Africa’s most politically-active octogenarian enfant terrible, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was at it again last Tuesday. It was a normal afternoon until the serial writer of powerful political literature detonated one of those habitual literary bombs of his. This time the ‘controlled explosive’ by the former president, who recently rounded off PhD. studies at National Open University of Nigeria, targeted incumbent Muhammadu Buhari; warning him to forget 2019. Dr. Obasanjo was himself in the long statement: clear, direct, vintage.
Characteristically, the aftermath has been a nationwide noisy orgasm. Public commentators and analysts have had a field day in the media, in the church and mosque as well as at beer parlours, market square and such other popular muster points; seeking to support or shoot down the OBJ missile. These rejoinders have animated the ensuing discourse, but failed abysmally to exert any meaningful impact on the message. More than any of the editions to previous heads of state and presidents, the Obasanjo Buhari statement speaks for itself and the masses.
It pointedly accuses the Buhari administration of its most obvious malfeasances such as nepotism, incompetence and corruption among others. Apart from perhaps the entries by the wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, no other public serving has yet indicted or condemned this government the way or more than Dr. Obasanjo’s has done. The statement says things as they are. It gives credits where it should but generally slams President Buhari and company for their below-expectation performance, dereliction of duty, buck passing and clannishness.
The teeming fans of the statement insist that it reflects the reality of the national mood. That’s true: the man from Ota says nothing new or strange. The only difference about this message is the messenger. That’s why the reaction it has forced from the federal government (read Aso Rock), the governing All Progressives Congress and the frighteningly-shrinking base of President Buhari further confirms that apart from accentuating the message, the messenger may indeed be sometimes more important than what he brings!
Imagine, the federal government that never pulls its punches when it comes to firing back at those it derides as wailers, only managed a temperate reaction to what some APC loyalists call the foul-mouthiness and self-righteousness embedded in the statement under review. Great journalists like Director-General of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), Pastor Anietie Ukpe, continue to wonder whether the uncharacteristic federal response was a function of respect for or fear of the Olusegun Obasanjo that Buhari described on March 4, 2015 as ‘a courageous patriot and statesman who tells truth to power when he’s convinced leaders are going wrong’.
No doubt, the reply (read by Information Minister Lai Mohammed -who had visible difficulties reading that document apparently handed to him hurriedly-) was a political masterstroke; the finest politicalese so far displayed by Buhari handlers. Whether it was borne out of fear or respect is not the issue.
In politics, what matters is the end -not the means. If the president succeeds in springing a very unlikely re-election surprise, it would be hugely down to: one, how his government and party reacted (on their knees) to the Obasanjo concerns which tally 95% with citizenry mindset; two, how the third force prepared and three, indeed how the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) refused to take advantage. In this statement, the former president leaves a window or two for PDP to jump back into the show –and steal it. God bless Nigeria!
Day kindness almost turned me to kidnapper (II)
I got the driver to quickly drop her bag outside while we zoomed off as the crowd of ‘sympathisers’ built up. We drove straight to the police station at Gwarinpa to make an entry. As I told the story, the lady officer on night duty could not stop muttering ‘Nigeria’.
Between then and now, my ever-active mind has been imagining things: why did Gee do what she did? Why did she choose where there were many houses and people to perform the drama? Would she ever have forgiven herself if the crowd had transmogrified into a jungle justice mob?
If the driver or I had any sinister motive, why would I have given her my full personal details? She had a phone that she used from time to time, why didn’t she google up everything I told her? Why didn’t she simply ask to be dropped off if she suspected stuff?
Just what danger signals did she misread, to show such fatal ingratitude? And, what was this even about: one of those tricks of the devil, a trap or just plain stupidity by a young person who misconstrued a good turn because she had heard too many bad stories about her country? I pray for God to help Gee to find and recognise help as she continues all that life ahead of her.
And, for other help-seekers to never misconstrue genuineness in this fake world. I pray too for Jehovah to help helpers to never get humiliated or punished for nothing and to never change just because their one good turn received near-death feedback. Above all: our Father who art in Heaven, thank you for saving the driver and me; keep my good heart but Lord, grant me wisdom and teach me discernment so I may know who/when/where to help or take to my heels!
Postscript: A few months after, the same driver and I were faced with the choice of giving a lift to a boy and a girl (corps members again!) from Benue to Abuja. Against the run of wisdom, we did what we needed to. Thankfully, this time, all that began well ended well!