Former Nigerian President, General Olusegun Obasanjo is clearly one of the luckiest Nigerian mortals dead or alive. In 1970, he accepted the speech that led to the end of the about thirty year old civil war. The groundwork for the end of the war was done by Brigadier-General Benjamin Adekunle a.k.a the Black Scorpion. Without plotting a coup he emerged as Nigeria’s Military Head of State in 1976 and came out from prison in 1998 to lead the nation once again as a civilian leader. If the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were to have abided by the rules for the presidential contest in 1999, Former Vice-President Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme would have carried the day. The rule was that a presidential candidate must win in his state and ward. Obasanjo fondly known as Baba Iyabo did not meet this requirement as he lost in both his state: Ogun and ward. The gods smiled on him and he was given the presidential ticket.
When he got into power, he had an agenda to have a firm grip of the party instead of concentrating on his duties as the duly elected president. National Chairmen – Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Vincent Ogbulafor and Audu Ogbeh got changed in quick succession to fulfill Baba’s whims and caprices. He didn’t stop there. The original founders of the party which was known as the G-34 that rattled the sinister Sani Abacha led dictatorship were relegated to the background. The new Lord of the Manor did not want to have anything to do with them as they furiously licked their wounds. Things got to a head when Audu Ogbeh had to decamp to the then Action Congress of Nigeria in frustration after he fell out with the Balogun of Owu.
When it was time to leave office, what did Obasanjo do? He surreptitiously tried to have a third term in office and used the National Conference which he engineered to do the dirty job. The nation was saved from this Macbeth-like act by the National Assembly under the leadership of Senator Ken Nnamani. Not satisfied, he imposed the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua on the nation. He couldn’t have denied the fact of the knowledge of his ailment through security reports. He threw his weight behind the then Bayelsa State Governor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan effectively blocking the chances of his erstwhile friend, Dr. Peter Odili and James Ibori to secure the vice=presidential slot of the ruling party. As Katsina State Governor, he was reported to have spent six months in a German hospital for an undisclosed ailment. The General didn’t care a hoot as he wanted to pilot the affairs of the nation from his Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta.
He then arm twisted the Board of Trustees to make a law making the position of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees to be the exclusive preserve of a former President thus edging out his former Man Friday, Chief Tony Anenih.
As usual in the game of politics where the only thing that is permanent is interests made him fall out with President Jonathan. He never ceased to bash the Jonathan administration through open letters, interviews and in his latest book “My Watch”. It got so bad that his daughter, Iyabo had to caution him by writing an open letter to him opining that he did not own Nigeria.
On Monday, 16th January, 2015 after a visit by the members of his ward to him, he openly renounced his membership of the ruling party and directed the ward chairman to tear his membership card in the full glare of the public. Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution gives him the right to be a member of any political party. He has the inalienable right to belong to any association of his choice. However, the tearing of his card was a far cry from his agenda in becoming a Statesman. Why descend so low? There was no need to make his exit from the party a carnival-like affair. Discretion goes the age-long cliché is the better part of valour. It was childish to make a bizarre show of his current political status.
The reasons he gave for leaving the party are also laughable. “I will rather tear the PDP membership card than sit down and let Jonathan use PDP and corruption to tear my beloved country apart.” Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. During his administration, about $16 billion of funds committed to the development of the power sector was alleged to have developed wings. Did he allow the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to get to the root of the matter?
There was an allegation leveled against the former Works and Housing Minister and his then right hand man, Chief Tony Anenih of misappropriating about 360 billion naira meant for the construction of roads. Why was the Esan High Chief not arrested? He forced the corporate world to donate billions to his presidential library. Was that not a clear conflict of interest? Is not corrupt to receive such gargantuan funds while still in office? Why did he not wait till after leaving office before such a demand on the private sector is made? What happened to Savannah bank which was largely owned by his political foe, Jim Nwobodo? The circumstances’ surrounding its closure was highly political? Why was the airline, Slok Air shut down by the government for no justifiable reason? Its crime was that it was owned by former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu who was a virulent critic of his administration.
The increase in unemployment which was a fall out of his anti-people policies in the forced closures was of no concern to him. It is a well-known fact that Baba Iyabo was bankrupt when he was released from Abacha’s gulag. His farm was comatose. How did it metamorphose to a multi-million empire within a jiffy? His former aviation minister, the garrulous Femi Fani-Kayode while serving as his Special assistant on Public Affairs revealed that the Otta farms was making an average of 30 million naira every month. Why wasn’t there an investigation done into how funds were injected to uplift it? Another reason for his quitting the party is rather ludicrous. “I have a national and international standard to maintain. For this reason I would rather stay alone than be in the same party with Kashamu.” Since leaving office nearly eight years ago, how many international speaking engagements has he gotten? Why wasn’t his latest book an international bestseller? How highly is he regarded in the international community? Was he not pelted with stones when he went to give an address to some students in London some years ago?
We wish him a happy retirement from partisan politics but regrettably cannot accept his purported novel role as a statesman. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.