Earlier in the week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo stunned the world as he ordered the tearing of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) membership card in public. Thereafter, Obasanjo declared that he had resigned from the PDP and would henceforth continue to play the role of a statesman without being partisan. Obasanjo’s action was only a prelude to his expulsion from the party by the Ogun state chapter of the PDP.
Obasanjo, given his antecedents as a former Head of State and two-term civilian President of the country, is most eminently qualified for the appellation “Elder Statesman”. However, given Obasanjo’s directive that his PDP membership card be shredded publicly and his recent broadsides to both President Goodluck Jonathan and the security agencies, we doubt if he actually understands what it means to be addressed as a statesman.
Obasanjo’s action, to put it mildly, is a sad commentary on our fledgling democracy. That singular action of ordering the tearing of his party membership card has lowered the integrity of Nigeria in the eyes of right- thinking persons globally. It also puts a huge question mark on the integrity of the persons we elect into high political offices.
As a self –acclaimed statesman, did Chief Obasanjo give a thought what the effect of his latest action would be on young Nigerians who are convinced that civil rule via partisan politics is the best option for the country? We are also worried if the retired General gave a thought to the fact that the party membership card he ordered should be torn was what guaranteed his election to become the president of the most populous black nation on earth for eight whole years?
Let us also remind Obasanjo that no statesman criticizes both sitting President and the military with such uncouth and inciting language as he does. We also have to drive the point home that statesmen do not display messianic complex as Obasanjo does more often than not. This ‘I-am-the-only-one-who-can-fix Nigeria’, mentality which Obasanjo is obsessed with is delusory. We want to admit that as a former leader of this country, Obasanjo holds strong views on most national issues. However, the worrying aspect of him is that he chooses the wrong channels to ventilate his views.
Wisdom, obedience to the rule of law and integrity are some of the cherished virtues of true statesmen. We hold the view that former President Obasanjo willfully flouted the laws governing the country when he disobeyed court order and went ahead to launch his memoir both locally and internationally, to score a cheap political point. Statesmen who supposedly love their countries from the heart do not shun invitations to attend the Council of State meetings, only to turn around and condemn government policies. Statesmen that cherish political platforms on which they rose to stardom do not consistently undermine the interests of such political parties by holding clandestine meetings with the opposition political parties. Statesmen’s words are their bond, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances.
We do not want to believe that the word statesman has acquired a Nigerian meaning different from its global meaning. Neither do we think that a statesman in Nigeria is someone who does not believe in the entity called Nigeria and its unity.