Obasanjo: What manner of statesman? By Yemi Adebisi

In what turned out to be a public display of machismo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday, February 16, 2015 tore his membership card of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying he was no longer a politician and would prefer to be a statesman.

Olusegun Obasanjo

He renounced his membership of the PDP on whose platform he had ruled the country twice between 1999 and 2007.

The drama took place when some leaders of the party, led by the chairman of the ward covering his former residence in Ita Eko, Surajudeen Oladunjoye, visited him at his Presidential Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

hE directed Oladunjoye to tear up the PDP card at a press conference during the visit. He later explained that the PDP members visited him to express their concern about his refusal to partake in the activities of the party. He also said the party stalwarts intimated him on the plans of the state’s leadership of the party to expel him; they wondered what would happen to them if he were expelled.

It was probably this forewarning on his impending expulsion from the PDP, among other things, that spurred him to tear the membership card.

Incidentally, about two hours later, the PDP leadership in Ogun State announced Obasanjo’s expulsion from the party.

Obasanjo has said he has no regrets for his action, despite the criticisms that have greeted it.

Meanwhile, there have been counter-reactions on the decision of this three-time head of state to publicly destroy the membership card of the party that brought him to national relevance after he dropped the Army uniform in 1976. While some critics were of the opinion that Obasanjo has not been fair with the legacy he is laying for Nigerian youth, especially in his utterances, others have argued that tearing the membership card of a party that enthroned him twice as a President was not the best option.

A public commentator, Geoffrey Ebere, said the action was disgraceful in all its interpretations.

His words: “Lest we forget, Obasanjo did not win in this same ward in 1999. It is on record. Whatever reasons he gives, that action was a barbaric one, only attributable to motor park touts. There are more civilised ways of resigning from a party’s membership, given a person of his stature in the party. I cannot think of any case in the United States political system (which we copied) where a former POTUS denigrated a sitting President, defected to the opposition or denounced membership of a party he led for eight years. I was ashamed at watching them gleefully commit such an atrocious act.”

Ebere, who appeared to be disappointed at the way the ‘script’ was performed, said Obasanjo was probably the smartest President Nigeria ever had.

“He can tear any document, even his birth certificate. The man is smart. He did not tear it himself. He handed it over to his ward chairman who does not know the implication. In law, Obasanjo did not commit the ‘crime’ because the man who actually tore the card was his ward chairman, an adult.

“Whatever the case, PDP should drag him to court for wanton and willful destruction of their property. It should not go like that.  It is not his fault; he is just lucky, as Abacha did not exsanguinate him that time in prison. They called it phantom coup; but he is at it again, indirectly calling for a coup. The last has not been heard of him,” he said.

In another reaction, Uzoma Aham, a political analyst, said history would always recall how Obasanjo emerged as the first past President to destroy his party membership card in Nigeria.

“There is a proverb among the Esan people of Nigeria that says, ‘An elder who is well-respected begins to lose it drastically as he further puts on airs’, and this occurs when senile dementia sets in. This is exactly what is happening to Obasanjo today that has been causing the present administration under President Goodluck Jonathan agonising distraction amid the jihadist insurgency ravaging the northeastern flank of the country. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a sentimental irrelevance, is increasingly making himself an object of public ridicule by being uncompromisingly antagonistic to traditional morality being exhibited by Jonathan and everyone has begun to notice it. It is high time he refrained from this if he is ever to be taken seriously again as an elder statesman,” he said.

Aham noted that the present government has been lenient with Obasanjo’s utterances, which, he said, should have earned him another jail term.

“The former President has made a lot of provocative statements lately, which have further heated up the polity, to warrant his arrest, detention and prosecution. Obasanjo, during his book launch in England last week, severely attacked President Jonathan over election postponement and alleged that the latter is ‘engaged in a do-or-die politics’, an allegation he could never substantiate knowing full well the circumstances that necessitated it. The former Nigerian leader was also quoted as saying that President Jonathan is ‘inviting a military coup.’ Alas, I wonder why some peoples’ memory could be so short. Has he forgotten in a flash this was one of the reasons he had to be arrested and jailed by the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, and released by a twist of fate shortly before he was to be executed?” he said.

Meanwhile, Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State on Tuesday, after a meeting with Jonathan advised PDP leaders to appease the former President on his perceived anger because of its future implications.

Lamido, who is the North-West Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign, told journalists that Obasanjo remained the father of all, claiming that Jonathan and all the state governors were creations of the former President.

“When a father is angry with his children, the children should beg him. Baba (Obasanjo) is more than a party man. He is an icon, a national symbol and a leader and an inventor, a creator of all the institutions today in Nigeria, from the President to the governors, who are his own sons.

“And so, when a father is angry with his own children, we will only say we are sorry to him. But then, we cannot be renounced for whatever it is. If you do any political DNA of our blood, you will find his (Obasanjo’s) blood in us. No matter what we are, we may not be able to live up to his expectations.

“Baba is our baba, no matter what. He is angry with us, but then, what do we do? He gave us life at a time when Nigerians were fighting us, he stood for us,” he said.

However, the chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Kaduna State chapter, Othman Suleiman Hukuyi, in his reaction to the incident, declared that Obasanjo’s resignation from the PDP and the tearing of his membership card in public were cause for celebration.

Addressing the media in Kaduna on Monday, Hukuyi it was a serious issue to ponder about when a highly respected figure of Obasanjo’s calibre tears his party membership card.

Hukuyi said, “To us in APC we will humbly accept him if he decides to join us.”



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