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Obasanjo: Ambushing the emergence of the proper third force


Olusegun Obasanjo

General Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement has been expressed as the former President’s projected avant garde prescription for taking beleaguered Nigeria out of the political woods into which it had been marooned by successive visionless administrations. Fiercely patriotic, Obasanjo is touted as the embodiment of the values for the preservation or continuing corporate existence of the Nigerian contraption. For good measure, he is an inflexible defender of the status quo. He has after all, been a major beneficiary of the system. Even as the general mood of the nation is in favour of the political restructuring of the country and of charting a proper course around the issues of good governance, equity, justice, etc. the Obasanjo intervention contained in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari is cleverly positioned to divert attention therefrom and guide the national narrative in the direction of a prepared script. Whereas politicians are obsessed with arrangements for their 2019 election, the Nigerian people are intently focused on the fundamental question of how to get rid of the fraudulent precepts or prescriptions of the 1999 Constitution. But Obasanjo would rather throw up issues that are merely tangential to the requirement to rejig the fundamental underpinnings of the constitution which provisions and the practice thereof have made possible the present morass or under-development he impiously complains about.

Some of Obasanjo’s concerns are worthy of note. His charges of sectionalism or nepotism levelled against the Buhari administration are un-assailable and are themselves a major contradiction or character flaw in Buhari’s much-talked about patriotic fervour. The fight against corruption, a major campaign plank of the government, has been made weak by the selectivity or partiality of its thrust. Only certain persons or some class of persons are hounded by the anti-corruption agencies even as loud protestations of similar or identical malfeasance by Buhari cronies are topical news items. The administration looks smugly on as its favourites are shielded away from the restrained arms of the law. Appointments into positions in government and the military commands have been un-apologetically sectional under Buhari. Obasanjo will not let these go unchallenged. Historically, he has found a pastime in regularly running caustic commentaries, making acerbic remarks and jocularly but directly rebuking desultory or irresponsible conduct of political office holders. His direct, palpable and undisguised verbal assault or attack on the Abacha administration methods brought him face to face with the wrath of the goggled Abacha and to the brink of the valley of the shadow of death. Condemned to be dispatched to the world beyond, an uncanny deus ex machina in the form of the mysterious death of the hang man was the denouement or final unravelling of the Obasanjo debacle.

For a man of more than moderate intelligence but imbued with a large dosage of ardour and valour, our character sketch of Obasanjo will not be complete without our recognition of his curious dare –devilry. He takes on most difficult tasks, revels in dangerous assignments – impudently daring open suicide or inducing hara-kiri. It may be a moot point, however, that his self-appointment as our ombudsman rankles. Many will agree that he is probably an inappropriate person to draw our attention to the prostrate or sorry state of things in contemporary Nigeria. He is perceived, and so quite correctly, as having played a fundamental role in foisting on us a sense of helplessness regarding the ugly manifestations of his choices. For the records, he brought and supported Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari in their respective bids for the presidency. He was also a frontline member of the PDP, its alter ego and prime flag bearer.

The mood of the nation is directing serious attack on the thrusts of the provisions of 1999 Constitution. The people are dismayed by the practice or working of “unitary federalism” which the constitution prescribes. They are calling for the political restructuring of the country, true federalism, devolution of power, fiscal independence for the constituent units, etc. Presumably, being doubtful that the system can withstand the people’s onslaught, Obasanjo has launched his latest diversionary attack so just the people may be lulled to sleep regarding their fervent quest. The sense of failure of the Buhari presidency, for instance, to confront or address the key issues of governance is rooted in our general lack of a profound sense of history. None of us, including Obasanjo, can be excused our present bewilderment respecting the failure of governance under Buhari granting that whatever he is doing now is foreshadowed by his leadership style as military head of state from 1983. Concerning Obasanjo’s charge of sectionalism or nepotism regarding appointments into public offices, it will be recalled that in a dramatic departure from the practice of earlier military governments of paying regard to the ethnic and religious plurality of the Nigerian society, Buhari announced a 19-man Supreme Military Council in which 12 were northerners; the hierarchical order of superiority was even more grossly tilted in favour of the north.

Regarding favouritism, it is relevant to examine the inequality of the actions taken by the Buhari military government in its treatment of political offenders. Shagari, for instance, was given preferential treatment by the military government even though as president he was the most culpable for the misrule of the time. He was known to have been held in comfortable “house arrest “ more as a preventive than a punitive detention whereas his vice, Alex Ekwueme, who was accused of being “consistently involved in contract deals on Abuja, on petroleum and certain sectors of the economy” was reportedly held in prison detention. This self-same scenario is playing out in the official treatment of cases involving certain well-projected or properly-connected persons whose alleged offences bordering on corruption have neither been investigated nor charged to court by the government.

The Buhari presidency graphically presents us with the classic example of the rude denial of the vigour, effervescence and correctness of a people’s generational yearning or desire for a purposeful, determined and clear- headed administration. Hopes have been dashed and the future imperilled even as looming tragedies have received cavalier responses or have been impishly courted. The people had expected some superstar performance from Buhari following media-hype positioning of his proverbial integrity, his presumed no- nonsense posture regarding corruption and his austere and severe low profile carriage. This goodwill has however been frittered away on the altar of crass insensitivity, desultoriness, absence of team spirit and in-adroitness. All or most of the indices of a failed state – depravity, banditry, insecurity, benumbing official or state corruption , un-imaginable or inexcusable poverty, opportunistic politics, etc. – have festered or flourished under the Buhari administration.

Obasanjo’s attempt to divert attention away from our pre-occupation with the requirement to re-think or re-formulate the nation’s grund norm by detaining us with the politician’s interests must be solidly resisted. The people are engrossed with the fundamental question of how to give themselves a constitution that approximates to their yearnings for unity, peace, self-actualisation and progress. Obasanjo’s intrusion must be seen for what it is. In order that a proper third force – required to interrogate the desultoriness or planlessness of the ruling APC or of the weak-kneed opposition PDP – does not emerge to challenge the status quo, Obasanjo has come to the rescue. His position regarding the formation of his Coalition for Nigeria Movement would have appeared less self-serving if, even in challenging the present political order, it is content with being a watchdog formation for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

But as its membership register is rudely garnished with the names of corrupt and discredited politicians, the group has been exposed as another attempt to betray the hope of Nigerians and dim the prospects of a glorious future.

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.

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Olusegun Obasanjo
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