Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
A recent statement credited to former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lamidi Adesina, on the fight against corruption by former President Olusegun Obasanjo is now at the centre of a proxy fight between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the former president, writes Tunde Sanni
That the self-acclaimed progressives in the South-west region of the country had decided never to have anything to do with former President Olusegun Obasanjo is commonplace. Yet, their reason is not far-fetched. Since the 2003 Tsunami that consumed five of the six states in the region, the line had been drawn, perhaps for the worst in their political engagements.
Although, lately, different foot-soldiers supposedly loyal to the two parties had come to explain what had happened in the period that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reigned supreme in the region with PDP agents claiming the election of that year was free and that it also came as a surprise to Obasanjo amongst others, it has not changed the fact that the subsisting enmity might tarry for a longer period.
Consequent upon this reality, elements in the progressives are always poised for a battle with the former president at the slightest provocation, whether in person or by proxy, hence the latest confrontation between Obasanjo and former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lamidi Adeshina, which had begun to degenerate into name-calling with the recent involvement of Adeshina’s party in Oyo State, the ACN.
Some days back, Oyo ACN had dared Obasanjo to a public debate with Adesina, on such issues as corruption, Obasanjo’s immediate constituency or even the course of democracy in Nigeria.
ACN’s Publicity Secretary, Dauda Kolawole, while replying to a statement attributed to Obasanjo where the latter had questioned Adesina’s relevance as governor said the former governor had contributed to the course and development of democracy in the country than Obasanjo who was made president after a stint in prison.
The ACN lamented that the former president was daily losing credibility in a country he administered twice in his lifetime and said it was a symptom of the “colossal deceit of patriotism and incorruptibility that he made the world to believe were his moral credentials.
“The same anti-corruption institutions established by Obasanjo were gaping with astonishing complicity while the regime he headed distributed billions of our hard-earned patrimony as graft to legislators to win a third term.
“Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar first opened the lid of the character called Obasanjo. Through unassailable documents he showed the whole world on how corrupt the man who paraded the mantra of an incorruptible president was in purchasing cars for liaisons and cornering juicy contracts by proxy. Those allegations were never answered by our ‘incorruptible ex-president till today.
“We challenge the former president to name an individual he built while in office who is still on the same page with him. He is like the typical Yoruba witch whom it is suicidal to do good. He takes a maniacal relish in destroying those who have done him good. Obasanjo has the proverbial character of the Greek god called Janus: His public portrayal and the person he is in his closet. There is no leadership calamity that has befallen this nation that you will not find Obasanjo’s callous imprimatur in it,” the party said.
Comparatively, ACN said Adesina has a huge following that is loyal to him. “Former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Adesina built human beings and structures in Oyo State which are still enduring till today. He is a known incorruptible man and has been living in his pre-governorship house for decades. We challenge Obasanjo to say the same of himself. We urge him to tell the whole world what happened at Transcorp and the power sector where his proxies looted our inheritance with rapacious abandon. We are persuaded that someday, and very soon too, posterity will make Obasanjo answer for all the colossal failures he inflicted on Nigeria as a leader, the fallout of which we are still battling today.”
ACN’s defence was, however, preceded by Adesina’s attack on Obasanjo, also at a recent media chat. The former governor had faulted Obasanjo’s war against corruption while in office and noted that the exercise was merely designed to deceive the Nigerian people.
“We do not need outsiders to tell us that corruption has pervaded the entire system particularly at a higher level of government,” he said, pointing out that the current corruption level was abnormal and that something drastic and urgent had to be done to restore what he described as sanity in the land.
“It is a deceit that Obasanjo’s government had zero tolerance for corruption. What happened to the road contract awarded to his friend? What about huge sums of money spent to put PHCN in proper condition? Let them stop deceiving the masses,” he asked.
Adesina who linked corruption in the country to the increasing insecurity said unless the two issues were properly addressed, investors would keep away from the country.
Ironically, Obasanjo did not take lightly to the barrage of attacks from Adeshina and his men. He described as unfortunate the fact that Adesina would make statements that could only ridicule his person and make nonsense of his elderly status. He however reiterated that no government, since he left office had fought corruption with as much commitment as his regime.
“It is equally self-evident that the institutions for fighting corruption that the country relies on today were set up by the Obasanjo regime, likewise some of the individuals manning those institutions today were nurtured by the same Obasanjo regime that Lam Adesina so mischievously described as deceitful,” he reiterated. He also faulted claims by Adesina that his administration awarded the Lagos-Ibadan expressway contract to itself, saying it showed “how puerile or perhaps how senile the former governor has become,” noting that the contract in question was not awarded by his regime but awarded after he had left office.
But while this may have appeared like sheer happenstance to the unsuspecting watchers of the system, those well grounded in the intrigues of the state are of the view that the sustained attacks on the former president are in tune with plans to stifle him from interfering in the politics of the state ahead of 2015.
Already, the local politics of Oyo is neck deep in what happens in 2015. While the opposition PDP is believed to have begun to restrategise even though it is still contending with some internal squabbles, the ACN is also said to have seen the need to consolidate, especially against the news flying around that the incumbent governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, might not return nor seek re-election.
Thus, Obasanjo is the last person the ruling party would allow a breathing space anywhere in the South-west. But while the attacks may not have subsided, some analysts still consider Obasanjo a huge factor in the political equation of the region, albeit at the party level, hence, the self-defence mechanism being employed by the opposition otherwise the ruling party for now may have become imperative, at least, to sustain its present hold in the region.