While writing on certain things is sometimes a complete waste of time, not doing so is sometimes a complete disservice. After all, there’s virtually no single socio-political problem in Nigeria you will comment on without repeating yourself or recycling the same solutions you offered before. This sadly signifies the little or no progress we are making towards national development. Many people had rightly advocated for the ‘take the message and leave the messenger’ formula whenever Chief Obasanjo speaks. The truth however is, the issue is far much more beyond that, for if allowed, Obasanjo will erase and rewrite history before our very eyes.
Every leader who came after Obasanjo had his doing and undoing, but fundamentally speaking, all our contemporary problems can be traced back to his own undoing. I once thought that Obasanjo had carefully designed his exit from power in such a way that Nigeria and Nigerians will dearly pay for denying him a third term in office. He apparently engineered it in such a way that any other situation apart from his tenure will, with the passage of time, look inferior; and then he would have a point to prove over and over. All what I thought is now coming into play.
Lest we forget, many of the problems we are witnessing today are the systematic invention of Obasanjo’s regime and its subsequent influence. This is without prejudice to the numerous successes recorded during his time which he himself boasts of. While he is trying hard to not only absolve himself of blame, but also pretending to proffer solutions out of them; the irony is that the true answers to our problems lies in permanently relegating Obasanjo and his likes to the distant background.
In 1999, Nigeria had the opportunity to start afresh and get away from its past. Unfortunately, Obasanjo navigated us into some of the same old critical problems we have been facing; division, corruption and underdevelopment. He may be given credit for marginal progress recorded in specific but isolated areas, but as a whole, the Otta Chief didn’t move Nigeria to the next level or significantly farther away from where he met it. In some specific areas, he even moved us backwards. That he constantly accuses his successors of not doing same is not only an attempt to absolve himself of the bigger responsibility of doing same as their predecessor, but to bury his own shortcomings in that regard.
Apart from vengeance, Obasanjo’s first and major action when he came to power was destroying democracy, the very process that rode him back to relevance and prominence. There was never a time in our democratic history when our legislature and judiciary were abused and bullied by the executive like during his time. National Assembly presiding officers were handpicked and removed at will. All these set a bad precedent for many of the things we are seeing today.
He made a monster out of the Ruling Party and then destroyed opposition with impunity. It was during his time that our electoral process became the worst in the world, a process which returned more than 100% voter turnout including dead people. It was during his time that a state governor can be abducted and the seat of an elected Vice President was unilaterally declared vacant. No matter how bad his successors were, none of them attempted anything close to this.
Rampant political assassinations and the unilateral withholding of Lagos State Local Governments’ allocation by the Federal Government against the Supreme Court order are still fresh in our memories. The very successors that Obasanjo is criticizing are those who restored the democratic process and the rule of law. ‘Yar’adua initiated it, Jonathan actualized it and Buhari is now consolidating it. It took more than 10 years of Obasanjo-less leadership to restore democracy back to its normal senses in Nigeria. He blamed Abacha and other predecessors, but he doesn’t want to be blamed.
Obasanjo is been credited with revamping the economy. How revamped is an economy which billions of dollars were invested without power supply? In fact, his regime left power supply worse than it met it. It took the decent efforts of the same Jonathan and Buhari he is criticizing for us to now have significant improvements in power supply. He may have raised our foreign reserves, but our economy didn’t move to the next level under Obasanjo, for he still left a crude oil-dependent economy. Despite Jonathan’s government been seen as the most corrupt in the history of Nigeria, but never in his time have we seen money-containing ‘Ghana Must go’ bags openly shared to remove a serving speaker. Many of us only knew of Transparency International during Obasanjo.
Ok, Obasanjo is patriot and nationalist, right? That was why he installed a dying incompetent ticket whose failure he is trying hard to distant himself from. He even tore his PDP card because of his self-acclaimed non-partisan patriotism. One thing we have not forgotten though is how he divided Nigeria along ethnic and religious lines because he wanted a second term in 2003. Never in our history have we seen such a skewed, manipulated and rigged election. He was once a patriot but many of his actions between 1999 to 2007 are completely unbefitting of a true patriot.
It was in 2003 that Obasanjo and PDP sowed the seed of electoral hatred watered by ethno-religious sentiments. It is the fruits of such seeds that we continue to reap today. His government and that of his successors didn’t reform our security architecture well enough to be better than what we have today, neither was it repositioned to tackle the past and contemporary challenges he is complaining about. That he is the one dictating to us how or what our future should look like is because we haven’t really moved forward from where he left us. And in case you don’t know where he left us, you just need a short lesson in history.
We have all agreed that we are not happy with the kind of Nigeria and Nigerians we have today as well as the efforts of those at the helm, and Obasanjo as a role model in different aspects of life other than democratic leadership definitely has a role to play in changing some of that, but that cannot be achieved through his apparently self-glorifying and blame-absolving criticisms.