Imust say that I was shocked by the statement released by Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, accusing former President Olusegun Obasanjo of being Nigeria’s Divider-in-Chief.
In the statement, released on Sunday, September 13, 2020, Shehu said:
“The difference is clear. From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief (to adapt the coinage of Time).”
After reading Garba Shehu’s statement, I decided to make a comparison between Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari so that the facts could speak for themselves to my readers.
Perhaps the major difference between the two men is that Muhammadu Buhari is a coupist, who overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari, which ignited a chain reaction of 16 years of brutal military dictatorships. Whereas Chief Obasanjo has never participated in a coup, though he benefited from one, and more importantly is the first African military ruler to have voluntarily handed over power to a democratically elected government on October 1, 1979.
It is left for my readers to decide which action is more conducive to unity and which is more in keeping with division.
One other major difference between the two is that Olusegun Obasanjo has written ten books, including My Command (1980), Nzeogwu (1987), Not My Will (1990), This Animal Called Man (1998), amongst others, while Buhari has not written a single book. Not even one. It is even doubtful if he reads books. Or if he even reads for that matter, because as Rotimi Amaechi said in my now infamous Amaechi Tapes, “Does the President read”.
So, when Garba makes the sort of sycophantic comparison he made between Obasanjo and Buhari, I wonder if he took the facts into account, or if he only considered the farce.
Every Nigerian leader before General Obasanjo was either killed or violently overthrown. Tafawa Balewa was murdered, as was his successor, Ironsi. Yakubu Gowon was overthrown, while Murtala Mohammed was shot on the streets of Lagos. Olusegun Obasanjo was the first Nigerian leader to have a planned tenure that was not interrupted by coups or death.
It says something about his leadership abilities.
Until Obasanjo re-emerged on the scene in 1999, every Nigerian leader between when he handed over on October 1, 1979, and when he was sworn in on May 29, 1999, either had their tenure cut short, or left in a hurry.
President Shagari was overthrown. His successor, General Buhari was easily overthrown. General Babangida stepped aside, while his successor, Chief Shonekan resigned, reportedly at gunpoint. The bloodthirsty buffoon called Abacha died disgracefully, and General Abdulsalami left abruptly after nine months.
Additionally, Obasanjo is the first and ONLY Nigerian President since 1999 to have stayed eight years in office. Buhari has not endured that long, though he has the potential. Did Garba Shehu consider these before insulting Obasanjo, under whose Peoples Democratic Party administration he served as a media aide?
Now, let us go granular. Throughout both his time as military and civilian leader, Chief Obasanjo had four chiefs of Army Staff, and none of them was from his ethnic nationality, the Yoruba (whose real name is Edekiri). Three were Northerners, and one was from the Niger Delta. He also had two ministers of defence, and both of them were from the North. Finally, Chief Obasanjo appointed four chiefs of defence staff of which three were from the North, and one was from the Niger Delta.
This is even as Obasanjo maintained balance in the three arms of government, with him as a Christian Southerner as head of the Executive, a Muslim Northerner as Chief Justice, and a Christian Southerner as Senate President.
Compare that with Muhammadu Buhari who has never had a non-Muslim, non-Northern chief of army staff, whether as a military Head of State or civilian President.
Under Buhari, the heads of the Executive, Judiciary, Legislature, Ministry of Defence, Army, Airforce, Police, DMI, DSS, EFCC, NIA and 90% of the headship of Nigeria’s security agencies are all Northern Muslim Males.
Is it that Garba Shehu is not aware of this? President Buhari is a stark, raving tribalist and ideologue who on August 26, 2001 said, “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria.” This is a tribally and religiously demented fellow, who went to the US on July 25, 2015 and said, “constituencies, for example, that gave me 97% cannot, in all honesty, be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%.”
And this is the man Garba Shehu called Uniter-in-Chief? There is sycophancy, and there is dishonesty. Those two words combine to describe Garba Shehu’s statement.
Nigerians have a short memory, so let me remind them and Garba Shehu, what Buhari said to the President of the World Bank. On October 13, 2017, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, said:
“You know, in my very first meeting with President Buhari he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that. Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very difficult.”
Never in the history of Nigeria has any leader or ruler (Buhari and Abacha are/were not leaders) been so bold in his Northernisation agenda. And this is the man Garba Shehu tagged Uniter-In-Chief.
And even on the economic front, there is no basis to compare the lacklustre Buhari to chief Obasanjo.
When President Obasanjo celebrated his last Independence Day in office on October 1, 2006, Nigeria’s foreign debt was almost $0, because he paid it off just months before that celebration. Today, Nigeria owes a total debt of nearly $100 billion, due to Buhari’s profligate borrowing. Is your Garba Shehu not ashamed of such a record?
In addition, Nigeria’s GDP grew by 6% under Obasanjo. On the contrary, Nigeria has faced four recessions in the last 40 years. And Buhari was either military head of state or civilian President for 3 out of those four times.
It is obvious. If Aisha Buhari should have a new baby, Buhari should name the child recession!
Had we ever heard of a quit notice given to the Igbo by the North before Buhari? No. The last time such scenarios played out was during the civil war.
It is not even just Nigeria Buhari has divided. He has even divided the once monolithic North. On September 10, 2020, the Middle Belt broke away from the North in principle and formed the North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF).
The fact remains that, based on individual achievements, no other human being, living or dead, in peacetime and war, has done more to unite Nigeria, like chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who as a colonel and head of the 3rd Marine Commando, ended the Nigerian Civil War and returned peace to Nigeria.
Politics aside, what Garba Shehu did is downright disgraceful. If he is not careful, his children may end up changing their surname to avoid any association to a man who has so debased his name, that it provokes hisses and spits, when it is mentioned in many quarters.
Your father is not less than Femi Otedola because he did not buy you a Ferrari. Otedola is a billionaire. The cost of 3 Ferraris is less than 1% of his net worth. If your father spent 5% of his net worth educating you, then your father did more than Otedola. Remember the account of the widow’s mite? Don’t just look at the amount. Rather, look at the sacrifice. $1 million is chicken feed to a billionaire. $10,000 is a sacrifice to a working man. Go home and appreciate your father. He did what Otedola has not done!