BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, something big is about to happen in our dear beloved country. I wish I could foretell a pleasant development. I truly wish. But what I see is total confusion. I refuse to see mayhem out of faith and not by conviction. I’m praying, fasting and hoping that our benevolent God would avert yet another dangerous crisis hovering over our great country. Nigeria has suffered too much since attaining Independence in the year of our Lord 1960. We have tried all sorts of permutations and configurations but nothing has work to our collective benefit. Each time we thought we were close to Eldorado, something came from the blues to dash our hopes and put us all into absolute disarray.
I sometimes wonder who we have offended as a people and a country. Why are we so jinxed? A gracious God actually provided us with everything we needed to make our lives as comfortable as we wanted or desired. God did not just provide us with what was necessary for existence HE lavished upon us goodies that many nations crave for but have never seen. However, for some unbeknown reason we chose to be a country of excruciating pain and debilitating agony.
We have tried scholars, mediocres and even stark illiterates in government, none has taken us far. What exactly is the matter with us? This is a question begging for answer. The resolution may well be our salvation.
I have gone through this preamble for one major reason. Say what you will about former President Olusegun Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Obasanjo, he is one man who knows Nigeria inside out. If you like, call him tempestuous, egocentric, cantankerous, or what have you, but you cannot remove the word patriotism from his qualifiers. He is a one-man riot squad. He is a true General who is not afraid of battles, never mind wars. When he talks, the world listens, no matter what he says, or how he says it.
The trick he used to acquire such respectability was simple. As our military Head of State, General Obasanjo voluntarily handed over power to a civilian government at a time it wasn’t fashionable to do such. If he wanted, he could have engaged in a merry-go-round transition programme but he was very smart by presenting the image of a lover of democracy to the world. Everyone, especially, the Western powers, applauded him for that singular action. He has reaped the reward many times over and indeed is still enjoying the accolade and plaudits that are a consequence of his rare feat.
Also, General Obasanjo earnestly attracted and surrounded himself with some of our greatest names in academia and started his regular summits in Ota farm where he promptly established a humongous poultry farm. This was how he began his own personal intellectualisation process as well. He was thus able to transfigure from a rambunctious dictator to a world statesman. In fact, he was close to becoming the United Nations Secretary General. He travelled the globe several times over. At a time, he was trailing only The Madiba, Nelson Mandela, in popularity. He became the voice of our continent and was invited to chair many international occasions and bodies.
Obasanjo seized every opportunity presented to him with both hands. He catapulted himself very skilfully to the pinnacle of leadership in his home country, Nigeria, and became almost indispensable in matters of governance. Obasanjo’s ability to speak up boldly and vociferously completed his transformation into the consciousness and conscience of our complex and complicated country. He criticised every government that came after him but met his nemesis in General Sani Abacha who brooked no rascality from any quarter. Before one could say Jack Robinson, Abacha had roped Obasanjo into some phantom plot to unseat him and pronto Obasanjo landed in an unfriendly archipelago of a prison where he languished forlornly before he was mysteriously freed several years later. His former deputy, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua wasn’t that lucky. He died in prison under strange circumstances. No one ever expected such an ugly fate to befall these highly esteemed and gargantuan leaders but this is Nigeria, a country of all possibilities.
As fate would have it, Obasanjo’s excruciating stint in prison was compensated by the Nigerian Mafia after a short while following the demise of both General Sani Abacha and the man who had won the fairest election in Nigeria, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. It is interesting that Obasanjo inherited all the goodwill and sacrifices of Abiola, his kinsman, but yet never expressed gratitude or appreciation to his saviour and benefactor. That is a story for another time.
Obasanjo was unceremoniously freed from imprisonment and recalled from retirement to lead the People’s Democratic Party. By then, Obasanjo had become dressed in the robe of invincibility. In a jiffy, he won the election against a very cerebral economist, Chief Oluyemisi Falae and instantly became one of Africa’s most powerful leaders and secured another fist of being a former military dictator turned civilian autocrat.
For eight blistering years, whilst Obasanjo was at the helm of affairs of this country, he swiftly moved to stamp his authority not just on our nation but also on world affairs. He assembled a very formidable team. His economic blueprint was awesome. He was somehow able to pay off our debts, although the jury is still out on the practical effect of the debt forgiveness deal that went hand in glove with this. He embarked on aggressive infrastructure development. Everything was going well for his government. His vast knowledge of Nigeria and the world came in handy for him. He looked poised to truly create a new and greater Nigeria. But there was a snag.
Obasanjo and his Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who incidentally turned 70 just yesterday (I congratulate and rejoice with him), engaged in a debilitating war of attrition that exposed their government to incredible perils as things fell apart. We all watched incredulously as things spiralled out of control. Obasanjo unleashed terror against known and imaginary enemies. His most effective weapon then was the war against corruption. A war that now seems to have come full circle! Two powerful agencies, EFCC and ICPC, helped to pursue the sinners and saints alike with the agility of a thoroughbred warhorse and the savageness of a wounded lion. No one dared challenge that government.
Time flew at the speed of light. Before long, it was obvious that a third term agenda was being laid and hatched from the innermost recesses of Aso Rock to the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. Many legislators were being coaxed or coerced into assenting to a bill to change the Nigerian Constitution and set the stage for the possibility of a third or more terms in power for the President. Somehow, this ambitious plan was torpedoed and Obasanjo and his acolytes abandoned the ship of third term and started singing a new song.
It remains a mystery how Obasanjo arrived at his decision to force Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Nigeria as President and Vice President respectively. A party that paraded Governor Donald Duke, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla, Governor Bukola Saraki, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and many others threw up this less than sparkling combination. Though Yar’Adua appeared to be a good leader, his ill-health would soon prove fatal and he couldn’t do more than his weak strength could carry. The mantle of power fell on the laps of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a university scholar who was expected to push his team hard in some key sectors. That dream also evaporated.
The ubiquitous godfather, General Obasanjo, would soon emerge from the grove he had retreated into and shred Jonathan, his cohorts and his party into smithereens. It is difficult to decipher what truly went awry between them but one thing led to another and the falcon could no longer hear the falconer. And that was the beginning of the end. Had Jonathan known, maybe he should have done everything under the sun to offer Obasanjo whatever pacifier was needed and necessary. Obasanjo soon assembled a group of strange bedfellows in his bid to get rid of Jonathan, by fire by force. The strangest face at his Hilltop mansion, in Abeokuta, was that of his former sworn enemy, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Somehow, they were able to brew the concoction that finally killed the ruling party and usher in another former enemy, General Muhammadu Buhari. Many of us provided the media platforms for this conspiracy forged in Hades out of our deep frustration with the manner Jonathan ran the affairs of our nation.
Anyway, Buhari took power and many things have happened. Nigeria has eventually and ostensibly entered an unprecedented recession. No one has a clue of how long it would take before we are out of the woods. The voodoo economists have been busy cooking up cocktails upon cocktails of economic experiments but none has resolved the intractable crisis.
I had predicted that the romance between Buhari and Obasanjo would soon evaporate and many of my friends doubted. I’m sure they did not know Obasanjo and his uncommon antecedents well. Put a gun to his throat, Obasanjo would still gasp like a stricken chicken but muster enough stamina to spit out and regurgitate whatever he had in mind to say.
Now the chicken has come home to roost and it seems the same man that invented the pencil can also quite easily manufacture the eraser. Obasanjo has started talking in sinister overtones. Tinubu has gone quiet and cleverly eased himself out of circulation. I don’t know who is deadlier, a voluble Obasanjo or a taciturn Tinubu.
I can see some of Buhari’s guys trying to take on both men. I read an article credited to Dr Kayode Fayemi on a certain platform and I prayed it was pure fabrication and not an interview he actually granted. It is gratifying to note that my friend has since come out to deny authorship of this Satanic Verses!
It is too early in the tenure of this government to begin the hocus-pocus of re-election. Nigeria is dangerously haemorrhaging to death on all fronts and what we need is urgent rescue not electoral rhetoric. All this in-fighting won’t do us any good. The political pugilists should please save Nigeria from this fiendish war of egos. No matter what happens, Buhari should cool temper and manage his benefactors. Even if the leper cannot squeeze out milk from a cow, he can spill out the ones already produced.
No one is above the law but Nigeria deserves some respite after a long period of higgledy-piggledy. All men and women of good conscience should beg our powerful forces to allow President Buhari and his Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN to run their full course of four years out of which two are almost gone.
As for me and my house, I’m willing to exercise some patience hoping that a miracle can still happen in the life of this government. If nothing tangible occurs by the end of next year, then let Nigerians start working on how to assemble a new team and strive to attract our best materials from every part of the world. It can be done and it should be done. I have seen examples of the giant strides being made by young African leaders in Rwanda, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Tanzania and Senegal. Ours should not be too different, after all we remain the Giant of Africa!