Of all the rulers who have contributed to the underdevelopment of Nigeria and the impoverishment of her people, President Olusegun Obasanjo is the most hypocritical and hypercritical. Obasanjo suffers from the excessive need to be seen and heard. His attitude is the very definition of existential superiority: I am Obasanjo and you are not!
It is a testament to the patience of the Nigerian people that Obasanjo struts around freely, parading himself as a moral authority. It is a testament to our high abuse threshold that we reflexively absorb, analyze and extrapolate his nagging intrusions. It is a testament to our shortage of self-respect that we swoon over him each time he seizes on the depression of the nation to launch a new peacock campaign.
Obasanjo debuted his ‘’Coalition for Nigerian Movement’’ in Abeokuta last week. He had earlier plugged ‘’the Coalition’’ in ‘’the special press statement’’ in which he advised President Buhari not to stand for reelection. He billed the initiative as an emergency vehicle to ‘’rescue’’ Nigeria from the disaster of bad leadership.
Fortunately, the narcissist gave away his real intent at the launch. He unveiled the supposedly national salvation mission as a vanity circus. In a speech larded with exhibitionist metaphors, he said his Coalition was ‘’the new dance in town’’. ‘’The new song in town’’. ‘’The ceremony in town’’. ‘’The big masquerade’’.
Obasanjo’s characterization of his ‘’Coalition’’ as a masquerade was apt. But it is more fitting of the person of the man than the germ of his idea.
Obasanjo is an insatiable, attention-starved masquerade. An audaciously pretentious conman. An ugly, perennial problem that dances around the square, craving to be celebrated as a handsome and fresh solution.
His ‘’Coalition’’ is nothing but the transparent collusion of the old guard. He appointed Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the least avant-garde politician one can possibly imagine, to head his proposed fresh blood revolution. He picked his 67-year-old sidekick -a retired military officer, former governor and traditionalist thinker -to midwife his dream youth quake!
The meddlesome ubiquity of Obasanjo underscores the psychology of entitlement that binds his megalomaniac caste together. They are tenaciously possessive and defensive of their presumed prerogative to micromanage Nigeria. They feel fated to rule Nigeria. They are persuaded that it is their lot to have the final say on the nation’s affairs.
They consider public office their natural habitat. They are at ease in the detached realm of power and privilege. From their perch, they see only a bright and beautiful Nigeria. They speak only of ‘’moving the nation forward.’’
Outside the corridors of power, they struggle like a fish out of water. They become irascible firebrands. Their eyes open to the pervasive human suffering in the environment. They discover candour and start ventilating anti-establishment truths.
The Nigerian politician resents his life below the rung of power. He regards it as a subhuman demotion. He hates having to adapt to ordinariness. He strives to reincarnate into the exclusive quantum state, to recycle himself into livable relevance. And his strategy is inveigling himself into the people’s solidarity.
Obasanjo intrusively confronts us as the sublime example of the necessity of habitual ambition to the survival of the failed Nigerian ruler.
He has had his day. But he won’t accept that he is now a superannuated tin god. He is sustained and invigorated by the aspiration to regain his self-appointed role as Nigeria’s puppeteer.
Obasanjo is an arrogant man because he is a spoiled child of fortune. The greatest things fall into his lap.
He received the instrument of surrender from the Biafran army after Benjamin ‘Black Scorpion’ Adekunle had effectively won the war. The assassination of General Murtala Mohammed saw him become the head of state for 3 years and 7 months. Two decades after Obasanjo left office, the kingmakers’ clique of the Nigerian military visited his farm and press-ganged the almost broke returnee from prison to run for president.
In the run-up to 1999 elections, Nigerians were eager to turn the page on military dictatorship. They embraced Obasanjo in the hope that he would guide Nigeria on her return to democracy and bequeath to the nation a compass for orienting herself on the journey. He had seemed fairly presidential: sober, studious and states-manly.
He had been inveighing against successive juntas. He established the Africa Leadership Forum, a scholars’ tryst devoted to the interrogation of the leadership challenge of Africa. He appeared to be the prudent choice to lead Nigeria into a post-coup dawn.
But Obasanjo did not do himself justice as president. He pushed Nigeria in the wrong direction. It is a sign of his shamelessness that he preaches the promised land to the nation he betrayed.
Obasanjo institutionalized the key elements of antidemocratic criminality that have become an integral part of the Nigerian experience. He passed on the warped precepts that are now the groundnorm. He inflicted on Nigeria the script of parody that our present actors are interpreting.
Obasanjo de-ideologized the political party system in Nigeria. He abolished debate and banned freedom of thought in his political party. He sponsored civil wars in opposition parties and openly rewarded his hired moles.
Obasanjo coarsened the language of presidential communication. He hired ‘’spokesmen’’ and commissioned them to transmit unprintable slurs to Nigerians on his behalf. He modeled the ceding of a corner of the presidency to rabid ‘’attack dogs’’.
Obasanjo was a bribe Santa Claus. He caused his proxies to share sacs of money to members of the National Assembly to sway the election of principal officers and to foment ‘’banana peel’’ impeachments. He tried to buy a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to serve a third term.
In January 2016, Obasanjo wrote 'a holy epistle' to the National Assembly, calling the members greedy and corrupt. He conveniently neglected to implicate himself for his well-reported part in conditioning appetite for inducement in the Nigerian parliament!
Obasanjo indulged corruption when it benefited him and his cronies. He ‘’fought’’ corruption when it enriched a disloyal crook. He built his ‘’presidential library’’, Bells University and an expansionist farm business through extortion, kickbacks and stealing.
Obasanjo was the author of ‘’do or die’’ elections. He framed the polls as real-life war and victory as ‘’capture’’. He presided over a bloody season of unresolved politically motivated killings and brazen vote heists.
This same Obasanjo hollowed out the party primaries with the practice of imposition of candidates. He installed his favorites everywhere. His ultimate manipulative veto gave us the doubly unsuitable pair of a diseased president Yar'Adua and a depraved vice president Jonathan and the chain of events, which culminated in the rehabilitation of Muhammadu Buhari as ‘’a rescue presidential candidate.’’
Obasanjo is the quintessential Nigerian politician. They are the major characters of the tragedy but they are loath to reckon with their past. They never confront their demons and admit their failures. They externalize blame and sell themselves as the solution.
After despoiling Nigeria from their respective corners, these folks do not retire. They do not vacate the public space. They are not content to enjoy the private paradises they built at the cost of the people’s misery.
As soon as they lose incumbency, they segue to the career of social activism. In an instant, they become solicitous advocates of good governance. They condemn in strongest terms the very conventions they authored while their sun shined.
Then, they mix up their sententious moral crusade with creative accounting. They contrive a sanitized and revisionist myth of themselves. They overwrite the facts of their wasted years in public office, present their tenure as the gold standard, and curse today’s men of power for falling short of the glory.
Obasanjo, for one, would not keep a low profile and give Nigerians the opportunity of forgiving his locust legacy. Even at 80, he refuses to go quietly into the night. He hankers after the spotlight and grabs the psychological moment to playact as Nigeria’s messiah.
Obasanjo professes to love Nigeria too much to let it be. He never tires of repeating the ludicrous claim that he is ready to die for Nigeria (although he was shot in his buttocks while fleeing the battle front during the civil war!). He pretends that posing, as the guardian of the Nigerian state is his bounden duty.
Nigeria, however, does not need Obasanjo to save her. He can do nothing, by way of penance or restitution, to make up for his damages. And Nigerians do not need Obasanjo to serve them reminders that he exists. He has become a public nuisance. The little good Obasanjo can do for the masses are to leave them alone.
Each time Obasanjo interposes between Nigerians and their rulership, he diverts public attention to his wretched credentials. He distracts the people from ideating their way out of the leadership crisis he has helped perpetuate.
Obasanjo should take a vow of seclusion and quietness. It’s double wickedness to foster a climate of suffering and detract your poor victims from imagining a better existence.