Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is genuinely patriotic and unapologetic about it, writes Olawale Olaleye
He is not infallible and unlike many in his class, does not pretend to be. He is conscious of his humanity. Even more stupefying is that he flaunts his patriotism without minding whose ox is gored. That’s the vintage Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president and patriotic leader of all times.
For some time now, Obasanjo had been quiet, but not before leaving behind some issues for the presidency to contend with. Before reclining briefly into his shell, he had declared support for his former deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and had also warned that re-electing President Muhammadu Buhari would mean reinforcing failure, at least, from all indications.
That was not the kind of thing that the presidency, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and their supporters wanted to hear. They refused to take it with equanimity and blew up so bad. But Obasanjo, who nursed no regrets about his position, dropped the bombshell and reclined into his shell for a while. However, there was a build-up to that.
Sometime in January of 2018, Obasanjo wrote a letter to President Buhari, advising him to turn away from the idea of a second term in office. He asked him to dismount from his horse in collective interest and save the country from the pending doom of ineptitude.
It was after dropping this and supporting the Atiku candidacy with a special call for a new Nigeria movement, which in turn gave rise to a political party that he went completely off the radar. But to the shock of his traducers, he came back last week, this time with even bigger threat to Buhari’s election.
With just some 20 days to the presidential election, Obasanjo wrote yet another letter, where he accused Buhari of using security institutions to fight all his critics and opponents and warned that such a disposition could derail the nation’s fledgling democracy. To properly underscore his points, he went on to equate the president’s style to the era of the late former military Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Titled “Point for Concern And Action”, Obasanjo, in his 22-page statement said he had serious doubt about the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) integrity, impartiality and competence to conduct a fair, free and credible election.
He therefore warned Nigerians and the international community of the implications of being passive in the unfolding political events in the country, saying the price of liberty and sustenance of the nation’s democracy was eternal vigilance and appropriate reaction to ward off iniquities. He also advised Nigerians to be ready to pay that price and not rely on hollow words of callousness.
“Today, another Abacha era is here. The security institutions are being misused to fight all critics and opponents of Buhari and to derail our fledgling democracy.
“EFCC, police and Code of Conduct Tribunal are also being equally misused to deal with those Buhari sees as enemies for criticising him or as those who may not do his bidding in manipulating election results. Criticism, choice and being different are inherent trade mark of democracy. If democracy is derailed or aborted, anarchy and authoritarianism will automatically follow.”
Pondering the way forward, Obasanjo said, “It is no use, at this juncture, to keep lamenting about the failure, incompetence, divisiveness, nepotism, encouragement and condonation of corruption by Buhari administration as there is neither redeeming feature nor personality to salvage the situation within that hierarchy.
“You cannot give what you don’t have. Bode George put it bluntly in his statement of December 3, 2018 when he said: ‘The other day, the Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo – a learned man, an enlightened person in all parameters – was seen at various markets in Lagos State and Abuja distributing N10,000 each to market women.
“What an absurdity! It was indeed an obscene display of executive recklessness and abuse of office. Pray, where did the money come from? Was it budgeted for in the appropriation law? In more civilised nations, Osinbajo would have been impeached and prosecuted for gutting our collective treasury.
“What an act by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, number two man in the executive hierarchy; and what is more, a pastor of one of the Christian movements led by a revered, respected and upright church leader, Pastor E. A. Adeboye. Osinbajo must have gone for, if you can’t beat them, join them. A great pity indeed and which makes people ask the questions. Any hope?”
It was not surprising that the Obasanjo statement was badly received by the presidency and the ruling party. A majority of their members and staff of the presidency had since come out to defend what the opposition described as ‘protecting their means of livelihood’.
Although a majority of those attacking Obasanjo do not even qualify to speak on or about corruption, their reaction to Obasanjo’s statement however presents the hypocrisy of the position. Obasanjo is unapologetically patriotic and that is common sense.
And had anyone followed Buhari’s situation recently – from his performance at the town hall meeting to his performance at some of the rallies in Delta, Kaduna and other places, it is obvious that Obasanjo had a reason to be worried and genuinely so. The president is tired. Age has clearly slowed him down and health taken a devastating toll on him.
There is no doubting the fact that the nation would do well if stakeholders look beyond the messenger and address the core of his message. That way, the collective resolve to address some of Nigeria’s challenges and set in motion the course of building a dream country could be seen as altruistic.