“Who are you working for?” an angry Ex-President Obasanjo asks me after my own question to him

Published:13 Feb, 2013

I am in Berlin for my own event but I had gotten an invitation from the office of Prof. Peter Eigen (Transparency International) to attend this specially organized lunch for Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo at the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA School of Governance and Berlin Civil Society Center. The major reason I attended this event was to get a chance to ask the ex-president a few questions about his stewardship as the president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

When the event started, Prof. Eigen actually spurred me into finally deciding I’d the ask question I felt Chief Obasanjo needed to answer. The Professor praised the ex-president so much I had to look at the table again to be sure it was not Nelson Mandela seated there. Do not get me wrong, the ex-president had his good and bad days as the president of Nigeria but there was no way he was as saintly as Prof. Peter Eigen made him look. I must admit that the introduction made a funny thought run through my mind; is this really the man who started Transparency International? When Prof. Eigen was done, I was even more convicted the audience – mostly Germans – needed to know that the just introduced Saint from Africa may not be as saintly as painted. We had lunch and then President Obasanjo spoke for over 30 minutes though scheduled to speak 20 minutes but that’s fine because after all he is “Baba.”

Question time Prof. Peter Eigen said. My hand was first up and the Prof. was fair in pointing me out to ask my question. I introduced myself simply by mentioning my name. There are a million and one questions you’d want to ask Chief Obasanjo given the chance. My own case was not helped by the fact that I had thrown the house open on Twitter for folks to tell me what question they’d have me ask the very powerful Obasanjo. I really wanted to ask him about his broke state coming out of prison in 1998 and becoming a billionaire years later during his presidency, but I felt that’d set the whole place on fire.

My question went thus:

“You have been severally praised for your economic decisions as President amongst other achievements. In the same vein, the 2007 elections which you organized is widely regarded as one of the worst in history, do you take responsibility for this?
Secondly, Nigeria is just about 52 years old and you held power for about 10 of those 52 years. Today there are 112 million poor people in Nigeria, do you accept responsibility for being part of why this is a reality in Nigeria considering the fact that 1 out of every 5 years of our Independence had you as President?”

These questions were just two of the many questions I believed the ex-president needed to answer and answer lucidly. Third term would have been another but I knew the answer to that during the live performances of the drama. I just wanted to see a man accept some responsibility for his failures as much as he does his successes.
President Obasanjo was visibly rattled by my questions. It of course did not help that his question and answer session started on a balloon-busting note considering the image of the Messiah Prof. Aigen had painted of him.

His response:

Obasanjo: You are one of these people that stay abroad right?
Omojuwa: No. I am based and have always been based in Nigeria!
Obasanjo: Let me educate you. Not one life was lost during the 2007 elections. The results of the 2007 elections was similar to those of 1999, 2003 and 2011. Thirteen innocent corpers (sic) lost their lives during the 2011 elections, if that is the type of election you want, good luck to you
(note the Jonathan subliminal ?) | Note how the “success” of his election was never about whether votes counted or anything of that sort. By the way, you should google “2007 Nigerian elections” and see how several observers described it in the worst of terms but isn’t the Messiah always right?

Speaking further, the ex-president answered my question on taking responsibility on the unacceptable poverty rate thus;

Obasanjo: In 1999, 71 per cent of Nigerians were regarded as living under $1 per day. I reduced that to 54 per cent in 2004 and by 2007 it was under 38 per cent. The figures for 2010-2011 were 69 per cent. I accept no blame for the poor performance of others who came after me.

Fair enough some of you would agree. Through out his response, he was staring at my end but I totally ignored him because I felt returning a gaze may just add more petrol to the ex-president’s obvious burning anger. I had come to rock the boat it seemed. Most of the Nigerians there had gone to pose for pictures with him. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have a good picture pose with Chief Obasanjo but my feeling at the time was with the Peter Aigen introduction of Obasanjo.

After the event I figured it would help to pick the ex-president’s brain a bit more. I allowed all the gentlemen get their picture rounds and the finally got the big boss to myself. He was the first to speak when he asked pointedly and accusingly, “who are you working for?” Now that is a classic question in Nigeria. The question arises out of the belief that Nigerian citizens do not do things like challenge authority by themselves, they had to have been sponsored by “vested interests.”
I replied him with a smile “I work for myself. I am a Blogger!”
He replied this time moving as he spoke, “a Blogger? That is not a profession. A Blogger, whatever that means. That is not a profession.” And I replied with an even bigger smile, “it’s all right sir.” And thus ended my first direct encounter with the man who has had the single most opportunity to change Nigeria. Whether he succeeded or not is not the call of this piece to make.

The ex-president had totally fit into the profile he had been painted by many with the chance to know him personally. I will find time to write about what he said about Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that made me realize she remains in his black book still. Once an Olusegun Obasanjo, always an Olusegun Obasanjo.

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  • Dupe K.

    Many thanks for doing exactly what I would do – stand by myself. Great recount!

  • @mexim

    More power to you bro !

  • bukunmi Johnson

    Gr8 job Japhethoo lik i use to call you… Nigeria will experience change very soon and all those rulers will be alive to see it.

  • Temple

    Obasanjo is a hero to celebrate in Nigeria and Africa at large. His failures can be overlooked because by natural cause the impact of some of those failures are begining to recede politically

  • Ibitayo daramola

    O boy, you get balls o, always been an admirer of your brazen boldness.i can imagine baba’s face.lol. Notice d way he circumvented the question and gave bunch of irrelevant figures.shifting the blame on jona n not accepting that the decay started with himself.

  • yemisi adegoke

    Bravo!jayjay I love ur courage.Baba owu can never change. May God help us.

  • TDee

    Baba o! He smiles when praised and applauded. He rides in glory on the wings of praises but gets furious at the mentioning of his flaws and woes. Omojuwa, this piece is so defining and straight on point: Obasanjo is not a Saint. Simple! (Doesn’t mean he hasn’t done well in some areas)

  • TDee

    Baba o! He smiles when praised and applauded. He rides in glory on the wings of praises but gets furious at the mentioning of his flaws and woes. Omojuwa, this piece is so defining and straight on point: Obasanjo is not a Saint. Simple! (Doesn’t mean he hasn’t done well in some areas)But he isn’t a saint like some people in the international community paint him to be. Shikena!

  • Obasanjo….military mentality, measuring situations with his own yardstick. He made many errors and gathered wealth for himself and a few others.

    But in this case, the man was was so tactful answering and didn’t even answer the question.

    He has no place in the future of Nigeria and I’m happy about that.

  • Betiku Kole

    nice one bro, am proud of you

  • ayodeji

    I read this and I so much feel being in your position to meet that monster! GOD SAFE NIGERIA!!!

  • Mitchell

    Good for you! You asked some tough questions. I’m trying to develop such thick skin. Don’t mind him. It is old age that is worrying him. LOL! His time is past.

  • @abdul_matane

    If only d old man understands wat it tekes 2 bcome u; he wldn’t had blabbed..! Nways, I blive he’z lost amidst his past misdoings……

  • Tosin

    Omo-J!ure a standard onijogbon!!!!lool,very nice u tackled dat man..baba wayray

  • Muhammed Halilu

    Wow am proud of u hope u don’t do a ruben Abati style in future and chase the “good life”

  • @hollasheny

    You guys ain’t seen nadda. You can try putting JJ in a chat with GEJ, there you’ll see real HotAirBalloon-busting! Thumbs up man!

  • YusufMilan

    Whaooooo…Bravo to you. I’v always and will continue to be an advocate of social transparency and accountability. Imagine how the retard mind answered(sorry,Blushed) relevant and sensitive question asked. Someone should please tell the past and current poli-thieves that,a storm is here that will sweep them off into Hell soonest.

  • Japhet I like your courage, Somebody really Need to start asking This Men This Question….Big Ups man.

  • Abubakar Yakubu

    Its good to note your wisdom in not pushing further. I look forward to reading other things he said. Keep up the good work

  • Olu

    Very well written. The nuances and subtleties come through. More power to you.

  • Charles

    Well done. Incisive piece there. Don got rattled. Wasn’t expecting such an adrenaline rush of a question you gave him. Wish you subjected him more to ridicule before his host with that question of “his broke state” after coming out of prison in 1998. But that would have raised an unending eyebrow though. Lol. Brave work well struck. Well done another. *Claps*

  • Magaji Garba

    Good, very good

  • saheed

    thats a good question you ve askeed Baba we re wating for the rest and the one of ngozi very imortant .

  • fadeke

    I believe you publish your opinion as a blogger, in your opinion did you suceed in what you tried to accomplish with those questions?on what authority did you state that he was poor after he left prison?do you do you should state as fact, information you cannot authenticate especially in public?really his question ‘who do you work for’ is a valid one!maybe tomorrow you’d say you want to run for some political office or the other!

  • Ademola

    I believe some of the Obasanjo boys also contributed to the activities of the Baba, Minister as Mal. El-Rufai who acted as if there is no God.

  • Thanks big boss. I hope some of us can stand up and our leaders the how, when, why and where! Enjoy yourself

  • @bodetiri

    I think OBJ shouldn’t take all d blame..he also works wit some pple..like ur now Messiah El rufai…I always baffles when I c u guys praising him on twitter..anyway..God Bless omojuwa,God Bless OBJ,God Bless Nigeria

  • wale

    What is the contribution of those writing negative things about Baba Obasanjo to Nigeria including d blogger. They live abroad & started throwing stones to NigerIa. Omo ale niwon

  • wale

    Imagine one useless Tosin addressing d oldman as were(lunatic). Where is his father? In his family, is there anyone as important as Obasanjo? That’s why they die young

  • obi 1

    Japh!!! Pls tell me any time u r ready to shake this country! Ill be by ur side…I’m priviledged to follow u on twitter…kudos…u too much…thanks for making me proud to be nigerian

  • olabissy

    Nice one, think is high time they know we the youth would ask questions and require reasonable answers.

  • Shoyinka Oluwaseyi

    I dare to ask you the same question, “who do you work for?”. As much as I am fascinated by your play of patriotism,I still exercise some doubts about your reports. Call me cynic if you like.

  • Shoyinka Oluwaseyi

    I dare to ask you the same question, “who do you work for?”. As much as I am fascinated by your play of patriotism,I still exercise some doubts about your reports. Call me cynic, if you like.

  • Frank Ode

    I pray for the day that Nigerian leaders would tow the path of restitution and admit their mistakes made while in office. It’s a collective thing ruling a country and policies made, whether right or wrong are attributed to just one person-The Head (President, Head of State etc). It seems that when past and present Nigerian leaders are asked questions bordering on their stewardship, they take it as an affront on their person. When they are extolled on their successes, you see them beeping like proud peacocks. Thank you Japheth for asking those questions (even though I couldn’t pick a thing or two from OBJ’s response, than sheer braggadocio). We need to keep asking those questions with the belief that some day we would get honest answers from a leader who is willing to start the restitutive process Nigeria needs. Let’s not forget IBB’s Dele Giwa issue, N2.7billion gulf war oil windfall. Abdulsalam’s wiping of our external reserves and other pertinent issues that leaders past and present need to answer for.

  • I have been looking in vain to find this subject, now I have found it! I will be following you, (dont worry I am not a stalker) but just wondering how often you update this webpage with new posts. Seems like a lot of crazy comments already, hope you will be able to get to mine, thanks.

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    the body. When you’re about to start on your weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to think about your end goal and chunk it down into
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  • Lelora

    Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

  • Tea

    Thank you japh, for speaking the mind of millions of Nigerians.

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