By Ochereome Nnannna
ALL may truly not be well between former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. No one says the things he said about GEJ at a recent public forum in Warri unless there is a war (cold or hot) between them.
He basically called Jonathan a “weak” leader. More than that, he called himself a “strong” president while he was in power. He justified it by recalling how he sent soldiers to level Odi in Bayelsa State when nineteen security troops were murdered by armed militants.
He also blamed Nigerians for electing GEJ, saying that without their votes Jonathan would not be in power. I want to look into these two issues because as a chronicler of Nigeria’s current affairs (which become history as time goes on) I am familiar with them.
I am also very familiar with Obasanjo’s place in Nigeria’s history and his never-ending efforts to whitewash his records as a two-time leader of this country while putting others who have occupied that position in bad light.
The only leader of Nigeria (both serving and erstwhile) that Obasanjo speaks of in glowing terms is the late General Murtala Mohammed.
Mohammed probably earned that special place in Obasanjo’s heart because his death made Obasanjo a head of state. Add Abdulsalami Abubakar. He released OBJ from prison, pardoned him, and made him an elected president.
GEJ is not the first leader Obasanjo is bad-mouthing while in office. In fact, Gen. Sani Abacha nearly sent him to a firing squad for his busy-body activities interpreted as “concealment” of coup plot in 1995.
We must not allow Obasanjo to twist our history. We know how GEJ emerged as president of Nigeria. He was imposed on the nation by Obasanjo. There was no way GEJ would have been president if Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to choose. Jonathan would probably be serving out his second term in office as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Even that would have been a gift by Obasanjo who got Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha impeached “for corruption”, though political pundits said the real reason was Alams’ support for Obasanjo’s Vice President, Atiku Abubakar with whom OBJ was locked in mortal political combat.
If Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to pick, they would have had to choose between Dr. Peter Odili (who had emerged as the front contender for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flag and All Nigerian People’s Party’s (ANPP) candidate, Gen. Buhari.
Obasanjo personally hand-picked terminally ailing Katsina Governor, Yar’ Adua, and dovish Bayelsa Governor, GEJ. He brought them to Aso Villa and paraded them before television cameras as the presidential candidate and running mate of the PDP.
The do-or-die ‘candidates’
Not only that, he announced to his party and the nation that the election of his successor was for him a do-or-die affair. He campaigned fanatically for Yar’Adua/Jonathan and got them elected.
A few months down the line he was on the streets denigrating Yar’Adua but he was not brazen about it as he is with GEJ. Yar’ Adua had reversed some of the give-away privatisation exercises from which OBJ and his acolytes had sumptuously benefited.
When Yar’Adua’s recovery became hopeless, OBJ started the whispering that GEJ should be empowered as full President. OBJ was one of the first to urge Jonathan to run for president as from June 2010. He was part of GEJ’s campaigns until he was elected in April 2011.
Nigeria’s presidency is one of the most powerful offices in the world in that it (rather than the people) decides who occupies the highest office in the land (and other high offices). It was that power that made the emergence of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and GEJ possible.
It is that power that will make Jonathan president for a second term in 2015, unless a major shift of paradigm in the political behaviour of Nigerians takes place. For now, the Nigerian people only queue up to confirm what the presidency has already worked out.
OBJ’s tongue in cheek
It is one of Obasanjo’s classical hypocrisies to put the blame of GEJ’s election on the Nigerian electorate. He knows he is not speaking the whole truth. That is Obasanjo the only saint in action.
But on the issue of President Jonathan mismanaging the Boko Haram uprising, I agree. Lack of decisive action allowed a rag-tag band of gunmen to balloon to a full-fledged terrorist organisation able to assemble explosives and carry out suicide bombings. Obasanjo and Yar’ Adua as presidents gave people reasons to fear them. Even on his sick bed, Yar’ Adua’s aura hung over Abuja and the nation, same as the dead body of Josef Stalin hung over the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for months before it was officially announced. Obasanjo and Yar’Adua made power look truly powerful. Yar’Adua made northern hotheads, such as Nasir el Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu to stay away from Nigeria out of fear.
But as soon as he died they came back. El Rufai took up a newspaper column and every week calls GEJ a weak and incompetent leader. Ribadu drifted to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and ran for president against GEJ. He was brought in to audit the oil industry and somehow he ended up messing up the president with a leakage of his committee’s report. It is not just Jonathan’s foes that have portrayed him as “weak”. He himself has made it clear that he was no “Pharaoh” or “general”.
This perception of him as leader who cannot hurt a fly emboldened disgruntled power brokers from the north to offer support to terrorists and enabled them to grow.
Today, we hear of “dialogue” between the Federal government and terrorists. We also hear some of them “unjustly” handled will be financially compensated!
We hear so many things that under Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, OBJ and Yar’Adua were simply unthinkable. I wonder how GEJ feels when people say these things about him.