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Beyond Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari


PHOTO: Philip Ojisua

No profound insight has been offered in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as having not passed muster. He only articulated what has not only been in the public domain but has equally been kept in focus in the domestic sphere of the president. Of course, we cannot forget so soon that Aisha, the First Lady, has been warning her husband of the political misfortune that could trail his re-election bid if he fails to make necessary amends and rescue his governance style from being a blight on the citizens’ lives. Even in the early days of this government when it was still unvarnished amid the seeming towering popularity of Buhari and when the whimpers of protest against his lack of leadership acumen were easily dismissed as emanating from wailers who were nostalgic for a dark past of the nation, Mrs. Buhari was already giving forebodings of the sad end of this administration.

Yet, we must appreciate the significance of Obasanjo’s letter which lies in its ineluctably ominous character. Obasanjo could be seen as an angel of death or an undertaker whose letters only serve as the hearse to convey a government that has irredeemably crashed to its grave. This was the case of former President Goodluck Jonathan. But of course, not all Obasanjo’s auguries are expressed through an epistolary medium. They also come in the form of verbal lacerations that trigger baleful consequences when ignored. Here we are reminded of Obasanjo’s warnings to Ibrahim Babangida to give his imported and oppressive Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) a human face and Sani Abacha who inherited his travestised government. Both ignored him and they suffered either political or material perdition. And even though Obasanjo’s bad verses resulted in his incarceration at the hands of Abacha, he has not relented. This was why Obasanjo also warned Musa Yar’Adua to quit when he became incapacitated by sickness. But in this case, Yar’Adua sickness did not allow us to know if he would have heeded Obasanjo’s advice. But what matters now is that his government did not survive the warning.


But we must resist the temptation to endow Obasanjo with clairvoyant powers that he may not possess. The appropriate riposte if Obasanjo ascribed such powers to himself is that he should have used them to solve the nation’s problems when he was at the helm of affairs. Indeed, the eight years he spent in office would have been enough for him to sow the seeds of enduring democracy in the country instead of surreptitiously trying to perpetuate himself in office through an alleged third term agenda that he has consistently denied being its originator. What we must make allowance for, however, is Obasanjo’s uncanny ability to appropriately mirror the mood of a critical national epoch. In essence, Obasanjo has only reminded Buhari that his failures have reached such an intolerable level that he should not contemplate seeking re-election in 2019.

These failures were not accidental. From the first day he assumed power as the president, Buhari prepared the ground for his own dismal performance .We saw this in his failure to name a cabinet about half a year after being sworn into office. But when the ministers were unveiled after this long time, they were not the new breed of leaders whom the citizens expected to serve them in such a manner that their lot would be dramatically improved. Rather, they are old politicians whom Buhari just recycled because they supported his election. Ever since then, we have been constantly reminded that the inability of Buhari to name his ministers timeously is an indication of failure.

Buhari’s failure has also been seen in his appointments of officials to various offices. He demonstrated his nepotistic bent by filling most of the offices with people with whom he shares the same ethnic or religious affiliations. This is why the nation’s key security departments are manned by Fulani-Hausa Muslims. It is this composition that accounts for the deployment of state terror against parts of the country that do not enjoy the favour of the president. State terror was deployed against members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) even though it was clear that they did not pose a real danger to the nation’s existence. After all, the issues bordering on marginalisation that fuelled their agitations could have been discussed and peace brokered without resort to state terror. The members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and their leaders were also mowed down and others incarcerated to waste away even why their offences do not warrant such high-handedness and law courts have called for their release. But such state terror is not deployed to check the real threats to the nation’s existence. This is the case in a place like Benue State and other parts of the country where Fulani herdsmen are on the rampage. After over 73 persons have been killed by Fulani herdsmen and their leaders have claimed responsibility for the carnage and threatened more violence, nobody has been arrested.

The failure is further seen in the incompetence of Buhari to manage the economy. Since Buhari came to power, the poverty level has risen. Many people have lost their jobs and lives through suicide as companies continue to shut down because of the inclement business environment. Buhari who rode to power on the back of a campaign to rid the country of corruption has become the breeding ground for corruption. While fighting political enemies he claims to be corrupt, he has refused to prosecute his political allies who have been accused of corruption. Even when it is clearly a national disgrace that some persons who cannot clear themselves of the corruption charges against them are in the Buhari government, he has been unwilling to sack and prosecute them.

But the sad irony which projects Buhari as irredeemable is that he presents his failures as the hallmarks of his stellar performance. Or why does he consider his inability to quickly make decisions as a virtue? For Buhari, being branded Baba Go Slow is an honour he is not willing to give up. But are nations built by leaders who do not have the presence of mind to take decisions quickly? Are nations built by the complicit silence of their leaders in the face of emergencies that threaten to erode their foundations? What is lost to Buhari as he glories in his slow decision-making capability is that a leader can make fast decisions with precision. In this regard, the further tragedy is that it is only Buhari and his supporters who do not know that his slowness in making decisions has cost the nation so much. Because Buhari is slow, he has failed to arrive at the best response to the herdsmen’s menace. Because he is slow, he has not been able to effectively appreciate the relevance of the restructuring of the country to its cohesion and development.

More importantly, we must look beyond the hysteria of asking Buhari not to seek re-election. Buhari’s not seeking re-election is not the ultimate answer to the nation’s questions. Nor does the solution lie in a third force as Obasanjo has proposed. In this regard, he should go further to proffer enduring solutions to the problems of the nation. If Obasanjo were really interested in enduring solutions to the problems of the country, he would have lent his voice to the call for the replacement of the nation’s misbegotten constitution with a new one and the restructuring of the polity. For without this, Obasanjo would not be able to overcome his Sisyphean affliction of writing letters to bad governments that a corrupt constitution and an un-restructured polity would nurture. In the long run, his proposed third force would suffer the same fate that befell his government of eight years – the inability to deploy good governance to improve the citizens’ lot.

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