Nigeria’s statesman and our most recent PhD in town, the one and only Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo needs no introduction to Nigerians. As we all know him in the pantheon of former presidents of Nigeria, both dictators and democratically elected ones, Obasanjo has succeeded in carving out a niche for himself, and he is respected for that. He is one leader who never keeps quite on national and international events. Indeed he never shies away from airing his views at critical moments. Like or hate Obasanjo, he does not care about what you think of his opinion on matters affecting the wellbeing of Nigeria. And he does not mince his words in doing just that. Obasanjo does not give a damn on issues he is passionate about. He bares his mind with so much gusto and strong conviction when conveying his ideas on how to move Nigeria forward. Development and progress of Nigeria is the centerpiece of his being as the true son of Nigeria that he is. That is former executive President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for you. You can’t take that away from him, can you?
Again, as we also know very well, our man of the moment ‘Babasanjo’ always like seeing himself in the eye of the storm. He courts controversies at will; and, he enjoys public attention on both his views and his brash public persona. In terms of his periodic epistles to serving Presidents of Nigeria, I don’t think we have seen or heard the last of him. He is very consistent even if acerbic in his verbal jabs. From the time he discovered the powers of words on paper he could not restrain himself to write out what is in his mind in clear and unambiguous terms. He has written before to other former leaders of Nigeria. Thus, in the roll call of his epistolary culture, it is on record that Obasanjo has written to former military President Ibrahim Babagida, former military head of state Sani Abacha as well as former executive President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. In all those epistles written by him, his love for Nigeria was beyond question. You could say even if he couldn’t match it in action during his own tenure as the executive President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, Obasanjo loves Nigeria.
In that regard, Obasanjo’s critical assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari is not a matter that should surprise even the most dyed in the wool Buharists. President Buhari may be seen as one person, one leader so to speak, who is infallible in the eyes of his unrepentant supporters. But one thing for sure is that Buhari is not without his own flaws, and Obasanjo has rightly pointed that out to whosoever cares to read his write-up. In his characteristic way, this time around with some modicum of objectivity, Obasanjo was able to give credit where credit is due to President Buhari. For instance, he acknowledges the feats achieved by President Buhari when he significantly reduced the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency, which had threatened the corporate existence of the country under the lackluster approach to Boko Haram insurgency under President Goodluck Jonathan. Obasanjo has also positively accorded recognition to Buhari’s zeal to fight corruption despite the institutional, legal and personal constraints that are beginning to hamper his fight against corruption. This can be seen in the way and manner corruption is coming home to roost, whether that was anticipated by President Buhari or not, and with all the coterie of sacred cows that have been escaping Buhari’s anti-corruption noose. Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo is dead right on that aspect of Buhari’s anticorruption crusade. Is he not?
The other less weighty charges made by Obasanjo was over Buhari’s inclination to nepotism in some of his key appointments. Of course, this perception is reinforced by the skewed nature of Buhari’s lack of understanding of today’s Nigeria, a country that has become politically complex and vociferous. Nobody can defend the degree of insensitivity demonstrated by Buhari in his skewed and lopsided appointments, especially going by what he did in his recent appointment of the NIA Director General. Thus, any leader who appreciates our complexity and diversity will not ignore the question of equity and justice in the way he or she goes about in his delicate balancing act in doing his key appointments. In fact, the worst development here that beggars belief is how President Buhari allows himself to be smeared by the stain of secret recruitments of the sons and daughters of his cronies that was done quietly to fill vacancies across some government establishments and parastatals without following due process. Obasanjo is not making that up, is he?
According to Obasanjo, as a former general and commander in chief of the Nigerian armed forces, President Buhari should have a fair understanding of the value of safeguarding the security of life and property, which he demonstrated on countless scores of time as a former military head of state, vastly experienced in the nuances of security or internecine conflicts that are now engulfing the entire nation. But all that steel is gradually ebbing away from President Buhari, going by his lackadaisical handling of security problems manifesting themselves currently in the country. Indeed Buhari’s handling of both Taraba and Benue violence by herders (and on herders) has amply confirmed Obasanjo’s fears. The federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has not demonstrated the robustness and expected dexterity of a former army general in handling a security situation of that violent magnitude. One could easily understand the lackluster if it were happening under an inexperienced civilian leader.
On a more serious note, Obasanjo has accused President Buhari of showing gross incompetence in his economic reforms agenda and in international relations and diplomacy. And I couldn’t agree less with those two items. As a matter of fact, most of the social upheavals we are experiencing under Buhari’s stewardship can be traced to the neoliberal economic pills that he is literally shoving down the throats of Nigerians. The devaluation of the naira, the removal of fuel subsidy and the indiscriminate jerking up of pump prices are causing tremendous hardships for the ordinary folks, especially the crop of folks that have blindly joined forces with him to ensure that he becomes elected as President of Nigeria under a democratic dispensation. There is no corresponding effort to alleviate economic hardships of the generality of Nigerians whatsoever. In fact, President Buhari is appearing to be clueless as to the best measures to adopt to alleviate massive suffering of poor Nigerians. I stand to be corrected on this issue.
As for foreign policy, Nigeria does not currently seem to have a direction in a world that is receding from the triumphalism of neoliberal globalization of the past few years to a new age of political and economic uncertainty manifesting on a global scale. In the past we claimed that Africa was the centerpiece of our foreign policy, but that was no more with our uncritical romance with free market economic doctrines. Yes, there are gains in the spirit of entrepreneurship fostered by neo-liberal economic order, and it has galvanised the burgeoning small-scale private enterprises in the service economy, most especially in the communication sector and entertainment industry, but that’s all. All that is happening at the expense of our dwindling manufacturing sector. Industries are suffering from neglect and suffocation of cheap goods from China and other Asian countries.
Nigeria, under neoliberal globalisation, is being turned into a dumping ground of manufactured goods from industrialised countries of Europe and Asia. However, the worst thing is in how business moguls like Dangote are dumping imported food commodities like rice, wheat and sugar at the expense of local agricultural production. No nation worth its name would allow this brazen destruction of local economy and other nationalist initiatives. It was expected that on assuming office, President Buhari would promptly tackle these economic anomalies, but that is obviously not forthcoming. Instead, the teeming youths directly affected across the nation, youths that rekindled their hopes with the second coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, have now become totally disillusioned, their aspirations dashed. Does it surprise anyone that our failed politicians are turning those same youths into either drug addicts or violent militias in the service of nefarious political machinations all over the place?
Do we proceed to blame Obasanjo for highlighting the woes that President Muhammadu Buhari has deliberately plunged himself into? No. In any case, I only disagree with Obasanjo on his call on Buhari not to contest the 2019 elections. This is somewhat sinister, and it bodes ill for a democratic arrangement that we have so far been experimenting. The country has come along way from 1999 to date with its democratisation processes. If the APC decides to field Buhari as its 2019 flag bearer, so be it. That is its choice as a ruling political party. It is left for us to agree or disagree with their choice at the polling booth. Therefore, it is not for Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo to decide for us what should be our choices considering his heinous political baggage as the former President of Nigeria. To elect anybody or not is the sole prerogative of Nigerians. The decision is entirely ours as Nigerians to elect or not to elect President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.
In fact, we are not unaware of the massive disappointments and failures that have become very legible on Buhari’s scorecard. But under no circumstances should anybody get swayed by Obasanjo’s filibustering through his call for a so-called ‘coalition for Nigeria movement’ under a suspicious initiative. Nigerians can achieve that through the electoral system that is in place.