Select Page By Mike Ikhariale Monday, October 28, 2002

Pundits and students of strategic studies must be having a field day right now burning their midnight candles, pouring over pages upon pages of classified literature and spinning on the possible fall-outs as well as speculating on the psychological disposition and, indeed, the policy mindset that have generated the ongoing momentum for a ‘regime change’ at two critical but largely unrelated political centers across the globe. The one, in Baghdad, and the other, in Abuja, both developments capable of many strategic possibilities. While it is possible that most analysts are focused on the Bush-Cheney initiative on Baghdad due to the strong global media rave it is getting, it would be a real surprise if there is any serious academic faculty on strategic studies anywhere that would fail not to seriously reflect on the critical notion of tarzache or “regime change” currently being plotted in Nigeria, because, given the geopolitical standing of the country, the ripple effects would definitely be global. In many respects, the two developments are related, close enough for those who can read them correctly, to draw striking strategic parallels.

The concept of regime change by which one power, by force or sheer influence, succeeds in effecting a leadership turnover in another for its own strategic purposes has always been a critical factor in power politics, be it domestic or international. But because the law of nations has somehow conceded to the municipal order the sovereign prerogative to effect regime succession by whatever means possible, not much intellectual efforts have been devoted to the aspect of the concept of regime change engineered mainly from within. On the international level, however, it has remained a dominant factor in the affairs of nations whether it was in the pre-League of Nations alliance and balance of powers days or in the post League of Nations multilateral era under which so many of the sharper effects of the concept of regime change were submerged under the haze of the Cold War or re-clothed in different political camouflages. In any case, phenomena like coup d’etat, civil or military, impeachment, political assassinations and barefaced election riggings and manipulations are merely variants of regime change by those who are disposed to effect it.

From the policy of appeasement, through that of engagement to that of containment and now regime change, no one can say that there has ever being a strong ethical paradigms on which one nation or group of nations take it upon themselves to take out another regime other than that of selfish interests or in strategic parlance, vital interests. Several pretexts have however been devised in the past to get through this ethical dilemma in the forms of war against religious unbelief, feudal oppression, slavery, colonialism, ideological incompatibilities, human rights, dictatorship and, in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 terrorists bombing of America, the possession of “weapons of mass destruction” or WMD and the harbouring of terrorists. With regard to these intervention justifications, it is important to note that the accusers are always also the judge and the enforcers all at the same time.

One thing that is clear is that no targeted regime has ever being given the real motive for the putsch; it must be deliberately mislabeled for yet more strategic reasons. For example, while it is the truth that oil is the main reason for the regime change project in Iraq, the operative pretext is definitely something else. When the US National Security Adviser, Ms. Condolezza Rice, pontificated on the Axis of Evil, which in the definition of the Bush administration includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea, it was obvious that the weakest link in the axis is Iraq and the real prize being Saddam. To effect that, he has to be labeled and demonized as a harbourer for terrorists and a mass producer of WMDs, two items that are conspicuously missing from his current intelligence Curriculum Vitae.

It may now be asked: How does Abuja feature in a regime change calculus? In many ways, of course! The oil factor, as it is in Iraq, is also the real motive of the call for a regime change. From the reasons so far adduced by the regime change (tarzache) protagonists, it is obvious that they are all fighting for an unimpeded access to Nigeria’s petrol-Naira which in legislative jargon, is the Budget. In their calculation, Obasanjo has become the Saddam of Aso Rock. They now want him out and in furtherance of their aims have contrived several accusations, no matter how incongruous they may be. In fact they demand that he vacate Aso Rock even before they have read out the charges. In any case, whether it is Saddam or Obasanjo, whenever it is time to slaughter a dog, you just must find a bad name for it. And like Saddam, Obasanjo has his own problems; what with his well-known lack of presidential finesse, arrogance, incorrigibility and the seemly general failure of governance.

Any one who has studied the charges agianst the two embattled leaders would see the spurious nature of the allegations – past previously acceptable actions, ad hominien formulations, suspected capabilities to do future mischief (in the case of Abuja, a second term) and the fact that the accusers have a bemused audience. In the case of Nigeria, what is important to the change initiators is how they can get hold of power and, then, the control of the oil wealth of the country which they so much want to re-possess as they have always done but for the short period of the so-called “no business as usual”. So, whether it is in Iraq or in Nigeria, it is no coincidence that the decisive motive for the so-called regime change is oil, incidentally, by those who do not produce it.

Another strategic similarity in the equation is that both the architects of regime change in Abuja and Baghdad are claiming to be doing so in the interests of the oil producing peoples of these countries. In fact, they speak as if they want to liberate the hapless victims, be they at Odi or amongst the Kurds, forgetting that in both instances, they installed these leaders over these peoples and all that these “new tyrants” did in office were actually done to please their mentors who are now their accusers. The CIA armed Saddam to fight Iran in the eighties, while Obasanjo was pushed to invade Odi and other places just to satisfy the desires of his political godfathers who are scared of resources control and internal self-determination. Is that the way of protégée?

Another strategic parallel that could be drawn between Saddam and Obasanjo is that those who plot their removal do not reckon with their capacity to refuse to go down quietly. Removing Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader of the rag-tagged alimajiri regime of Kabul with the aid of the hard-fighting troops of the Northern Alliance is not the same thing with taking out Saddam. Neither is impeaching Obasanjo the same thing with impeaching Balarabe, a PRP governor, by the federal might supported NPN legislators in the old Kaduna State which was dominated by fellow Hausa/Fulanis of the same religious family; or replacing Okadigbo, an Igbo Senator with Ayim, another Igbo Senator. Same for Na ‘Abba picking the mantle of his fellow fallen Kano man, Salisu Buhari.

Finally, those working themselves to nuts on these regime change projects are evidently not bothered about the aftermath. In the case of Nigeria, if the removal of Obasanjo from Aso Rock before his term is over the goal, then those plotting it must prepare for a long haul. That is what the history of regime change has thought us. Those who armed the Mujaheedins against the Soviets never thought that the aftermath would be the Talibans. And those who armed Saddam against Iran did not expect that Iraq would ultimately threaten their oil supply lines. It is even harder to predict whether those who want Obasanjo to go now would still be around to reap the profits of their investments as those who own the oil may finally chose not to be part of the unholy Nigerian game any more.