Obasanjo: Lest we forget
The great emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius did not want any of his children to succeed him as emperor! He was so disturbed about the vain disposition of children raised at the Domus Aurelius and therefore tended toward the Epicurean life style and also prone to being tossed here and there by un-wanton emotionalism. Political theorists have debated the kind of persons that will rule and those that will never rule.
Aurelius believed that the stoic mindset must be the ontological disposition of any ruler who understands the urgent necessity of protecting and prospering the realm. Aurelius was not lucky, his Son Commodus killed him and became emperor and foisted on Rome a sorry atmosphere of decline and immorality; the rest is history.
In Africa we have seen many leaders whose only mission has been to fill the belly, make merry and wax philosophical while the realm is plundered. Africa is known for intractable miseries, miseries that are unnecessary given the immensity of resources available. But still leadership has not worked. It is only natural for anyone who understands how life ought to be lived to look at Africa and shudder at the colosal waste that lies therein. Why is this? The present writer believes that the miseries everywhere in Africa, the utter lack of progress is as a result of first, the artificialness and utter lack of foundation of African states plus the ontological dissonance that has arisen in the marriage between African forms of life and Western forms of life.
The African have seemingly looked in vain for a savior, a savior that will govern the realm to bring about transformation of selves and transformation of society. This search is seemingly a search in perpetuity and futility. In Nigeria, the country seems too bloated, too uncoordinated to make any sense. While the leaders fill their bellies with stolen wealth and wealth legitimately stolen from the polity, the populace wallow in an indescribable rat race towards self-preservation at a great cost. Simply put, nothing works in Nigeria. It has never worked since 1960. I have always challenged my peers to show me one area of the national life that we have done sustainably well.
The man Olusegun Obasanjo believing strongly in the survivability of Nigeria, despite everything, is indeed the only leader that with the stoic disposition put his eyes on the lines written about Nigeria and disagree with what is written there. He has disagreed that Nigeria will never work. He has been called many impossible names. Although Nigeria is not working now, we must remember how Obasanjo dotted the landscape of Nigerian history with a philosophy of Nigeria. The Greatness of Obasanjo’s spirit makes the detractors of Nigeria shudder at his indefatigable push towards the opposite direction of the coming doom. His history must be remembered always as a history of progress in an unprogressive country, despite the coming gloomy chapters of this ongoing history.
Before you dismiss this piece as a treatise in praise of Obasanjo, you need to remind yourself of certain nearly forgotten points, points that connects you positively to Obasanjo and which is forever a part of your life. Starting from 1976, Obasanjo has been a child of destiny whose ideas and intellectual rigor dumbfound all stripes of observers. Yes, he could do more. But he is just one finite human being. The death of the then head of state, Muritala Muhammad brought to the fore once again the fragility of the Nigerian state. A fragility shown again in the fact that a head of State can be assassinated in a bid to take over the government. Destiny plundered that coup attempt and brought Obasanjo forward irremediably into the psyche of Nigeria where he remains till date. The 1976 centering of Obasanjo became a clear testimony of his own idea that he lives, works and labor to satisfy his maker and his conscience. 1976 was particularly a difficult year given the psychological wounds inflicted upon Nigeria by the death of Muritala Mohammad. The onus was on Obasanjo to rehabilitate the unstable country. This he did by “the methodical and successful implementation of the political program with landmark decisions and developmental progress in the political, economic, social and foreign affairs sectors, culminating in peaceful transition to a new democratic dispensation” led by Alhaji Usman Aliu Shehu Shagari.
This particular historical achievement cannot be forgotten. If we attempt to neglect the impact of this move on the polity, it means we have callously forgotten our destiny as shaped by this towering figure whose hands pilot Nigeria towards a progressive self-realization. But we know how it panned out. Successive governments did not follow the effulgent banner of Obasanjo progressivism and the Philosophy of Nigeria. They followed the ignominious path toward corruption, instability and disorder. These happenings tore at the Obasanjo conscience, the Obasanjo philosophy of Nigeria to the extent that “prolonged dismal economic performance coupled with corruption” led to the loss of legitimacy in the civilian government of Shehu Shagari. But these events and behavior of the government of Shehu Shagari did not stop the Obasanjo Spirit. He continued to work to salvage the mess he did not create. The ingenious “Farm House Dialogue” which he started in his Ota farm became the “informal platform specifically designed to facilitate vertical and horizontal interaction among and between diverse groups of Nigerians” for the purpose of prospering the country. One would have easily thought that the long years of military service would have wearied this man to the extent that he will disappear into retirement to at least get some reprieve from the complexities that is Nigeria. But then he offered his free time and unfree time, to sustain the conversations bordering on some “thirty-six topics”.
The topics included developmental, democratic and social issues. I leave it to your imagination to decipher the other contents of these thirty-six topics. But deciphering these are rather easy. Just take a look at the political, religious and social dimensions of the Nigerian life, with all in betweenness and mind-boggling hydra headedness to begin to understand what the man busied himself with. Then after you have looked on these issues, you then ask yourself, is this the man so much hated and maligned ad nauseam? Is this the man so utterly misunderstood and often relegated?
Well, when Aurelius wanted a successor in line with Stoic philosophical disposition, he forgot that no matter how staunchly stoic and philosophical a leader might be, the populace determine mostly how history will perceive each leader. In our own case, in Nigeria, we are increasingly positioning Obasanjo to be forgotten and blamed for the doom and gloom here before us. So, we have to remember who he is really amidst the mud, the mistakes, the glories.
Dr. Igwilo wrote from Ota, Ogun State.
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