When Matthew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo says that Nigeria is going to explode, you better believe him. If any of you reading this does not take that prediction seriously, I do, and here is why. I know Obasanjo arguably better than most of you reading this.
Obasanjo has remained an enigma for all of the years I have been knowing him. I came to know Obasanjo serving in the Corps of Engineers and I fully understood how he came to replace Benjamin Adekunle the black scorpion as the Commanding Officer of the Third Marine Commando who eventually ended the Biafran War for Nigeria. I was privileged to read classified materials in my capacity as Assistant Secretary and I took mental note of all important documents that passed thru my desk as a historian and a very inquisitive mind. I was 26 at the time and my mind was very sharp.
There is no greater wizard and tactician than Obasanjo even though his look and persona would make you think of him as a light weight. He was a brilliant man and he still is. If Obasanjo opens his mouth to say something, you better pay attention because that man is something else. His stomach is as deep as the well, and Nigeria cannot and must not ignore him as long as the man lives. He knows a lot more about Nigeria than the rest of us. That is just the plain truth and information is power and a big tool for decision-making. He is also a prolific writer who knows what he wants and how to get it. He has been everything he has wanted to be in Nigeria because he has seen it all. He speaks Hausa with the dexterity of a Dan Maraya. He has contacts everywhere in Nigeria and abroad, and he can use it if he needs to.
He was at one point in his career the only southerner the whole of the powerful North could trust. He became the longest serving President of Nigeria for that reason and he wanted Yar Adua’s regime to be his third term and Jonathan’s regime to be his 4th and could have achieved both on a platter of gold but for the sudden death of Yar Adua and circumstances totally beyond his control.
Obasanjo was on his way to become the successor to Butros Butros Ghali of Egypt as the Secretary General of the United Nations. He lost the chance to Kofi Annan by a whisker. I was a local staff at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations serving under a good friend of mine, late General Joseph Garba and I knew how the Maradona General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida managed to play him out of that job without appearing so to do.
Obasanjo lost to Kofi Annan of Ghana in large part because America trusted Kofi Annan more than they did Obasanjo who was a military dictator before seeking that office. Kofi Annan was a product of MIT in Boston. Today Obasanjo is Chairman of the Committee of former Heads of State of the whole world with many more contacts than any former or current President could ever muster.
No Nigerian executive Head of State has ever achieved such lofty height. It takes a lot of guts to be what Obasanjo has been to Nigeria in a country of 180 million people.
Obasanjo has done 3 things that no other Nigerian President has ever done. He introduced the Land Use Decree to the South thru subterfuge and he got away with it. He quietly diversified the concentration of military bases in the North and he took them to all other parts of Nigeria without pulling punches. By so doing, he has made it literally impossible for military coups to ever succeed again in Nigeria. That was a cardinal achievement in my opinion.
He built a Presidential Library, the first on the African continent, and second only to the American presidential Libraries. Love him or hate him, Obasanjo has gone down in history as the greatest political leader of his era in Nigeria, if you are judging him by his milestone achievement as a leader.
Buhari and his Government would be insane to ignore Obasanjo. The prediction Obasanjo has just made is a fallout from the recent announcement by Buhari that his quest to stop Corruption in Nigeria is going to go beyond the Jonathan Administration and spill over to Yar Adua, to Abdulsalam Abubakar to Abacha, to Ibrahim Babangida and predictably to Obasanjo himself.
If Buhari does that, Obasanjo’s prediction is sure to come true. I would have to agree with Obasanjo on that knowing what I know. To probe all previous Administrations in Nigeria is a desirable goal to contemplate but one mission impossible to accomplish or actualize. If Buhari tries it, he can begin to sing his “Nunc Dimitis” because he would not survive the fallout from it for reasons which I will briefly elaborate upon with the remaining segment of this write-up.
I have long cautioned Buhari for playing “Ijapatiroko Oko Ayanrinbo” in Yoruba mythology. “Ijapa” the tortoise once upon a time went round the whole world looking for the key to wisdom. He gathered all the wisdom everywhere he could find them, and he locked them up in a calabash and he kept the key to himself because he wanted to be the wisest man in the world if not the only wise man.
I see Buhari as the “Ijapa” who thought he was the only wise man and the only man who could solve all the problems of Nigeria in one fell swoop. It is a crazy idea for a 73 year old man in a mid-life crisis to even contemplate. He could only do but so much, because Nigeria is so deep in corruption that Buhari would have to jail more than a million Nigerians to get anywhere close to what he wants to do.
If his goal is to go beyond the Jonathan Administration. The Nigerian Judiciary is going to mess him up and slow him down as it is already doing. He is going to make so many enemies along the way that he would end up becoming his own worst enemy. It is then that he would realize that he has been riding on the back of a tiger all along, and that he could predictably end up in the belly of the tiger when disembarks.
If he had learned any lesson at all from the 1985 Coup that sent him into the Turkey farm, he would not take the Obasanjo’s prediction lightly at all.
I know that many would say that Obasanjo is trying to save his own neck by making the prediction. That may well be so, but I strongly believe he has a bona fide intention in offering that advice ahead of time so Buhari can think again and not start a job he cannot finish.
The man must always remember he has only 4 years to prove his mettle and that he has so many enemies who will be kicking and screaming just to distract him and to make him fail. I am able to give him this word of advice because I want him to succeed.
If Buhari thinks that everybody who smiles at him is his friend, he still has a long way to go and would never reach his destination even if he works 24 hours a day. There is a chance he would suffer a burnout in a short time and leave the country in a far worse shape than he met it. That is what Obasanjo is talking about and that is what I am talking about.
I rest my case.