The flip-flop of Obasanjo letters by Wole Oladapo


it is hardly of any value to discuss former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s misuse of his privileged access to top levels of government in Nigeria. As a former president of Nigeria and one who has had the rare fortune of occupying that exaulted office twice, Obasanjo is one of those Nigerians for who protocol will stretch and bend to facilitate their request to engage a sitting head of state.

Unfortunately, Obasanjo has treated that exclusive privilege with complete disregard, choosing instead to play to the gallery with open letters to the Nigerian leadership. The objectives of those letters are instantly obvious by their content and language as designed to ridicule the government and harass it into a line of action that meets or advances the course of Obasanjo’s personal desires.

The current such letter aimed at the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari fits the frame. It is aimed at harassing the government off its course of redeeming Nigeria from the lurch in which the nation found itself from the 18 years of misrule by Obasanjo’s party and the advances that have been recorded in managing them by Buhari and for which the nation apparently wants to reward him with a second term in office in the February election.

Obasanjo’s strategy is to whip up negative sentiments against President Buhari and his party with a mixture of lies and issues and challenges that are traditional to Nigeria but making them look as if they were created by this administration. All the while that he masks as the voice of the commoner and deceitfully echoes his irritation from the ranks of the proverbial “popular side”, Obasanjo is actually a self-seeking egomaniac.

He thinks and worries only for himself and feels that the only good things in this life are the things he wants or approves of. Nigerians should hold their breath until he orders otherwise and the government indeed should be operating from the stolen library at Otta. Obasanjo has never supported anything unless it suits him personally and he stands up for nobody. While the entire nation fought against the annulment of the June 1993 presidential election that would have had Moshood Abiola as president, Obasonjo maintained a cynical salience.

That was at a time when his voice was required and in fairness, was weighty enough to have, in addition to the efforts from across the world, forced Ibrahim Babangida’s hand in the matter. People traveled from across Nigeria to Otta to urge Obasanjo to speak up in support of June 12 but he refused. His reason was no other than that Obasanjo was jealous of Abiola’s national profile and was disdainful of another Egba man becoming Commander in Chief in Nigeria and thus equaling his personal achievement.

History played a joke on those who fought for June 12 as Obasanjo turned out to become the biggest beneficiary of the struggle, being voted into office as president in an election that was driven by the spirit of June 12. You can now understand why he was so vehemently opposed to the celebration of June 12 as a special date in Nigeria’s political history. It is the same attitude he holds towards Wole Soyinka but is always wary of the professor’s ability to bite back.

Obasanjo’s selfishness and exploitation of the near naivety of the uninformed Nigerian was also in full display in his dealing with General Sanni Abacha regime. Obasanjo endeded up in prison under Abacha after earning a reputation as an Abacha critic and that powered the sympathy that returned him to Aso Rock as president but that is only part of the story. The question is why Obasanjo fell out with Abacha and became a later day pro-democracy advocate.

It is fact that until Chief Ernest Shonekan was announced Chairman of the Interim National Government (ING) on August 27, 1993, Obasanjo was supportive of the Abacha regime. Again the truth is that Obasanjo was one of the architects of the ING and supported the Abacha government because he expected to be the head of the ING. While the prospect lasted, Abacha was a saint but the moment Obasanjo was excluded and Shonekan got the job, Obasanjo flipped on Abacha and became a critic in typical selfish fashion.

Obasanjo took Shonekan’s appointment as a personal insult because not only was he ignored, another Egba man was appointed. The uninformed public ignorantly took Obasanjo’s umbrage against Abacha as action in national interest wrongly assuming that he was part of the struggle for the return of democracy. It will be interesting to have former President Goodluck Jonathan speak publicly about what set Obasanjo against him.

Again we know that Obasanjo was close to the Jonathan Administration at the beginning. Recall President Jonathan’s visit and the trip to the palace of the Ooni of Ife with Obasanjo and the several tales that went with it. However as the days went, Jonathan tried to detach himself from the apron strings of Obasanjo and quickly earned his ire and several letters in bad taste.

Obasanjo’s 13th letter as it has come to be known, should actually be ignored and should not become of any concern to President Buhari. Nigerians should know by now that it is no more than as indication that Buhari is not taking his orders from Obasanjo. Nothing in Obasanjo’s letter can erode the established image of an achiever and man of integrity that the first term in office has established in the mind of millions of Nigerians. Our people have become smarter than to be deceived by self-seeking propagandists masquerading as their saviours.

Oladapo is a public commentator.

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