Simon Kolawole Live!, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, 02.10.2008
Some things happen to some people in life and you just tell yourself: this is God at work; this cannot be the making of a human being. That is the view I have always held about Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former president. Everything in life looked pre-arranged for him. Minus the small matter of having grown up in poverty, Obasanjo has always had the best things of life signed, sealed and delivered to his laps on a platter of gold.
When he became president in 1999, I had cause to reflect over the life of the retired general. The instruments of surrender of the Biafran Republic were symbolically handed over to him in 1970 when the civil war had been won and lost. It all looked as if it was Obasanjo that won the war on behalf of Nigeria, whereas other generals had toiled and toiled to make victory certain. Obasanjo reaped where he did not sow. Lucky fellow.
In 1976, when General Murtala Muhammed was killed in an abortive coup, the mantle fell on Obasanjo, as the second-in-command, to succeed Murtala as the military head of state. And although Murtala had transition to civil rule as a priority on his agenda, it was Obasanjo who actually handed over power to civilians in 1979 a feat that became his selling point as the first African leader to voluntarily cede power to a democratically elected government an accolade that actually belongs to a Ghanaian general.
In 1995, Gen. Sani Abacha dragged Obasanjo and his former second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, to jail over a phantom coup. Chief MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, election had been clamped in jail in 1994. By the time Abacha died in 1998, Yar’Adua and Abiola had been killed, or had died, whatever, in prison. Only Obasanjo came out alive. And while we had been campaigning that Obasanjo should simply be released from prison, he in fact came out of the prison to become president. This was incredible. Always reaping where he did not sow!
I recall that when Obasanjo was campaigning for presidency in 1999, I was captivated by his credentials. I composed something like a poem in my head for him. I was reciting it at the slightest provocation. It went like this: A civilian acceptable to the military, a Christian acceptable to Muslims, a Southerner acceptable to Northerners. For me, it was almost impossible to get any Nigerian who could boast of these qualifications all at once. It all looked like Obasanjo had been specially favoured and anointed.
I recollect also that as soon as Obasanjo was elected president in March 1999, the price of crude oil, which had fallen below the $10 mark between 1997 and 1998, began to pick up dramatically. From $12 in March when he was elected, it had risen to $15 in May when he was sworn in. It never fell below that price again. By December 1999, it was $23. And by the time he left office in 2007, crude oil price was dancing between $80 and $90.
I thought having gone to prison and come out alive, Obasanjo was going to rule Nigeria with a heart of gratitude. I expected him to be sober and humble in presiding over the affairs of this country. But what did we see? A man who ruled us with contempt and conceit. A man who took us for granted. A man who became an expert at manipulating and misusing state agencies to perpetrate selfish and narrow ambition. A man who wasted billions of naira to organise a political reforms conference designed to legitimise his inordinate third term ambition.
You always knew Obasanjo was headed for self-destruction when he began to insult anyone who disagreed with him. For him, nothing was sacred and no one deserved respect, apart from himself. He ditched the people that helped him to power and walked on the heads of those who those tried to call him to order. He used and dumped people at will. So devoid of grace is Obasanjo that he insulted Chief Bola Ige whom he had used to divide Yorubaland even in death, describing Ige as someone who did not know his left from his right while he was Minister of Power and Steel.
Obasanjo was the Master of Manipulations. He destroyed the credibility of state institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) just to get even with his opponents or fulfil his selfish heart desires. He manipulated and manipulated anything that could be manipulated. Right before our eyes, Obasanjo metamorphosed from a potential great leader to the ultimate poster-boy of anarchy in our land.
After presiding over a party where treachery was systematically entrenched, he fished out Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and made him his successor. I am very pleased whenever Yar’Adua reverses Obasanjo’s policies and rubs in the due process mantra very smoothly. Yeah, that is what Obasanjo deserves for his manipulative streak. When Yar’Adua recently described Obasanjo’s $10 billion expenditure on the power sector as not yielding any result (a euphemism for waste, that is), I was very happy. That is what Obasanjo deserves from his handpicked successor. That is what happens to people who think they can manipulate history and get away with it.
But my heart bleeds for Obasanjo. If his enemies were just Atiku Abubakar and Solomon Lar, it would be understandable. You could attribute everything to politics. But when his own son decides to strip him naked in the market place, Oh God, what a shame. Obasanjo should have ordinarily gone into his grave as an accomplished man and a great leader of men. But what he has perpetrated and perpetuated in Nigeria in the last eight to nine years will forever cast a shadow on his life and times to say nothing of his own son rising up against him. What a pity. What a shame.