Our leaders in the First Republic gave us unlimited take-aways for almost every occasion. Nnamdi Azikiwe, for example, after virtually effortlessly neutralising a major challenger (fellow south-easterner) in a political showdown, humbly celebrated his victory with a pitiful remarked “it is all over with … To continue will be like kicking a dead horse.”
Every human being is a political animal. But it took this long for Muhammadu Buhari to exhibit the politician in him. Before now, the general view was that the man was not a politician. Buhari’s latest outing must surely have devastated his major critic, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, for some unknown reasons, has been undermining him (Buhari) against the 2019 election.
Not given to much talk, Buhari has posthumously conferred Nigeria’s highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), on Bashorun MKO Abiola and, rightly, GCON on Ambassador Babagana Knigibe. The significance of MKO Abiola’s honour is that he has now attained the status of a former head of state. All along, Obasanjo had jealously preserved himself as the only head of state of South West origin. At a stroke, Buhari has shattered that record.
With GCFR conferred on Abiola, there are now three of them of South West origin. Former President Shehu Shagari, as a mark of respect and appreciation of Obafemi Awolowo’s contribution to Nigerian nationalism, had, earlier in 1983, conferred the same honour on him.
The significance of the honour on Abiola is that, without his death, Obasanjo couldn’t have governed Nigeria as an elected President, it was, therefore, generally expected that President Obasanjo would have conferred that honour on Abiola. In fact, Obasanjo, despite that disappointment, was so mean that, throughout his eight-year tenure, he also ignored a resolution of the National Assembly, which named the National Stadium, Abuja, after the politician. What would Obasanjo have lost if he showed some positive gesture to honour MKO? Nothing.
On the other hand, what would Obasanjo have gained? Tremendous political goodwill at home and throughout Nigeria. Obasanjo lost and Buhari has earned that goodwill of Nigerians who voted for Abiola in 1993. It is all politics? Buhari is not done yet. To display the geniuneness of his action, Buhari made it logical with the GCON for Kingibe, the running mate, as Abiola couldn’t have been valid as an elected President without a running mate.
Buhari also posthumously awarded the GCON to Gani Fawehinmi. That was another gesture of appreciation. Nigerians might have forgotten that Fawehinmi, all alone, defied Nigerian Bar Association directive to members not to appear, in any capacity, before the various military tribunals trying corrupt politicians under the military regime of General Buhari, who did not forget.
Obasanjo is very fond of turning every issue to his personal glory. He turned May 29 (1993), the day he was sworn in, to Democracy Day, a public holiday, and rejected all calls that June 12 was a more suitable day, in Abiola’s memory. Obasanjo would have none of it. But Buhari has now rubbed it in by scrapping Obasanjo’s (May 29) Democracy Day, replacing it with June 12, to remember Abiola every year. In effect, MKO cannot die. Future generations curious for the significance of June 12 as Democracy Day will be told the story.
Yoruba have a way of recording Obasanjo’s plight in this matter. “Kosi eniti o mo eniti o ma se.” Meaning it is futile awaiting a good deed from ONLY one source. President Umaru Yar’Adua did not live long in office and couldn’t be faulted for not honouring MKO Abiola one way or the other.
To be fair to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, he displayed a good gesture in naming University of Lagos after MKO Abiola, as University of Ife was named after Obafemi Awolowo and Federal University at Bauchi was named after Tafawa Balewa, and others after S.L. Akintola, Michael Okpara, etc, all by past military regimes. Nigerian hypocrites raised objections against Jonathan who had to revert to Unilag’s original name.
MKO Abiola, therefore, seemed to have lost all the way. But here we have Muhammadu Buhari recording justice. Commencing total reconstruction of Lagos/Ibadan expressway, also commencing Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta expressway and now posthumously honouring MKO Abiola with GCFR, Buhari has rubbished Obasanjo’s name in Nigerian political history.
Politics? Britain released Kwane Nkruma from jail to be elected head of state. The same Britain released John Kenyatta from prison to be elected President of Kenya, General Yakubu Gowon released Obafemi Awolowo from Calabar prisons in August 1966.
Political sense and humanity are better than man’s inhumanity to man. Buhari can also say “it is all over with Obasanjo. To continue will be like kicking a dead horse.”
How amusing? Isn’t it? Obasanjo, hitherto very fond of polemical rampage over national political scene, now seemingly crying like a baby who lost his lozenges. To him in a desperation, he seeks sympathy by any means to shield his sense of loss.
Listen to his moaning, Obasanjo that is. He is to be arrested, his passport is to be confiscated, he is to be arraigned on trumped-up criminal charges, he is to be barred from travelling within and outside the country, he is to be detained or put under house arrest. What lozenges did (baby) Obasanjo lose? Goodwill, especially in South West, following Buhari’s conferment of posthumous national honours on Obasanjo’s pet-hates, MKO Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi, a feat Obasanjo could have easily performed but neglected throughout his two-term tenure of eight years as elected President.
On a very serious note, Buhari is hereby advised to leash his men against any embarrassing action, which can only attract public sympathy for Obasanjo. In this wise, Buhari’s problems are not the Information Minister or his media advisers. Instead, only those exercising prosecutorial powers can erode Buhari’s current public goodwill by inadvertently shifting sympathy to Obasanjo through undiligent prosecution. That is, assuming there is any crime for which to try Obasanjo. In which case, such celebrity trial should be professionally handled with positive result. Or, as we say in journalism, if in doubt, leave out.”
Any prosecution at this top level must be of such high standard or it will suffer the same risk of defeat through technical point as was in the trials of court judges in which government emerged ridiculed. Such humiliation could have been avoided if state prosecutors especially at the Attorney-General’s office were aware that judges could be tried in Law Courts ONLY if such accused had initially been investigated and sanctioned by the National Judicial Council.
Having said that, no Nigerian is above the law. Only serving state governors and a sitting President enjoy immunity, which even then ends on their last day in office, after which they can be tried for offences they might have committed during their tenure. That is the ruling of Supreme Court. Therefore, all Obasanjo’s claims are untenable.
For example, if Obasanjo, as he claimed, is being targeted by Buhari to be tried again for allegations he (Obasanjo) had previously been cleared and Obasanjo is sure he was cleared on his personal merit rather than because he was “Oga,” the more reason he should confidently jump at any further one hundred probes by Buhari.
After all, immediately Obasanjo assumed office in 1999, he commenced probes against all his contemporaries, especially these who imprisoned or released him from jail, Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida, Adulsalami Abubakar. Even Muhammadu Buhari had his Petroleum Trust Fund probed by President Obasanjo. This is no revenge. Obasanjo standardised probe of past regimes.
If Obasanjo is correct that plans were being made to clamp him into detention, probably without trial, the government must have reasons for that action, the very same reasons Obasanjo must have had for detaining without trial leader of the Odua People Congress, Frederick Faseun, and Niger Delta militant, Asari Dokubo. I had to, in this column, enlighten the public on the irony of Faseun’s detention by Obasanjo. When General Abacha jailed Obasanjo for alleged treason, the lot fell on Faseun, at the risk of his life, to champion the battle for Obasanjo’s release. It was, therefore, a shock that Obasanjo could clamp such a benefactor to detention without trial. As Faseun was brought from prison for treatment of his health at government hospital, Abuja, I had to expose Obasanjo’s ingratitude. At that stage, he had to release Faseun, who phoned to thank me. And with the release of Faseun. There could be no justification for Obasanjo to keep Dokubo in detention. If therefore Obasanjo is to be detained imminently as he claimed, government must have its reason(s). again, Obasanjo standardized detention in a civilian/democratic era without trial.
Obasanjo listed himself along with Senate President Bukunola Saraki, House Speaker, Dogara, and National Assembly members as victims of Buhari’s harassment. Very amusing. Before Buhari, there was Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. Throughout his tenure, did National Assembly leaders and members enjoy peace? Who sent armed mobile police to Senate President Chuba Okadigbo’s house at 2am searching for the mace? Who ever complained that the mace was missing? Certainly not Chuba Okadigbo. Who sat the police to disrupt Okadigbo’s election campaigns at Kano stadium? Tear gas was released and Okadigbo, an asthma patient had to go. Did Obasanjo give the next Senate President, Pius Anyim peace of mind? Only in the face of impeachment by National Assembly did Obasanjo get off Pius Anyim’s back, on the advice of Obasanjo’s Northern friends.
Who haunted Adolphus Wabara out of office as Senate President? Did Obasanjo forgive Ken Nnamani as Senate President who insisted on open voting to end Obasanjo third term criminal attempt? Who bribed each member of House of Representatives with five hundred thousand naira to impeach Speaker Ghali Na’Abba?
If therefore today, National Assembly members along with the leadership are being victimized, Obasanjo weaponised that system during his days at Aso Rock. If, therefore, true that Buhari is after members of National Assembly it is height of hypocrisy for Obasanjo to complain. Did Obasanjo exclude Senate President Saraki and house Speaker Dogara when he (Obasanjo) libeled the entire members of National Assembly as armed robbers? Is he therefore today, championing the cause of those he labeled armed robbers only yesterday?
The amusement continues. Turaki Adamawa and ex-vice-president Atiku Abubakar is a legitimate 2019 presidential elections. It is therefore logical for him to lobby for votes in all parts of Nigeria including South-West. But he is wrong-footing himself to bank on Obasanjo for various reasons. It has never been clear why our Northern fellow citizens rate Obasanjo as synonymous with political approval or following in South-West. On the contrary, the surest way to lose votes in South-West is to be linked to Obasanjo. That is why Atiku Abubakar is amusing. If he does not believe, he should find out from former President Jonathan Goodluck.
All prominent South-westerners Jonathan lobbied for the 2015 elections told him in plain language that their support was only on the condition that Jonathan must terminate all collaboration with Obasanjo. Disbelieving that hostile posture, it took long for Jonathan face that possibility and by the time he did, it was too late, even two years before the elections, and he lost.
With Atiku Abubakar in particular, history and personal experiences don’t seem to matter to him. We must, therefore, remind him. On his personal merit, Atiku Abubakar can attract more votes in South-West than through Obasanjo, moreso by exploiting Obasanjo’s wild allegations to criticise Buhari on the performance security personnel or worse still, to impliedly accuse Buhari of alleged arbitrariness in awarding national honours to MKO Abiola. Who cares about arbitrariness as long as Abiola was honoured? On the other hand, why did Turaki not initiate MKO’S honours award during Obasanjo’s tenure so that he (Atiku Abubakar) as vice-president could have ensured compliance with the law?
Then of course, it appears Atiku Abubakar understands neither himself nor Obasanjo. From political history, Obasanjo is notorious for returning bad for anything good done to him. Could Turaki Abubakar have forgotten so soon or he thinks by supporting Obasanjo against Buhari, he (Atiku) would ever be endorsed by Obasanjo, one of the Northern leaders who saved him was vice-president Atiku Abubakar who placated the hawks in the National Assembly. What did Atiku Abubakar get in return? Obasanjo claimed to have removed him from office by relying on Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC to defame Atiku.
When Obasanjo reneged on his earlier agreement to serve only one term, he pleaded with Atiku Abubakar who persuaded state governors to support Obasanjo’s second term. In return for what? Besmirching of Atiku Abubakar’s character at every turn and opportunity by Obasanjo even in his three volume memoirs UNDER MY WATCH. If Atiku Abubakar is stilling doubt, Obasanjo was completely rejected throughout South-West, including his local government ward in 1999. Obasanjo pleaded for support throughout South-West against 2003.
In return for what? All Alliance for Democracy South-West governors were rigged out of office by Obasanjo. The same state governors who campaigned for him. The only survivor was Lagos governor Bola Tinubu who did not support him. Atiku Abubakar was supposed to have a secret meeting with Obasanjo at Abeokuta. Unknown to him, Obasanjo plated the media to expose Atiku. Is that the man Atiku Abubakar is cozying up to? Time will tell.
Gang of four – IBB, Abdulsaalam Abubakar, Theo Danjuma and Aliyu Gusau – imposed Obasanjo on Nigerias in 1999. Obasanjo alienated all of them one after another. Goodluck, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. You need it.