For the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to succeed in its fight against corruption, it should carry out thorough investigations of corruption cases and also hire the services of ‘ogbologbo’ lawyers. An ‘ogbologbo’, is a Yoruba word for a ‘seasoned and experienced person. These were the submissions of the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, when he hosted journalists at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta.
Those who know the former president very well can attest to his self-styled bluntness in propagating staged melodramatic episodes that last longer in mind than its reality. It is an undiluted truth that as a man who has rigmaroled the corridors of power in Nigeria, he knows and understands very well the piece of land called Nigeria. Obasanjo has remained strong in the nation’s politics, moving majestically anywhere he thinks of, watching the rot he assisted in creating and dishing out piecemeal solutions whenever he feels attention would be engendered. He is always a major of the dramatis personae in the shows he often dedicates to his enthusiastic followers. In short, he would have won many awards as the protagonist of his own didactic verbiages.
He was a president, like Buhari, who came to power when all eyes: global, regional, national and local, were on Nigeria. He would have been, if he cared, the Mandela of Nigeria, coming into power at the right time when democracy was practically reborn in the country. In the dire quest to strike a deal for rotational presidency, he was drafted in from near absence. The land was fertile for him to till and feed, grow and sustain the Nigerian people. And he did his best. No sincere compatriot can query his efforts. He could not have done otherwise because having been left with only about N20,000 after having tasted grandeur and freedom in the military, the Nigerian commonwealth was too much for him to control. And he did what he could do and managed to hand over to an unstable Umaru. Yar’Adua. Before then, he was able to mortgage national assets, sold some to loyalists and acquired others by proxy. But only few doubt the sincerity of Obasanjo in tying Nigerians together, including the Igbo whom he loves with approximate authenticity.
Sometimes people do not take him serious because he prefers the Ali Baba to the Hollywood. But he is such a simple man who can engage in absurdities even while delivering scholarly written official speech. I used the word ‘simple’ because as a man who later became a student of theology, he had realised that the world was too harsh to follow it harshly. If one must succeed, it is risky to rush except if it entailed conversion of commonwealth to private warehouses and for personal aggrandisement. Why not, after all Nigerians were, during his eight-year lordship, the happiest people on earth, suffering all sorts of pandemic, lack, international humiliation and sluggishness.
A recall to the past shows that Obasanjo was a man favoured by God and Nigerians from all angles. He was handed power on the platter of gold after decades of military (mis)handling of the nation’s commonwealth. Before the year 1999, Nigeria was reckoned amongst failed states because of the successive military juntas. By 1999, he was made the president and he toured many countries before he was sworn in. I was lucky he addressed us as students in Egypt and appealed to us to come back home after studies to join hands in developing Nigeria.
By implication, that opportunity of heading a new era under a democracy required not sophisticated efforts to make a difference. But Obasanjo gradually revealed the (mis)conception that he was a Nigerian to the core, with the penchant to pleasure, unabated freedom and relative preferences. Corruption of the highest order continued, political gangsterism flourished and poverty was wonderfully reactivated. And so the eight years passed without fixing anything tangible in the key sectors: education, power, health, infrastructure and social amenities. However, I must recognise one area that was sacrosanct – the unity of Nigeria.
So, Obasanjo’s comments on corruption often receive stiff criticisms. Obasanjo claimed not to be satisfied with the way President Buhari’s EFCC is fighting corruption and losing cases. For him, corruption cases are lost for a number of reasons prominent of which was engagement of outside lawyers and not the ‘ogbologbo’ lawyers inside the circle. Secondly, investigations are not thorough. Thirdly, the judges have displayed lack of commitment. There must be the Salamigate methodology to succeed.
Gov. Ayo Fayose queried how Obasanjo got his large wealth despite he was a pauper before he became president. He wondered how Obasanjo, under whose tenure, Nigeria witnessed the Haliburton scandal could be sermonising about corruption.
But no matter what, Obasanjo’s influence in the polity cannot be undermined.
Muhammad Ajah, A