Editorial: Barack Obama and Roles in 2015 Presidential Elections
This is in deed a season of outcry over foreign interference on domestic elections. It is either Russia is being accused of influencing elections in America on behalf of President Donald Trump or America accused of interfering in Nigerian elections to achieve regime in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Few days ago Hilary Clinton came out of her political hibernation to blame her surprise loss in the 2016 election to President Donald Trump on interference by Russian hackers and the actions of FBI Director James B. Comey who reopened the bureau’s investigation into her use of a private email server in the campaign’s homestretch.
The recent buzz started in America where soon after the 2016 Presidential elections, rumours began to emerge on how Russian operatives hacked into the US electoral system with the aim of influencing its outcome against the party of the then President Barack Obama.
The scandal became so strong that it triggered diligent investigations by the FBI and painstaking congressional hearings on possible coordination between Trump campaign operatives and Russian officials. Although most Americans believe that the interference by Russians on behalf of Donald Trump probably did not significantly affect the election outcome, most pundits agree that Vladimir Putin’s Russian celebrate their effrontery as a mark of victory.
Although the loud noise from the American investigations of this Russian adventure drowned the actions back home in Nigeria, there had been suspicions since 2014 of America’s planned interference in Nigeria’s 2015 general elections.
The difference is that while Americans deployed their entire diplomatic and technological arsenal to tackle their suspicions, Nigerians had always quietly moaned over theirs. However, it took a new book by Segun Adeniyi on the 2015 election entitled ‘Against the Run of Play’ to exhume the corpse which everyone knew was not properly buried.
In the book Adeniyi quoted the former President Goodluck Jonathan of alleging that Americans and some powerful countries in Europe came too close for comfort in the 2015 elections which he lost to President Mohammadu Buhari.
There is no doubt that this claim by the usually taciturn Jonathan attracted rave reviews and criticisms especially from those who usually accuse him of always playing to the gallery to win sympathy for his much maligned administration.
It however took a kind of corroboration of this stand by an opposition leader and former Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliu for people to begin pay attention to Jonathan’s claims.
Aliyu, who was the ex-chairman of the Northern Governors Forum hinted of possible US involvement in the electoral defeat of Jonathan. In the same book he said that the Obama administration invited 12 northern governors to the US to ascertain their level of commitment to removing Jonathan.
He was quoted to have said: “That was my reading of the situation. I believe it was all about the 2015 election for which the Americans had resolved not to support Jonathan. They just wanted to size us up for the level of commitment to regime change”.
The fact that Aliu has not denied the statement has strengthened people’s suspicion that the Americans had a hand in the emergence of Buhari as winner of the 2015 elections.
Obviously the visit of the Governors who were mainly of the opposition stock then to America and the consultations they had with State Department officials obviously emboldened the challenge against the incumbent. This was to be followed by the hiring of a world esteemed American public relations guru to develop and manage a winning communications strategy for the opposition party.
A member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party who pleaded anonymity claimed then that “Mr. David Axelrod, a Democratic Party (DNC) Strategist, who worked for the elections of Presidents Bill Clinton & Obama, was leased to the APC as election strategist.”
It would be recalled that few days to the elections, the United States President, Barack Obama, made a special broadcast to Nigerians, the first of its kind in the history of the nation, urging them to take the advantage of the “historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress.”
Of course the election held and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress Muhammadu Buhari won with a convincing margin. President Buhari himself made an unforced error when he openly thanked the United States and the European Union for the roles they played in the outcome of the elections that brought him to power, He said that while receiving the Italian envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Fulvio Rusticoto the State House in 2015.
In what has been interpreted in many quarters as a victory lap, the then U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited Nigeria last August to meet only with northern governors and leaders.
A statement issued by the Information Office of the Embassy of the U.S. in Abuja, ahead of the visit said Kerry would only visit Sokoto and Abuja to hold meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and Northern Governors. Two months later the Governors of all 19 states in northern Nigeria returned to Washington to meet with American officials.
It is against this background that ex-Gov Aliu’s revelation dropped, arousing fresh suspicions on the extent foreign powers have been going to influence elections in Nigeria.
While reacting to the development some Civil Society Groups have begun to demand explanations from the United States Government to ascertain the extent of their involvement in the country’s 2015 Presidential elections.
The civil society groups led by Campaign for Democracy (CD) urged the US authorities to explain its roles in clear terms in order to “come clean against damaging reports of interfering in the domestic affairs of a foreign country.”
In a statement last Friday signed by the spokesman of the group, Femi Lawson the civil society group accused the Obama administration of deliberately orchestrating a regime change in Nigeria. It noted that “it is indeed shocking that despite America’s well known strong foreign policy stance against terrorism, Islamic militancy all over the world, it strangely turned its back against a theatre of that war in Nigeria, where lives were being sacrificed lives in tens of thousands, just because they wanted regime change.”
The Group also sought to know why the same “American authorities that claim to maintain a puritanical posture on the issue of interference in Nigerian elections despite suggestions of its involvement, would turn round to actively accuse Russia of same offence in 2019 US Presidential Election.”
Many reasons have been advanced by experts on the likely reason why Obama administration suddenly moved against Jonathan despite a cozy relationship they enjoyed previously. Many have raised the now convenient red flag of corruption and perceived weakness in dealing with the Boko Haram terrorists. However, Jonathan himself have rejected these reasons, even as his close associates have been insisting that his decision to sign the anti-gay bill was what put him on collision course with the Americans.
Some people have also mentioned economic reasons bordering on proxy war for relevance by the global economic powers as reasons for Jonathan’s ouster.
Those who push this angle say that Jonathan’s romance with the Chinese authorities in the search for solution to the nation’s infrastructural challenges was the real reasons why the Americans moved against him.
They say that he became a marked man by the West for depriving them of their traditional trade agenda which always delivered huge dividends to them through the instrumentality of the Bretton Woods institutions, like World Bank and IMF.
In their estimation, Jonathan’s embrace of the Chinese loan model which delivered on the desired infrastructure without giving cash, actually proved successful for his administration. That was why he was able to deliver on rails, roads, and airports infrastructure using Chinese companies. Ironically this decision to try a different approach infrastructural development spelled a death knell as the West led by Obama was said to have decided that the only way to return to reckoning was to induce regime change, by any means necessary.
It might however take some time before relevant authorities come out boldly to authenticate or invalidate these positions which remains in the realm of conjecture. Even the claims of Jonathan and Aliu in Adeniyi’s book were made without giving details.
There is therefore the need for thorough investigations to be conducted to establish the veracity of these claims in order to determine whether the integrity of our national elections has continued to be breached by foreign powers. It is instructive that America has launched large scale investigation into the suspicions of Russian involvement in the last elections, despite Russia’s vehement denial. It is only when we do a similar thing will our country be considered as a nation that takes the issue of national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity seriously.