obasanjo
obasanjo

THIS COLUMN is primarily set out to treat issues as they affect the down trodden Nigerians, neglected and maltreated people of the world. The reason is deliberate, to shift away emphasis from what’s been journalism’s main focus, constantly throwing searchlight on personalities and occasionally writing on bizarre issues. But here I’m again writing on former President Olusegun Obsasanjo. This is my second piece on the former President within a short period of four months when this column debuted. Whether or not I like and or admire Obasanjo isn’t the issue. What’s, is that this is my second piece on the Owu Chief who I’ll hereinafter refer to as Obj, no disrespect intended. This underscores Obj’s importance; he cannot be ignored in spheres of serious discourse. By Obj’s reckoning, he was 80 years last Sunday, two days ago. Some activities were organised to mark the event. One of them was a special edition of NTA’s Tale by Moonlight which took place in Ibogun, near Ifo, Ogun State, the ancestral village of Obj. The beautiful picture of the event which Daily Trust had on its front page on Wednesday, March 1, some seven days away, didn’t capture the face of Obj as has been previously captured in many other places. However, I’ve had to take some proper look at Obj’s picture elsewhere and was convinced that Obj will have to enter into some contest with Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole so that doubting Nigerian Thomases would get to know the uglier person between the two persons. Each time I see Obj and even without discussions, I’m reminded of many things. This is one man mother-nature has graciously smiled on. Those who’re around and knew one or two things about the fratricidal civil war in Nigeria will easily recall that Benjamin Adekunle aka Black Scorpion, did the fighting at Eastern Nigerian flank only for lucky Obj to arrive the scene and receive the surrender of Biafra. Who did greater fight between Obj and Adekunle is still very controversial. Many years after the civil war, Obj wrote a most provocative book titled “My Command,” wherein he chronicled what those who’ve firsthand war front accounts have described as self-serving. Obj is accused of telling one-sided story that tilted towards his side. There was a Murtala Muhammed. He emerged as Head of State after the coup that toppled the flip-flopping Yakubu Gowon’s regime when he was on a trip to Kampala, Uganda in 1975. Murtala did about six months in office before he was assassinated in what’s come to be known as Dimka’s Coup. Luck again smiled on Obj as he carried on the responsibility of managing and mismanaging the affairs of Nigeria until, some commentators argued he cowardly handed over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979 as civilian president. It’s true that Obj handed over to Shagari, the controversy surrounding the circumstances of that handover for a long time refused to go away. As long as the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, government which was in power in the West of Nigeria was concerned, Obj rigged the 1979 presidential election against Chief Obafemi Awolowo and thus denied the sage the presidency. So much has been written about Nigeria’s entanglement then and the protracted legal tussle of twelve two-third in which Chief Richard Akinjide as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Nigeria in the National Party of Nigeria, NPN-led federal government played a prominent role. The case which was settled at the Supreme Court brought out the best in Chief Akinjide as a legal luminary. Before the end of the case, Awo was dissatisfied with the manner his lawyers were handling his case and dusted his legal wears. It was one moment when Awo, the politician who’s used to wearing flowing agbada, temporarily discarded the civilian cloth for his black suits, wig and gown. Awo in suits became news which didn’t escape the prying eyes of photo-journalists, and the picture was on front pages. Many years after he handed over to Shagari in what was described as unprecedented or pace setting record in Africa, a continent that its leaders were used to sit tight dictatorship, Obj wrote another book entitled “Not My Will.” Here again, he derided Awo, among others. Knowing that Awolowo invested so much time, money and other resources into become president of Nigeria but couldn’t, Obj chided him that the same office which he did so much all his life to get without success, he got without asking for it. Awo meant so much to many and understandably, Yorubas descended on Obj for his fowl-mouthing nature, an act Obj has become so notorious for. One day during Obj’s interaction with a certain ambassador in Nigeria, the ambassador complained that Nigerian journalists were critical of his country. All that Obj did in reply was to show the ambassador what a newspaper which Obj described as “Yellow paper,” wrote about him, a sitting Head of State. If you know what yellow journalism means, you’ll not miss the point. Obj’s reference to the Tribune as “Yellow paper” was derogatory. There’s no doubt that by far the greatest achievement of Obj is voluntarily handing over to a civilian administration, even if, as some people have equally said, he’d been forced from behind to do so. That singular action gave him reason to become an international statesman who started attending serious-minded engagements of eminent persons all over the world. Yet, because of his raw nature, when he thought the real payback time had come, he wasn’t able to be elected Secretary General of the United Nations! Those who thwarted Obj’s efforts hinged their action on his proclivity at violating the fundamental human rights of other persons as in old and new cases- Unknown Soldier, Ita Oko, Ota, Odi, Zaki Biam, etc. Check the record, 20 long years after he handed over to Shagari, Obj came from prison and became president. In a military arrangement master-minded by the Minna, Niger State based Evil Genius and selfstyled military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, and foisted on Nigerians. Because he’s such a genius, he wasn’t satisfied with the mandatory two terms of four years which he did, and went for the third term, a gamble, from which he crashed out disastrously. One classic definition of journalism is history in a hurry. So in this recall of past events, let me quickly add that part of the things that Obj did was making OFN to work as Obasanjo Farms Nigeria in Otta after it had woefully failed in Shagari’s era as Operation Feed the Nation. The failure of OFN remains the greatest disservice to Nigerian people. If Obj had such vision as credited to him, if not luck, OFN would’ve succeeded. Core agricultural practices and the vast area of agro-allied businesses would have resulted in Nigeria without hunger. Food for the people without GSM is by far better than GSM everywhere without food. Also, Obj should tell us whether it wasn’t abuse of office for him to have launched the Obasanjo Presidential Library while a sitting president, knowing that his presence would influence huge donations. Corruption! Where is Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, etc? I’ve since learnt not to quarrel with anybody who has the good fortune of luck on his side. I’ll however take solace in running commentaries. At 80, it’s time Obj told Nigerians the truth and nothing but the truth, that his son was foolish when he accused him of fiddling with his daughter-in-law. Obj’s lucky. He should make well his way and get set to meet his creator. As the Bible in Psalm 90 says, “The length of our days is seventy years- of eighty, if we have the strength….” What else can Obj ask for? Happy birthday to you, Matthew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo as you marked 80 last Sunday, just two days ago!

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