Obasanjo, Buhari and the Impunity of Nepotism

Buhari and Obasanjo during one of the times the latter visited the president

Chido Nwangwu, Founder, USAfrica Multimedia Networks draws a comparison between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, while establishing a basis for Obasanjo’s criticism of the Buhari administration

Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of State of Nigeria and influential diplomatic personage, is a man that is known for his direct, and blunt manner of communication. To put it in the famous usage, the retired army general does not beat about the bush. For the benefit of those who may have forgotten, on July 15, 2019, in the best traditions of informed civic duty, he wrote and spoke truth to power, to his former military colleague, President Muhammadu Buhari, regarding what millions of people inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria consider to be Buhari’s clannishness. Let me characterize it as Buhari’s fundamentalist instinct for nepotism, a dangerous fixation and destructive force against the reasonable goals of governance.

Here is Obasanjo’s direct indictment of what he points to on this matter of nepotism.

“The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome. Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering violent agitation if he (emphasis mine) fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control.”

To be sure, Buhari is more restrictive and insular and nepotistic; he relies and prefers the comforting counselings of those whose demographic data are closer, physically, to his native ZIP Code — specifically in terms of ethnic origin and religion.

Since 1976 when he became the military head of state arising from the violent but failed coup d’état against him and late Gen. Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo has felt a sense of duty to contribute to making Nigeria better. Did he?

This question remains a hotly debated issue in Nigeria. To his critics, he is a self-serving hypocrite. To those who dislike him even more, he came in and he enriched himself, stupendously. Whatever anyone will say against him, the man has shown consistent interest in interrogating the skill and capacity and performance of every government since 1983. There are those who question or applaud his statesmanship. Some say he encourages some comparison of him to South Africa’s former President and globally acclaimed freedom fighter , Nelson Mandela.

This issue of comparing Obasanjo to Nelson Mandela in terms of leadership and use of power is analyzed by persons who know both of them in my forthcoming book ‘MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power Leadership and Identity’: ISBN 978-0-9893970-01-1.

Regarding this conflict between those masquerading as regional defenders of Buhari and a couple of sanctimonious followers of Saint Obasanjo, Nigerians especially those in power seem to forget important stuff too soon, and too quick. There is a willful and deliberate amnesia on the same issues that are very important as long as it concerns someone of their ethnicity or religion. There is not much difference in substance and messaging between what Obasanjo wrote in this his latest letter of September 2020 and his previous letter on July 15, 2019 to President Buhari.

The two retired generals are very different in their style and approach to governance and what I will call the governing circumference of influence and information and advice.. Obasanjo who abandoned his political god son, former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 to fight for Buhari has a more global, cosmopolitan outlook engaging more diverse skills and persons from different parts of Nigeria and the world.

Since history is our guide, let us profit from its evidence in the contentious context of the truck loads of insults and malicious attacks against Obasanya for speaking up on his concerns for his country.

On July 15, 2019 he wrote to the president “The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay. Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.”

On this critical issue of security and protection of lives or lack there of in Nigeria, Obasanjo pointedly stated: “For over 10 years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destruction and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?“

Obasanjo, on the volatile matter of the Fulani, “Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace”, it “started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country. The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more, unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship. Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debatedialogue.”

*Continued next Friday in this column.


Regarding this conflict between those masquerading as regional defenders of Buhari and a couple of sanctimonious followers of Saint Obasanjo, Nigerians especially those in power seem to forget important stuff too soon, and too quick. There is a willful and deliberate amnesia on the same issues that are very important as long as it concerns someone of their ethnicity or religion