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For Obasanjo, Another Flight of Humiliation

March 28, 2008
For Obasanjo, Another Flight of Humiliation

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo a few days ago faced another public humiliation on an Abuja bound Virgin Nigeria flight that took off from Lagos.

Obasanjo was hurrying to Abuja to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Other members of the board had planned to hold the meeting without the former president even though he is the board’s chairman. Our sources said the effort to exclude Obasanjo was in line with the agenda of the party’s recently enthroned executive team to ease the former president out of his perch as chairman of the BOT.

Since leaving office in disgrace last May, Obasanjo has been living in a constant state of fear that the party leadership might sack him at the earliest opportunity.

In his haste to get to Abuja, Mr. Obasanjo reportedly requested a presidential jet, but the personnel in charge of the presidential fleet did not process his requests. On Wednesday morning, Obasanjo sauntered into the counter of Virgin Nigeria Airline and asked for a first class ticket on an Abuja-bound flight. The airline staff checked the status of the flight and informed the ex-president that the first class compartment was fully booked. They asked if he would make do with economy. Our source at the airline said Obasanjo reluctantly agreed, perhaps hoping that, upon boarding the aircraft, someone might quit his or her seat in the first class compartment out of courtesy. That was not to be.

Virgin Nigeria is one of the airlines Obasanjo smuggled into Nigeria in an unsuccessful plot to grant the carrier monopoly over the country’s international flights.

Two fellow travelers on the flight told our correspondents that the first class passengers, including a former senior political office holder appointed by Obasanjo, ignored him completely as he made his way into the economy class compartment.

Many passengers hissed derisively at the former president as he made his way to his seat on the plane.

Obasanjo's humiliation did not end in Lagos. When he disembarked in Abuja, he was made to board a general bus that conveyed passengers from the tarmac to the terminal. Sources said the jam-packed bus led to a pushing and shoving of passengers, which was believed to have been initiated by some passengers who intentionally wanted Obasanjo humiliated. Several passengers reported shouted at him to "move forward please." The rest of the passengers burst into laughter, muttering “Baba 16 billion dollars!”

The hostile acts against the former president yesterday would be the fourth time since he left power that members of the public verbally attacked him. Once, on his way to Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr. Obasanjo's vehicle suffered a flat tire and he was nearly mobbed by road users who recognized him. They cursed him for leaving the roads in bad shape, but his security escorts whisked him away.

Also on a trans-Atlantic flight from Lagos to the UK, other members of the business class snubbed Obasanjo for the entire duration of the six-hour plus flight. He was traveling to attend the Clinton Initiatives event and was equally snubbed by World leaders at the event. Obasanjo was reduced to roaming the empty hall trying to talk to people as dignitaries at the event walked past him.

Most recently at a State Banquet at Aso Rock Villa, low-level security officials twice barred the former president from standing in line to approach the buffet stand. The officials insisted that he needed to wait for his turn on the protocol list.

On the home front, Obasanjo’s son, Gbenga Obasanjo, accused him in court documents of sleeping with his estranged wife in exchange for no-bid contracts at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Mr. Obasanjo has come under constant barrage of attacks for his illicit self-enrichment as well as other shenanigans during his eight-year presidency.

To compound his woes, his daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, also faces increased prospects of prosecution for acts of corruption. A few months ago, an Austrian company revealed that Ms. Obasanjo-Bello had used a false name to sign partnership agreement with the company. More recently, the junior senator was accused of illegally receiving N10 million from the rusticated Minister of Health, Dr. Grange. The Nigerian public has carpeted her for taking an illegal “donation” ostensibly to attend a seminar in Ghana.

Agents of the EFCC have quizzed her as well as several officials of the Ministry of Health over the bribe scandal.

The former president’s daughter is also wanted in the U.S. in a child kidnap case after she fled to Nigeria with her only son, thus denying her former husband court-ordered custody of the child.

A highly dependable source told Saharareporters that Umar Yar'adua has confided in close associates that he was disgusted by the stench of corruption left by Obasanjo. He also told his close aides that he is reluctant to put Obasanjo on trial, but vowed to help “strip Chief Obasanjo naked for all eyes to see.”

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