In light of his recent 18-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, I indulge your patience as I ‘leak’ to the press 18 pages from some of my letters to Olusegun Obasanjo during that period.
The first letter I wrote was on February 13, 1999, just before he was sworn in. It was titled, “Dear Uncle Segun”. I wrote many more in the 8 years that followed. For the purpose of capturing the trajectory of Obasanjo’s presidency (for those who have forgotten), in all its triumphs and tragedies, I have selected the following: February 24, 2000: Gospel According to St. Aremu; November 27, 2000: Obasanjo and Acts of God; March 19, 2004: This Obasanjo Sef!; December 19, 2001:The Need To Examine Obasanjo’s Head; January 19, 2004: Why Obasanjo Failed; June 15, 2004: Obasanjo’s Funeral and April 2, 2007: Obasanjo: The Last King of Nigeria.
Going through these letters, I found myself asking if there are things going on under President Goodluck Jonathan that did not happen under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The only funny thing about the letters was the reactions of people who bought into all the hypes of that era. I felt sorry for those who invested in Obasanjo/Onyiuke’s stock market and the new generation banks of those days. They rained abuses on anyone who dared to criticize any of the voodoo going on, all in their belief that Obasanjo had set Nigeria on an irreversible path to greatness.
February 13, 1999: Letter to Uncle Segun
Dear Uncle Segun,
My heart was full of sadness when I heard the unfortunate news- your victory in Nigeria's presidential election. It was such a cruel thing for them to have done to you. I could not ever imagine that anyone with a pint of that substance called the milk of human kindness would have to sacrifice the peace and tranquility of an old retired man like you. For what? Don't they have shame in them? Haven't they heard that when a wood insect gathers sticks, on its own head it shall bear them? What river of uselessness did they drink? Which juju goddess did they say sent them to you? You, living jeje, a low profile life, in your little farm house, in the village of Otta, like your fellow African statesman, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
I was wondering why you didn't say no. Then I heard that you said a resounding no but they wouldn't take no for an answer. I was told that you even ran away. You traveled from Britain to America to Canada, asking for political asylum but they wouldn't grant you one. They all said you should go home and save your people. As if your second name is Moses. How could they all conspire against you? You even told them what your fellow General, Collin Powell, told the Americans that, "There is no fire in your belly." How could they mess up that country and want an innocent man like you to come and redeem it. Iro!
I said iro when we talked on your U.S. visit. I say iro again, today. It is the head that touches the wasp nest that is stung by wasps. I don't want my Uncle stung. Not while I am still alive. Is it too late to stop all these nonsense? Is it too late to avoid this train wreck ahead? It still makes no sense to me, that after bringing Nigeria to its knees, those who claim they were born to rule have run out of options and now turn to you, my Uncle. Don't tell me one of those Igbo proverbs your friend Kaduna Nzeogwu taught you.
This is no time to make sacrifice so that the spirits shall remain guilty. Let other people make the sacrifice this time. Remember you can cure a mad man but you cannot end his blinking eyelids.
Are you telling me that you are really ready to return to that hot seat? The same seat that roasted Gen. Sani Abacha. The seat that set Gen. Babangida's behind on fire. I know you are going to Abuja with the juju from the medicine man of Ijebu Edo. You remember what happened to Shehu Shagari? I don't want you to suffer the same fate, Uncle. I know you mean well, you want to restore the dignity of that country of ours, but look at the other side of the coin. How do you run the country with those millionaires in the senate who are used to giving orders than debating issues? How do you deal with those moneybag generals whose money I understand you refused to accept during the election?
Uncle, I have bad news for you. Have you heard Hillary Clinton talk about right wing conspiracy after her husband? Those guys are already there in Nigeria. They are poised and ready to take you on. They will dig up your own Paula Jones, your own Monica Lewinsky. This time it is not just the Lagos-Ibadan press, not just the legions of ex-communists who baptized themselves and are presently known as civil rights activists. Supported by rich international organizations, these guys have their daggers drawn. And that is not all. The Oduduwa ancestors and their battalions of Baloguns, Odua brigades, and Area boys are all waiting in ambush. Let me not talk of the Brutus and the Cassius in your inner circle. Daggers are sharpened and tested. I can see the splash of blood. I don't want it to be yours, Uncle.
Remember the other time, when they lied against you. They accused you of taking billions of naira and hiding it somewhere in Uganda. This time, after Babangida and Abacha, no one reports about missing billions. Since every small boy with a long hat in Abuja has billions of Naira, they will now accuse you of stealing trillions. Please, Uncle, don't do this to yourself. Don't give them another chance to kick you around. Did you notice that Obafemi Awolowo is turning in his grave? That is not a good sign. He is complaining that you have once again stolen the chance for Yorubas to produce a president of Nigeria. Do I need to tell you his definition of who a Yoruba is? You and I who think with our own brain do not count. To count, we have to be one of his cronies.
Uncle, if I were you, I would have told them the famous saying," If I am drafted, I won't run; if I am nominated, I won't accept; and if I am elected, I won't serve." But then, I am aware of your eternal love for Nigeria, your undying sense of commitment to the Nigerian dream. But sometimes, like the Bible says, we have to let the dead bury their dead. Remember that no matter how much the snail tries, it cannot cast off its shell. I know what you are thinking now. That even though emergency situation is the only thing that surpasses the brave, but that it is also the test of bravery. Deep down, I share your conviction but for the sake of Auntie Stella, give those Nigerians back their corpse.
Have I ever told you what happens to good gamblers who do not know when to walk away, when to run, and when to quit? They lose everything. Are you aware that Great Ugboru has been pardoned? And that General Diya after escaping the hang man changed his song from crying wolf to saying he had no regret about joining the plot to overthrow Abacha. Thank God it is too late for him to make it to the senate. You think you can deal with all those brain-damaged people. The man eating human flesh, Clifford Orji. The angry young men of Ijaw. And what about those restless Igbos? How are you going to handle them now that you took over a party their son, Ekwueme, helped form. Remember, if you give them too much, they start getting some ideas into their big heads, and if you give them too little, they will keep grumbling. We are safer with the later.
I don't envy you in any way. Remember that you tactically escaped debating Falae during the campaign. You won't be so lucky next time. If you look into the crystal ball I am looking at, what you will see will make you skip a heartbeat. Fela may be dead, but his spirit is still alive. So is the spirit of Major Okar. His army of shakara boys is in heightened alert. Simply put, what is ahead is beyond your wildest imagination.
In one speech, you rightly noted that, "There will be sweat and blood for Nigeria to be great again." Do you know whose sweat and blood that is needed? It’s not Al Gore's or George W. Bush's. It is yours. They won't tell you now until you take that oath. Nigeria today is like a cracked up windscreen of a car. The cracked up lines are everywhere. Any little shake, the whole structure would collapse. Democracy, our kind of democracy, would not do anything to fill up the crack. Rather, what democracy will bring about is a permit for circus operators, like late Ken Saro Wiwa, to parade their animals around. And when a circus operator who has elephants on his line up (e.g. The Islamic fundamentalists) arrives, the cookies would crumble.
If you had never been the Commander-in-Chief before, I would understand why you want to be that. If you had never been a political prisoner, I would understand why you are putting yourself on the path to that famous place. But you have been all these things. So why do you want to repeat yourself? Don't you know that when an old woman falls down twice, we can count what she has in her "market basket"? All I am saying is that I want the best for you. And by my honest assessment, governing that bunch of ingrates is not the best for you. Our elders say that the grasshopper that is eaten by the noisy okpoko bird must have collapsed ears. Not talking, you know, is the fault of the month, not hearing, that of the ear.
Let me go over with you some possible scenario of events when you take over power. The rainbow of professional politicians and generals who dominate the legislative branch would be in perpetual stalemate. With their absolute ignorance of democratic tenets, you will be left alone to rule with your internationally acclaimed democratic acumen. That would have been good for everyone if you ruled with executive power, but the gang of fools in your cabinet, all puppets of one General after another, will turn the pit upside down. What about the Judiciary branch, full of activist judges, all sworn enemies of yours? How do you navigate around them? They will find a way to upset your well-known cool temper.
The military may not plan a coup. Not because you are there or because you understand them. No. All those are silly assumptions. They may not because the ambitious ones are dying off in Sierra Leone. But those born to rule still have another tool they can apply effectively. They can apply the Yaradua's lotion on you. Or Abacha's virus. Remember Abiola's cough. And when that happens, power will return to their man who is your Vice-President. Uncle, the pit holes are many. No matter what truck you drive, be it Lincoln Navigator (aka, okwu oto ekene eze), your shock absorber would fail sooner or later. And just like Ezego, you will die, just like that. Say tufiakwa.
Uncle. Say oburu ogwu, ya so ha. (If it is juju, let it follow them.) Uncle, I'm sorry I've to go. The agency that employs me to clean toilets for Americans is calling. I’m gonna go or else... If you wish to discuss this further, send me an email when you are less busy. My email address is Nnobi@aol.com.
Finally, Baba, May I remind you that, Alaseju pr ni it; esuru se aseju o t lw oniyan; iyawo se aseju o fi ata taaba.
Good Repose the while.
Your nephew, Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
February 24, 2000: Gospel According to St. Aremu
The Book of the generation of Nigerians, dwellers of the upper and lower Niger, on the western coast of Africa, by the banks of the Atlantic, some creatures of the British, the bride of Europe.
And Aremu, the son of Obasanjo received a call from heaven to be an apostle and was anointed by the Almighty to write to the people of Nigeria. For it was written, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.”
Long after the days in the wilderness, when the British had gone, Abubakar Tafawa Belewa was anointed to lead His people. Abubakar begat Aguiyi Ironsi and Ironsi begat Gowon. Gowon begat Murtala and Murtala begat Obasanjo. Obasanjo begat Shagari and Shagari begat Buhari. Buhari begat Babangida and Babangida begat Abacha. Abacha begat Abubakar. And Abubakar begat Obasanjo again.
And even before the chorus of His reincarnation Amen died, He arose and flew to Britain.
And it came to pass, that a battered people were handed over to Aremu. On the day of his coronation as the new King of Nigeria, the one elected by the people, He declared that Nigeria would be great again. He called on everyone to put his or her hands on the deck and push Nigeria forward. And He said unto them that corruption would come to an end. That there would be no sacred cows.
And as soon as He dropped off the commandments, He arose and flew to Libya.
And behold, He kicked off his father’s call by purging from the military, officers who had soiled their hands in the honeycomb of Nigeria. And the masses hailed Him. And He felt strengthened. Then, He appointed his disciples. He chose them from fishermen, tax collectors, Alhajis, Ozo title holders, Baloguns. But when He distributed portfolio, cries of maginalization were heard in the land of Nigeria.
Elderly men wept for what they called yeye ministry they were given.
And from thence, He arose and flew to Ethiopia.
And at the temple of the Synagogue, the Sadducees and the Pharisees clashed. Mud was thrown and gowns were lifted. It was a feast of exposure and advertisement of sins. Men fell off the pinnacle of the temple. For those seeking signs of something good coming to the New Jerusalem, they were left to wear long faces. For a long time, there was no hope for a baptism of repentance or for the remission of sins.
His people waited and worried. And from thence, He arose and flew to Sierra Leone.
Still, after hundred days of His coming, there was the voice of the cherubim and the seraphs shouting hallelujah, the messiah has come. And one of the Baloguns shouted that he was the one running the show. That it was from his goatskin bag that the crusade was coming from. And that statement annoyed the Alhajis. And they too began to cry over maginalization.
And He said nothing to them. And from thence, He arose and flew to South Africa.
And a certain Alhaji wearing a long white garment and tall hat came up in Zamfara. He had a vision from the other God. He wants the children of the Niger not to drink any more wine and strong drinks. He was in trance and he saw city upon cities where no woman played soccer. He looked further; he saw towns where harlots had given up their trade for life in the corporate world. He looked further; he saw pigs surrendering to Mullahs as they get cloned into fat cows. He saw people following life as it was written. Young men masturbating rather than having sex. Young women covering their bodies and avoiding any contact with men.
And as Alhaji and his apostles gathered and plotted how to take their jihad down to the Niger Delta, He said no word to them. From thence, He arose and flew to the U.S.
And when the unclean spirits seemed to be leaving the bodies of soldiers of the Niger, behold, it entered the multitude at the Niger Delta. And they went forth, fighting and biting. And at Odi, the old clashed with the new. As it was in the beginning, the soldiers of Aremu went into Odi and nothing breathing was left standing. The Pharisees who were kidnapped and killed were avenged. But that did not bring peace in the land.
He glanced at them with one eye. From thence, He arose and flew to Liberia.
And He cometh to Lagos where one Ganiyu Adams and his gang of pirates have been ruling. He fired a warning. He threatened to send down thunder and lightning if the members of OPC, the children of Oduduwa, of which He is one do not put their plough into the plough-shade. Once again, there was panic in the land over the wrath to come. He rebuked their Governor calling them generation of vipers. And this time there was no doubt He meant business.
There was shock. And everyone waited. From thence, He arose and flew to India.
And one of his apostles announced to the world that he had come up with how to bring home Nigerian Professionals abroad. He would get the scribes to imprint in the Dead Sea Scroll their names and addresses. And they would be ashamed of themselves and go back home to roast. And lo, a voice from heaven came down saying, “We have no other country but Nigeria. We must stay here and salvage it together.” And the prophets and prophetesses abroad laughed.
He did not give them any mind. And from thence, He rose and flew to Germany.
And the storm was gathering. For there was a certain Herod who once put Him in jail. Upon Herod’s death, his sins have been transferred to his kinsmen. One of his sons is in the Golgotha of Kirikiri awaiting justice, as well as his friends and well-wishers. And people began to ask, what about Pontius Pilate, what about Pontius Pilate. If Herod killed one, Pontius Pilate killed a million. If Herod stole a thousand, Pontius Pilate stole a million.
And He closed His ears to all the noise they were making. And from hence, He arose and flew to France.
And at that time, the choir has decided to follow him. On and on, they keep asking Him the question. Tired of it all, He said onto them, Verily verily I say unto you. If any of you knows where Herod kept the money, the bank name and account number let the person say so and see if we would not take action.
And his people were shocked at his proclamation. And from thence, He arose and flew to Portugal.
And the Holy Spirit came into the Pharisees in the Synagogue. And they passed the anti-graft ordinance requiring any adult member of His nation to have not just clean hearts but also clean hands. He sent them an epistle containing some turtledoves and two young pigeons. And he spoke many things unto them in parables. He talked about paying the salary of workers of neighboring state of Galilee called Niger. Then he dropped the bomb. He asked for some millions of dollars to buy a new donkey.
And before he could jump into the plane and fly, the ancient city of Kaduna was set on fire.
As it was fourscore-and seven years ago, He sat alone in his lonely room and said what he would have said long time ago, “Get you behind me Satan.” But it was late. He covered himself in ashes and wept. Eli Eli lami sabachthani? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)”
November 27, 2000: Obasanjo and Acts of God
Sometime in 1992, the Independence Building that housed the Ministry of Defense was set ablaze. The fire began on the 12th floor and moved down. The Fire Service of Nigeria was helpless as the fire raged. Though they managed to drive their trucks to the scene, they had no ladder that could reach the 12th floor. Lagosians with their fire brigade simply waited and watched as the building was consumed by fire. Afterward, a smiling Chief of Defense Staff, General Sani Abacha came to inspect the scene. In his comment to the press, General Sani Abacha declared the unfortunate incident an act of God. President Ibrahim Babangida also confirmed Abacha’s observation in Abuja. Immediately after, Nigerians had a sigh of relief, threw their hands up in heaven in thanks and praises to God and continued with their daily routine as if nothing happened.
Since Obasanjo came to power, God has been working overtime for Obasanjo’s Nigeria. When we are not being reminded that Obasanjo is the beloved son in whom God is well pleased, we are told that the Messiah has arrived. Because Nigerians had not really bothered to question anything, the ridiculous kept developing wings. And before we know it, the ridiculous would fly. Just last weekend, Obasanjo took it to another level. He told us that the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British was an act of God. Obasanjo did not stop there. He then warned that, “Anybody who wants to work against this act of God, I leave the person in the retributive hand of God.” You may ask, why then are MASSOB members in jail and not left in the retributive hands of God?
The truth is that Obasanjo has prolonged this use of God as an excuse not to think. If the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates was an act of God, then, Obasanjo must be God’s first mistake. It has to be so because the two acts were contradictory. By Obasanjo’s reasoning, the British ignorance led to the amalgamation but it is Obasanjo’s ignorance that will undo it. For all I know, God does not do a half-hearted job. If God had wanted Southern and Northern Nigeria to be one, He would not have amalgamated it. God would have welded it. Regardless of what you have heard, believe me, God did not make Obasanjo President. Babangida did. Unless of course, Babangida is God. And I bet, he is to some. Or probably, an act of Babangida, is an act of God.
Unlucky, Bertolt Brecht said, is the country that needs a hero. But unlucky is the country that makes God its hero. God, the holy book says, is a zealous one. That, Obasanjo does not seem to understand. Obasanjo seems to run to God when he wants to know what Nigerians think. Mr. President, God is not a Nigerian. Pliny the Elder said that “Amid the miseries of our life on earth, suicide is God’s best gift to man.” So far, suicide it seems, is what Obasanjo is offering Nigerians. That may well end up being Obasanjo’s gift to Nigeria if he continues to resist calls to renegotiate the unity of Nigeria.
If Obasanjo wants to talk about God, his God, he should begin by talking to the likes of Tony Anineh. By claiming to be divine, Obasanjo has assumed the role of a physician. Perfectly, he has surrounded himself with ill patients. Obasanjo should begin to cure the sick patients in his inner circle before he starts to bully the rest of us from his pulpit. There is nothing wrong with saying, my Lord, my Lord as long as one is doing what the Lord wants. But if one is not, that fellow is running the risk of using the name of the Lord in vain.
If Obasanjo cares about leadership, he should begin to do more than he says. He should begin to produce more than he promises. He should stop joking around. God does not joke with the lives of his children. The business of governance is a serious business. It is not a performance on theatre stage full of dances and showmanship signifying nothing. The Son of God, when he came to earth pursued His task with a sense of seriousness. If Obasanjo truly wants to pay tribute to the God he claims to worship, he should try to emulate Christ every step of the way. He may have to try this popular question, “What would Jesus do?” next time he thinks of sending soldiers to kill the innocent kids in Odi.
Paraphrasing Daniel Defoe’s poem “The True-Born English”, the house of prayer that Obasanjo thinks he has built for God has a devil’s chapel within. If Obasanjo would care to conduct an examination, he would see that the devil has the largest congregation. The task before Obasanjo is to put on the iron shirt and chase the devil and his cohorts into utter space. Wining and dining with them is a betrayal of God’s trust. If Obasanjo really wants to be nearer to God, he needs to stand further from injustices, corruption and inequality.
When two lovebirds are on the street corner, all over themselves, pretending to be experiencing an everlasting love, passersby usually say to them, "Go get a room!" It is time for Obasanjo to take his romance with God into a room. It is becoming preposterous. It is beginning to irritate.
Over 400 years before Christ, Greek dramatist, Euripides, wrote that “Those whom God wishes to destroy, He first makes mad.”
Now, that would be an act of God.
March 19, 2001: This Obasanjo Sef!
“Do not forget that the Biafra war that almost divided this country was caused by resource control. If Biafra had won, I would have been dead, your governor would not have been in the position he is today.”
- President Olusegun Obasanjo
This Obasanjo sef!
As of last week, I was leaning towards the school of thought that suggests that the man is not as dumb as he sounds. This school of thought believes that Obasanjo is one smart fox that knows what is really going on in that country but is playing dumb. They argue that he is looking for a perfect time to strike. Having been around for long, this school of thought insinuates that Obasanjo knows right from wrong, that he is calculating on the right time to make a turn and do the right thing. This right time, the proponents of this idea claim, is a time when Obasanjo’s moves will be irreversible. They contend that we could begin to see these new and improved Obasanjo as soon as he wins the second term or as soon as he decides against running for a second term. That is such a chosen time when he will move fast to deal with the inherent problems of Nigeria that he could not have been ignorant of, even if he is mentally dead. I heard that at this appointed time, Obasanjo could threaten to resign if a National Conference is not convened. That at such arranged time, Obasanjo could go after the likes of Babangida with tons of evidence that Obasanjo’s boys had been collecting. That at this designated time, Obasanjo will follow the tradition of Egba people and ‘open book for them’. I was studying this thesis and cross-checking its validity when Obasanjo went to the Niger-Delta and once again opened his foul mouth.
This Obasanjo sef!
I have never given anyone the benefit of the doubt as much as I have given Obasanjo. I have never reduced my expectations for anyone as much as I have reduced them for Obasanjo. I spend hours wondering if I am the one who does not get it. I bend myself round and round, trying to be in the same book with Obasanjo. I see what I think is reality, I twist it round and round, trying to find the angle at which Obasanjo is looking at things, but, still, I fail. I spend sleepless nights wondering why Obasanjo is reserving the greatest resistance for the simplest truth. I observe as mental, spiritual and even silent protest overwhelms the nation, I wonder why Obasanjo is seeing everything differently. I ask myself several questions: What happened to Obasanjo’s mind? Is his mind weighed down by the low level of the minds of men around him, or what? What happened to Obasanjo’s reality? When will the child who insists that its mother will not sleep know that it will, itself, not sleep either? I watch as he offers a cup of water to the monkey, I wonder how he is going to get the cup back.
This Obasanjo sef!
Whatever is Obasanjo’s mission, he is working very hard to betray it. His fear of the known and the unknown is crushing his courage to dare. I guess Obasanjo is a broken man. He has lost the vigor needed to renew Nigeria. It is sad that he entered the stage without the desire to perform. He is now hopping around, wasting his time and the time of the country. How come he is this clueless? How come he is this stubborn? How come he is lost in the confusion of his own misunderstanding? When all is said and done, history will classify Obasanjo’s second coming as low in productivity as Shagari’s era. Obasanjo’s would be seen as a poor sequel of Shehu Shagari’s administration. Ten years from now, history will remember Abacha’s government as one ran by a stupid man surrounded by wicked men. As for Obasanjo’s second coming, history will remember it as a government ran by a wicked man surrounded by stupid men. Babangida destroyed the fabric of Nigeria but Obasanjo is systematically destroying the spirit of the Nigerian people. His destruction would be much more deeper and long lasting.
This Obasanjo sef!
I am no longer mad when Obasanjo opens his big mouth and provokes me. I have passed that stage. For Obasanjo to open the mouth he uses to eat pounded yam and ewedu and say that the Biafran war was caused by resource control finally made my brain numb. The fact that he chose to say so in Bayelsa State showed how deep in his heart, he is just a wicked man. A wicked man seeking to divide and rule. Not Babangida, and not even Abacha stooped this low. For Obasanjo to say that if Biafra had won, that Diepreye Alamieyeseigha would not hold his current position, was a belittling of the spirit of the people of the Niger Delta. To suggest that the Niger Deltans could not have ascertained their place in Biafra is mean and a slap on the face of all progressive and courageous people of the Niger Delta who have been fighting for their own place within the space called Nigeria. Such crudeness coming from a so called born-again Christian is a shame to all true children of God. That Obasanjo cannot forgive the Igbos for fighting to stay alive is pathetic. Whatever happens to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us”?
This Obasanjo sef!
It seems like Obasanjo is obsessed with the question, “What shall we do with the Igbos? It seems to haunt him wherever he goes. The only answer I have is the one that Frederick Douglass gave to those asking the question, “What shall we do with the Negro? He wrote:
“Everybody has asked the question ... "What shall we do with the Negro?" I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”
As for me, I have no idea what would have been if Biafra had won. One thing I know for sure is that if Biafra had won, I would not have been here writing about Obasanjo and his Nigeria.
So if you see Obasanjo, tell him to leave the Igbos alone. Tell him to leave the Niger Deltans alone. Tell him to leave Nigeria alone. Tell him to do nothing with us. Tell him he has done enough mischief.
This Obasanjo sef!
December 19, 2001: The Need To Examine Obasanjo’s Head
"I wonder why in the beginning of this 21st Century, 31 years after the civil war, people are still talking about secession. Anybody talking about that should have his head examined."
- Olusegun Obasanjo
In the last few weeks, President Olusegun Obasanjo has opened two major frontiers in the discussion and understanding of the personalities of the characters who run the Nigerian polity. The first one was when he called university lecturers the bane of education. And the second was this latest suggestion that those talking about secession should have their heads examined.
I want to examine Obasanjo's head but I am scared of things I might find.
In Obasanjo's battle with ASUU, he blamed university teacher for the entire problem with Nigerian education. "It is utter irresponsible, unacceptable and immoral for university teachers to disturb students having examination. Lecturers are the bane of the country and most of them have contributed nothing to the nation yet they still print handout and sell to students, they even harass female students."
The president went on to accuse ASUU of talking about nothing but money for their pockets. He stated that ASUU is not performing and that the standard of education has failed.
As I read Obasanjo's attack on ASUU, I could see that all the charges he leveled could be applied to the bunch of politicians he leads.
It is surprising to see that Obasanjo could define what is moral and what is immoral even as Safiya faces death by stoning. The suggestion that something is unacceptable in the mind of the president is strange in light of the breakdown of law and order and the general sense of injustice and inequity his government has condoned. This is a president who commands a crop of politicians who are as corrupt as they come. Yet, he found a moral authority to chide his poorly paid university lecturers for selling handouts and thinking about their pockets.
I do not think that Obasanjo is just clueless. I simply think he is shameless. Before he makes any statement blaming any sector of the nation for not performing, he should first take a look at himself in the mirror.
The Electoral Act which Obasanjo conceded had "minor imperfections', but one that he had hoped his signing would end the controversies, seem, to be another wrong calculation. Like the Sharia, it is refusing to fizzle out. For Obasanjo, his response is to resort to that obnoxious pattern of attacking those raising questions.
In one reaction to the Electoral Act, Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, warned that, without a total reconciliation of the various issues thrown up by the new law and a national conference to decide the way forward, Igbos would call for secession.
Instantly, the mixture of Ojukwu and secession triggered off in the head of Obasanjo the release of some yet to be named bitter hormones. President Obasanjo wasted no time in barking about "irresponsible rascals". He called the idea of secession "madness to the extreme". Those were a kind choice of words for a president who could not raise a finger when confronted with Sharia and ethnic killings in the north.
Obasanjo talked about secession at the beginning of the 21st century as if he understood where the world stands on such concept.
When the United Nations was formed in 1945, there were 51 states. In 1970, when the Biafran war ended, there were 127 UN member nations. From 1970 to present, there has been an additional 62 states. Who says Biafra could not be the 190th state of the United Nations? Who? Obasanjo?
In this 21st century, secession is no longer a dirty political word. It is now referred to as self- determination. Something that someone in Obasanjo's frame of mind is not expected to understand.
"War is not the best means of settling human affairs because it leads to destructive waste", said Obasanjo. "I was in the thick of it all and we still had to do what should have been done in the beginning; that is to talk." Talk? This is a man who has rejected any suggestion of convening a Sovereign National Conference.
The tragedy of President Obasanjo is that he is suffering from a psychological condition that stems from his experience during the civil war. It could be seen in the misplaced anger he exhibits and his penchant to attack people rather than deal with the issues confronting the nation. The president needs to have his head examined. If he can subdue his ego and subject himself to such examination, what we shall see will obviously be dark and ugly.
But only then, could anyone be of any help to the ailing President of an ailing nation named Nigeria.
January 19, 2004: Why Obasanjo Failed
It has suddenly become fashionable to taunt Obasanjo as a failure and to admonish him. Increasingly, bashing Obasanjo is no more an ethnic issue. Everyone now seems to be stepping on each other, trying to outdo one another. The fact that it took this long for it to become glaring that Obasanjo is a spectacular failure is what should worry any keen observer of the Nigerian space. That fact is a troubling indication that Nigerians do not know why Obasanjo failed.
Granted, Obasanjo inherited a fractured country that had been ravaged by years of military misrule. It was a country with so much structural flaws that cracks were visible along its walls, beams and pillars. There was no sense of direction and no purpose for the nation and its citizens. The country lacked the institutions to support any democratic initiative. The Nigeria Obasanjo was handed over was a country on its stomach.
The recipe for failure was put in place when such a country was handed over to someone who had no knowledge and not enough courage to do things that were needed to be done to jump start the failed nation. Obasanjo was like a partially blind, partially deaf, unskilled driver without any knowledge of the mechanics of machines, who was charged with the responsibility to drive a troubled car in rough weather from point A to point B. It did not take two years before it became clear to serious observers that the man was the wrong choice for that mission.
It would be important to recall the barrage of excuses once made for Obasanjo’s failure. It used to be that some elements of past administrations were frustrating Obasanjo’s moves to revive the country. It used to be that Obasanjo was waiting for his second term to unleash his stockpile of reforms that would transform Nigeria. It used to be that four years wasn’t enough for Obasanjo to make a dent in the destruction wrecked by decades of military rule. But do these excuses hold water anymore when Obasanjo has now surrounded himself with his kind and is now well into his fifth year with no change in sight? He has strengthened his grip on the apparatus of the presidency. The way Obasanjo has been dishing out favor to his friends, there is no doubt that he is the king of the jungle. Those elements of past administration who used to be a torn in Obasanjo’s flesh have been successfully pushed to the curb and are seen by the roadside grumbling. But as it is today, only a dummy will think that given one hundred years, Obasanjo would make any inroad.
Obasanjo’s job is not to give billions of naira to certified crooks for the maintenance of the refineries only to spend more billions importing fuel to avoid the shortage we saw during Abacha’s time. His duty is not to spend billions of naira in Tony Anenih’s road contracts without having roads that lead to a brighter future. Obasanjo’s responsibility is not to scold us for expecting a lot and abuse us for being impatient; rather his task is to provide hope. Unfortunately, Obasanjo could not get over himself. He allowed his over-exaggerated sense of importance to prevent him from achieving a victory for the Nigerian-kind.
The litany of crises we are witnessing is the product of the intentional decision by Obasanjo and his cohorts in the ruling PDP to ignore the fundamentals. Basically, they made a deliberate decision to continue from where NPN of the early 80s stopped, as if all that transpired in the late 80s and all of the 90s were of no consequence. In a more sophisticated way, Obasanjo and his friends embarked on a mission to plunder what remained of the Nigeria’s wealth, wellbeing and welfare.
Any other PDP candidate of 1999 who fought to lead Nigeria might have spared the nation Obasanjo’s truckload of embarrassments, arrogance, pettiness, vindictiveness and blatant ignorance, but working within the principles of PDP and with the certified criminals who fill its ranks and file would have also ended up a failure. As long as the fundamental problems of Nigeria, like the very nature of the union, resource control, judicial reform, relationship between the state and the federation etc, are either ignored or shied away from, all efforts at reform, especially the half-hearted ones, would amount to nothing.
Interestingly, we have counted out Obasanjo and have plunged into a vigorous search for another personality on whom we shall hang our hope. We are once again refusing to insist on reforms that would guarantee progress irrespective of who occupies Aso Rock. For some reason, we continue to have the hope that those unprincipled men and women in the National Assembly have in them the right mantle needed to chart a decent course for us. In our stupidity, we are once again betting our survival on some proven crooks, expired characters and loudmouthed egoists. We are propping ourselves to be satisfied in the realization that any of them would be better than Obasanjo. Just like we once convinced ourselves that, come what may, Obasanjo would be better than Sani Abacha.
The primary reason why Obasanjo has failed is his stubborn refusal to implement a deep-rooted structural reform of Nigeria. Obasanjo, full of himself and trusting in his military drill-sergeant mentality, thought he could order around a wounded country. Obasanjo’s resort to patching the wall, managing one crisis after another instead of tearing down the walls and rebuilding a nation has become his waterloo. His choice of actions, or inactions, is the style of cowards and men without vision. What is left to be seen is whether Obasanjo will succeed in saving his thin skin – the same thin skin that prevented him from doing what is right.
June 15, 2004: Obasanjo’s Funeral
Watching President Ronald Reagan’s funeral reminded me of many more funerals yet to come: mine, yours and Obasanjo’s.
Mine is of no consequence. Yours may be significant. But for President Obasanjo, his will be monumental. As the first dictator to voluntarily hand over power to civilians in sub-Saharan Africa, a distinguished citizen of the world who almost became a UN secretary general, the first civilian president reelected in a free and fair election, the planning started many years before May 29, 1999.
The death of any president, whether sudden or anticipated - as was the case with Reagan, raises a lot of emotions. The reaction is always mixed irrespective of whether the president was great or was just a crook – as was the case with Nixon.
The muffled drums will play music solemn and of reverence. The hearse shall carry the coffin gracefully in spite of the tears or jeers of the citizens. And if they choose a horse-drawn caisson, each step shall be a reminder of the days of service or disservice the commander in chief rendered to his nation. Eulogies will fly around, sometimes with the roar of fighter jets greeting the chief. Each of the 21-gun salute pinches the nerves of the nation once traveled by the departed. In more ways than one, the nation pauses to remember.
The death of a president should not be confused with the death of a tyrant. The death of a tyrant, best illustrated by the death of Sani Abacha, is a thing of relief. It is posterity’s way of correcting its mistake. The funeral, whether hastily done as was with Abacha, or a facade put together by associates and sycophants, signifies the woes of a wasted soul.
Ordinary mortals like you and I are lucky, for our lives may not necessarily be examined in life or in death. But for a president, just as thousands will file pass his coffin as he lies in state, thousands more will exercise their right to make pronouncements on his legacy. Newspapers will write editorials and pages of death register will be filled by mourners eager to have their say on his essence.
And many years after, history shall make the final judgment.
* * *
It was the first state funeral since the death of Nnamdi Azikiwe. Friends and relations of the over 1000 people killed in Odi dropped flowers at the feet of Olumo rock. After the first 24 hours of ego-filled procession, military pallbearers switched their positions and allowed members of the Odua People’s Congress to lead the way. The Zamfara Sharia Choir sang, “Hail to the Chief” at sunset. Ashes of victims of pipeline fires covered Eagles Square arena as harmattan wind blew from the Niger Delta to the North. Television stations across the country replayed tapes of Bariya Magazu receiving 100 strokes of cane for having premarital sex.
Millions of unemployed youths busy selling MTN cards while waiting for their dividend of democracy lined up the street to applaud his motorcade. Niger Delta women rolled their naked bodies in the dust, wailing and calling on heaven to pay. Bakassi Boys did nothing to stop Amina Lawal from giving a sensual rendition of “Nigeria we hail thee” - the old national anthem. Her backup singers were the Bakassi peninsula orchestra. On Radio Nigeria, Bode George spoke of the higher purpose he brought to his job, the majesty he brought to the presidency and the moral clarity he instilled in the nation’s leadership.
Isioma Daniels, for the very first time, removed her veil and read the first lesson during service at Abeokuta Methodist church. One after another, the Commonwealth heads of state paid their last respect. Robert Mugabe issued a statement in Harare calling him “a man who should never have been born.” Hovering on top of his flag-draped coffin were the ghosts of Bola Ige, Harry Marshals, Aminasoari Dikibo and OGB. Waiting in the scorching sun to say their final farewell were children of the victims of Ikeja weapon dump explosion.
Under heavy guard, Charles Taylor kissed the president’s coffin. Arthur Nzeribe followed him. From the pulpit, Reverend Sunday Mbang pontificated about his wisdom, his courage and his decency. NTA camera caught Abubakar Atiku hissing at each word. The people of Benue, led by General Malu laid a wreath. In his home in Kaduna, Wada Nas began another of his bad satires by imagining his beloved Abacha welcoming the president to heaven.
The outpouring of affection peaked when the representatives of South African business interests in Nigeria arrived. They brought along the Zulu drummers who sang about the president’s humbleness, his polite and his respectful manners, and how he made us all feel good about ourselves. At the entrance to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, the pouring of grief continued. Ifa priests made their incantations. Market women, to whom he gave opportunities and a sense of optimism, waved as his procession passed.
At The Sydney Morning Herald, the following lines were inserted into the lead editorial: Obasanjo’s “tragedy, like that of so many Africans, was to have admired a civilization whose external trappings he strongly desired, but of whose internal workings he had no idea… He was a product of multiculturalism, African-style, and able to use relatively advanced methods to achieve brutal, primitive ends. Like every African dictator, he was confusion’s masterpiece.”
* * *
Though it is preposterous for me or anyone else to conjure up images of funerals, it is necessary for us to do so, with the hope that it will spur us all to reexamine our lives and ponder how posterity will view our contribution. For when all is said and done, the critic goes but posterity stays. What posterity will say about Obasanjo is Obasanjo’s funeral.
April 2, 2007: Obasanjo: The Last King of Nigeria
Should Obasanjo die today, here is a befitting epitaph for him: Here lies a man who admired the trappings of western civilization but was ignorant of its tenets.
I deduced this epitaph from an obituary written by an Australian newspaper following the death of Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin Dada, the Last king of Scotland. In the editorial, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that “Amin’s tragedy, like that of so many Africans, was to have admired a civilization whose external trappings he strongly desired, but of whose internal workings he had no idea, while at the same time he was partly enclosed in the mental world of a primitive tribalist… he was a product of multiculturalism, African style, and able to use relatively advanced methods to achieve brutal, primitive end. Like every African dictator, he was confusion’s masterpiece.”
Obasanjo is confusion’s masterpiece. He is supposedly an architect of transparency in governance; yet he owned over two hundred million shares in Transcrop, a multinational corporation that is mopping up at giveaway prices Nigeria’s public enterprises. Obasanjo’s share in Transcorp is worth billions of Naira today. And will worth more tomorrow.
Obasanjo is confusion’s masterpiece. He is supposedly an epitome of ethical public servant; yet he launched a presidential library while in office and allowed contractors, cronies and numerous beneficiaries of his administration to funnel ill-gotten billions of Naira to his presidential library, a library that will house a litany of lies, volumes of girlie vengeance and microfilms of squandered hopes.
Obasanjo is confusion’s masterpiece. He is supposedly a born-again democrat; yet he will not let the people of Nigeria decide who to elect into office. He will teleguide the so-called Independent National Electorate Commission, INEC, dictating who should run for office and who should be barred. He is so shameless that he will ignore court orders just to bar everyone who might pose a challenge to the likes of Andy Uba and his other favored candidates.
For just one reason, I am not worried about Obasanjo anymore. I am not worried because I am sure that Obasanjo will be the last king of Nigeria. The brutality he and his fellow scoundrels have achieved, physically, in places like Odi and Zaki-Biam; psychologically, in the final destruction of Nigeria’s collective sense of decency; and spiritually, in his use of God as Nigeria’s shrink, has guaranteed that Nigeria, as it is presently constituted, will never have the misfortune of seeing the likes of him again.
Obasanjo and his cohorts have taken Nigeria to the end of primitivity. There is nowhere else to go but a crawl out of the valley of decadence and rot. Running abroad to cure malaria after spending billions building a white elephant national stadium is the wrong idea of reform. Eight years and $200 billion dollars down the drain, pound for pound, Obasanjo will be leaving Nigerians in worst shape than they were before he came.
The really good thing is that whatever happens this month, the Obasanjo nightmare will be over on May 29th 2007. It is either that or…
If this Republic fails, let no one forget that Obasanjo sowed the seed for its failure. When kleptomaniac politicians are hauled into jail, let it be televised. Let Obasanjo, with his inflated sense of importance, be the first to take his place in infamy. And may his place be in that hottest corner where other murders of dreams languish.
If this Republic succeeds to transit into a second stanza, let it be known that it happened in spite of Obasanjo’s best effort to squash it. And may the wind of our collective tufiakwa wrap Obasanjo up and drag him across the rough roads of Edo all the way to the most remote part of his chicken farm where the songs of mating hens will serenade him through his twilight days.
As for his obituary, no need wasting thoughts on it - the same Idi Amin’s piece will suffice.