By Lucky Lanre-Ojo ([email protected])
As my generation approaches its silver jubilee, faster than was imagined, I cannot but wonder why Nigeria has been so bedevilled with bad leadership. For a very long time, Gen. Jeremiah Oseni rtd. has been unusually quiet. Even when the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha’s memory elicited caustic national and global comments for looting the seemingly inexhaustible treasury of the nation, Jerry (as he’s fondly referred to) never found his voice to defend his former boss and friend. It was as though the Plateau-born retired general was undergoing spiritual cleansing from his contribution to the backwardness of Nigeria, as a member of Nigeria’s most cruel military cabal.
I was jolted when last week I read of Jerry’s unkind and provocative comments about Ken Saro Wiwa. That the former Ogoni leader was murdered in the interest of Nigeria is most unkind to say the least. Jeremiah Oseni, no doubt belongs to the Nigerian ruling elite who laid the foundation of the ongoing unrest in the Niger Delta. For decades, subsequent Nigerian leader had ignored the region with reckless abandon. Each Federal government since 1979, especially the despotic Abacha junta held the Niger Delta in utmost contempt. Cries of inequality and injustice from the region were ignored. Niger Deltans like Ken saro Wiwa who provided leadership for the oppressed in the region were hounded and crushed. Their main offense against the Nigerian state was the audacity of objecting to the tribulation the region faced as a result of oil exploration and total neglect of the region in the face of environmental devastation.
I was in Port Harcourt at the time of the execution in November 1995 as a guest of a senior official of the Port Harcourt Prison and can reveal without any fear of contradiction that the execution of the Ogoni leaders in the Port Harcourt Prison was remarkable in a cruel sense. One, Justice Ibrahim Auta who was handpicked by the Abacha government to sentence the Ogoni leaders to death by hanging, had personally witnessed the execution and left the Prison Yard with a smile of satisfaction on his face. I thought he deserved an Award for his passion in ensuring that his judgement was carried out to the letter.
Two, acting on Abacha’s orders, the then military administrator of Rivers State, Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo, who could not face the obvious judicial murder without the sustained influence of Brandy, had ordered that the execution be recorded on video for the watching pleasure of Generals Abacha, Oseni and their colleagues in the Ruling Council in Abuja, and the Generals were said to be in a celebration mood while they watched the callous murder on tape.It would seem that Oseni is yet to recover from the nostalgic memories! However, little did the generals know that the seed they sowed would germinate and produce the militancy and turbulence we now witness in the region 13 years after. Jerry should be asked if Niger Delta is today better-off for an action that he said was carried out to save the region. And if not, shouldn’t it be obvious that the hanging of the Ogoni leaders is an effort in futility? So, why is he glossing over an apparent error of judgement on the part of a government in which he was prominent?
It is indeed an absurdity that at a time Nigerians are getting used to the aftermath of former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s wasted years, and hoping against hope that President Musa Yar’Adua would heal the wounds afflicted on the national psyche, Jeremiah Oseni woke up with his regrettable comment. For sure, if anything, such comments cannot facilitate the resolution that the incumbent president envisages for the Niger Delta.
Coincidentally, General Olusegun Obasanjo also found his voice in the celebration of Barack Obama’s recent victory in the US presidential election. It is not as if the Nigerian ex-president does not deserve to share in the global mood over the unprecedented feat attained by the US President-elect, after all success is everyone’s bride; only failure is an orphan. However, before he rushed his article to press, Obasanjo should have paused for a moment to ponder over the yawning disparity between the PDP primaries and 2007 presidential elections under his supervision, which produced President Yar’Adua on the one hand, and the US Democrats’ primaries and the presidential elections that turned out Obama as winner on the other hand. Rather than be elated at the American traditional wonder, one would expect that the event would remind the ex-leader of the shameful conduct of the 2007 “Do or Die” elections organized by the PDP government and elicit some sober reflections at the very least.
Olusegun Obasanjo is on record as Nigeria’s president to have conducted the most fraudulent, crisis-ridden and incredible elections in the history of the country. Even the famed “landslide victories” of 1979 rigged elections (also conducted by Obasanjo) would amount to a child’s play in comparison. According to Amnesty International, 260 Nigerians were killed in several parts of the country, 330 sustained injuries while 15 cases of disappearance of persons were recorded. Almost every state won by the PDP has been dragged before the Elections Tribunals for varying cases of irregularities. Even President Yar’Adua’s election is still being contested at the Supreme Court 18 months after his election. Only the ex-leader and Prof. Maurice Iwu, the INEC boss have adjudged the elections as free and fair to date.
It then beats my imagination what could have excited the PDP Board of Trustees Chairman in a feat that he could have achieved if he had sincerely midwifed the last transition in Nigeria. Only African leaders of the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda, Mathew Kerekou and even Thabo Mbeki could enjoy the moral justification to openly celebrate Barack Obama’s victory without shame, for at one time or the other, they respected the popular wish of their countrymen.
In his article, the ex-president made robust allusions to his hope and fight for change. What “Change”? If any change took place between 1999 and 2007 in Nigeria, it is a change of the hopeful to hopelessness because, in 1999, not a few Nigerians thought the Messiah had arrived at last, especially with his allussion to bornagainism. So much was the trust and goodwill of the citizenry that at the end of his second term, he strove desperately for a Third Term, and according to him, he could have gotten it.
If any change took place in Nigeria after eight years of Obasanjo’s rule, it was the degradation of infrastructure, heightened insecurity and multiplied poverty across the land. If any change in our political landscape, it is in form of a jaundiced electoral commission, headed by an arrogant man who introduced politics of exclusion into the polity. What a change!
However, Obasanjo’s personal fortunes recorded a milestone change. While in 1999 he had less than N100,000 to his name, he left office with a mountain top mansion, Bells University, a revived Obasanjo Farms (now rated as one of Africa’s most mechanized) and ownership of hundreds of million corporate Shares. Of course, change also fetched him a Presidential Library, funds for which was raised using his incumbent powers.
My concern is whether Nigeria will ever encounter genuine change, the type that that gives equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or sex... The type that opened the White House gate to an African-American with a black wife and black daughters...The type that ex-president Olusegun Aremu Okikiola “hoped and fought” for but could not bequeath to a nation that called him Baba...The type that eluded Nigeria on June 12, 1993.
Lanre Ojo is the Canada-based publisher of Eaglesworld magazine