“Between age and Maturity is but a great chasm”-Author
Ever since he wrote the controversial letter late 2013, to president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that literally sent tongues of fire dropping on the polity as they did on the Apostles on Pentecost day, General Olusegun Obasanjo, former military head of state and former president of the Federal republic of Nigeria between 1976-1979, and 1999-2007 respectively, has been on the media both local and international for the ‘wrong’ reasons. When he is not lambasting one political foe, he is seen in the gathering of political opponents romancing with them to send a bad message to his political party, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). When he is not criticizing the president, he is with tongue in cheek campaigning for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) for reasons best known to him but which cannot be separated from how he has been literally shut out from the day to day business of the PDP and the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan both at the national level and at his home state of Ogun where his former ally, Buruji Kashamu has all of a sudden become his nemesis. So it is understandable, why the man has been raising dust like a fish out of water. He never imagined it will turn out this way. He thought it would have been business as usual. He was disillusioned.
At the time he wrote the acerbic piece or what some referred to as a diatribe, many of us thought the man had played out his entire card. But the old warhorse was not done. He had more weapons in his arsenal. Little did we know that the man was soon to release his autobiography which he is today literally hawking in the streets of London, Kenya and other alien countries like wheel barrow pushing men at Upper-Iweka in Onitsha, Anambra state.
He titled the book, “My Watch” and in it, virtually indicted almost everybody for being the reason(s) why Nigeria hasn’t gone beyond where it is today and how he has been the only one eyed man in this village of the blind. In his warped imagination, he was the best thing to have happened to Nigeria hence why he has the right to call anybody he deems fit out and crucify them on his literary cross.
This was a man who ran Nigeria roughshod and almost made it his personal property if not by ownership, at least by possession in the eight years when he was unchained from Kiri Kiri to come and oversee the affairs of the country in a shoddy deal to pacify western Nigeria after the Abiola debacle. He soon got consumed by power, and ruled Nigeria as he deemed fit.
Under his watch, our democracy was a very laughable one where the institutions that give any democracy its distinguishing feature merely existed but stopped from putting their machineries in motion due to executive interference ordained from the cozy Aso Rock residence of the former dictator. Perhaps there is no better illustration of this than the imposing of military administrators in the states of Ekiti and Plateau against the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution. Here was a man who ran down the villages of Odi and Zaki Biam in Bayelsa and Kaduna states respectively contrary to international conventions of which Nigeria is a signatory to. A man under whose watch, the power sector which he superintended over, brought more darkness to the nation despite over 16 billion dollars claimed to have been invested to revive the sector.
A man who sat on our national properties and sold them the same way a naught secondary school student sells his mathematics textbook with little or no regard for International Best Practices and the Oil and Gas sector practically became a metaphor for irregularity with no proper remittance of oil proceeds and the payment of subsidy on the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) a sort of bazaar that saw Oil marketers exponentially rich at the expense of the economy. It was a regime marked by political killings and the use of governmental institutions to witch hunt political enemies in the name of fighting corruption.
Expectedly, the lie ridden autobiography received criticism as much as it deserves from virtually all sections of the social strata namely: the political class, the academia, civil society organizations and members of the general public under whose watch some of the events he wrote about, unfolded. That the book became banned in Nigeria, did not come with any surprise. It was a sheer misrepresentation of history at least from what one has read in the reviews.
In the alternative, the man, true to type, has since found love with the international community and has at different functions been marketing the book while saying all sorts of unprintable things adverse to the international image of president Goodluck Jonathan and the Federal Republic of Nigeria like one suffering from diarrhea of the mouth.
It was in one of such gatherings that he recently came under his pathological condition. At an interactive session with the Financial Times of London, the octogenarian while endorsing the Buhari candidacy and condemning the postponement of the Feb. 14th presidential and National Assembly elections, said all sorts of things in his vintage manner against the presidency of president Goodluck Jonahan, a man who we are told, in his characteristic manner as the Lord of the Manor, handpicked to be the running mate of late president Umar Musa Yar’Adua as a result of the distinguishing qualities of the man. Now, while nobody is celebrating the postponement of the elections irrespective of how INEC and the military would like us to, what is worrying and benumbing is why a very revered African figure and one of Nigeria’s veteran politicians and a founding member of the PDP would be so lousy as not to be able to rule over his tongue on issues which are very sensitive and critical to the sustenance of our budding democracy.
If Chief Olusegun Obasanjo were really a patriot as he wants us to believe, there are obviously better and more matured ways through which he would have registered his displeasure with the current avoidable turn our democracy we fought so much to enthrone is taking. But he was not acting like one who loves this nation so much. He was really reacting like one celebrating the fact that things seems not to be in order. He was simply playing the Devils Advocate. If not, when did Kenya and London become the streams where we go to wash our dirty linens? Is it not an embarrassment to the over 180 million Nigerians that he vacated the accommodating lands of the Niger to spew verbiages that reveal the underbelly of our collective patrimony? If such events unfolded while he was junketing from one international airport to the other, couldn’t he have called the presidency to know what unfolds in the land he claims so much to love, rather than rushing to the western press to say things which are no more than figments of his imagination? What was going through his mind that emboldened him to throw caution to the winds and commit such a political (mis)adventure?
Over the weekend, the man was at his newly found sport again. He was reported to have said that president Goodluck Jonathan intends to keep postponing the elections and if possible elongate his tenure alluding what is playing out in Nigeria to what took centre stage in Cote d’ ivoire not long ago when the ruling party under former president Laurent Gbagbo kept postponing the elections until it was most favorable for him to win. Obasanjo said,
“What again it looks to me is that the president is trying to play Gbagbo.Gbagbo was the president of Cote d’ Ivoire and Gbagbo made sure he postponed the election in his country until he was sure he would win and then allowed the election to take place. He got an inconclusive election in the first ballot and I believe this is the sort of pit Nigeria will fall into if I am right in what I observed as the grand plan. And then in the run-off, Gbagbo lost with 8 per cent behind Ouattara and refused to hand over…” he went on to say, “I believe that we may be seeing the repeat of Gbagbo or what I call Gbagbo saga, here in Nigeria, I hope not.”
Accordingly, the presidential spokesman on Media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abatti has since debunked such claims which exists only in the imagination of the disgruntled old warhorse referring to it as baseless and uncharitable as well as the Director General of the PDP campaign organization, Femi Fani Kayode who has since dismissed the frivolous comments in similar but not entirely the same terms as Abatti.
As I write this piece, word has just reached me that the same shameless general who has failed in the simplest leadership role- to keep his family in order, much less a wide conglomerate as the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order, at a press conference publicly rubbed himself in the mud by assigning one of his political assistants to tear his membership card of the PDP to the cheer of supporters and press men. A party that restored his relevance in the political scene giving him the privilege to put Nigeria back on track after the costly years of the military junta but which he failed at, woefully.
The public razzmatazz of tearing the membership card of his political party betrays the paucity of Obasanjo’s sense of reasoning and unearths his shallow mind set. It is to me the last nail on his political coffin and the height of his political ineptitude. By such show of shame never witnessed in the annals of political history (I beg to be contradicted), Obasanjo has “nakeded himself” in public to borrow the phrase of one illiterate Nigerian politician.
If Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was so irritated with being a member of the PDP for any reason, is it so difficult for him to have written to the National Chairman of the party telling the party the reasons for his actions? Isn’t that how people who are schooled behave? What is it that motivated him into this global dementia that casts Nigeria and Nigerians in bad light?
An igbo proverb has it that, “Ifele adighi eme onye ala, owu onye ma ya ka ifele n’eme” which loosely translates as: A mad man has no need of shame, it is his relations who has to contend with the shame. This is what is playing out here and now. Obasanjo has painted Nigerians in bad color and like the mad man in the above adage; he knows not the consequence of what he has done. It is we who are his relations who have to contend with the shame.
The act of tearing his membership card before the eyes of the world is the least he could have done. It speaks volumes how frustrated the man is and how shallow his thoughts have become. Could it be that the adage once a man, twice a child is playing out in the life of the man? For his present act, exposes the childishness in him. He needs our help but who cares?
Whatever it is that may have suddenly come over the pompous veteran politician, it is not as though we care too much for his misfortune but we can make do with an advice as it costs nothing. The earlier he had gone to seek therapy, the better for him. Wherever he chooses to seek that, is altogether immaterial. He may go and prostrate before an Ifa priest, he may go see a psychologist in a medical facility or he could as well go pay the SCOAN pastor a visit. Who knows, his salvation may just be waiting for him. He can be consoled in the fact that any means he elects will be justified in the end.
Beyond that, any serious minded individual, abreast of Nigeria’s recent history, would never take the grandiloquent general serious no matter how he vibrates. With no intent to hold brief for the PDP and the presidency, it is most uncharitable for OBJ to associate GEJ in the league of sit-tight African leaders, a league where he OBJ was once a runners-up as we saw with the unconstitutional 3rd term gambit. Thanks to the indefatigable senate at the time, members of the civil society and members of the press who boisterously scuttled what could have been a rape on our democracy. It is mindboggling then, that a person who by hook and crook, wanted a tenure elongation now accuses a person who has never borne the intention or mooted it even passively of wanting to do so.
Mr. president made it clear in his last media chat that if he loses at the forthcoming election, he would humbly go back to his personal residence as Aso Rock is not his father’s estate while regretting the circumstances that led to the adjournment of the polls and he has since then assured Nigerians and members of the international community that there is no need for panic because elections must hold and the May 29th date, very sacrosanct. Why has Obasanjo been crying wolf when it is only a puppy that snoops around the backyard?
Those who want a repeat of the Ivorien experience here while feigning love for mother land so that they will have what they will run to street with, should be sure that they are bound to fail. The evil they wish Nigeria will befall them. The pit they dig in their hearts, they will be the first to take a plunge into. Mr. President is a democrat who understands that power is transient and not those who are wont to think life begins and ends with political power.
As a young Nigerian with keen interests with events at the socio-political scene, Obasanjo I can convincingly say without any fear of contradiction is the last person one can take an advice from. He lacks the moral locus standi to bring an action or to point accusing fingers at anybody in Nigeria much less President GEJ who is condemned with the Sisyphean task of cleaning the rot and mess accumulated under the Obasanjo and successive administration’s watch. His greatest undoing, is to having cast president GEJ in bad light to attract odium and opprobrium to the man with his undisputable national and international clout.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is undoubtedly troubled by his past. Seeing that the man he appointed to be the lieutenant of Umar Musa Yar’Adua, has suddenly risen to the crème of political power and at the same time, outperformed him in so short a time in every index with which governance is measured, one is not at a quagmire as to why he has been reacting this way lately.
Obasanjo, a man who has failed to get things right with his family, a man whose son and daughter at different times publicly disgraced for his unruly behaviours and one who has gone into political eclipse under the GEJ administration is obviously not a happy man. In his wildest imagination, he never envisioned that things could get so rough for him. At the National level, the power-bloc in the PDP will not let him dictate how the party is to be run, Mama Patience would not have him take her husband for a ride, at his home ground, Buruji Kashamu has become a bitter pill to swallow. He was boxed in a corner that the only thing he took away from his membership of the party, became only the knowledge of same.
His latest voyage out of the PDP ship, is the final evidence that he has lost on all fronts and whether he goes to the summit of Mount Olympus to tear his membership card of the PDP, we must educate him that it is God that gives power and takes same, and not man. Accordingly, if the heavens have ordained it that there will be a power shift by the end of May, 2015, one thousand OBJs in the PDP cannot controvert or negate the will of God. And in the same vein, if God says otherwise, OBJ’s exit from the PDP cannot impeach God’s authority.
Beyond that, what matters most is not the political ambitions of GMB or GEJ but the continuous existence of Nigeria as one indissoluble and sovereign entity under God, for we won’t be discussing of an election without there being a state. This is the gospel one would have expected OBJ to consistently preach in his international engagements as the father of the Nation and an African ambassador but instead, the man seems to find pleasure in sowing seeds of discord (whether he cultivates that in his farm or not, one does not know) and fanning the embers of disunity through frivolous insinuations and illogical conclusions that only end up heating up a polity already bursting at the seams.
We end by reminding him that his latest action is of no consequence whatsoever. He should go back to his Ota farm and tend after his broods as his exit from the PDP and possibly active politics, could as well be a blessing in disguise for the nation generally. At this stage of his life where he should be at peace with himself and everybody, it worries me that he has chosen to dedicate the last years of his life into robbing himself of his inner peace as it were and building walls of political enmity at every turn.
He should go burry his face in the mud with the knowledge of an old man who refused to make the best out of his grey hair but rather chose to dance naked in the market square on an ‘Nkwo’ market day.
Naknnebe Raymond is a Final Year Law student and a public affairs analyst who is passionate about the Nigerian state and is committed to its all round development. He is on twitter as @RayNkah/Raymondnkannebe@gmail.com