Monday, 26 August 2013

Obasanjo’s putdown of younger leaders

Olusegun ObasanjoIn 1999, American news magazine, NEWSWEEK,ran a cover story on then President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo just before his inauguration. Towards the end, it said his presidency would bring new vibrancy to Nigerian politics, not so much for the quality of his vision of the country as “his informality”. This informality, according to the writer, included his vast repertoire of Yoruba proverbs and a capacity to stoke controversy. Seven years after leaving office, Obasanjo has not lost that power to wake even the dead with his loud mouth.
Last week, the former President gave the generation of younger Nigerian leaders the putdown for their lack of quality and integrity. Speaking at the 4th Annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit at the University of Ibadan, Obasanjo said it was sad that “after 53 years of independence we have no leader that we can commend… We had some people who were under 50 years in leadership positions.” But where are they is today? He asked rhetorically. ” He went on to mention names.
Expectedly, his latest outbursts have fetched him good words in some quarters and derision in others. Mr. Taiwo Taiwo, immediate past chairman of the Lagos branch of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), believes that Obasanjo “not only said it all, but said it well”. A former presidential candidate, Chief Olapade Agoro, however, is unimpressed. According to him, Obasanjo is part of the leadership problem he is complaining about. He cites the former president’s failure to act on a list of “corrupt government officials” handed to him by the United States government when he took office in 1999.
Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, who has had personal brushes with Obasanjo, the latest as recently as last year, is more measured in his dismissal of the latter’s comments. “Our expectations of the younger generation of our leaders are very high and there are young men who have been very good,” he told journalists who sought his reaction to Obasanjo’s broadside. Unlike him, IBB did not give names. “If you want me to give names, I will not, but you know what they stand for… There are a lot of them that are real nationalists…; interact with them and you will recognize the virtue in them.”
It is ironic that Obasanjo wants to put himself forward as a statesman but his words and conduct are anything but statesmanlike. Worse are his sanctimonious airs. As far as he is concerned, he was the only good leader Nigeria ever had and will ever get – a kind of Godsend. But his record in office, particularly as an elected president, belies his claim to righteousness. His political vindictiveness, for instance,knew no borderline. He used his corruption hound – the EFCC – to witch hunt political opponents, including Vice President Atiku Abubakar for daring to aspire to step into his shoes at the end of his constitutionally allowed two terms. Shamelessly, Obasanjo claimed in his Ibadan diatribe that Atiku was one of the young men he prepared for positions of power but who let him down! A true Mr. Clean would not try to subvert the constitution to gain an extended tenure, but Obasanjo did.
Without knowing, a mistake common with people who are self-righteous, Obasanjo included himself on the list of leaders Nigeria has been “cursed with”. “After 53 years of independence, we have no leader that we can commend”, he said. He led this country for 10 long years, two of them as a military leader. If there is nothing to commend him to Nigerians, others did have something worth commendation. Nigerians certainly do have something to remember about late General Murtala Mohammed for his strong anti- corruption credential and making Nigeria respected by the outside world; and General Yakubu Gowon, before him, for putting down the Biafra secession and saving a Nigeria that he, Obasanjo, would try to undo with his drunken power chase.Our advice to him: hold your peace if you have nothing worthwhile to say.

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