The Darts and Fury of the Obasanjo Endorsement

Eddy Odivwri 

He is hard-headed enough to be very used to controversies. Love him or hate him, former President Olusegun Okikiola Obasanjo remains a core factor in the Nigerian political terrain. Those who discount this fact are merely living in denial. He is fearless and ruthless.  At nearly 86 years, what should such a man yet be afraid of? A former military Head of State, a former president, a well-respected nationalist within and outside Nigeria, why should he be restrained from saying it as he sees it? 

And so on New Year’s Day, he chose to do his usual: write a letter to Nigerians, “especially young Nigerians…” urging them to rise up and take back their country. It was a six-page letter that not only galvanized the youth to rise up and seize the opportunity of the moment, but also gave a state-of-the-nation assessment. Perhaps what riled more people is on the last task of his letter: the endorsement of Mr Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate whom he said was not only his mentee, but one who has the character, competence and physical and mental attributes to confront the “taxing and tasking assignment” of national leadership. He declared that Obi “has an edge” over all the other frontrunners in the presidential race.  It was an endorsement that triggered a rash of vitriolic attacks against the elder statesman. 

A local proverb among my kindred says those who missed out on palace food will always dismiss it as a cold meal, just to console themselves. And that is what has played out with the Obasanjo endorsement of Peter Obi. 

All those who have either criticized Obasanjo for the endorsement or trivialized the political import of it are being hypocritical. If Obasanjo had endorsed them, would they not arrange church thanksgiving in celebration of the endorsement or even take up full page adverts to “pepper” the other contestants?

But because the endorsement did not favour them, they have been throwing all kinds of trash at Obasanjo and his endorsed mentee. Suddenly, Obasanjo is said to be a “paperweight”, one whose endorsement means nothing and of no political importance, worth or consequence. 

Yet this is the same Obasanjo that they have all been paying homage to his home in Ota or Obasanjo Presidential Library at Abeokuta, as if it is the political Mecca of Nigeria. If Obasanjo was that worthless and inconsequential to their political fortune, why the covetous crave for his endorsement and support? 

Who can, in all honesty, fault the TVCP— (Track record, Vision, Character and Physical and mental capacity) parameters enumerated by Obasanjo in endorsing Obi? In any case, it is Obasanjo’s own belief and rightful prerogative. 

If it does not matter at all, why all the fuss about an endorsement? The Obasanjo critics can discount the endorsement at their own peril.

Even Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) whose campaign for the office has never moved beyond television appearances, described the Obasanjo endorsement as “endorsement of failure”, saying that Obasanjo is an over-rated political leader in the country. Sowore, who has never organized any rally anywhere in Nigeria in pursuit of his presidential ambition, is largely seen as those who only want to be counted as one-of-the-also-ran candidates, as he has not demonstrated commitment to wooing the Nigerian people to vote for his party. 

Is it not remarkable that two days after the Obasanjo endorsement, another elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the President of Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) also endorsed Obi? Months ago, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, 94, had thrown all his weight and that of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, which he leads, behind the candidacy of Peter Obi. 

It is worth noting that while the bulk of  Nigerian youths are baying for Peter Obi, and are the lead vanguard of the Obidient movement, even the old folks, prized elder statesmen are also throwing their weight behind  the same Obi.

What is more, Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State, the senior prefect of the G5 Class has also applauded former President Obasanjo for endorsing Peter Obi. And as some have predicted, more endorsements are on the way for the Labour Party candidate.

It is however true that these endorsers have just one vote. True. But it is also true, even truer, to say that these endorsers are leaders in their own rights and they exercise some influence and effect on those they lead.  

The other hard slam against Obasanjo came from the presidency, for obvious reasons. The Obasanjo letter to Nigerians, besides endorsing Obi, had also given an assessment of the President Buhari administration and concluded that Nigerians only moved from frying pan to fire, and have been taken from the mountaintops to the valley. 

Obasanjo had described the experiences of Nigerians under Buhari as “eventful and stressful” and that Nigerians are actually having a hell-on-earth treatment from the Buhari administration. 

Expectedly therefore, the spokesman of Mr President, Garba Shehu, had pulled out his sledge hammer to hit Obasanjo over his roles in public governance. After describing Obasanjo in despicable terms, he concluded that Obasanjo should not and does not have the moral rectitude to criticise the Buhari administration which he (Garba Shehu) said has out-performed Obasanjo’s records, adding that Buhari has had several international applauses on his boss’s efforts in office.

The rash reaction from the presidency seems to be verily angry with the messenger and not the message delivered. Perhaps one sure way of putting to test what Obasanjo said about the Buhari administration is for the president’s men to simply ask the question: are Nigerians better off today than they were in 2015? Or to be a little more scientific, they could commission a credible and reputable body to carry out a survey in some select towns and cities in Nigeria and let them hear what the Nigerian people think and say about the Buhari administration, that is if they choose to ignore and dismiss all the vox pop which the television houses regularly air.  How many speakers would Garba Shehu and his ally confront? It was Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, a few weeks ago. Now it is Obasanjo. More critics of the Buhari administration will sure file out in the countdown to the end of his administration. 

Although it is pretty late in the day, what these messages should inspire among those who work with Mr President is introspection, not confrontation. After all, Nigeria and Nigerians will remain long after the administration of Muhammadu Buhari would have expired.


Welcome to 2023, the Year of Mega Gbese

Eddy Odivwri 

How was the New Year holiday and celebrations? Did you go to your village as usual?

Noooooo. Going to the village would increase my Blood Pressure. I respected myself and hid here in Lagos

What is the connection between going to the village and having increased Blood Pressure?

Ahhh, my brother, you won’t understand. When you can no longer do as you used to do for your community folks, even as they look up to you as the man from the city with a load of goodies, your BP cannot but be on the rise. So I remained here in my little corner in Lagos. 

But Mr President’s Christmas message says he has fulfilled all his electoral promises of making life better for Nigerians. Are you saying Mr President lied?

Never! Mr President cannot lie. He was just being economical with the truth. He did not clarify the point that the Nigerians he was referring to are those in his household and in his office environment. He surely wasn’t referring to Nigerians in Badagry or Bayelsa or Nigerians in Kaltungo in Gombe State, or those in Orogun in Delta State or Iragbiji in Osun State, or those in Vandeikya in Benue State. No, he wasn’t referring to those Nigerians. Check well.

I am sure you are being ironical. 

Look, this is not a joking matter. Everybody has followed tradition and convention to wish ourselves a happy New Year, wishing ourselves a great and sweeter year.  2023 will be rough and tough. Just look at all the economic indices and you will want to remember Tai Solarin’s new year wish, when he said, May your road be rough”

Look, this year, we don’t want naysayers. We don’t want pessimists, those specialists in seeing the bottle as half empty and not half full. Look, our pastors and Imams have prayed and decreed for a better year during the Crossover services, few days ago and we all chorused loud Amen. So, it is too early in the year for you to start killing our spirit.

Kill your spirit? Far from it! I don’t care what your pastors said or decreed. They are hope givers, not economists or realists. They are good at filling you up with hope so you can come again the next day for another refill. But I am telling you that this year will be tough. Have you seen the content analysis of the 2023 fiscal budget?

It was just signed into law last Tuesday. Didn’t you see the huge budget of N21.83 trillion? Has Nigeria ever got such a huge budget? It won’t be doomsday after all. Not when a nation is budgeting a whopping sum as much as $47.39 billion. We are just about 200 million people programmed to spend N21.83 trillion. It won’t be hell on earth as somebody once said.

You are betraying your financial naivety, I don’t want to say financial illiteracy. You should ask the critical questions of how the budget will be funded. Where will this money come from? Do you realise that in that budget, there is a debt profile of N77 trillion? Have you ever heard that before? Can’t you see it is a deep and booby trap for the incoming administration? How does a man step into office and he is greeted with a debt of N77 trillion?  It is mega gbese, my brother. What is more, two days after assumption of office by the incoming President, is the end of the controversial subsidy removal on petrol. Do you know the implication of that? Inflation which is currently 21.4 % will hike further. Transportation cost will increase. Cost of living will increase. Food items will be beyond the reach of an average Nigerian. At that point, you will remember the threat of Rehoboam to upgrade the punishment of the Israelites from being chastised with mere whips to being chastised with scorpions. It won’t be funny, I swear. 

Enough of this prophet of doom. Nigeria and Nigerians will always survive. We are a country of strong breeds.

This country should have no business with this huge debt. What did they do with the huge debts? Apart from the improved rail services and the second Niger bridge, what else did they do with all the borrowed monies? What about the many billions recovered from looters which they kept announcing anyway?  How come we are living large as a nation from borrowed monies? What is worse, it is from these loans that huge stealing takes place like one man, former Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, stealing as much as N109 billion? It is from this borrowed money that the Aviation minister, Hadi Sirika spent N15.9 billion to launch the logo of an elusive airline.  How can it be that the higher the budgetary figures, the harsher our pains will be? With all the natural and human resources God endowed us with, we should have no business with the degree of poverty and hardship you are painting. I reject it! Do you know how much just Customs pumps into the economy per year? What about the rake-ins from the Federal Inland Revenue Service? What about the VAT collected or even the trillions of naira from stamp duty collections? Look, I am telling you that if all the knaves and thieves in government are removed Nigeria should be one of the richest countries in the world. 

So how do we identify these knaves and thieves and then remove them from government services?

That will be the first task of the incoming President, if this country must survive all the mines planted on the way of the next President.

But you must be sure you have your PVC, even as I wish you a Happy New Year, whether it be rough or not.

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