Disparaging remarks against predecessors, successors, contemporaries and even the country call into question credential(s) for patriotism or passion for Nigeria.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a patriot in his own right. Nigerians who don’t concede that fact will always contend with the plea of Obasanjo’s officers like ex-military president Ibrahim Babangida that their boss is passionate about Nigeria. On the contrary, the only available evidence is that Obasanjo is passionate about himself.
In December 2003, on the eve of the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting in Abuja, Obasanjo entertained the guests with a radio/television broadcast portraying Nigeria in lurid colours, specifically accusing some ministers of corruption. Expectedly, the purpose was to cleverly portray himself in the following day’s Nigerian and Commonwealth newspapers (whose reporters were covering the conference at Abuja) as Nigeria’s President Obasanjo combating corruption in the country. But nobody could be deceived. It was all part of the long-term project of the man (Obasanjo) to join the class of life presidents all over Africa. Hence, the abortive third term plan rejected by Nigerians.
With that humiliation by Nigerians, Obasanjo will always be at work to destabilise or discredit whoever he perceives to be on the verge of equalling or out-distancing him (Obasanjo) in public service or achievements. In that wise, nobody and no issue is immune and the aggression can be launched at home or abroad. It might even be tolerated as freedom of expression, if launched at home. But disparaging remarks against predecessors, successors, contemporaries and even the country call into question credential(s) for patriotism or passion for Nigeria.
No leader chooses a foreign country to run down his own country or contemporaries. A British prime minister, the late Harold Wilson, in the midst of a raging controversy back home, was confronted for his views by reporters in Washington, United States. Mr. Wilson rose to the occasion by inviting them to ask him the question on his return to London.
Over the years, Obasanjo has turned his bitterness, or perhaps, frustration, into some kind of norm. In the process, Nigerians themselves seem to be helpless if not afraid to critically object to his constant denigration, especially of the country.
It is not as if the Obasanjo norm does any credit to the country. In fact, it could never have done any, owing to three reasons – egoism, impulsiveness and ill-thought, if at all. Should Nigeria indefinitely tolerate this trauma of international denigration? And if so, is Obasanjo morally qualified against his record?
The latest of Obasanjo’s denigration of one of his contemporaries was at an international conference in Indonesia, where he criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for not yet signing, on behalf of Nigeria, the Inter-African Trade Pact. According to Obasanjo, the delay is because Buhari is too weak. Nothing could be more ridiculous and unpatriotic. By their nature, such pacts require close and comprehensive study
to guard against unforeseen negative trap in the future. As a matter of fact, any document of binding authority requires the input of stakeholders. Should Buhari have disregarded the need for caution or even objections raised by Nigerian industrialists, businessmen, importers, exporters and manufacturers against signing the Inter-African Trade Pact? Such pacts are not documents to be forced down a country’s throat by the impulsiveness of one man.
Clearly, the situation upset Obasanjo. The man has this bogus obsession with continentalism and indeed inter-continentalism, such that, in its pursuit, anybody is his whipping boy. Despite clear lessons from other parts of the world.
For example, Britain joined the European Common Market in 1973 with all optimism and fanfare. Later changed into European Union with the prospects of dissolving into a single continent, among the requirements for membership are common currency, the Euro and a single European passport. Without any inhibition or foresight, an Obasanjo as British prime minister would have signed the country into such constitutional misadventure, all in his obsession with world statesmanship. The demands for such are more than the gra gra of a Mr. Know-All. The real statesman must have the foresight to accommodate and preserve our national interests.
British prime minister, Maggie Thatcher, possessed those qualities even though it would be demeaning to put her in Obasanjo’s class. Thatcher renegotiated terms of agreement for Britain’s membership to exclude British currency, the Sterling, and British passport. Only years after Thatcher’s death, the lady
was vindicated as Britons have voted in a referendum to completely withdraw from membership of European Union. No serving or former British prime minister as her predecessor or successor ever chose a foreign country to run down Maggie Thatcher.
It is all the more troubling in view of several decisions Obasanjo took while in office without deep thought, decisions which are being reversed in national interest or threw Nigerians affected into miserable circumstances.
In 1999, for some unknown reasons, one of the rash decisions Obasanjo took on assumption of office as elected president was the scrapping of toll gates all over the country. The toll gates were initially constructed with public funds. Three were scattered along Lagos-Sagamu-Benin and Lagos-Ibadan.
Today, those same toll gates Obasanjo impulsively destroyed as well as others all over the country are
to be reconstructed with public funds, where they existed and extra toll gates to be constructed where they never existed. Amount collected at the new toll gates will cover the cost of maintaining the highways, which makes better sense.
Such is the need for very careful consideration before ratifying an international treaty or authorising any decision affecting public expenditure.
One other rash decision Obasanjo took in 1999 without counting the costs was the unilateral increase in Nigeria’s embassies abroad from barely 50 to at least 120. Today, more than half of the embassies have either been shut down or are not functioning since Obasanjo’s days. What, with maintenance costs?
Another impulsive character is America’s Donald Trump. But at least, the man puts America first. Does Obasanjo put Nigeria first? Surely not. Under Obasanjo as elected president, Nigerians in Bakassi, Cross River State, woke up and were faced with Obasanjo’s decision to cede their God-given land to Cameroon, citing some moribund agreement during the civil war. So what? Were Nigerians of Bakassi origin ever consulted before their land was ceded to Cameroon or even allowed to vote in a referendum as in international standard?
The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is such a document with potential consequences for Nigeria’s trade, economy and manufacturing industry and cannot be treated impulsively the Obasanjo way, only to be regretted or reversed later. What is the hurry about?
The Rome Treaty to which United States, Britain and other powers forced African leaders to sign is another case of gra-gra subservience without deep scrutiny by African leaders. On the face of it, the Rome Treaty triggered the International Criminal Court, which, today admittedly counters crimes against humanity. But on what grounds should Americans, Britons, Israelis and other Europeans be immune to trials for crimes against humanity they commit in wars in different parts of the world?
The only way to escape such trap is for international treaties to be well-scrutinised before signing so that signatories do not regret later. Indecent haste is no part of mature leadership.
READ ALSO: A clarion call for a new leadership order