Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is quick to point a finger at people, forgetting that four of his fingers are pointing at himself. He fittingly plays Pontius Pilate who seeks to avoid personal responsibility for the execution of Jesus Christ yet he was liable. At other times, he plays the ostrich, living in self denial.
Last Sunday, 16th February, 2014, he was in his usual elements while addressing members of his church, Chapel of Christ the Glorious King, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, that they should not leave politics to the “evil ones”. His comments were widely reported in the national dailies of Monday, 17th February, 2014.
His words, “I want to say here that Christians should participate in politics. We should not leave politics in the hands of the evil ones who cannot offer this country any good.”
While it could be tempting to ignore the messenger and take the message, it is hardly an option when viewed against the background of the fact that the old man is adept at sarcasm, euphemisms and innuendos. It is even more so when the moral integrity and character qualification of the messenger are taken into consideration. My adrenaline is also fired when I remember H.L Mencken’s description of a demagogue. He said, “A demagogue is one who preaches doctrines his knows to be untrue to men who he knows to be idiots.” Fellow Nigerians, we are not fools. That is why I am compelled, for the umpteenth time, to join issues with him on this score.
I cannot agree less with Pa Obasanjo on the denotative meaning of his ‘exhortation’. Yet I beg to differ with him on the connotative meaning. For, as George Orwell said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Although many Nigerians had wished him well on his recent decision to quit playing party politics – at least that would be minus one of those troubling the nation – the allure and appurtenances of party politics seem too irresistible for him. Hence, he latches at every opportunity to throw one jibe or the other at those who chose to hold their own.
THE TONE & TENOR OF HIS ‘EXHORTATION’
Pa Obasanjo urged Christians “not to leave politics in the hands of evil ones who cannot offer this country any good.” He spoke as if he was addressing a national or international gathering of Christians yet it was a local assembly, which is a religious arm of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library – a project that is itself a subject of controversy. I remember how government contractors were railroaded to be part of the project towards the end of his second term.
From the tone and tenor of the so-called exhortation, it is clear to the discerning who and where the message is directed. It is against this background that I will attempt to juxtapose his administration with the present, so that Nigerians can see for themselves who are the evil ones.
In doing this, the words of George Orwell on the nationalist are instructive. He said, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
My dear fellow Nigerians, who is evil between a man who presided over the proceeds of Nigeria’s oil and gas for six years without accountability as the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources and the one who not only appointed a substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources but has ordered that its books be opened for scrutiny?
It will be recalled that the Conference of National Political Parties (CNPP) petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Pa Obasanjo as President for an estimated unaccounted sum of $133 billion in oil revenue from 2000 to 2006, when he was the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources. Recall the Mofas account scandal. I am also reminded of the Siemens scam, the Halliburton mess, the Power scandal and the shame of the Privatisation exercise, among others. How do we describe someone under whose watch N2.8 billion reportedly vanished into Idi Amin’s Uganda when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was the Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources?
So where does Pa Obasanjo derive the moral qualification to refer to some people as “evil ones”? Is it a good thing when a sitting President influences contractors who do business with government to launch and build a multi-million naira library in his name? Is it a good thing when a sitting President suddenly becomes a shareholder in companies privatised by his administration? Is it not the height of self delusion when a man under whose watch the former EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, described corruption as worse than that of late General Sani Abacha, turns round to describe some people as evil? Is it not unconscionable that a man, who by his own admission was stone-broke and suddenly came into wealth while superintending over our commonwealth could refer to some people as evil? He now flies about in a private jet! If evil is synonymous with darkness, what then do we call someone who wasted $16billion to further plunge Nigerians into darkness?
Pray, how do you describe someone under whose watch Nigeria recorded many high profile political killings such as the then serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige; Chief Marshal Harry and Alfred Aminasaori Dikibo, among others? Harry was a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South-South. He later defected to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Shortly after he defected to the ANPP, he was assassinated in Abuja. Dikibo was murdered on the night of Friday, 6th February, 2004. The world woke up to hear of his death on Saturday, 7th February 2004, which was a weekend. Chief Obasanjo had his media chat on Sunday, 8th February 2004 where he declared that Dikibo was killed by armed robbers, even when no investigations had been carried out to justify his conclusion.
Chief Stephen B. Oluwalogbon, who was his friend and one of his major sponsors, was almost killed on 2nd December, 2001. No fewer than 36 bullets were shot at his black Peugeot saloon car. Thank God, he was in another vehicle.
Although I hate to say it: but with all the revelations of his first son and daughter about him, who is truly evil?
The truth is: Pa Obasanjo, more than any other Nigerian, had the most opportunity to turn the fortunes of Nigerian around, but he bungled it. The foundation for the ravaging corruption, the failure of state institutions, the economy and the polity are easily traceable to his tenure. He has been the luckiest politician in Nigeria’s history. While he personally has much to show for it, the same cannot be said of the country. The state of our country today, in spite of the bold efforts of the present administration to turn things around, is easily traceable to the kind of politics Pa Obasanjo plays. Put differently, if Nigerians are better for it, then he has played good politics. If not, then your guess is as good as mine. Therefore, he is a by-product of the kind of politics he has played – good or evil.
THE POLITICS OF 2015
There is no gainsaying the fact that the comment has much to do with the politics of 2015. This could also be gleaned from the fact that the next day after he made the comment and the very day the media reported it, he was a guest of the Rivers State Government. It was amusing seeing Pa Obasanjo shower praises on Governor Rotimi Amaechi, one of the five governors who defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC). This was the same man who denied Amaechi the PDP ticket after he (Amaechi) won the primaries, saying “the ticket had K-leg”. It is preposterous seeing a man who claims to be an elder statesman and member of the PDP, playing politics of hatred and division. He shamelessly proclaimed that the “K-leg had been straightened by the Supreme Court and that he did regret his action! Haba, where is the place of integrity and honour? He thinks his actions would unsettle anyone, but unknown to him, he is merely ridiculing himself. Former leaders like Shehu Shagari, Gowon, IBB, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Atiku Abubakar, among others, are conducting themselves with the respect and dignity expected of true statesmen and leaders. I doubt if any of the leading lights of the APC will honour such an invitation from a PDP state government.
On a lighter note, although he tripped and almost bruised himself, he was grandstanding and boasting that he was in-charge. Did I hear you ask: in-charge of what? He is the only one that can provide the answer. I can only hazard a guess. And my guess is that perhaps he meant to say he was in-charge of Obasanjo Holdings Limited.
It could not have been anything more because it is a fact of history that since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, Pa Obasanjo has never won the elections in his polling booth, let alone his ward or local government!
For us, in the PDP in the South West, we believe that the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has lost its identity as the traditional party of the South West by going into the merger with other less popular parties. Now, our people no longer see the APC as theirs. With the air of uncertainty about the leadership, sharing ratio and the vaulting ambition of some of its leading lights, our people see the PDP as a better alternative. We therefore do not want the men of yesteryears to hold us down with the parochial interests.
It is the irony of our democratic space that those who have never been able to deliver their polling booths since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999 are still parading themselves as the Alpha and Omega of Nigerian politics. They use our people to bargain and live off them. Now, the good people of Ogun State, in particular and the South West in general, have seen through their manipulations, and are wiser for it. They no longer want to be led by the nose.
My appeal to all our leaders, elders and the young is for us all to come together and be one. Let us harness our individual and collective resources to build a party and government that all of us can be proud of. Let us lay aside all self-serving and parochial interests, and rally round the present administration in delivering on its Transformation Agenda as exemplified in its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), massive investment in education, successful privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), revamping of the railways, among others. The present administration has begun addressing the injustice done to the Yorubas through the active connivance of some of our so-called leaders. A number of strategic appointments are already coming our way. It can only get better. Let us support and encourage the Jonathan administration to do more – in the interest of the generality of our people.
To Pa Obasanjo, I say honour your words to “withdraw” and take the back burner. As an octogenarian, you will do well allow the young to grow – after all, you have been around since you were in your 30s! My dear Baba, it is high time you faced the reality on ground and stop playing the Pontius Pilate.
PRINCE BURUJI KASHAMU
Chairman, Organisation and Mobilisation Committee
PDP, South West