Fate and faith as Obasanjo turns 85 years – Part 3
Continued from yesterday
With some of the most intricate network of contacts around the world, he orbited himself into the global scene anew, becoming part of the multiple fora of world leaders, especially former Heads of States cutting across all continents and geo-strategic groups of the world. He easily attracted to himself a place as one of the foremen of the closely knitted but powerful international clubs of world leaders. These saw OBJ ascend from Baba of Nigeria to Baba of Africa and now Baba of the world, as that became his more renowned name.
He was also appointed, serially, as representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, and that of the African Union and global multilateral economic communities such as World Bank, World Economic Forum, United Nations agencies, Afrexim Bank, Africa Development Bank and so on. OBJ equally became, at various times, in charge of peace in the Great Lakes, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Liberia and Sierra Leone etc.
Till today, he occupies the vintage and unchallenged position of a senior global citizen playing various roles and has been undeterred by the continued surge of age and time.
Cameroonian folk wisdom has it, that when a monkey climbs very high on a tree, it becomes possible to see its negative sides. Despite these very positive values and endearing legacies, OBJ’s life has, not the least, seen its fair share of black spots. In particular, his obstinacy and self-assertive attitude when not in support of particular viewpoints have often attracted him serious criticisms and censure.
A good case in point is his recent altercation with Nigerian elder statesman, Edwin Clark over the views he expressed, startlingly, regarding who owns the Crude Oil in the Niger Delta. For a point that is so delicate which the people of that beleaguered area feel much pained about in a country where they continue to get the rough end of the stick, his initial outburst was totally off the mark. But then, he has expressed regret over his outburst.
In his moments out of office, he has also maintained a posture as one of the most active spokesmen against the ills of society. So, he tended to become an ace critic of his successors in office, presumably after behind-the-scene engagements with them. Therefore, his open altercations with former Heads of State, Sani Abacha, Umar Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan resulted in open exchanges including his famous letters. These, he has also done repeatedly with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
This mode of engagement, however, appears to be at variance with what we hear is an unwritten code that former leaders of countries have with their successors. That Is “I will never criticize you in public”. Maybe Baba needs to read American investigative journalist, Michael Duffy award-winning book, ‘The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity”.
Another coma. The so-called lack of accountability for billions of dollars expended under him for providing electricity to the country remains insufficiently explained. What has appeared not well explained, however, is the fact that the 10 NIPP power plants he started, most now completed, today account for 4,700 megawatts of total electricity generation in Nigeria. His silence on this matter and refusal to take on the unnecessary long-winded narrative on the matter remains intriguing when that singular effort is now keeping the country dimly lit.
Another palaver that he still needs to explain further is the whole hullabaloo about his ill-famed “Third-Term” Agenda. What was really on his mind and what did he do? Perhaps he has to open the lid a bit wider on this, than the contents in his book ‘My Watch’.
Quo Vadis Baba?
The life of OBJ even as he turns 85 has been almost synonymous with telling the Nigerian story. At every stage, from his adolescent years, the hand of fate and his deep Baptist faith have projected him to the nerve centre of where things happen. Just like the Phoenix, which in Greek mythology occurs as a near-immortal bird that revives itself into newness and relevance, OBJ has continued to straddle Nigerian and world history, despite his fallibities. What is so spectacular about him is the fact that time and age had been unable to temper his cyclically regenerative endowment.
At his 85th thanksgiving, world leaders and national political bigwigs, especially those with top political ambitions, dragged for optical spaces. We won’t be able to hazard a guess whether OBJ can now be tamed into the ethereal quietude of a retired old man. Not likely. Fortunately for him, a good part of his early life was spent in the rigours of the farm, while his adult life was in the furnace of soldierly drills. These seem to continue to explain his energetic and athletic vigour and he would likely outlive his time.
We wish you more hard work, Baba.
Igali is a retired Ambassador.