By Morenike Taire
IT used to be politically correct to bash Obasanjo, particularly in the media. The three-time Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces was peculiar in his response to criticism, and even social/reputation battery. He did not, like others before him, court his critics with nice words and â€˜invitations to chopâ€™.
He was not, either, the type to speak about â€˜detractorsâ€™ real or imagined, or political enemies trying to tear him down from his exalted position. Obasanjo was very clear about his relationship with his compatriots on one hand and his political partners on the other.
You criticised him to his face, he â€˜yabbedâ€™ you right back and that was the end of it. Stand up comic acts started an Obasanjo act, taking into consideration (his) perceived idiosyncrasies such as the clearing of throat, uncolourful dressing and his stinginess. These, he took humorously, and the act flourished, contending with other favourite acts such as the Pastor Chris â€˜uhun, uhunâ€™ one and lasting long after he left office.
If political associates imagine, for this reason, that a little Obasanjo bashing over his call for the resignation ofÂ President UmaruYar’Adua will rub the Nigerian public the right way, they are very, very mistaken. The position in which the Nigerian government presently finds itself is one which is more dangerous than it is telling us.
Indeed, it is difficult to see a true picture of the whole thing, not least of all because of the dishonesty surrounding things from different angles. And because stakeholders are not being honest with one another, each knows what they know, but not exactly what the other knows. It has all left room for conjecture_ more conjecture than ought to be the case, and this is what, more than anything else, disqualifies the Yar’Adua presidency and the rest of the executive more than anything else.
These conjectures vary in scope. There are those who are saying: â€œI told you soâ€, with the present situation being the confirmation of one of the conspiracy theories making the rounds when former Bayelsa State Deputy Governor turned- Governor by virtue of another round of intrigues, Goodluck Jonathan, was named the PDP vice presidential candidate.
The theory then had been one that took, even then, into consideration the poor state of health of last minute presidential candidate Dr. Umaru Yar’Adua, himself an incumbent governor at the time.
It had it that Yar’Adua was so sick that he would not make it to the end of the presidency, making Jonathan the substantive president in order to pacify the Niger Delta agitators forâ€™. Who could forget the rally, a little afterwards, at which Obasanjo himself supposedly made a telephone call to Yar’Adua, then also rumoured to be dead, and said the famous word: â€œUmaru, are you dead?â€.
It called to mind the Yoruba saying that the one about the fasting imam who claims to have been so faithful to the fast that he did not swallow his own saliva. Who, really, is to tell?
It turned out Obasanjo had more credibility on that occasion, than do those informing the nation about the state of Mr. Presidentâ€™s health today; including certain foreign media whose word had once been law. There is the one that has Yar’Adua as being held hostage by the Saudi government, for purposes of high international oil politics. This theory varies in its definitions of what these political ends are.
By far the most controversial, of course, was the NextÂ newspaper story which has Yar’Adua as being categorically brain dead. It is not a far-fetched story, even on the level of conjecture, but has so far, for all the Next bashing, not been proved categorically wrong. The reaction to that story, though, may or may not have forced the former head of state to make a statement.
The very fact of the former president making a definitive statement on the matter at all has said more to Nigeria than every morsel of information presidential spokespersons have provided. For Obasanjo has a personal history of saying only what he wants to say. Who will ever forget, either, his treason trial when he was indicted by Abacha for coup plotting? The man refused to utter a statement, even under duress. His prison mates, then, testify to his sheer endurance or pig-headedness, depending on whether or not you are on the receiving end. It was, it is claimed, what was to save him.
Evidence of waning popularity within the PDP ranks and file particularly of the North, insiders insist, was responsible for Obasanjoâ€™s statement. Reactions have also been highly political, saying nothing of the matter at hand and putting more emphasis on Obasanjo, who has never really cared what anyone ever said about him.
Not caring what is said about you as a president is rude, and downright despicable. Not caring what is said about you when you are citizen Obasanjo, pressing the buttons from the general direction of the South West is quite acceptable. One thing is clear: The PDP is now in distress, and whoever caused all the trouble in the first place was aided and abetted by the rest of the party. For the party to now be pushing responsibility at Obasanjo is to show that it has an irresponsible leadership.
Obasanjo has spoken!