Before it is too late? By Sanya Oni

Hate him or love him, there is something about the Olusegun Obasanjo persona that manages to evoke mixed passions both in the polity and in every one of us. A classic study in ethical and moral abdication, his story, emblematises the ugly face of the nation’s leadership regression. For a man whose entire public life had the ever tending hands of benevolent gods doing the cracking of his proverbial palm kernels for him, those who endlessly accuse him of opportunism merely acknowledge the gracelessness that has dogged his entire life.

So much for the naked dance of the self-appointed diviner of fate!

The issue of course is the ex-President’s inelegantly worded 18-page ‘advisory’ to the estranged godson dated December 2 – that is few days before the December 5 passing of the great Nelson Mandela. Although it seems highly improbable that the timing of its ‘leakage’ had anything to do with an attempt to burnish the shrunken stature of a man who once rubbed shoulders with global statesmen as a member of Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, even at that, there are those who would swear that Obasanjo actually chose the timing of the release of the ‘satanic verses’ as his own revenge on a world that has long expunged his name from its roll of statesmen!

I must say that one of the difficult, unenviable choices of being a Nigerian is being called upon to pick between the graceless, unforgiving, hypocritical and the outright lawless godfather and his utterly incompetent, vacillating and corrupt clone!

I have been asked the question nearly a dozen times – what do I make of Obasanjo’s letter to President Goodluck Jonathan?

My ready answer is –it is vintage Obasanjo with its signature self-serving patriotic pretensions and alarming prognostications. Simply because he created Jonathan in his image and after his likeness, he seeks to remain the jealous god to whom the man must defer whether in the running of the party or the conduct of his government! It’s part of living in the illusion of being the ultimate shuttle diplomat – consulted by Presidents and kings – to do what he does best – dousing the fires created by the many marionettes on the continent!

Such make-believe larger than life image of Obasanjo obviously plays to type. It is part of the myth woven round the man now pejoratively call Baba. Recently, I watched Baba spar with ex-CNN man, the Kenyan-born Jeff Koinage on You-Tube. I struggled to reconcile the image of a once celebrated professional with the practiced actor fawning before our own OBJ at some downtown conference in East Africa! And how the man loved the comical spectacle!

Why is OBJ angry with GEJ? Is it for surpassing his administration’s records in serial abuses of our laws and institutions? And talk of fidelity to party; didn’t Obasanjo blaze the trail in party infidelity when he supported Ikedi Ohakim, the PPA candidate against Ararume, the candidate of his party? What about the serial impunities in Ekiti, Plateau and Bayelsa? And the corruption? The third term subversion, etc.

Nigerians, it must be said truly know who their troubler-in-chief is.

Now, let’s turn to the sanctimonious Jonathan presidency. I wish there was something left of that intangible called ‘sympathy’ for an administration that has done all in its power to mismanage virtually all aspects of our lives in a little over three years since it took charge. From a broad pan-Nigerian mandate of 2011, what we have now is a presidency diminished both in moral authority and in grandeur. In this, Obasanjo was neither original nor expressed anything outside what other Nigerians have come to perceive as the gracelessness of our Ijaw brothers in appropriating this Presidency as theirs. And how they rub it in!

Under Obasanjo, at least you knew who was in charge; today what we have is a laissez faire presidency – a party of all comers. Imagine an administration presiding over the daily theft of 20 percent of its main revenue source – crude oil? It would hardly be uncharitable to qualify it as an administration only in name.

In saner climes, that is a cause for war! What do we have instead? Brigands calling the shots leaving state actors to squabble over the dregs in the pot. And this is supposed to be a country with a standing army, navy and air force. Welcome to GEJ’s gangland republic.

That was what Obasanjo inferred with his allegory of the thief being invited to guard the house. Only the presidency can afford to pretend not to know who the thieves are; or the house being ravaged. We know. We know what the supposed minders have done with our lives. It’s etched on the faces of the ordinary man on the Main Street.

It is of course that graft in high places of course stinks to high heavens. The scale of impunity beggars believe. Ever heard of corruption-complaint administration? There is putrefaction everywhere; the NNPC is an island unto itself; or so it has always been. The accounts, we are told by those who should know, are for their eyes only. Only in Nigeria would the variation on existing contract quadruple the initial contract sum. If in doubt, ask Works Ministry; the smart operators in the powerful ministry have just enough tools to convince, confuse and confound anyone!

I need to talk about the little matter of the aviation ministry. Yes, Stella Oduah of the Stellagate fame is still in charge. You ask; how come? Our President of course thinks corruption is overblown; that it is more of a perception thing.

Now, we have since learnt how easy it is to purchase two bullet-proof vehicles outside the strictures of appropriation process in clear violation of the procurement laws; that is of course permissible so long as you have the ears of the President. Never mind that those who should approve the expenditure have long denied that they gave no approval for anything of the sort. With the chief of state settling for an administrative panel rather than haul the alleged felons before the courts, the case appears closed.

I don’t think Nigerians can suffer the indulgence of ignoring Saint Obasanjo. That would be fatal. An erstwhile commander-in-chief obviously knows the implication of raising hell over the 1000 names said to be on political watch list and an alleged recruitment of hit squads for whatever agenda. It goes beyond wishing that the worst would not happen. It calls for action on the part of the National Assembly as the elected representatives of the people. As the Yorubas would say – the log that poses a threat to the eye is better taken off from a safe distance. Hardly a time to cast lots between godfather and godson.

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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