Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Inconsequential ex-president's life of scorn

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An inconsequential ex-president's life of scorn

These days, scorn and derision follow former President Obasanjo everywhere he goes. Such was the case a week and a half ago when his car broke down on the Lagos–Ibadan highway. His security detail scrambled to ferry him away to safety.
That same day, he was in Ibadan to preside at the official launching of a remodeled Mapo Hall. He was largely ignored by prominent Ibadan indigenes, including the Olubadan and other traditional rulers, who boycotted the event. The ancient city’s elite had earlier accused the former president of destroying their domain. During his eight-year administration, Obasanjo had empowered the geriatric thug called Lamidi Adedibu to make Oyo State strife-torn and ungovernable.

Internationally, Obasanjo has also suffered scorn and isolation. As a way of mobilizing international censure of the former president, former South African president, Nelson Mandela, personally ensured that Obasanjo was not invited to a group of prominent African head of states and citizens he constituted.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also visited the same humiliation on Obasanjo by dis-inviting him to a crucial meeting of the African Commission. Blair fell short of outright removal of Obasanjo from the august body. Bob Geldoff, working with Professor Wole Soyinka, had threatened not to attend the commission’s meeting if Obasanjo was invited. After the meeting held, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, was dispatched to Abeokuta to meet with Obasanjo. Annan’s brief was to register the group's disappointment with Obasanjo’s role in rigging the April 2007 elections, reckoned by many observers as the worst election in history.

Early this week, Obasanjo sneaked into the U.S. on his first visit since leaving office in May. One of his handlers, who spoke to us anonymously, said the former president was in the U.S. to “show the ropes to Yar’adua,” his self-selected successor. “To tell you the truth, we made sure to downplay his visit—in fact to keep it secret—to avoid Nigerian and other protesters trooping out to embarrass the man.”

Prior to this “secret” trip, Obasanjo had ventured only to the safe havens of Jamaica, where he is involved in real estate development as well as the building of a refinery, and Tanzania, which he visited at the invitation of President Kikwete. Andrew Young and Carl Masters, two shady lobbyists with vast business dealings with Obasanjo and Kikwete, facilitated Obasanjo’s trips to both countries.

Saharareporters’ sources said Obasanjo went to Tanzania to prevail on the President of Tanzania to fund the next generation of the controversial Leon Sullivan Summits that had held twice back-to-back in
Abuja Nigeria.

Andrew Young hasn't rested in reviving an isolated and depressed Obasanjo and smuggling him back onto the international scene, the former president's most beloved forte. After a series of moves to convince the skeptical world, Andrew Young and his lobbyists got Obasanjo to be a participant at the Clinton Global Initiative conference that commenced today in New York.

For the fear of being caught in his private jet, Obasanjo decided to board a British Airways flight out
of Lagos on Sunday night; he was the last to board the London-bound flight.
One passenger on the flight told Saharareporters that the former president got the shock of his life on the flight. “I can tell you that Obasanjo was just ignored by other passengers in the first class cabin,” said the source that declined to be named. “When he came on the flight, he was grinning from ear-to-ear with the hope that people in the first class cabin would greet him. He was met with cold silence—absolutely ignored—as he made his way to his seat on row 5.” Our source said the same mute treatment was meted out to the Obasanjo as disembarked.

Obasanjo arrived New York on Monday night and is billed to attend the Clinton Global Initiative meetings at the Sheraton Hotel in New York. On Friday he will be in Washington, DC to attend an event organized as part of the Annual Legislative Meetings of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation at the Convention Center.

Though he was invited by the caucus, Obasanjo was not listed as a participant on
the website of the CBCF. In both the Clinton and CBC events, there was an attempt to conceal Obasanjo’s participation. “It’s obvious that the former president is desperately looking to rebound into international reckoning as his ignoble role in rigging the April 2007 general elections continues to haunt him,” said Dr. Peter Okechukwu, a political scientist.

Meanwhile, Nigerians in the Maryland and Washington DC area are planning a surprise protest against Obasanjo on Friday. Saharareporters learnt from one of the planners that moves are going on to disgrace Obasanjo at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event.

The source declined to disclose the mode the protest would take or the strength of the protesters.

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