By Umar Sa’ad Hassan –
The ideal elder statesman rarely criticizes a government or a leader in public. Certain standards are expected of one who can get audience with anyone to voice out their concerns or grievances.
Olusegun Obasanjo is a statesman by virtue of having governed Nigeria twice. He has condemned every government since he handed over to Shehu Shagari in 1979 with the exception of two short-lived ones: Ernest Shonekan’s ING which lasted just 82 days, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime which released and eventually handed power to him. So, nobody can attribute his feud with the Jonathan government to old age. Baba has always been Baba. Judging by the strength of his criticisms and the enthusiasm with which they are carried out, people would jump over themselves to vote for this “genuine” patriot.
Objective score sheets do exist. Let’s take GEJ’s weakest points — insecurity and corruption. I have always said it would be hard to win the war against Boko Haram alone. We need additional troops and arms from allies willing to help. These we have got, but from unexpected sources. America cited human rights abuses by the Nigerian military as its reason for refusing to sell arms to us. Nothing changed even after staking our reputation to abstain from voting in the Security Council vote for a Palestine State to save it the embarrassment of using its veto vote. As far as human rights abuse goes, a detailed memo might refer to Obasanjo’s Odi and Zaki Biam massacres — an unprecedented annihilation history will never forget.OBJ didn’t end the Niger Delta militancy that plagued us during his reign; Yar’Adua did in a most praiseworthy manner. As far as insecurity goes, we saw how he tackled issues of a far lesser magnitude. I agree all the way with Gen. Gowon when he described Obasanjo’s criticism of the war against Boko Haram as highly irresponsible.
OBJ can say whatever he wants about foreign reserves, economic indices, GDP and more. But, learned as I may be, I am not different from the common man in one regard: all these don’t add up to me if kids didn’t get quality education in the best environments, if the masses didn’t access quality health-care at the right rates, if there was no reduction in unemployment rate. We need increased number of motorable roads, steady water and power supply.
And talking about power supply: This is a man who squandered trillions of taxpayers’ money in the name of improving power supply. The N300 billion embezzlement allegations against Chief Tony Anenih, then minister of works and “Mr-Fix-it” were never looked into. We didn’t just get here overnight. People like Obasanjo while wallowing in their self-inflicted selective amnesia, let that fact slide easily. He played a key role.
Governor Sule Lamido referred to him as a father, and it makes you want to take his allegations of GEJ trying to perpetuate himself in power seriously. If that is the case, then, he will fail just like his father. How Obasanjo forgot about his failed third term agenda before making those accusations still beats me. Clearly, he isn’t bothered about moral rights. He just wants to talk and only God knows why. He had his chance to change the system but he didn’t.
By tearing his PDP membership card in public, he has also torn his elder-statesman status because, clearly, he has lost all respect. There couldn’t be a more despicable exit. On the other hand, it could just turn out to be a blessing: a time for sober reflection and repentance, a time to study how the real statesmen act, how the Shehu Shagaris, Abdulsalami Abubakars, IBBs, Alex Ekwuemes, and Yakubu Gowons behave. They never stoop so low to fight with their kids. They are men who have never given us any “Hollywood” tales about presidents training snipers without concrete proof, men who understand how embarrassing it would be to be labelled threats to national security or to be invited by the SSS for questioning .I doubt if he would have tolerated all the president has, if they were to switch roles. A father should know his place.
— Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.