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Caught between wretched alternatives


President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: BAYO OMOBORIOWO

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo earned himself a respectable name when he voluntarily relinquished power as military dictator in 1979, thus heralding a Nigerian Second Republic which collapsed in 1983. It was at a time when African leaders – they still are – would rather be killed than gracefully hand over power to another. More than anything else, the global accolade that greeted General Obasanjo’s decency earned him some kind of moral authority to lecture his successors as well as pontificate on political governance.

The first, in what has become his periodic interventions, started with his letter to former President Shehu Shagari in 1983. He warned the then president of the financial profligacy and corruption of his administration and the political party he led. Obasanjo’s one letter I enjoyed reading most and even amplified on the pages of the London-based West Africa and African Concord magazines, was one in which he warned a military ruler of the danger of partitioning Nigeria into economic and political groups. His most recent letters were to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in January, 2018.

Honestly, Obasanjo spoke the minds of honest and apolitical Nigerians in his letters, even when his own shortcomings between 1999 and 2007, when he was our elected president, would appear to have escaped the mirror of personal reflection and self-appraisal. Critics say Obasanjo was good at putting others down while exonerating and over-celebrating himself at every conceivable opportunity.


Be that as it may, not many will fault the objections he raised about the sectional disposition of our current president. Sadly, this has been one stigma denting Buhari since he first came on the political scene via a coup in December 1983. If he has eroded the goodwill that catapulted him to the presidency in 2015, no other reason can be more significant than his clannishness-skewed political appointments and his seemingly looking the other way when economic crimes are committed by his primordial associates. The rampaging of herdsmen whose members are predominantly from his own ethnic nationality, killing and maiming whoever crossed their path, has been most damaging to a president whose non-action has been taken by political opponents as a sort of collusion or endorsement of criminality. Many draw a contrast between this sad silence on his part and the anxiety bordering on enthusiasm with which the Indigenous People of Biafra agitators were dealt with by military authorities.

President Buhari might not have been as unsuccessful in governance as his opponents would want to make of it in the aftermath of the pungent letter by Obasanjo, but we all know what entails of competitive politics are. The hunger ravaging the nation also have those thieving governors as culprits, not least because paying workers for their labour has hardly been their priority. Were a presidential election to hold today, Nigerians would be in a state of confusion not knowing what choice to make between the wretched alternatives they are confronted with. The Peoples Democratic Party hardly deserves to be hurriedly rushed back to power, just as a convincing argument can hardly also be mustered in favour of Buhari continuing in office beyond 2019. The prospect of some clowns within the PDP taking a central position in national politics is too nauseating to contemplate. But things change quickly in politics and public mood could reverse in a matter of time.


Obasanjo, in his letter to Buhari, spoke loudly of a coalition of patriotic Nigerians that could wrestle power from corrupt politicians. I am sceptical of that proposal as I am equally of politicians rushing from one party to another at election time. The two major political parties – the progressives and the democrats – should continue to be supported to enjoy continuity and become well – established and purposeful. Honestly, in terms of governmental experience, there is not much to be expected from a political party of very short life span. Political leadership is not static and the quality of leadership would fluctuate from time to time.The great American political parties that produced the Lincolns and the Kennedys have also accounted for the Nixons and the Trumps. Political parties should endure and reform with the influx of young men and women of great ideas.

Nigerians are highly political, not least because they participate enthusiastically in elections. However, their participation in governmental politics is almost non-existent. They are hardly bothered with what those they have elected into various offices do with their mandates. Even the so-called educated Nigerians may not be aware of the bills being debated in the legislatures, talkless of telling their representatives what their preferences are.

When Obasanjo mooted the idea of a possible coalition of patriotic Nigerians, what immediately crossed my mind was a nationwide political interest group with the capacity to put elected politicians on their toes. In the aftermath of the success of the Save Nigeria Group spearheaded by the indefatigable Soyinka and Bakare, I had argued in various newspapers for its transformation into a permanent interest group. Not much will change if all we do is grumble rather than participate actively in how we are governed.
Akinola wrote from Oxford, United Kingdom.

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