Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gen Obasanjo's Swan Song And Hubris

By Dan Amor
That General Olusegun Obasanjo, the emperor who misruled Nigeria for eight miserable years ( May 29, 1999 - May 29, 2007) recently raised the alarm that President Muhammadu Buhari was plotting to arrest him, shows how transient or ephemeral power can be! But, to paraphrase Frank Arthur Vanderlip, the great American banker and journalist, "Since nothing is settled until it is settled right, no matter how unlimited power a man may have, unless he exercises it fairly and justly, his actions may return to plague him." Yet, how many Nigerians can see Obasanjo's frustrations and arrogant gaffes as plain as a boil on the nose? As an army general, former head of state and an imperial president for eight years, Obasanjo is a tacit representative of the reactionary faction of the Nigerian ruling class - those shameless apostles of feudal revival who want Nigerians to continue in medieval servitude.
*Olusegun Obasanjo 
Obasanjo's recent alarm is Karma at work. The question is: why is Obasanjo still walking about freely in Nigeria in spite of his crime against the people of this country? For almost eight years, he was the petroleum minister who would not brook any nibbling at shouting down anyone who had the courage to challenge him to appoint a substantive minister to man the oil and gas portfolio. The restiveness, acrimony and rancour which had enveloped the Niger Delta were deliberate creations of President Obasanjo, who would continue to stoke the fire while mindlessly looting the booty. Only a demented despot would spend N200,000,000 daily to maintain the presence of Joint Taskforce in the region that produces over 90 per cent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings while fueling agitations and restiveness among the youths.
How many Nigerians know that the crises bedeviling the country today are the outcome of the traps that defenders of entrenched privileges in the military set over time? Yet one would say that by blithely ignoring some historical injunction, Nigerian politicians have failed to appreciate the fact that the strangulation of Nigeria by military pythons was the result of a grand design by the British colonialists long before the 1953 constitutional crisis and the bumpy improvisations which ensued for the next seven years leading up to independence. It was indeed a profound instinct among the British colonial exploiters to impose the grid of unitary government over a plasma of disparate peoples, parallel with a profound resistance to the ideals of true federalism.
Given the role of the armed forces in Nigerian history since the British Royal Navy began its Niger River patrol in 1861, the conquest of the Benin Kingdom in 1897, and the forced subjugation of the Ijebus in the 1890s, it follows logically therefore that the only organisation opposed to effective devolution of power over the sweep of years in Nigeria since independence, is the army. Although the British colonial government had been forced to appoint a commission of inquiry into what, for the English Establishment, was the distasteful topic of federalism, the outcome was soon to be jettisoned by the three major tribes using the military as a bulwark. Chaired by an excellent, clear-headed British lawyer, Sir Henry Willinck, QC, the team produced a White Paper that was a practical blueprint for a true federal Nigeria with the big cumbersome regions dissolved and the nation divided into a dozen or perhaps as many as sixteen states with each having its defined borders, independent revenues and local governments, as in any sensible federal system like the United States of America or Canada.
This was not to be. The imperial paradox therefore manifested in the emergence of queer characters like Obasanjo as national leaders. So much had happened in our concocted federalism in the eight years of Obasanjo's reign that it has been difficult to keep up with the pace of events, let alone to distinguish new departures and significant developments amidst the welter of proposals, competing interests, divergent ideas, contradictory opinions and arguments that have characterized our misbegotten polity since Obasanjo mounted the saddle in 1999. This is the man who is shamelessly accusing another man of not governing well.
How many genuinely committed Nigerian politicians in the present dispensation have been able to challenge the present lopsided federal system that has thrown up charlatans as conquerors and overlords of the Nigerian people, and called for a proper structural overhaul of the Nigerian federalism? Why wouldn't Obasanjo overheat the polity when, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in eight years, he ordered military invasion of Odi and Odioma in Bayelsa State, Zaki Biam in Benue State, Ohoro and Afeitere in Delta State, raping women and girls, maiming and killing innocent Nigerians without challenge, and yet still walking freely eleven years after leaving office?
In a fusillade of acerbic sarcasm and even open abuse, Obasanjo would talk to notable Nigerians, from his Vice to Ministers, sitting Governors and even ordained priests like a headmaster of a local primary school talks to his pupils. In Jos, Plateau State, he called a Catholic Bishop a fool, to his face. As a maximum ruler, Obasanjo saw himself as the only sane and intelligent Nigerian; every other person was a fool. For him, the country is not even centralized enough: state governors were supposed to have reported to him on a daily basis. He employed the services of State Houses of Assembly to impeach state governors who were critical of his totalitarian tendencies and withheld local government funds from state governors who had the courage to create local council development areas in an attempt to bring governance close to the people.
The result is that instead of Nigeria evolving towards a higher, more complex and organic form of federalism, it is rather degenerating into a rudimentary kind of parochialism. Nigeria has regressed monumentally due to the faulty foundation laid by Obasanjo and his cohorts who have constantly tinkered with our basic constitutional structure. We have watched with bewilderment and apprehension the succession of events and crises that have bewitched our federalism since 1999. Only a few have been able to cope with this captious man whose instinct is largely governed by caprice. Obasanjo's eight years as a military dictator in 'agbada' is a huge testimony of failure. Aside from compelling corporate Nigeria to donate towards his Presidential Library worth over N7billion he used public funds to set up a private university for himself while in power. He built a hilltop mansion for himself as a sitting president while Nigerians were sleeping under bridges.
Aside from the immediate past fifteen years (1984-1999) of sustained military aggression, rapacity and greed, a period in which our men in uniform cast a murky image on the country, the Nigerian public had been greatly embarrassed by the apparent incompetence and lack of the political will on the part of Obasanjo to turn the country around in the midst of a prolonged oil boom. Concern had grown to alarm as Obasanjo and his team at the federal level seemed not only unable, but also unwilling to meet the growing expectations of Nigerians for a decent living. It is unimaginable that eight years in the circuitous power game under Obasanjo's watch in which the nation's till had been pillaged and her vast wealth frittered away abroad, the rot is peaking and the people paying the imponderably colossal price.
While many prominent Nigerians such as Chiefs A. K. Dikibo, Harry Marshal, Bola Ige, Ogbonna Uche, Bola Ige, etcetera, were assassinated, there was a gale of impeachment of governors who disagreed with Obasanjo across the country. He grounded businesses of some Nigerians who helped in generating employment for the people just for power show. Slok Airlines belonging to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Al Barka Airlines belonging to Mohammed Buba Marwa and Savannah Bank belonging to Jim Nwobodo, had their operational licenses revoked by Obasanjo. Even as a whopping $16billion was wasted to generate darkness for Nigerians, the story of virtually every social responsibility of government to the people; of every area where government remained relevant to her subjects under the unwritten social contract code had been rewritten on its head. Hospitals had graduated from mere prescription clinics into mortuaries. The public school system is such a death trap because Obasanjo set up private schools and failed to reform the public school system for children of the poor.
If Nigerians got exasperated by increasingly parlous healthcare delivery, erratic power supply that made them enjoy more darkness than light completed the picture of a social system in disarray. That was the situation under Obasanjo. He is supposed to be in prison just like Pinochet of Chile or Mubarak of Egypt. But why is Obasanjo crying wolf when none exists? One of the things that some of us hold against Buhari is that he talks more than he performs. With the numerous fraud cases under Obasanjo's watch still warming the files of the anti-graft agencies, what is Buhari waiting for? Is Buhari's anti-corruption war limited to monies shared by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki? Obasanjo was petroleum minister for seven and a half years when the Prof. Ibrahim Ayagi's committee's report revealed that several billions of Naira were not remitted to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). So, why is Obasanjo still walking freely criticizing Buhari as though he was better than the present ruler? 
*Amor is an Abuja-based journalist and public affairs analyst 


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