There is this personality complex often exhibited by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in presuming himself to be another of those past reputable political figures in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. If Obasanjo is not parading himself as Nigeria’s Nelson Mandela, he is engaging in unsolicited and mostly unprovoked, intermittent letter-writing, as Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo (in exchange of letters) occasionally entertained us in the First Republic. Despite political differences, each of the two giants thrilled us with finesse, dignity and intellectualism, never without something or phrase for which to remember them. Those were rival politicians in the struggle for power. But once elections were over, it was usually straight to the business of governance.
In 1983, Awolowo slightly deviated, but with decency and patriotism, when he wrote a letter to (the then) incumbent President Shehu Shagari, drawing his attention to the deteriorating national economy, with suggestions for halting the drift or be faced with eventual consequences. Shagari politely acknowledged the letter and disagreed with Awolowo’s observations. There were never brickbats from both sides.
In contrast, when he writes letters or about others in his never-ending memoirs, Obasanjo observes no reck or reason. In his first foray at writing his experiences in governance, Obasanjo made shocking, scurrilous remarks about Zik, Awo, Shagari, Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim, the five who contested the 1979 presidential election. From that book, “Not My Will,” it was obvious Obasanjo’s grouse against the big five was the attempt of any of them to succeed him, as he wrote off all of them. That empty, self-glorification of “only Obasanjo” is evident in his disdain for any public figure till today.
Ordinarily, Obasanjo’s remarks on Zik and Awo would have attracted some response from the two men. Instead, none of them dignified Obasanjo with any comment, a silence known over the ages throughout the world as the best answer for a fool. Apparently, that rebuff gave Obasanjo the wrong impression that he could thereafter be having it at anybody and everybody.
Obasanjo’s next book, “My Command,” was a classic piece of immodesty. Supposed to be Obasanjo’s reminiscences of his Nigerian civil war exploits, two vivid observations could be made, only Obasanjo distinguished himself throughout the war while every other brilliant officer was either deliberately discredited or not recognised.
With no more memoirs to write, Obasanjo, therefore, saw himself in the mould of Azikiwe and Awolowo, exchanging letters publicly. Unfortunately for him, the more Obasanjo wrote, the more his nose was bloodied in the display of holier-than-thou rhetoric. Despite the sleepless nights he caused, Shagari ignored Obasanjo, the same man who rabble-roused against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as military Head of State. Former President Ibrahim Babangida was also at the receiving end of Obasanjo’s incendiary criticism, even after leaving office in 1993. Eventually, IBB had to fight back in 2007 by putting Obasanjo on notice that, henceforth, it would be “fire for fire.” Obasanjo then stepped back and exposed his inner feelings that there was something unusual in IBB’s open revolt. Since then, Obasanjo never dared IBB.
Obasanjo gambled on Gen. Sani Abacha and barely escaped death, following his trial by a military tribunal for alleged subversive activities.
A man lucky in life to return to office as an elected president after a treason trial, Obasanjo should be humble and content by steering clear of public controversy. Obasanjo ran down ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua on BBC Television. Who was that predecessor that ever went on television at home or abroad to run down Obasanjo?
Then the crunch. Obasanjo disgraced himself by taking on then President Goodluck Jonathan with two letters released to the public, alleging corruption. If Obasanjo felt vindicated, the fact was that Jonathan, in written response, disclosed that he was tackling corruption through meticulous investigation of, especially, the Halliburton bribe scandal. That alert from Jonathan immediately sent Obasanjo back to his enclave with the message to Nigerians that he would no longer comment on public matters. Even “small boy” Jonathan silenced Obasanjo with a technical knock-out.
It is, therefore, amusing that Obasanjo, a man whose stock in trade is to accuse old and new contemporaries as well as professional colleagues, cannot absorb accusations. Jonathan, for example, had to allude to some of his critics with the euphemism of motor park touts.
Herein comes the autobiography of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, against which Obasanjo kicked and made efforts to deny the allegations against him (Obasanjo). To start with, for years, Obasanjo’s cronies had built a bogus reputation around him that the man with thick skin never bothered about criticism. What then happened this time? Surely, Obasanjo, with the allegations against him in Awujale’s autobiography, was rattled and felt completely discredited, which is true. Hence, he, Obasanjo, misfired in all directions. Otherwise, Awujale’s autobiography was published and elaborately launched in 2010, exactly seven years ago, to mark Oba Adetona’s 50th year on the throne. It would be a surprise if Obasanjo never had a copy before now. Is Obasanjo just waking up to the allegations against him?
And if Obasanjo felt so bad about the allegations against him, as contained in Awujale’s autobiography, why did he receive the same Oba, along with APC leaders, three years ago, as he claimed, at the request of the Awujale?
Then, Obasanjo denied the allegations except some, including the one that labelled him a Judas to the Yoruba cause. Which fact about Obasanjo in his public life did he never deny? The most notorious was his attempt to be Baba Nigeria for Life through the mutilation of the Constitution. The fact known to Nigerians was that members of National Assembly were each bribed with N50 million. Nwon gba oju e (they reduced him to a fool), took the money and rejected Obasanjo’s proposed amendment to the Constitution and he became bitter, going on to directly or indirectly scheme out presidential and gubernatorial candidates he believed never supported him.
Till today, Obasanjo continues to tell the lie that he never discussed any third term ambition with anybody. Including the then incumbent American President George W. Bush. The following is an excerpt on Obasanjo from the memoir of former American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, “No Higher Honour,” page 638.
“… In 2006, when President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria sidled up to the President (George Bush) and suggested that he might change the Constitution so that he could serve a third term, the President (George Bush) told him not to do it. ‘You have served your country well. Now, turn over and become a statesman.’ After a strong public rebuke from the United States and condemnation of his (Obasanjo’s) efforts by the international community, the Nigerian Senate rejected the constitutional amendment proposal that would have allowed Obasanjo to serve a third term. The crest-fallen Obasanjo was initially angry, accusing Jendayi Frazer (American official) of undermining him in the press and with Nigerians.
“‘I will never deal with her again,’ he told the president. The president responded, ‘Well, she is a good person. But the main thing is that your country needs you to do the right thing.’ Obasanjo did cede power, to a handpicked successor, but at least he was unsuccessful in changing the Constitution.”
Once a liar, ever a liar on most things. Did Awujale also make this allegation against Obasanjo? Obasanjo also denied intimidating Mike Adenuga to construct hostel blocks for his Bells University in Ota. Instead, Obasanjo fingered Julius Okogie, then vice-chancellor of Bells University, as the man who demanded from Adenuga the construction of the hostels, without (Obasanjo’s) knowledge. Was Julius Okogie also responsible (without Obasanjo’s knowledge) for inviting Nigerian dignitaries, including Federal Government contractors, for extortion to foot the cost of Obasanjo’s private library in Abeokuta? Blatant corruption. Obasanjo abused his office in full realisation that, if the ceremony was held after his tenure as president, nobody would contribute a kobo.
In fact, after leaving office, Obasanjo lamented that not up to 60 per cent of those who pledged bothered to honour their pledge. He then had to specially re-invite state governors from the North to contribute the cost of a mosque on the library complex. The man has this feeling of self-aggrandisement that Nigeria owes him everything. Must there be a mosque in Obasanjo’s library complex? If so, he should fund it.
Another lie Obasanjo told in denying Awujale’s accusations was that he (Obasanjo) never influenced EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu against Mike Adenuga. Na so? Who but Obasanjo boasted publicly in Akure before the 2007 gubernatorial election that he would send EFCC (under Ribadu) after the then outgoing Housing Minister, Segun Mimiko, for resisting Obasanjo’s order not to challenge serving Ondo State PDP governor, Segun Agagu, for the 2007 election?
In 2002, another lie. Seven members of the House of Representatives displayed the sun of N3,500,000 from Aso Rock with which they were influenced to impeach Speaker Ghali Na’Abba. Who bribed them? Awujale?
Obasanjo, in his denial of Oba Adetona’s accusations, faulted Mike Adenuga for fleeing Nigeria for his life. Why not? Nnamdi Azikiwe left words for Nigerians that only a mad man would argue with or even wait for a man carrying a gun. Was Mike Adenuga expected to wait for armed EFCC men sent to his house, even if not by Obasanjo?
Who, anyway, ran into hiding for his life on the morning of February 13, 1976, when armed, dissident Nigerian soldiers were assassinating their Commander-in-Chief and Head of State, Gen. Murtala Mohammed? Was that Mike Adenuga?
Whose personal aide is on trial for collecting $5 million as a share in the Halliburton bribe scandal?
And Yoruba leaders are reported to be contemplating settling what they called the rift between Awujale and Obasanjo. Nigerians, including Yoruba, have consigned Obasanjo to the dustbin of history and anybody or group that needs him can maintain collaboration with him. Dressing Obasanjo in the toga of indispensability is the very reason the man throws his weight about.
Meanwhile, any willing and capable Nigerian intent on affirming Obasanjo as a liar on his abortive third term bid should endeavour to purchase the memoir of ex-American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Page 638.