By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston, Texas since 1992.
Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state of Nigeria and influential diplomatic personage, is a man that is known for his direct, and blunt manner of communication. To put it in the famous usage, the retired army general does not beat about the bush!
For the benefit of those who may have forgotten, on July 15, 2019, in the best traditions of informed civic duty, wrote and spoke truth to power, to his former military colleague, President Muhammadu Buhari, regarding what millions of people inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria consider to be Buhari’s clannishness. Let me characterize it as Buhari’s fundamentalist instinct for nepotism, a dangerous fixation and destructive force against the reasonable goals of governance.
Here is Obasanjo’s direct indictment of Buhari for what he points to on this matter of nepotism:
“The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome. Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation….
No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering violent agitation if he (emphasis mine) fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control….”
Since history is our guide, let us profit from its evidence in the contentious context of the truck loads of insults and attacks from the Buharists against Obasanjo for speaking up on his concerns for his country.
Since 1976 when he became the military head of state arising from the violent but failed coup d’état against him and late Gen. Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo has felt a sense of duty to contribute to making Nigeria better.
Did he? Or, has he?
This question remains a hotly debated issue in Nigeria. To his critics, he is a self-serving hypocrite. To those who dislike him even more, he came in and he enriched himself, stupendously! Whatever anyone will say against him, the man has shown consistent interest in interrogating the direction and capacity and performance of every government in Nigeria since 1983.
Regarding this conflict between those masquerading as regional defenders of Buhari and a couple of sanctimonious followers of saint Obasanjo, Nigerians especially those in power seem to forget important stuff too soon, and too quick. There is a willful and deliberate amnesia on the same issues that are very important as long as it concerns someone of their ethnicity or religion.
There is not much difference in substance and message between what Obasanjo wrote in this his latest letter of September 2020 and his previous letter on July 15, 2019 to President Buhari.
On July 15, 2019 he wrote to the president “…. The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay. Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.”
On this critical issue of security and protection of lives or lack there of in Nigeria, Obasanjo pointedly stated: “For over ten years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks. How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?“
Obasanjo, on the volatile matter of the Fulani “Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace”, it “started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country. The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more, unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship. Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.”
Obasanjo, a Pentecostal Christian abandoned his political god-son, former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 to fight for Buhari, a conservative Muslim. Obasanjo whom I have met three times since 1999 has a more global, cosmopolitan outlook.
Obasanjo, born March 5, 1937, engages a more diverse skill set of persons from different parts of Nigeria and the world. Buhari, born December 17, 1942, is more restrictive and insular. He relies and prefers the comforting counsel of those whose demographic data are closer, physically, to his native ZIP Code — specifically in terms of ethnic origin and region and religion.
At another level, there are those who question or applaud Obasanjo’s continental statesmanship. Some say he encourages some comparison of him to South Africa’s former President and globally acclaimed freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela.
Especially, the part from prison to presidency…. The fact is they are fundamentally different circumstances!
Another major and unforgettable part of that history of comparing both men is the point that he, Obasanjo, sought to undermine the laws and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and diminish the global standards of democracy by attempting to, allegedly, seek a third term. He did not succeed.
The fact is Mandela did not seek for a second term…. He served for only one term, and opened the doors for a younger technocrat, Thabo Mbeki, to succeed him as president.
Please permit me to note that I deal, substantially, with these issues of comparing Obasanjo to the late, great Mandela — in terms of leadership and use of power — as part of a chapter in my forthcoming January 2021 book titled ‘MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power Leadership and Identity’. ISBN 978-0-9893970-01-1. 3greatmen.com
On balance, Obasanjo and Buhari are very different in their style and approach to governance — what I will characterize as their governing circumference of influence and information.
Dr. Chido Nwangwu, the Founder of USAfrica multimedia networks and public policy organization since 1992 in Houston, established the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the Internet USAfricaonline.com. He served as adviser on Africa business to the ex-Mayor of Houston, Dr. Lee P. Brown. Chido is the first continental African to be admitted to the 100 Black Men of America. He is the author of the January 2021 book, MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power, Leadership and Identity. In July 2017, he was issued a U.S. Congressional Recognition for USAfrica’s 25 years. Chido has been honored by the Washington-D. C.based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression in parts of the African continent. He has been profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans.
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