OBJ’s sermon in the creeks
Last week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in Bayelsa State preaching love.
He went at the instance of the State Governor, Seraike Dickson who wanted him (since the incumbent president is not readily available for such task) to commission projects built by the state government as part of the activities to mark the sixth anniversary of the government of Dickson in the state.
Obasanjo did a little more outside the official schedule. By some arrangement, he was appropriated to lay the foundation stone of the second private refinery after Dangote’s, but the first in that region of the country, penultimate Saturday.
The Azikel Modular Refinery sitting on about 20 hectares is being powered by Dr. Eruani Azibapu Goodbless, President of Azikel Group in collaboration with foreign partners.
The reception for the former president was good. Governor Dickson described him as a lover of Bayelsa and its people who, while as President appointed and retained as petroleum minister, a man from Bayelsa State, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, now the Amananyabo of Nembe Kingdom.
And when he was given a chance to comment on the proposed refinery, King Daukoru, who is said to know everything about oil and gas agreed almost entirely with that position of eminence in Bayelsa affairs bestowed on Obasanjo by the governor. He broke traditional protocols and called Obasanjo “my mentor” and with a slight bow to underscore point.
There was real effort to establish Obasanjo as a friend of the Niger Delta. The audience even acquiesced and applauded intermittently to every high point, perhaps, more out of courtesy than conviction. Obasanjo rose gallantly to the occasion and refused to be contained. He enjoyed the accolades even when he knew that most of it was undeserved.
He is the Baba who cannot be challenged in any setting. Not even King Diete-Spiff, the Amananyabo of Brass Twon, who perhaps is senior to Obasanjo in the military, could remind the ex-president of his most copious sin against the Ijaw.
And so on this very day in Gbaran Kingdom, the heart of Ijaw land, Obasanjo assumed the podium to tell an audience of mainly Ijaws that in Nigeria, people could control their resources but need strangers to manage same efficiently for their benefit.
“I said, yes, you can control your resources but I have to manage them for the benefit of everybody” he said gleefully and in a manner that suggested he could not have been faulted on his decision on resource control and fiscal federalism while he was president.
The Ibinanowei of Gbaran Kingdom HRM King Sunpere Akeh and other royal fathers present, including Kings Diete-Spiff and Daukoru and Governor Dickson did not say anything.
If anything, they all seemed too ready to adopt Obasanjo as a big son of Ijaw land, especially when he added that he would discontinue medical checks abroad and come to the state hospital in Yenagoa, which he described as excellent.
The thing about Baba is that he manages all the time to speak as if he has no other interest than the greatness of Nigeria in all the things he says and does.
For instance, in creating his presidential library and legacy resort in Abeokuta his home town from huge public subscriptions, it was the interest of Nigeria that was uppermost in his mind. It was in the national interest when he supported ailing Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to become President.
So it was too, when Obasanjo turned around 360 degrees and made it look as if he had nothing to do with the dying Yar’Adua and worked assiduously for the ascendance of Goodluck Jonathan as president. And today, it is in the national interest for him to say no to the suitability of General Muhammadu Buhari as president in less than three years after he said a very loud yes.
Give it to him, Obasanjo has managed all of this so well and the national consensus as we speak is that he is the only living patriot and nationalist in Nigeria.
The other thing that has not been overtly stated but implied in all matters concerning Obasanjo is that for his contributions to nation building, he has become some god, even while still alive to be worshipped by all Nigerians irrespective of the ethno-religious diversities.
And so on this day in Bayelsa, it was the oracle talking and not necessarily Olusegun Obasanjo. This is the only way to explain why nobody in the large audience questioned the claim that resources in Nigeria could be owned by some who probably are less endowed upstairs and then ‘managed efficiently’ by others that are better endowed; specifically the federal government.
It is only an oracle that can induce that depth of passivity among the people of the Niger Delta on the vexed issue of resources ownership and their utilization in the manner it was presented by Obasanjo.
Gbaran Kingdom where the refinery is located and where Obasanjo made his big claim is few kilometers from Amassoma, the home town of former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyesegha, a respected Ijaw patriot, who until his sudden death on October 10 2015, was designated the governor-general of the Ijaw nation. About 20 kilometres to the west of the location of the Azikel Refinery lies Odi in Opokuma Kolokoma council area of Bayelsa. The stories of the late governor-general and Odi town have so much to do with Obasanjo.
Following the killing of 12 policemen by yet-to-be apprehended gunmen in Odi area in November 1999, Obasanjo ordered troops into Odi to look for the killers. Nothing – lives and properties – stood in the wake of the invasion.
In the end, Odi a fishing town that is powered by the River Nun became a heap of rubbles. The lamentations over the loss of Odi were loud in most parts of the world and even in heaven but not loud enough till date to move Obasanjo into apologising for the destruction.
For most of the 1999 to 2007 dispensation, Obasanjo stayed on the chest of Alamieyesegha like an incubus. He instigated his impeachment by the State House of Assembly on charges of corruption, prosecuted and jailed him.
The man actually died from shocks of the news that the Federal Government under Buhari was contemplating re-opening the corruption charge against him after he had been granted presidential amnesty by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The other person who shared same fate with Alamieyesegha in that dispensation is Chief James Onanefe Ibori, former governor of Delta State, who, while running from prosecution at home, jumped into a British dragnet in 2011 that kept him out of circulation till only last year.
Both men were vocal against Obasanjo in the contest for the control of the resources of the Niger Delta and I can add that more for this reason than anything else, Alameiyesegha and Ibori became the best and biggest faces to create the poster of corruption in Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.
These are documented facts, but as if under some spell on that day, nobody in the audience remembered to invoke same to interrogate Obasanjo’s prodigious claim of love for the Niger Delta and its people. Instead, he was applauded all the way from Gbaran Kingdom through Yenagoa to Otuoke, where he was lavishly hosted by Goodluck Jonathan, as if he (Jonathan) has got big plans for 2019 and needed to purchase the blessings of the oracle of Nigerian politics.
And I say today that, a great deal of the challenges in the Niger Delta are home made. They do not have to do only with resource mining and all the issues that come with the fair allocation of the arising benefits. More worrisome is a leadership that is incapable of the kind of assertiveness that bestows respectability.
The other time, it was Rotimi Amaechi who as governor invited Obasanjo to Port Harcourt to add no particular value to the processes of governance in the state, but to re-state the K-leg theory that attended the politics of Rivers State in 2007.
The leaders of the region are not only naïve but intellectually challenged. They think they need more than themselves to lead.
Consequently, they are ever on missions to secure dubious endorsements of some rogue leaders of the majority groups. They sponsor the big dinner (presidential elections) with huge resources from the region and thereafter stay under the table to pick-up crumbs. They should wake up!