Buhari, Obasanjo And The Umpteen Thieves
THE Nigeria story tells like a fairytale. Right from how the territory was acquired and recovered to how its name was coined and by whom, one cannot but be astounded by the many twists and twirls it has meandered en route to who-knows-where. Mention must be made of the amalgamation of its North and South, the centenary of which was marked last year under leadership of GEJ. Independence was to come some forty-six years later, followed hot on the heels by a thirty-month civil war.
O yes, by this time in 1967, the secessionist enclave of Biafra was neck deep in trouble for daring to sunder what God had used Lord Frederick Lugard to put together in 1914. While the weighted battles raged, many an unverifiable tale was told about transpirations at the war fronts. Among these was how the poet Christopher Okigbo was killed while fighting on the rebel side. According to the apocryphal anecdote, he was felled by an exploding grenade hauled by either him or a colleague that had rebound off a palm trunk, thus having him – as he would have put it in a veritable fable – hoist with his own petards. The truth remains that the victim neither participated in the war nor wrote any line of poetry thenceforth. As for the war, it neither paused nor waned on its account. It waged on as though nothing happened, spawning heroes with abandon.
One of them – certified by all – remains Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ. By accolades then attained – what else – he did march on to rule the country first as a soldier and then as a civilian. In his tour as military Head-of-State the ruling council did promulgate a decree that implicated whosoever got wind of a coup plot without telling like the plotters. It is also well known that he was to be caught in its web long after his retirement and sentenced to life imprisonment. If his subsequent move from his cell to Aso Rock in a Mandela-like transformation is not the stuff myths are made of then I’m not the person writing this piece.
It’s been argued in some quarters that OBJ only lived to fight again perhaps on account of his travails – talk about luck and its toughness oftentimes. Today OBJ has transformed into a veritable father of the nation only comparable to the serving President who also had a stint – though short-lived – as military Head-of-State. OBJ is also believed to have swung the applecart in Buhari’s favour during the campaigns first by distancing himself from the sitting President and then tearing the then ruling party’s membership card to the full glare of television cameras.
There is no gainsaying the part luck has played in the rise and rise of these two personas. Consider, for instance what would have been OBJ’s fate had the Head-of-State he replaced been spared in the coup that failed. Or, for that matter, how we would have fared as a nation had those who toppled GMB in his military coming not spared his life. Premised on that would be what would have been the scenario had OBJ succumbed in jail like Shehu Musa Yar’adua. Or GMB caught by the bombs planted for his convoy by Boko Haram. Perhaps GEJ would have won re-election by a landslide or what have you.
All said and done it remains a fact that GMB has lines to learn from OBJ more than any other person in the federation. This is to avoid the grace to grass inflicted on the nation by the OBJ/GEJ interregnum. As much as OBJ has done for the nation, it remains a hidden fact that his name is believed to be in the Halliburton black book. And he is rumoured to be alone in it. Even GMB himself had to suffer such absurd press over a certain 2.8 billion of uncertain currency supposed to have vamoosed from the nation’s purse under his care as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum. So whichever way it swings, GMB ought to know that none can be proven guilty until his innocence is disproved. Perhaps in this lies the gully of difference that may in the end demarcate their regimes in difference.
It is noteworthy that often in the cry to fight corruption, attention is often heaped on the monetary aspects so that the tale will not lack hokes. This canker worm that has at times seen states having as much as twenty percent disparities in admission marks to government institutions ought to be balanced in subsequent appointments. Anything to the contrary might give a suggestion different from the uprightness, which the government of the day preaches or appears to preach.
All the same, PMB’s choice of going after thievery foremost is nothing but laudable. What else when quantities of the local currency stolen to much consternation hitherto only amounts to chicken change to its alters polished off these days in the almighty US Dollar. Also when ab initio only those at the topmost cadres used to stand accused, now even the lowliest of civil servants have been known to cream off as much as manage to make the trip across the files that trespass his table with the cheapest of pens. This means that were GMB to be compared to Ali Baba the legendary Arabian in a tale with a different didactic, he would indeed have to deal with a lot more than forty thieves. Thus he would not be needing distractions like this save as a reminder to how well we have fared.
Isidore Emeka Uzoatu is the author of the novel Vision Impossible.