BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
The virtue of the disciplined tongue and the biblical injunction of guarding it against misuse is one that I have consistently sought to attain. The tongue has stirred wars of monstrous proportions between nations. It has raised unending enmity between men.
But I wonder if former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then deputy, Atiku Abubakar, have any scruple on the impact of their verbal exchanges on their places in history.
In an exclusive interview with a national newspaper published last Monday, Obasanjo was quoted as describing Atiku as incompetent, unreliable and untruthful.
Atiku was quick in responding as he accused Obasanjo of lying about his aspiration and role in scheming for the amendment of the constitution to allow him, Obasanjo, serve a third term in office.
The words of both men were not just uncouth, but also remarkably harmful to their efforts in securing a worthy place in Nigeria’s political history.
In the said interview, Obasanjo continued with his denial of his generally assumed aspiration for a third term in office. It is a remark that many who were in Nigeria in the period between 2005 and 2006 would find difficult to believe. As a correspondent in the National Assembly in that period, I was very much aware of the high wired politicking and the coalition of forces that fought for and against the third term agenda in the constitution amendment.
I am also aware that a number of political giants at that time were demystified simply because of the role they played in the actualization or in the frustration of the third term proposal.
Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Chief Tony Anenih and Senator Ibrahim Mantu were some casualties, who in one way or the other supposedly paid the political price for the failure of third term.
Their sins were that while they were supposed to be seen as marketers of the ambitious project , the “king” at that time believed that they either bungled the project or sabotaged it in one way or the other.
For that reason, Ararume even when the court ruled that he was the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s gubernatorial candidate for the Imo elections in 2007, Obasanjo and the PDP hierarchy denied him and preferred to dash the state to Ikedi Ohakim of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, presumably because he bungled third term.
Chief Anenih despite his yeoman efforts for the President in bruising many of the President’s foes was in the last minute of the Obasanjo administration seemingly humiliated out of his office as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party.
Senator Mantu who was universally seen as the face of third term in the Senate unbelievably lost his re-election to a political rookie for the presumed sin of short-selling third term.
It is unbelievable to say that any of the trio would have suffered the political injuries they received without the help of the system.
If President Obasanjo was not in favour of third term it behooves one to then ask, who in the system was in support of third term that brought the vengeance on the above trio?
While many would urge Obasanjo to keep his reputation as a statesman that he is by not reopening old wounds, Atiku’s unrestrained reaction calls for caution.
Atiku has galloped from one end to the other in his description of his political rivals. Even after the third term imbroglio as he sought political rehabilitation in the PDP, Atiku was lured to Abeokuta where he sought reconciliation.
Seeing the seeming improbability of Obasanjo supporting his presidential aspiration, he subsequently moved away attacking Obasanjo again. He has sustained that attack with the vexatious bitterness of a man denied of his life aspiration.
Prior to the 2011 elections Atiku also had good words for President Jonathan. But as the President mounted his presidential campaign the good words disappeared climaxing with his surprising speech at the PDP convention last January.
Now, as he prepares for another presidential contest in 2015, Atiku again has good words for Jonathan even in his recent statements praying for him to rule well, that is up till 2015!