to add that sit-tightism is not intrinsically African: Honduras in South America is embroiled in it). According to some analysts, there are three major reasons why Tandja wants to stay at least for another term of five years, or for life.

Number One reason is oil. Petroleum in commercial quantities has been discovered in Niger Republic, as has been in the neighbouring nations of Chad and Sudan. Niger hopes to soon be an oil exporting nation. The China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) has won concessions and is investing Five Billion Dollars ($5b) in the oil project. President Tandja laid the foundation of the country’s first refinery in Walelewa village in Zinder State last year. Niger Republic has said that it hopes to produce its first barrel of oil for sale by this year, 2009. Tandja wants to be there when the First Barrel is extracted, and wants to be there when the First Oil Dollar is earned.

Number Two reason is Kandadji Dam, a large multipurpose dam on the Niger River. The site is situated near the small town of Kandadji in Tillaberi Region (State). President Tandja laid the foundation stone of the dam in August 2008. Funding comes from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the OPEC Development Fund, governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others. Total cost: over $700m. The dam is designed as part of a hydroelectric generation complex, as Niger Republic at present imports 90 percent of its electricity from neighbouring Nigeria, which itself suffers frequent power cuts. The dam itself is expected to be completed in 2013. Tandja wants to be there to commission the dam and flick on the First Switch.

Number Three reason is rebellion in Niger Republic’s north. As part of an initiative started under the 1991, government signed peace accords in April 1995 with all armed groups that had been in rebellion since 1990. All of a sudden, the Touareg Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) took up arms again. A peace deal has been signed, but knowing full well that the armed rebellion is a potential threat to his oil ambitions (a la Nigeria’s Niger Delta), Tandja wants to be credited with the feat of achieving lasting peace for his country.

But can Tandja succeed? Perhaps, but he may have left it too late. 2009 is election year. In Niger Republic, government is almost the only avenue to make a decent living, as the private sector is miniscule. The political system is winner-takes-all, so no politician is ready to be in the political wilderness for longer than necessary. The opposition has been “in fasting” (literally azumi or ‘starving’ in Hausa political parlance) for the ten years of Tandja’s presidency. Th   it, veteran politician and leader of opposition Nigerien Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ANDP-Zaman Lafiya), Moumouni Adamou Djermakoye, recently tragically died of a heart attack after addressing an opposition rally.

Tandja could have employed either of two ways to perpetuate himself in power, had he started early enough: the Mahathir Option or the Putin Option. Tandja could have engineered an amendment to the constitution to jettison the French system for full-pledged parliamentary system as in Malaysia. And then ensure his MNSD-Nasara continued winning elections and forming government, and he to continue being party leader provided he delivered his own constituency. And, to complete the Mahathir Option, Tandja could then rotate a ceremonial presidency among Niger Republic’s five or six first class Sultans of Zinder (Damagaram to you), Gobir (Tsibiri), Katsina (Maradi), Agades and Dosso.

Or the Putin Option. When his two terms elapsed and he wanted Tazarce, Russia’s Vladimir Putin did not push for a change of the constitution immediately. What he did was a smart move to install his protégé as president, and took over the former unglamorous job of prime minister. Now at this vantage point, Putin is gradually planning a comeback. He may yet have the constitution amended to allow him stand again. Tandja could have done just that, if he had a trusted protégé as Putin’s Dmitry Medvedev.

As for questions about former Niger Republic Heads of State Mainassara and Wanke, theirs was but a tragic story. Ibrahim Ba’are Mainasara, then Army Chief of Staff, took over in a coup in January 1996, when then President Mahamane Ousmane and then Prime Minister Hama Amadou could not see eye to eye. Mainasara conducted his own election and awarded it to himself and muddled the political waters so much that  his party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP-Jama’a), was seen as a military bastion. When talk of a second term by Mainasara (due by 2001) was being bandied, Mainasara was killed on April 9, 1999 in a coup led by Major Daouda Malam Wanké, Chief of the Presidential Guard. Wanke conducted elections in 1999 and stepped aside. It was this election that brought Tandja to power. Wanke himself died in September 2004, ostensibly of cardiac complications.

As Hausa-speaking, Tandja should be reminded of what the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, was reported to have told his subordinates who burned the midnight oil: Ba ka iyawa/Ba ka gamawa/Ba a yaba ma! (You can never accomplish all/You can never finish every task/You will never win any praise!)

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