BY ORELOMO GIWA
As a general rule, it is expected that old age has the tendency to temper man’s proclivity to want to dominate others at all cost and by all means, and compels more sober and careful disposition before taking actions.
But for former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his disposition to force feed Nigerians on the way to go; his messianic complex appears to be getting more virulent even as he advances in age.
The latest manifestation of this grandiose delusions was his last weekend’s declaration in media interviews, of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s presidential bid as unhealthy for the nation.
In a deliberate intervention aimed at dealing a fatal blow on the former number two man’s presidential ambition and to ensure he does not secure the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the presidential election, he painted a picture of good versus evil and presented the Wazirin Adamawa as falling short of a leader that passed the test of what the messiah consider as good for the country.
Noting that God will not forgive him if he supports Atiku given what he claims to know of him, he declared the killer punch: “it is not a question of working or not working with an individual. If you are working for the good of Nigeria, I am working for you. If you are not working for the good of Nigeria, it does not matter who you are. I am not working for you.”
Vintage Obasanjo, his subsequent pronouncements after the interview with Premium Times, the online publication, last Friday has shown that he has taken this task of aborting his former number two presidential dream as a major project.
With a benefit of hindsight and given the nation’s past experience with former President Obasanjo in respect of endorsing and disowning presidential candidates, it has become obvious that the former president’s choices have always not been informed by the common good and what is in the collective best interest, but rather a product of personal ego, settling old scores or pandering to the desires and preferences of some section of the ruling class.
Let’s pick the recent outburst on Atiku. It is obvious that for the Owu war general, a man with a memory of an elephant, it is another payback time for Atiku, for the indignity he reportedly went through in the hands of his deputy before he could secure a second term ticket of his party in 2003.
With allegation that Atiku was the brain behind the Mandela Option media buzz and the then PDP’s governors determination to go with Atiku for the presidential ticket, the frontline politician since then became a marked man for a veteran war general who never forgives any infraction.
Atiku’s ‘sin’ was further made worse by the role he allegedly played in aborting the third term misadventure, a project which, if it had not been killed in the Senate would have seen the former President ruling for three terms inspite of the unconstitutionality of the act.
Obasanjo’s large ego was further deflated by Atiku who, through legal battles, frustrated all moves by the retired General to clip his wings and, possibly sent him out of office prematurely.
Although Obasanjo had consistently created the impression around Atiku as a corrupt leader who should not be trusted with power, discerning observers continue to insist that the former President’s grudge with Atiku is not about national interest but about settling old scores.
If the past is a guide which helps to direct future’s cause, it may not be difficult to see why Obasanjo’s interventions on leadership choice are seen as anything but national interest. A peep into history will bear this position out.
From President Shehu Shagari, whose candidature Obasanjo supported but later became an unofficial opposition leader, to imposition of late Umar Musa Yar’Adua, a medically challenged Katsina royal blood, and eventual parting of ways with him, to his support for Yar’Adua’s successor, Goodluck Jonathan whom he had earlier imposed as the vice presidential candidate on a joint ticket with Umar Yar’ Adua and his eventual withdrawal of support for him when it matters most, to his support for candidate Muhammadu Buhari and the recent “Letter bomb”, it is obvious that the Obasanjo messiah mentality recognizes only leaders Obasanjo is comfortable with, and who have not crossed the path of the messiah. Once you are at odds with the messiah, then you are no longer “good for the Country.”
All this was during the democratic dispensation. The military era was not any different. Every head of state that came after General Olusegun Obasanjo had, at one point or the other, received his verbal umbrage and his thumbs down. For the Muhammadu Buhari/ Tunde Idiagbon regime, to the era of the Evil Genius, General Ibrahim Babangida, to the regime of the goggled one, General Sani Abacha, none escaped General Obasanjo’s acidic pen, delivered at the most devastating time to ensure maximum damage.
The contention is that while Obasanjo often hide behind society’s disaffection to deliver his killer punches, the motive was always less than altruistic, if not totally self-centered.
In any case, if the past is anything to go by, all the leaders Obasanjo had endorsed before now ended up been rubbished by him and he often followed such initial support with vitriolic attacks on his anointed, accusing them of falling short of expectation. It may just be as well that Obasanjo is withholding his support for Atiku. Those he supported to get to office failed to take the nation to the promised land and all fell out with the messiah.
It could be that the rejected stone may turn out to be the cornerstone of Nigeria’s superstructure.