A political watchman of the robust profile of a Chief Olusegun Obasanjo may yet have a role to play to curb many excesses in politics and governance.
Give it to Olusegun Obasanjo. The retired General and two term President has never been in search of a job, unlike many in his class of former heads of state and presidents. At every juncture and in any season where the man needs a job and there is none reserved for him, he has no problems creating a suitable assignment for himself. To his credit, whatever job Obasanjo carves out for himself always ends up gaining some relevance, even if tangentially.
What you make of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is your “toro”, to use his parlance. That is to say, it is your business not his. The man does not seem to care a hoot about what you think of him. He is not about to be deterred by anyone’s views either. Whether he suffers from Messianic syndrome as some of his stern critics will hold or he is perpetually scheming to have some leverage over whoever is at the helms of affairs in Nigeria as others accuse him of, the reality remains that Olusegun Obasanjo has successfully established himself as a factor that cannot be ignored in the dynamics of Nigerian politics.
The man Olusegun Obasanjo is not the type you invite to the table at your own will. He invites himself. As a matter of fact he does not just invite himself where and when he deems it necessary, he sits himself at the helm of the table too. He unapologetically retains a sense of entitlement in many aspects of life and some cannot easily accept that. But that is who he is. That is what history has made him too. Whether he gave history a helping hand in interpreting who he is or circumstances and elements aligned over time to place him where he has variously been will remain a matter for discussion well after he has gone. For now, he is very much around and he insists you must take note of that.
There are, for sure, quite some points that can be raised against Obasanjo concerning what he ought to do but did not do when he had opportunity to do them. There are also manifest contradictions in his criticism of actions of the governments that came after his, which actions and policies are not far different from his own actions while in office as president. Even at that, there is no denying the fact that Obasanjo in government maintained a healthy perspective of Nigeria as a heterogeneous country and indeed showed unparallel commitment to holding up the key twin factors of competence and fair representation of all Nigeria in his government. There is no denying him credit for what he accomplished. To a reasonable extent therefore, Obasanjo does have basis for insisting that he knows what is good for Nigeria. That is not to say that only him knows that. It does not also mean that he always did what he preached.
The difference between Olusegun Obasanjo and most of the other former government leaders or elder statesmen in Nigeria is easily located in the fact that Obasanjo does not shy away from speaking truth to power. Instructively, his knife cuts left, right and center, depending on how his spirit moves him. This is very unlike many of his ex-head of state colleagues who either speak from two sides of their mouth or indeed resort to hollow preachments in place of taking firm stand on critical issues in the polity. Obasanjo does not prevaricate.
Ever ready to assign himself duty in the service of Nigeria depending on how the spirit moves him, President Olusegun Obasanjo last week defined a new role and duty for himself which he obviously believes Nigeria needs at this point in time. Speaking in the course of one of the numerous pilgrimages to his Abeokuta base by politicians and candidates for the 2019 General Elections, Obasanjo reportedly said his primary role now is that of “Watchman of Nigerian politics”. He went further to expatiate on his new job, saying the duty is now his to be ever vigilant and to raise alarm where ever or whenever the need arises.
There may be no constitutional backing for the role of the political ombudsman that Chief Obasanjo has assigned to himself, but does anyone contest the need for such a watchman? As a matter of fact there may be a lot more reason for the coming into being of a political ombudsman in Nigeria than Obasanjo has articulated in one brief outing. Against the backdrop of the feet of clay tendency and outright lethargy that characterize such government contraptions as the Federal Character Commission; or the apparent impossibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] meaningfully monitoring and curbing campaign expenditure by political parties and politicians; or the National Assembly and the Executive arms of government not agreeing on a new Electoral Law, a political watchman of the robust profile of a Chief Olusegun Obasanjo may yet have a role to play to curb many excesses in politics and governance in the Nigeria society of this era.
Nigeria’s politics is full of excesses. Worse still, truth and courage are steadily on the retreat in the land, all in the name of politics and support for individuals or political parties. With virtually all strong men easily being on the side of strong men of power, no one seems to be on the side of the State. The absence of men of courage and distinction who will stand firm to denounce evil and wrong in the society have done incalculable damage to the Nigerian society in recent years. Unfortunately, for whatever they represent, opposition parties cannot but be seen for what they are – contenders for the power wielded by the ruling party. Criticisms made by one party against the other, even when backed up by valid evidence is therefore liable to be seen and countered often as expected attack from a co-contender for power. So who then will speak for the people? Enter the office of the watchman of Nigerian politics.
Does Obasanjo fit the bill for the job he has assigned to himself? The views are bound to conflict. The man may have his ways. And his ways may not tally with the preferred ways and views of many, but make no mistakes about it, he has proved himself over and over as a voice that cannot be ignored.
The role Obasanjo says he has taken up does not require any legal backing. Not yet. This is not like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission [ICPC], both of which his government created. The watchman of Nigerian politics role is somewhat moral, something of a voice crying in the wilderness.
If any man is suitable for the role of Watchman of Nigerian Politics at the moment, Olusegun Obasanjo is. Who else with his stature has shown the tenacity? He says his duty in his new role is to be vigilant and to raise alarm when necessary. Let all those concerned listen to him whenever he raises such alarm please. For those who insist on throwing away the man, let them do so by all means if they can, but his views should never be thrown away as well. You can bet he is not about to stop raising necessary alarm anyway.