Obasanjo, you don come again – Soji Akinrinade

Obasanjo, you don come again – Soji Akinrinade




It would be very easy to say “here he goes again” about former Nigerian president; Olusegun Obasanjo and his latest attack on the Buhari government. He is the enfant terrible of our contemporary politics; a self-conceited leader who believes he has been a gift and the best thing, since sliced bread, to have happened to Nigeria.



Obasanjo is our equivalent of Mr Know-it-all; who has perfected the art of criticising his successors once they choose to go their own way; or chart a course of their own.



Some years ago, when I had, in the company of Ray Ekpu and Yakubu Mohammed; visited him at his Hilltop home in Abeokuta, we had asked him to assess President Goodluck Jonathan and his government. He had been very derisive in his views. But what struck me most was his comment that, and I paraphrase it, “I can only help him get there. I can’t help him to run things.”



Obasanjo, you don come again - Soji Akinrinade



It was the view of a man who was not happy with his protégé and how he was running Nigeria. When nobody in the administration was listening to him; he resorted to letter writing that disparaged the government and went beyond mere criticisms. Those who knew the former president well said at the time it was either you do things the Obasanjo way or no way. President Goodluck Jonathan was toast as he eventually lost to another former military man, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.



There has been no love lost between Buhari and Obasanjo in recent times.



In fact, way before the 2019 elections, he had turned to letter writing too; when a taciturn Buhari and his kitchen cabinet decided to ignore him and do things their own way. A critical letter written in 2108 blasted President Buhari about “the lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management on internal political dynamic and widening inequality – are very much with us today. With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of ‘blood.’”



Obasanjo, you don come again - Soji Akinrinade



Being a military general, who like Obasanjo fought in the civil war; Buhari encouraged his men not to respond as a government to the former president’s “vituperations”. On his part, President Jonathan went daggers drawn and gave robust responses to Obasanjo’s letters; giving the letters the currency the writer wanted and needed. With Buhari, the situation was different. In fact, former president Obasanjo had to go back on his words to quit politics.



Indeed, he literally ate his own vomit by backing his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar; a man he had disparaged and called unfit to run Nigeria, to shove Buhari out of power in the 2019 presidential election. That did not happen and we are where we are today, with Buhari still running the show.



One would be forgiven for believing that with only grudging respect (military man to military man) given to Obasanjo by this government; it was only a matter of time when he would unfurl a seminal criticism of this government. After all, there is enough about this government to disagree with. The surprise this time is that the former president used the platform of organisations he always loathed when he was president. They were ethnic organisations and Obasanjo did not like them one bit. He never bought into their restructuring agenda, which he thought advocated the breakup of Nigeria. But he is now singing a different tune.




At a consultative meeting, a few days ago, of some of the nation’s socio-cultural groups; including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum; the former president said: “Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.



Obasanjo, you don come again - Soji Akinrinade



“And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”




You could almost see Obasanjo’s past as the nation’s chief complainant and headmaster-in-chief coming back to haunt him. He was not in any way telling us anything new about this government. He was merely reiterating what most critics of the administration have been harping on for quite a while. Yet, it must be accepted that the criticisms carry a lot of weight; particularly outside this country where Obasanjo is widely respected. Forget how we view him in Nigeria. Attacking Obasanjo and not looking at the weighty things he is saying about the conduct of the Buhari government can only be at our own peril.




In its response to the Obasanjo attack, the administration said; “From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended slowly to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief…Chief Obasanjo should, in accordance with his mantra as a statesman, get involved with problems solving; when and where they exist, instead of helping the mushrooming of a poisonous atmosphere of ethnic and religious nationalism.”




Rather than dismissing Obasanjo’s criticisms, the  president should really be worried about the state of the nation. His three-point agenda: revamping the economy, taming insecurity, and fighting corruption, remains work in progress, an unfinished business. In fact, insecurity is getting worse; Covid 19 has battered the economy and corruption is still raging. Yet the government seems impotent addressing the problems. Even nepotism, a problem the president could have easily addressed is compounded by most appointments of his administration.



Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, who says he’s no fan of former president, Obasanjo; a man he thinks of as a co-architect of Nigeria’s travails, is in agreement with the former leader; calling attention to “any accurate reading of the nation from whatever source, as a contraption teetering on the very edge of collapse…The nation is divided as never before…This ripping division has taken place under the policies and conduct of none other than President Buhari.”



Obasanjo, you don come again - Soji Akinrinade



Even General Alani Akinrinade, former Chief of Defence Staff, addressing visiting Chief of Army Staff; General Tukur Y. Buratai in Osogbo, Osun State earlier this week, asked the president to; “shape up, read the riot act to our people, enlist them in unswerving cooperation to participate fully in the redemption of their country…He needs to stand on his table against the motley crowd of advisers surrounding him and take a firm stand on the reorganisation of our country, physically, politically, economically and socially. What we simply term as reorganisation in the Armed Forces is what the bloody civilians call restructuring. It is long overdue and over flogged, as if it is such an impossibility…It is what is required to move our country out of the doldrums to modernity.”



He urged President Buhari not to leave this issue unresolved, otherwise; “We may end up without a county, as no country has been known to survive two civil wars.”



The situation in the country is truly bad and our president needs to show some mettle; some resolve and chip substantially away at the problems. No one can deny this government of some great achievements, particularly in the infrastructure area. But that is what it was elected to do.




Let the president now look at the messages, not the messengers. It is crucial to his success in the next three years.

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