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Obasanjo: Fire, Fury and Foolishness By Taju Tijani

Ex-President of Nigeria, Matthew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo is at it again. His epistolary disorder has returned and Nigeria is catching the fever. The Owu prince has been waging a battle of self-rescue from his vanishing, social and political irrelevance. The 18-page letter released unto the public realm to distil President Mohammadu Buhari’s failures or otherwise is a wasted effort.  To bail out Nigeria from the raw sewage of political, economic and social cul-de-sacs, Obasanjo takes a flight of fancy into a controversial Ciceronian epistolary highway to express a volatile radical concept of Coalition for Nigeria Movement. His aim is to set in motion new imperatives that will mobilise his tribe of parochial community into another rat race for power at the centre. I will call this approach Obasanjo’s “Epistles on Good Governance”.

Obasanjo, in calibrating his desire for a new dawn has this to say: “Coalition for Nigeria Movement is proposed as the new direction to mobilise our population for unity, cooperation, development, rule of law, employment, law and order, justice, integration, peace, security, stability, welfare and well-being. In these regards, special attention and space must be given to youths and women, who in most cases, have been victims and underlings. Let me emphasise important areas, programme, priorities, or processes for improved attention. To start with, we seem to have taken nation-building for granted. Nation-building must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country. For instance, the federal character principle, as espoused in our constitution, was to guide the leadership to search for competent holders of major offices to be distributed within the entire nation and avoid the concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places as we currently have in the leadership of our security apparatus. To avoid such non-integrative situation, we have the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission, both institutions which must raise alarm or call for correction of actions by the executive that violates the spirit of our constitution. In like manner, the spate of violence, criminality, organised crime, insurgency and terrorism have not received sufficient proactive ameliorative responses through transformational leadership – a determined leadership that brings cohesion and wholesomeness to the polity. Nobody and no group should feel excluded in his or her own country. Inclusion and popular participation must be visibly pursued in terms of politics, the economy and our overall social life. I am happy to be a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement. The movement is a pressure point towards good governance. This is the commencement for our popular and grassroots association. Of course, the membership will be free to collectively decide on whether CNM becomes a political party. If the Movement decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member. And as a member for now, I accept all the conditions attached to membership of the Coalition. We must promote the CNM and mobilise membership all over the country including membership from the Diaspora. This is an opportunity for women and men, especially youths who have hitherto been feeling marginalised and helpless to go all out and bring friends and families into the CNM fold. The CNM will remain a popular socio-economic Movement open to all Nigerians who believe in the greatness of Nigeria and are ready to contribute to it.”

I will analyse Obasanjo’s burden through three factors to see if his nationalistic narrative of the state of things in Nigeria is merely a publicity stunt or a distracting tool. Is Obasanjo morally competent to criticise President Mohammadu Buhari. The pointed answer is no. Our collective memory is too short in this country. Obasanjo’s morality pales when compared with Buhari’s. Buhari is a man of high moral stature than Obasanjo. Obasanjo encouraged corruption during his presidency and ruled Nigeria like his fiefdom. There was question about his sexual shenanigan with his daughter in law.

Buhari has a shining integrity that endeared him to ordinary Nigerians. He is a disciplined man who abhors corruption and any form of national pillage by politicians. Obasanjo has no moral right to ask for Buhari to step down. This is a huge arrogance on his side. Who made him the kingmaker of Nigeria’s presidency? Constitutionally, Buhari has every right to go for a second term. Obasanjo is vile and disingenuous here. This is a man who, pandering to devilish ambition, desired to change our constitution and elongate his presidency for a third term.  To now call on President Mohammadu Buhari to step aside when he has a constitutional right for a second term is the height of shameful hypocrisy.

On performance, Buhari has so far performed creditably well.  He met a wobbly and tottering economy and he is working hard to fix it. Another problem with our memory. We have to remember that Buhari was elected to fix the damage of 16 years of massive and brutal looting of the nation’s wealth by the cabal of PDP of which Obasanjo was a leading light. Of course, we are still not out of the wood yet in terms of ameliorating the painful social and economic woes buffeting Nigerians, but the danger of our amnesia is worse. Nigerians should grapple with their impatience here. Impatience is a killer. God even hates it. We have to hate it in Nigeria. Who can fix Nigeria in four years? As a matter of fact, who can fix Nigeria in eight years? Fixing Nigeria is a lifelong project that has no end date. Buhari may have fallen short of our expectation in terms of naked tribalism and passive response to the murderous activities of the Fulani cattle herdsmen, but beyond the emotion of the bloodshed, he is a leader we need. We have to remember that the devil is a tempter. If Nigeria, through crazy impatience, fall into the temptation of returning, especial PDP, back to power then Nigerians will bear the burden of reliving in a nation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Obasanjo’s has a divine desire to remotely micro manage any elected Nigerian president. In 2013, he wrote a letter to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan called “Before It is too late”. Now in January 2018, there is another ignominious epistolary exchanges via the public realm. Obasanjo recurrent letter writing craftiness becomes instantly gratuitous, hypocritical, morally empty, arrogant, insulting, demeaning, vengeful and inciting. Except we are all poor student at reading body language, Obasanjo has never hidden his weakness for self-exaltation. Iyabo Obasanjo, his own daughter, polemicises her dad’s mortal weakness for egoism so succinctly. “You are one of those petty people who think the progress and success of another must derive from you. You try to overshadow everyone around you, before you and after you. You are the prototypical “Mr. Know it all”.  You’ve never said “I don’t know” on any topic, ever. Of course this means you surround yourself with idiots who will agree with you on anything and need you for financial gain and you need them for your insatiable ego. In this your attitude is a reflection of the country. It is not certain which came first, your attitude seeping into the country’s psyche or the country accepting your irresponsible behaviour for so long.”  Obasanjo’s letter has neither fire nor any fury to mobilise Nigerians, but plenty, plenty of foolishness. The letter is a document of populism and should be shipped to the dump where it belongs.