By Frank Opara
As you are reading this, former president, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, (retd.) is angry. His anger is visible and he can’t hide it any longer, much as he tries to suppress it. He has just publicly torn his membership card of his party, the PDP. It appears he has taken it personal.
From the formation of his sentences, the pressure he applies in his choice words by way of emphasis to communicate his diatribe-filled message these days, to his squinted gaze from his eye glasses, we are witnessing the choleric Obasanjo as told by his daughter, Iyabo, in her own letter to Nigerians some time last year during the ‘letter writing season’.
From the podium in far away Kenya where he chose to declare his support for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, his sudden meeting a couple of weeks ago with an association of female politicians, and most recently his press conference, all in his Hill-top Mansion in Otta his home town, Obasanjo, like a man who has decided to cry out publicly about the so many ills of his wife after unsuccessful attempts to hold back, decided to go public with his disapproval of President Goodluck Jonathan.
In all these meetings, he did not hide his derision for President Jonathan. He has basically gone into overdrive. All the failures of ‘our heroes’ past’, including his own, have been heaped on the door step of Jonathan’s administration.
To those who care to listen to him, especially the opposition, he has got so much to say on the many sins of Jonathan in order to stop him running for a second term and he rarely ignores any opportunity to do that.
However, many, including me, believe that what belies this exaggerated public display of ‘love of country’, is more of Obasanjo’s personal interest than his patriotism. Covertly or overtly, he has not been seen to play any significant role in this government. He is not calling the shots.
A proud man like Obasanjo does not like that. Dwelling in his pompous mind, is the fact that he has been forced to retreat both mentally and physically by no other than an apprentice politician whom he single handedly scooped from the rustic village of Otuoke in Bayelsa State. And so he is very bitter.
At times like this, I like to ponder over the fact that Obasanjo is too patriotic. He wanted to perpetuate himself in power by unconstitutionally seeking a third term, if not for the pressure (the type that forced Babangida, another hill-top mansion landlord to ‘step aside’) by more patriotic and principled Nigerians. For a better understanding of his display of greed for power, read ‘The Accidental Public Servant’ by Mallam Nasiru el Rufai.
Obasanjo is too patriotic. He is one of the richest retired heads of state in the world today, thanks to our common wealth. You don’t need Forbes to tell you that. Take a short visit to his Otta farm. How he came about such stupendous wealth remains a mystery.
However, at the risk of holding brief for President Jonathan’s muddled leadership, he Obasanjo has no moral rectitude to speak against corruption.
No matter his so-called effort which some of his hirelings argue, in trying to call a spade a spade, Obasanjo’s bravado is borne out of his contempt for vast majority of nonresistant citizens of this country. This social construct called Nigeria is the only place where the likes of Obasanjo, with all the allegations of corrupt practices surrounding him, moves around with much swag like a colossus without prosecution.
I am trying hard to justify his recent public speeches in this state of uneasiness and national tension. Public speeches lined with hard-edged criticisms that are tearing us apart more than they are stitching the noticeable existing divisions in the polity.
Obasanjo is at liberty to drum up support for his preferred candidate. But he should do that statesman-like without being seen as creating turmoil in an already tensed environment with unnecessary public diatribe. Strings of outspoken and provocative public speeches stirred the ugly violence that greeted the last elections which claimed thousands of innocent Nigerian lives, especially the youth. We should try as much as possible to avoid a similar occurrence. Obasanjo has a role to play in this; that is, if he is as patriotic as he wants us to believe.
From his recent public display of disaffection, and as our personal experiences can validate, if there is one regret Obasanjo has today, and hope to die with, it is foisting the duo of Umaru Musa Ya’Ardua of blessed memory and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on compliant Nigerians. No right thinking Nigerian should sympathize with him. It is a lesson for the so-called ‘king makers’ in our midst. No one’s life is perfect. And no one should impose his/her will on others, no matter the circumstances. It totally goes against the will of the Almighty who bestows the respective roles we play in life.
Today, every Nigerian knows that Obasanjo is angry over alleged ineptitude of President Jonathan whom he imposed on Nigerians due to his selfish reasons.
If he felt he owed Nigerians an obligation, he should have considered their interest first and foremost. If he could not adhere to simple courtesy such as this, then he has no moral right to tell them how floundering and ineligible President Jonathan is. He who comes to equity, must come with clean hands, so they say.
But Nigerians must rise up from their docility and yielding attitude which allows their leaders to perpetrate impunity and makes them feel unanswerable to them.
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