Alfred Nobel, perhaps the best known Swedish man, was a weapons maker. In fact, he invented the dynamite. He was also a mean hombre; a hardnosed businessman. He practiced a form of capitalism guaranteed to bring a man more enemies than friends. Then one day, local newspapers erroneously got news that he was dead and published his obituary. The unflattering and unkind content of those obituaries hurt Mr Nobel a great deal. But they also changed the man, and changed a small slice of the history of the world. As a direct result, we have with us till today, the annual Nobel prizes.
The same cannot be said of our own Olusegun Obasanjo. One of the most painful things that’s happening to Gen. Obasanjo presently is his demystification before his very own eyes. It has got so bad that even before his books, pamphlets and leaflets leave the printing press, they are already being torn to shreds by all and sundry; debunked as a work of malingering fiction. I imagine this must be agonising for him but the former president just keeps plodding along; no soul searching, no change in personality, no change in direction.
Possessing a thoroughly perfidious mind abutted by a countrified disposition, former associates and friends quickly deserted him wholesale and renounced him. To their cost, they found out that it is OBJ’s way or the highway. They all fell away used and bruised: from Dariye to Danjuma, Audu Ogbeh, Osoba, Atiku, Fasawe, Okonjo-Iweala, Soyinka, etc, etc. But Obasanjo continues to display this perplexing lack of introspection, of awareness. He even managed to convince himself that Nigerians wanted him to hang around. He thought Adedibuism and Babatocracy were the way to go. Despite the fact that his eight years as President was a hard kick in the teeth, the man actually thought that we wanted him to continue peeing on us and calling it rain. So it was with much fanfare that his third term bid was impolitely aborted.
In 2011, during Buhari’s 3rd edition, Obasanjo called Buhari a “dictator” and said Buhari was “too old” to lead Nigeria. Before that, for a very long time, the two men were not even on speaking terms. Buhari simply refused to take OBJ’s calls. People like El-Rufai had to intervene before Buhari relented to some degree. Now election time is here, and following a brief period of hide and seek, Obasanjo finally announced that he is supporting Buhari; though he later included a bizarre caveat that he has not endorsed him – to be more specific, he said he has not “endorsed him as such.” This is a most gawky double-speak.
We shall try not to laugh, but four years plus, OBJ now finds Buhari has become much younger and more alert. However, I could see why OBJ is clumsily hedging his bet. He has to. There have been quite a few worrying signals from the other clumsy man, President Jonathan.
For starters, Jonathan has indicated that a gaggle of oil block licences belonging to a few retired Generals might not be renewed. You could call that incumbent power of blackmail - if you’re into splitting hairs.
But that is not all that’s making Obasanjo twitchy at the moment. For a long time and for reasons only known to the former president, OBJ canvassed hard for Jonathan to drop Vice President Namadi Sambo for Sule Lamido as his running mate. Jonathan refused. This was why Jonathan was quick to announce Sambo as his running mate on the same day he was cleared as PDP’s presidential candidate. This was a harsh rebuff of the unforgiving father of modern Nigeria, but Jonathan was just warming up.
A lucrative fertiliser deal came up through the federal government. Obasanjo signified his interest and sat back. He assumed that his merely expressing an interest would seal the deal in his favour. He was wrong. The contract went elsewhere.
Like Emperor Tinubu down in Lagos, OBJ similarly wanted to appoint half of Jonathan’s cabinet. Jonathan demurred. Furthermore, somehow, Obasanjo blamed Jonathan for not ‘do-or-dying’ an electoral victory for his daughter, Iyabo, in the last Ogun Central Senatorial contest in April 2011. Iyabo got a mild drubbing; she had exactly half the vote of the ACN candidate. Abuja and the delightful precinct of the Nigerian Senate are altogether preferable to cold Boston. So the lady wept. Her father consoled her, promising that Jonathan will appoint her a Minister of the federal republic. Jonathan didn’t. Iyabo returned to the USA and wrote a stinker of a letter to her pop.
All of these proved really too much for Obasanjo to stomach. So what to do? The man has only gone and dropped a clanger; he has only gone and done an inelegant about-face. He now finds himself palming a lean broom, sweeping the floor for Buhari, a man he lustfully declared too old four whole years ago.
Sai fada of modern Nigeria!