Thank You Obasanjo, but…

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who recently published a three-volume autobiography, My Watch, deserves thanks. The book contains several national issues from past to present and chronicles his life from birth till the time of writing. While I haven’t had the inordinate pleasure of reading this apparent masterpiece, I understand from the excerpts that President Obasanjo made earth-shattering statements regarding a number of public personalities including the current president, his numerous aides, former President Umaru Yar’Adua, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, Bukola Saraki, and some other political enemies of his.

Let me say from the outset that I don’t know the former president: I’ve never met him but I did catch glimpses of him twice at public gatherings. And, as a consistent and active member of the opposition since 2002, I have never been on the right side of Obasanjo’s tantrums. His decisions have put me and other members of the opposition in a position where we have had an uphill struggle. So whatever judgment I have made of him has been one that has been formed on the other side of the fence and from afar. Nonetheless, as a patriotic Nigerian beyond her prime, I have always had a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the former president: a love relationship because, up until 2003, I had loved him as a father figure and a leader for almost two decades; a hate relationship because, from 2003, I have hated a lot of the decisions he made on my behalf in my capacity as a Nigerian and the direction he chose to eventually steer our very delicate federation to. In my overall assessment of him, I see President Obasanjo as the quintessential Nigerian enigma: he represents the very best of Nigeria, yet he also represents the very worst of it.

Even without knowing the internal intrigues and wrangling that went on during the Obasanjo regime, I have learned from the few excerpts already released that the former president said he was never interested in pursuing a third term while in office. I felt a burning and innate need to thank President Obasanjo for giving us a ‘perfect example’ of how ‘not’ to write a biography which is meant to be an accurate reflection of a legacy of not just one man but 170 million people.

To be honest, it is an insult to the intelligence of every right-thinking person that President Obasanjo would try and blame his infamous third-term agenda in the twilight of his presidency on ‘selfish PDP governors’. Are you serious Mr President…? Was Mr Obasanjo really trying to tell the world that the ridiculous agenda to extend his tenure in office was masterminded and stuffed down his throat by selfish PDP governors who were ‘so desperate’ for him to remain in office and he had absolutely nothing to do with it? Now, if we didn’t know any better, we could be mistaken in thinking that President Obasanjo was trying to tell us how innocent he was in the matter in this autobiography of his. No, I don’t think so, Mr President… I don’t think any Nigerian recalls you carrying any cross in exchange for anyone’s sins during that period! President Obasanjo can try to absolve himself of the third term agenda till every single one of the cows come home, but hardly anyone is likely to believe him.

For all this and so much more, I really do have to continue thanking President Obasanjo. Without a doubt, while it had not been all bad and this country had recorded a lot of development and victories under his stewardship, we have also witnessed colossal under-development and endured torment owing to nothing but corrupt and bad leadership. Nigerians of all faiths, ethnicities, regions, zones and political inclinations have suffered equally. Instead of offering Nigerians an apology for taking away our right to decide our future and choose our leaders, President Obasanjo sits in his comfortable, air-conditioned and well-furnished ivory tower up in the Otta Hills, typing a self-indulgent autobiography and totally insulting a people starving and sweltering under the scorching sun, who were rendered helpless by him. Instead of rising up to encourage those same longsuffering people and offering us gratitude for our service to him, President Obasanjo actually expects Nigerians to sympathize with his travails? Eeerrr… Are you kidding me, Sir?

In case it was ever lost on our dear former president, while he and his happy-go-lucky group of ‘Umpa-Lumpas’ tried to perfect his third term agenda, it was a fight for the life of Nigeria for those of us in the labour and student unions, those in the National Assembly and those in the media. For weeks, our students, our civil groups stood against it; the members of the National Assembly resisted it and, for months, those of us in the media wrote consistently against the third term agenda. Back then, there was a period when, week after week, the only topic I personally wrote on in my column was the ‘third term agenda’ up until a point when I almost became exhausted. I know this was the same for many of my colleagues, many journalists and columnists.

Thank you President Obasanjo for illustrating so perfectly for many ambitious Nigerians how wrong things go when a leadership participates in forcing a reckless and tactless personal agenda to control the destiny of 170 million people. Back in 2006, when ‘his’ bid for a third term failed so woefully, he took it upon himself to decide who he should hoist upon the mantle of leadership. When it was decided by the misplaced and insulated arrangement of the ruling party that the presidency would be zoned to the north and the vice-presidency would be zoned to the south-south, President Obasanjo so valiantly decided to make the choice for Nigerians. Across the length and breadth of Nigeria, he gallantly passed fitting and great northerners such as Bashir Tofa, Abubakar Rimi, Sunday Awoniyi, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Ibrahim Shekarau, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Mahe Rashid, Ghali Na’Abba, Nuhu Ribadu, David Mark, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, George Akume, Muktar Shagari, Ahmed Mu’azu, Audu Ogbe, Bashir Yusuf, Nasir el-Rufai and so many others and zeroed in on the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (a good and great but sickly man). Then, in the south-south, he sifted and shuffled the deck and leap-frogged over Donald Duke, Tonye Princewill, Celestine Omehia, Adams Oshiomhole, Rotimi Amaechi, Nduka Obaigbena, Precious Sekibo, Henry Ajimogobia, Lee Maeba, Liyel Imoke, Reynolds Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack, Mike Adenuga, Joy Yuwika, Ken Wiwa, Peter Odili and so many others and allegedly selected a quiet and unassuming Goodluck Jonathan.

This was a decision that he and the ‘Umpa-Lumpas’ that surrounded him back then took. When he presented the duo of Umaru Yar’Adua and now President Goodluck Jonathan to the ruling party, few of the party members all over the country made an input. Few can forget the shock and confusion that met the announcement of Yar’Adua and Jonathan as the president’s choice as PDP flag-bearers.

But, hey, that’s what Baba wanted! The former president single-handedly chose for about 170million Nigerians. He went ahead to deliberately impose the Yar’Adua candidacy on Nigerians, evident in the highly controversial 2007 general elections which saw the emergence of Yar’Adua as president in an election viewed by local and foreign observers as the worst elections they had ever seen anywhere in the world, with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”. The late Yar’Adua on assumption of office also acknowledged this.

Now, in his book, President Obasanjo moans about how the late President Yar’Adua deceived him over the gravity of his illness and how he was given the impression that Yar’Adua had overcome his health challenges. Ideally, Obasanjo does not have any moral right to play the victim, accusing the late president of deceiving him when he failed to oversee a free, fair and credible election, which brought the ailing president into office.

On the matter of this deception that President Obasanjo speaks of I could have sworn it was a well-known fact that Yar’Adua was extremely ill even while he was the governor of Katsina State. Was there not an incident during the 2007 presidential campaign when President Obasanjo had to address a rumour that the late Yar’Adua had died by calling him on the phone to ask, ‘Umoru, are you dead?’ To which the then presidential candidate replied, ‘No Sir, I am not.”  I mean, what information exactly did President Obasanjo expect Yar’Adua to give him? An x-ray of his pancreas… or maybe a printout of the number of T-Cells in his blood? Come on now, President Obasanjo! You do not have to be able to solve simultaneous-partial-differential-equations and speak 15 languages to know that if, in the middle of a presidential campaign, you are forced to call the often sickly presidential candidate to ask if he was still alive, the likelihood is that he was probably a person dealing with a serious illness.

No, President Obasanjo does not have any moral right to cry foul, accusing the late president of deceiving him when he, as the C-in-C, failed to oversee a free, fair and credible election that brought the ailing president into office. It is simply ridiculous for President Obasanjo to cry over the tank of spoiled milk that he purposely and singlehandedly spilt. It is an insult to the intelligence of Nigerians for him to try and absolve himself of responsibility in the tragic events that led to Nigeria losing a sitting president yet again. President Obasanjo needs to take ownership of the fact that he was not only instrumental in the late Yar’Adua’s ascension to the presidency but he was careless in not doing his due diligence as far as the candidate that he chose to impose to rule over 170 million people was, at the very least, of good health.

However, even if Yar’Adua was healthy, Obasanjo needed to understand that he had absolutely ‘no right’ to single-handedly choose for
the most populous nation in Africa who their president and vice president should be. It was not his decision to make!

Thank you, President Obasanjo, for giving our discerning and perfectly great Nigerian populace a shufti of appreciation of how much they could lose if they allowed someone else to make their decisions for them. When he thrust on us his personal and selfish choice to lord over the affairs of Nigerians, he executed the greatest injustice to this nation as evidenced by his own words… in his own book.

I want to remind President Obasanjo, in case he forgot, that he was responsible for bringing Goodluck Jonathan onto the national scene. The death of President Yar’Adua (Obasanjo’s anointed candidate) in 2010, paved the way for current President Goodluck Jonathan who was then vice-president to become acting president and now president. Ultimately, the former president cannot extricate himself from the responsibility of inadvertently sponsoring President Jonathan’s rise to political prominence and the presidency. Maybe he should make his complaint of President Jonathan and warning of the danger of having Mr Goodluck rule over Nigeria to the offspring of ‘that’ bellboy over there!

Mr Obasanjo must not have a very high opinion of Nigerians. He must think that not very many cells in our brains actually function. As far as we know, the President Jonathan Mr Obasanjo is complaining about is the same Goodluck Jonathan that was chosen by President Obasanjo. As far as we know, Goodluck Jonathan did not have a body transfer and it’s the same animate being that was supported by Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. So, as far as most Nigerians are concerned, nothing much has changed. The fact that President Obasanjo likely had a falling out with President Jonathan is neither here nor there, if that is what happened.

He supported our present president; he empowered him, pleasured him and watched his aides, as President Obasanjo claims, bleed this country dry. President Obasanjo complains that Jonathan’s companions taunt the rest of Nigeria, ridicule every region, exploit the whole nation, splinter accord and abuse liberty. But when a particular repugnant Babylon beast and some other unscrupulous characters issued threats and viciously castigated anything and everything that did not emanate from the ‘our oil…our oil region’, President Obasanjo was as quiet as a church new-born-baby Gerbil; he never cried out in support of the rest of country. He didn’t split hairs about the insolence of those few towards everything that represents the greatness of this nation with all its character, diversity and glory. Now, after the damage has been done, he comes out from behind the negative energy he used to hide to teach the nation what we should take as the hub of our unity, of our salvation.

Mr Obasanjo’s agitations must not be misconstrued as representing his genuine hopes for this country but as a thorn he created and nurtured and which no longer serves his purpose. His grievances must not be accepted by virtue of the fact that it is a glitch with a potential of becoming an even spikier thorn for the body politic of Nigeria as a nation.

While I will step out of character for a second to genuinely thank you for being one of the only leaders that have made a genuine effort to try and intervene in the growing insurgency in the north-east, you must also understand that you were culpable in the chain of events that have led to the crippling situation Islamic extremism has bought us to. When, in 1999, you allowed religious-political prevaricators and bilkers to introduce a Sharia that was for political and not genuine purposes, you opened the slope that led to institutionalized extremism. When, under your ‘watch,’ the security failed to identify the threat of a rising Islamic radical group founded in 2002 despite the warnings issued by, and assassination of, Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, you allowed a manageable group of extremists to morph into the gargantuan centrifugal force it is today. When you kept shuffling and retiring the best of our armed forces, possibly out of fear of a coup d’état, you contributed to reducing our military to a group.

As a Nigerian, I hear you speak up for our rights and our best interest, but it just sounds like vacant, monotonous rhetoric to me. It sounds disingenuous, almost wounding, because the last 15 years have left me, as a Nigerian, feeling angered and cheated. For 15 years now, I have tried to express my views, tried to exercise my rights as a Nigerian through the polls, but for 15 years I genuinely feel as if I have been unlawfully denied. It is gravely unfair for you to speak about how you feel you have been misled in the choices you made in the backdrop of many Nigerians who truly feel that they were misled by you.

When, in the last two elections, you endorsed what you now describe as a ‘deceitful’ team, you failed to stand up for the right of the ordinary Nigerian. When General Buhari severally sought to contest the validity of Nigeria’s stolen mandate, it was you and your minions who fought against him. Sir, your moaning and wailing of how much you were wronged in this autobiography is certainly not one that I as a Nigerian am willing to give my sympathy to. I don’t believe I will be pulling out a violin anytime soon.

Thank you, President Obasanjo, for being the ideal example of how malevolence, selfishness, greed, deception, manipulation, and viciousness can hide behind the cloak of leadership and look and sound a lot like a unit we should respect and trust. Thank you, Sir, for being a great example that a person in power can make statements that render a whole collective misunderstood. While you purport to speak on behalf of Nigeria, you render the whole nation and the decisions you made an object of odium.

Thank you for being an example of egoism — your choices and inability to empathize with the true plight of the ordinary Nigerian. The self-destructive and selfish choice of President Obasanjo under his so called ‘watch’ serves as a true perversion of the democratic principle which has given our future leaders all the tools they require to evaluate their actions and the long-term effect of those actions.

Thank you for leaving rather cheeky citizens and vociferous children like myself no choice but to be discourteous towards you, instead of defending your dignity and position as a Nigerian father and leader the way President Shagari, President Babangida, President Shonekan, President Abdulsalami, Dr Ekwueme and General TY Danjuma have so graciously done.

Pardon me for a minute, folks, while I try to take ‘my tongue out of my cheek’ so I can say that, as a democrat, a community activist, a proud Nigerian, a believer in humanity and most importantly as a human being, I really would like to thank President Obasanjo for absolutely nothing and plead with him to think back in earnest about everything that happened, all the choices he made during ‘his watch’ and ‘tap out’ of the self-pity.

President Obasanjo, I love that you are our father, our leader and a man that gave us a history to be proud of, but I hate that you, as our father and leader, have participated in a present that we are ashamed of. Thank you very much. Now, with all due respect, Sir, you may need to take responsibility or… take a seat!

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