FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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NIGERIA AND THE OBASANJO FACTOR – THE 1979, 1999 AND 2019 THRESHOLD

igeria is a country in desperate search of nationhood. Our national anthem which was given to us by the Obasanjo administration as a military Head of State seems in my mind the most precise articulation of our national aspiration and I chose to reproduce same here for ease of reference.

Arise, O compatriots
Nigeria's call obey
to serve our fatherland
with love and strength and faith.
The labour of our heroes past
shall never be in vain,
to serve with heart and might
one nation bound in freedom
Peace and unity.

Oh God of creation,
direct our noble cause
Guide thou our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace
And justice shall reign

There is no Nigerian ever that is as privileged as our beloved Chief from Owu, who God lifted up to prominence and significance with a mandate to play a pivotal role in the destiny of the Nigerian match to nationhood. I dare say he is the Principality over the Nigerian State. From his career in the Military where he was positioned to receive the instrument of surrender to end the Nigerian Civil War, to his ascendance as Military Head of State that willingly handed over power to a Civilian Government, to becoming an Elected President of this great country; his life has no parallel. His latest attainment of his PHD at an age of 80 years from the Nigerian Open University is the icing on the cake of a life that is sterling.

The foregoing should give him a lot of satisfaction with a huge sense of accomplishment that should at this time make him a very generous man in thoughts, words, and deeds whilst enjoying a life of reverence and retirement for such an impactful life. A blessed man as he both in age and accomplishment in my native homeland of Uvwie Delta State by tradition is revered which I think is the same for all homelands all over Nigeria culturally.

His latest moves which included the tweet..... ‘na dem dey rush us’ has however left me breathless and I have been wondering... Is Obasanjo a Blessing or a Curse to the Nigerian State? Let me state upfront, that I am not allowed to disrespect or bring dishonour in anyway shape or form by this discourse to his person and stature. As a Nigerian, I am only exercising my right of citizenship that empowers me to scrutinize, analyse and draw conclusions on acts of omission and commission of the leadership of this country with a view to seeking out positive redirection of the state of affairs.

That Nigeria is in a very bad shape is not in question whether you are in APC or PDP or anywhere else. At least we should all be in agreement on this singular fact by the prevailing experiences, circumstances and failures which in my mind is a collective one that should be assigned to the collective called leadership. President Olusegun Obasanjo with all of the roles he has played in the evolution of the Nigerian State is indeed the most crucial leader of all and is thus most responsible for this rather sad outcome.

God indeed entrusted the responsibility to midwife the greatness of this country into the hands of Dr Olusegun Obasanjo. The two times he had been in charge where periods of great prospects. He worked so hard to make the reality of greatness so visible at these times for Nigeria. On both occasions, a new dawn beckoned on us. But alas the greatness which he so tirelessly worked hard to realise were all aborted by the succeeding regimes he so steadfastly midwifed.

The first scenario of 1979 was grave enough to have instructed the General on the best possible outcome to seek for the future of Nigeria. It was his call to make on who succeeds him in Office as President. It was quite obvious that Chief Obafemi Awolowo would make the best choice but for his ethnic affinity to the General which would not serve the sensitivities of the time – a Yoruba man cannot be succeeding a Yoruba man; and not for a Country that has just survived a civil war. The second best from every direction would have been Alhaji Maitama Sule who clearly had his eyes fixed on serving in the capacity of President. The General in his ‘wisdom’ preferred Alhaji Shehu Shagari who had his eyes fixed on becoming a Senator. No wonder he was overwhelmed by the duties of the Office of President and the great opportunity of the Second Republic was thus aborted with its life sniffed off by the hands of General Buhari and all of the great works of General Obasanjo was brought to naught.

The second scenario came exactly 20 years later in 1999 with the re-emergence of Obasanjo as a democratically elected President. The nation was at a cross road after the horrendous military years of Buhari/Idiagbon jackboot, Babangida rigmarole, and brutal Abacha. Once again and against all odds, President Obasanjo pulled the country from its knees and ‘great lofty heights were attained’. One of such great accomplishment was that Nigeria became a debt free country under his watch. A status I never could imagine we would ever see in my life time. The significance of this was that Nigeria on balance sheet was one of the best Countries on earth. The privatization of the Telecommunication industry was to reference Nigeria as one of the best destination for global capital. But yet again, 2007 came and by the ‘wisdom’ of President Obasanjo, the reins of Power was put in the hands of a very sick President Yaradua that is supported by a chosen ‘clueless’ Goodluck Jonathan. It is significant to note that the power hand over by Obasanjo this time around was not like the first. He was unwilling to go and was forced to make this decision after a botched attempt to institute an unconstitutional third term, having lost faith in his Vice President Abubakar Atiku.

Once again the great opportunity at greatness for Nigeria was aborted with the events that followed 2007 till date. We have tumbled from the ‘lofty heights’ and we are right now on the precipice. Never since the civil war has there been so much letting of blood in the land - the blood of the innocent, weak and the vulnerable. All of the leadership that existed since 2007 are Obasanjo’s as he endorsed all of them before their ascendance.

The reality before us is that this ‘wisdom’ of Obasanjo that consistently works so hard to deliver Nigeria at the bank of greatness only to hand it over for abortion must now be called to question. Whatever is the intricate details of that ‘wisdom’ can be analysed and a positive outcome drawn out to the benefit of our country Nigeria. Reason we need to scrutinize the latest moves of Baba Iyabo.

We are at another 20 years in 2019 – the previous are the 1979 and 1999 dates. Should Nigeria rely on the ‘wisdom’ of Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo to direct affairs again? There are two sides to this question and it will be wise for Nigerians to look closely at both carefully before taking the plunge this time.

The first part is to see if Dr Olusegun Obasanjo, with his experience from the past two crucial points is best positioned to direct the third opportunity. So his rejection of President Buhari and vindictive rejection of Former Vice President Atiku should be taken as holy grails and await his choice for 2019; or see the second part as using his rejection as a compass in the right direction, in the choice of leadership that might work at the least better than the previous outcomes of 1979 and 1999 periods in this experiment to seek out great leadership for Nigeria.

Without waiting for his choice of who to support in 2019 and working on breaking this cycle of leadership failure, Nigeria must now chart a new direction and taking the rejection compass as a guide which in the circumstance looks so much as an attractive option. As it stands today from the Obasanjo stable, and with the rejection compass, the choice should be between Buhari and Atiku for Nigeria in 2019. Maybe by this we will get it right by going against the ‘wisdom’ of Obasanjo this time.

On a personal note, Our Dear Baba, it must be so much pain to see your works and legacies destroyed time and time again. It is certainly not your intention to be your own nemesis as evidenced by the above narrative. A worthy successor in 2007 with the vision of continuing in the direction you have lead the country would have seen Nigeria today consolidating on the great lofty heights attained’ under your watch with your legacies preserved, protected and projected into the next generation. The period since then would largely be considered wasted years and a step back into the abyss. Please spare us the agony of another round of failed efforts. All that we need as a country to grow into the ideals espoused in our anthem abound with us but for the leadership question. Unshackle Nigeria from your ‘wisdom’ this one more time and let Nigeria rise beyond you. This is an appeal to you Your Excellency, Dr, Chief, General, Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo GCFR, Former Head of State and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Having said this much about personalities, let me stretch this discuss and thoughts a little bit further to add that the future of Nigeria would need to be moved away from our reliance on building of strong personalities to the effective efforts of nation building. The election of 2019 should move from this rather pedestrian level of APC versus PDP or Buhari Versus Atiku and the rest aspirants to the discussion of issues, which as at today is not the case with about 6 months to the Elections.

Quite central to all of the issues confronting Nigeria is the Leadership Question. Should we not have a system that is more productive and less wasteful as this one currently in place? Waste is such a central issue that listening to an experienced former Governor Peter Obi should advice us against the current state of affairs. A lot is being said about restructuring of our political structure that would enable the unleashing of the potentials of Nigeria. However, we are yet to see clear cut substance to this discuss that nails it for all contending sections of the State. The last National Conference of the Jonathan Administration made some progress at reaching a consensus of some sort but the issue of waste in my mind was not well addressed.

My humble submission is that the election of 2019 presents for Nigeria an opportunity to take seriously the issue of restructuring to its logical conclusion. A constitutional process that would reduce the footprint of election for politicians at all levels must be the first step. The current footprint completely supports corruption. Any system that requires the electorate in Katsina to vote for a Buhari or a Jonathan is unlikely to be fair. Election in Katsina should strictly be between a Buhari and a Yaradua for all intent and purpose because the people of Katsina would know and do

best between a Buhari and a Yaradua rather than a cause between Buhari and Jonathan. Further still the resources Buhari needs to convince the people of Baylesa to vote for him against a Jonathan makes a charade of electioneering. This is the underlining factor that is fuelling our corrupt political system as the resources needed are so much for mere mortals to contemplate. This is also the reason why we have the quality of participants dwindling right from those of our founding fathers till date. We urgently need to reverse this by narrowing the footprint of electioneering framework that would support the mobilization of the right quality of leadership as the kind that Dr Olusegun Obasanjo would wish to have as successors and are responsible enough to avoid the abortion of our potentials and possibilities ‘to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign’.

The Structure that supported the emergence of our best in the 1st Republic holds a lot of prospects and there is nothing wrong in taking the important lessons from that experience as the building blocks for a new and viable political structure for a better Nigeria.


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