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Obasanjo: Power Or Delusion



The former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is a man of many parables. His definition of “categorical imperative”, especially towards Nigeria’s political landscape, is somewhat inclined to self-actualisation. It is thwarted because of his feudal -lord tendency. But one thing is certain: Obasanjo is always entitled to his “opinion”, no matter how his opinion infringes on others.

The former president/head of state, is ubiquitous on our national stage. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the military head of state, and from 1999 to 2007, he was the president of Nigeria. In total, he ruled the country for 11 years, making him the longest serving ruler. This credential has somehow created the illusion that he still holds the power and authority to make and unmake who becomes the president of Nigeria, how long the person should be in office and, only by Obasanjo’s extrapolated metrics.

Power is ephemeral, illusive, delusional, and exposes a person’s true biological and psychological dispositions. Since his exit from the exalted office in 2007, Obasanjo has remained omnipresent on the national podium. His memoir, “My Watch,” an attempt to deride his opponents, dominated the polity for almost three years. He single -handedly opposed Abubakar Atiku, his former deputy, to succeed him. Atiku still suffers from his former boss’s stigma and malevolence.

Baba (as he is often called) started reforms that would have changed the future of Nigeria forever; but his failed attempt to succeed himself—- the doomed third-term agenda, escalated his desire to anoint Umaru Yar’Adua, a former ailed governor from Katsina, who barely survived the office for three years. Yar’Adua’s demise ushered in Jonathan Goodluck. Jonathan’s reign was constantly under attack by Chief Obasanjo. The former president canvassed to derail Goodluck’s success in the 2015 elections, which Mohammed Buhari won. The victory of Buhari exemplified Obasanjo’s hegemony—- an authority that his chosen candidate always wins the Presidency.

On the day of President Buhari’s inauguration, Baba became the master of the ceremony– the man-of-the-moment. He would direct Buhari’s behaviour on the stage, who to greet, how to acknowledge the crowd, how to wave, when to stay still. His military style order reaffirmed his authority on the nation, especially during the swearing -in ceremony.

It is difficult to understand when the seed of discord with President Buhari was sown. But a few months after Buhari assumed office, Obasanjo’s rhetoric began with analytical criticisms that Mohammadu Buhari was weak on economy and foreign policy strategies. From then on, the tirades of disdain for Buhari’s government became a sky-high plot.

Obasanjo was awarded Doctor of Philosophy by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN); the ceremony became a nationwide eulogy for the former president’s achievements. His convocation speech was on Nigeria’s political discourse, how the country should fare in the coming years, his views and visions for Nigeria’s political industry.

Early this year, he formed an undefined political association—the Coalition for Nigerian Movement (CNM), which he did not consider to be a political party, since he had renounced partisan politics two years ago. Today, CNM has metamorphosed into African Democratic Congress (ADC). The paradox is beyond explanation. It is inexplicable why the sudden change of heart to establish another political party, whose platform is as viable as the others. When Obasanjo declared that his deserted Party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), would remain the dominant party in Nigeria for 60 years, the sudden exit after losing the third-term bid surprised no one. His repudiation of partisan politics would have summed up the resolve to remain a respected national leader, devoid of partisanship. But, gradually, the former president showcases his imaginary authority, clouded in delusions.

Obasanjo should have been acquainted with the power of office of a sitting president in a third-world country like Nigeria. As the serving president, he unilaterally removed Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State, an elected political leader. Olusegun Obasanjo was the most prominent authority in the country, outsizing the constitution with an overbearing persona. His only political loss was the inability to succeed himself in 2007.

Chief Olusegun’s full assaults on President Buhari started in March this year when he categorically berated the current administration’s performance. His rating metrics graded Buhari’s government below an acceptable standard. Baba would not support Mohammadu Buhari’s reelection bid, he vehemently remarked. These days, the narrative is even louder with any afforded opportunity. While no one can challenge Obasanjo’s constitutional right to his freedom of speech, he needs to take a moment to reflect on how his nominal decision paralysed all the institutions that would have safeguarded our parody democracy. His enlarged ego, which to this day, is larger than Nigeria, has mitigated Nigeria’s development.

Obasanjo’s efforts led to marginal economic prosperity and some basic infrastructural developments, but he, again, distorted the progress made, by discontinuing the reforms he started. His audacity to select and anoint his successor broke the brittle political structure he left behind. Still, he seems to be in an overdrive mood to replicate the pre- 2007 political domain. Ranting and calling Buhari’s supporters morons, can even lead to more invigorating energy to support the president in the 2019 elections.

Has President Buhari performed abysmally low? The answer is determined by reviewing any accurate data on Nigeria’s fragile economy prior to his ascendance, if such data exist, and not just distorted imagination of Nigerians. Yes, there was loose money everywhere, which originated from the fragrant mismanagement of the nation’s treasury, conserved by Obasanjo himself. But should Buhari be blamed for such recklessness? The answer is No.

The current administration’s portion of blame is large. Buhari and his team are not savvy enough to manage the economy. Everything has gone down the drain. Most of the industries in Nigeria have closed down; Nigerians are poorer now than at any time in history. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) adopted to conserve revenues has become a curse, and, another avenue for agency heads to continue looting. The banks’ liquidities are dried up, and unemployment has soared beyond redemption. President Buhari’s idea to improve on the country’s foreign reserves is laudable only if the domestic economy is booming with jobs and productivity. But this is not the case.

For now, Mohammadu Buhari is like a wounded lion. He will do anything to remain in power against his distractors, those who planned his forceful removal in 1985. He feels that any attempt to coerce him into early retirement is another coup on his administration— period.

The only rational process to dethrone Buhari is through the ballot box, if the institutions safeguarding our democracy are not deeply loyal to him already. The tirades, rhetoric and other negative monologues will not change the paradigm of the current regime.

Obasanjo’s enduring nuisance-like comments and his perceived authority are diminishing the myth of his remnant father- figure image. He is no more in power, and his utopian authority is a mirage. He should let the nation decide who becomes the next leader of this country. Power or perceived absolutism makes one delusional.