The Trouble That Is Obasanjo

For some reason, he has been able to forge a cult demeanor of some sorts. His admirers range from young to old and so many are in awe of his charisma. A demagogue of a kind, Obasanjo guarantees a polarization of opinions. Having been a leader in this country in both the democratic and military dispensation, he is perhaps the best power monger in the nation's history. No doubt, that in itself should accord him some respect. However, I am not sure if any other thing should.

While I am neither a GEJ nor a Buhari sympathizer, I firmly believe that General Obasanjo's recent show of shenanigan during which he tore his PDP card was a new low for the Ota gaffer. In many ways, it was ‘unstatesman’ like, and in more ways than one, unwarranted. It is just fine for OBJ to decide to leave the Party at will. After all, he has been a divisive figure to the Party's polity for a while now. However, to go as far as pulling such theatrical stunt on national TV was vintage OBJ. It was both a disrespect to the party that once made him and a slight on our politics. What was even sadder about the event was that some representatives of his ward who were present chanted in jubilation at the drama. How they couldn't see that it was nothing to celebrate was a pity. There was nothing gratifying by such action, irrespective of party affiliations.

For some of us who are students of history, General Obasanjo's recent display was not novel. He has had a history of witch hunting his successors, especially those who are not ready to sing his song. During his first stint as ruler in the military days, OBJ earned a reputation for being divisive. Having handed over power in a transition that brought Shehu Shagari to power in 1979, he became the chief detractor of the regime, especially in 1982, leading up to the 1983 elections. In same vein, after working to install Yar'Adua as president in 2007, he soon fell out with him the moment he was trying to become his own man. The story has it that the Late Yar’Adua at some point stopped taking his calls due to his excesses which was becoming disturbing. And now, Obasanjo has become the commander in slay of the Jonathan administration. It is also interesting that the disowning of the Party by the Aremu happened just weeks before the elections. It is one thing to criticize a government for ineptitude; it is another thing to do that with crass disrespect and glaring self-serving interest. As Simon Kolawole once said, ‘Obasanjo is a wind-reader’ who always knows when to jump ship. It is a great shame and a testimony to our teething democracy that a former leader like Obasanjo makes public life all about him and the News is quick to make him headline. If he is not writing a public diatribe to the president, he is mocking the former vice president. The report that recently went viral of some governors going to Ota to genuflect to the former leader was also a show of OBJ’s excesses. That he takes pride in such demi-god act is pathetic. It is apt to say here that OBJ is perhaps one of the few godfathers remaining from an era of godfatherism that is gradually fizzling out of our political life. His chronology of shenanigans has attained a disturbing level. Perhaps, it is worth mentioning that in saner turfs, former leaders are the conscience of the nation who provides an anchor for it in moments of distress. In America today, there are four living former presidents (George H W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush) but none have made themselves nuisance to the Obama administration. One should also say that the Buhari train has to be very careful of General Obasanjo and his so called support. While he still wields some influence politically, I think the degree of this influence is grossly exaggerated in the minds of many.

Agree or differ, Obasanjo was not a good leader. He might be an enigma because of his unconventional and precarious attitude, but that does not let him pass for a legendary status. For a man that has tasted power for so long as he has, you expected him to have bequeathed a working democratic system. The next time we sing the praises of Baba, it is worth remembering that it was in his era that corruption and other social vices thrived. This is also the man that was so intoxicated with power that he did everything to cling on via the failed third term agenda. They say the ultimate test of leadership is to have a successor that succeeded. It is still public debate if Obasanjo passed this test.

In no clime except Nigeria will he still be accorded the kind of reverence he currently enjoins. He was not a great leader and should never be the compass for morality or the standard for good governance. It is often said that he who comes to equity, must do so with clean hands. OBJ does not possess one. He is rash, he is vindictive, he is corrupt and a power chaser of unimaginable proportions. In more ways than one, he has lost his mystifying powers and that reality appears to hunt him these days. Make no mistake about it, he made some pocket strides while in power but he also hatched and betrothed to us this decadence called corruption and other evil seeds that have germinated to plague us today. Obasanjo was not a great leader in my book and it is suicidal to mention him in the same breathe as a Nelson Mandela or a Julius Nyerere. While posterity will read of him, I am not sure they will remember him for the right reasons.

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