People & Politics

September 12, 2013

OBJ: Chicken farmer playing chicken

OBJ: Chicken farmer playing chicken

*Olugegun Obasanjo

By Ochereome Nnanna
In this unfolding crisis of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I have kept my eye on the familiar antics of one man. This man has almost single-handedly shaped the type of democracy we are practising.

But for the gallant of efforts of his opponents and enlightened members of our society, Nigerian democracy would have degenerated to the type we see in countries like Zimbabwe, which is under the oldest president in the world, Bob Mugabe.

The man I speak of is no other than Olusegun Obasanjo, retired general of the Nigerian Army, two-time ruler of Nigeria, first as a military ruler for 31 months, and second as an elected president for another 96 months (and thus the longest Nigerian ruler, having dusted the nine-year national record which General Yakubu Gowon tenaciously held for 30 years).

Olugegun Obasanjo

Olugegun Obasanjo

Yet, Obasanjo is not satisfied. At “over 80” (as his son, Gbenga, once disclosed) Obasanjo is not tired of anything. He does not want to retire from anything. He does not want to withdraw from anything to allow today’s people have a go. He and his cohorts, such as Tony Anenih, Ahmadu Ali, Bamanga Tukur and other fossils of our political system, are stubbornly bent on hijacking the opportunities that rightly belong to the today’s people. People, who were called “leaders of tomorrow” 30, 40 years ago, are still in the queue, waiting for Obasanjo and his cohort of gerontocratic “sit-tighters” to shove along, but in vain.

Obasanjo as elected president, wanted to remove the two-term limit in our Constitution to enable him do a Mugabe. We said no.

Then, he delved into his political party, the ruling PDP, with a fallback option of installing himself as the Life Leader. If we would not allow him to rule us from Aso Villa, he might as well do it from his palatial mansion in Owu Abeokuta. Part of his elaborate scheme to achieve this ambition was to sponsor and plant his men, women and other loyalists in the ruling party, the states and the federal legislature.

In the South West wing of the party, he planted people from wards to the zonal levels. Obasanjo, who prides himself as an Africanist, once abused the Great Zik of Africa for taking the title of Owelle of Onitsha. He had rudely grunted: “Mhm! From Zik of Africa to Owelle of Onitsha!” Years later, a man whom the late Sonny Okosun once eulogised as “African soldier” went and took the title of Balogun of Owu. One of his self-confessed godsons, Alhaji Kashamu Burruj, a stalwart of the PDP in Ogun State, recently lamented that Obasanjo has fallen from convening national meetings of the party to being a regular facilitator of ward meetings! Zik can relax in his grave.

Obasanjo’s new game is called: “The game of the chicken”. When he retired as Nigeria’s military ruler, he grabbed a massive piece of land in Ota, Ogun State and went into poultry farming. He was immediately acclaimed as a chicken farmer. It is said that when man spends a lot of time with animals, he unconsciously begins to develop some character traits common to them. My people have a saying: Nke okuko na-erigh, ya abosaa. What the chicken cannot eat, it scatters.

That is what I see Obasanjo doing with the current crisis in his party (I thought he said his reason for resigning his post of Board of Trustees Chairman was to enable him face his “numerous” international engagements?) Well, those of us who were hoodwinked now know better. Obasanjo was threatened with being disgracefully shunted out of the BOT seat which he importuned himself into before leaving the seat of President of Nigeria. Apart from the Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan regimes refusing to let Obasanjo rule from Owu, they also shut his lackeys from their cabinets. Some say that is why Obasanjo’s boys and girls, such as Nasir el Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili and Femi Fani-Kayode, have turned themselves into anti-Jonathan fireflies.

In the states, some of Obasanjo’s implants as governors were sent packing by the Judiciary. The most flagrant of such cases was Andy Uba, who was booted out after only 16 days as Governor of Anambra State. There was also Celestine Omehia, who was handpicked at a rally in Port Harcourt after Obasanjo said he discovered that the primaries which Chibuike Amaechi had won “developed K-Leg”.

However, because of the extensive nature of Obasanjo’s “investments”, many of his implants have survived. These include Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa and Babangida Aliyu of Niger states. Is it not interesting how these governors have formed the core of the “New PDP”, which is bent on ensuring that (a) President Jonathan does not get re-elected in 2015 and (b) power returns to the North.

Obasanjo has been manipulating these men, encouraging them to challenge Jonathan for the PDP ticket and murmuring that the PDP under Jonathan can no longer win elections. He was in Jigawa on May 27, 2013 while his fellow former rulers of Nigeria graced the elaborate Democracy Day events staged in Aso Villa. At the Dutse event he prodded Lamido, a high performing governor, telling him that Nigerians were now looking for a leader like him.

With Lamido and other Obasanjo boys active in the “New PDP”, a dilemma waits to be addressed. Obasanjo’s most formidable opponent, Atiku Abubakar, is seen as the leader of the “New PDP”. Atiku, just like Lamido, Babangida and Kwankwaso, wants to be president in 2015. Obasanjo and Lamido will definitely not be led by Atiku. The party may be over before it even started.

Obasanjo is merely fishing in PDP’s troubled waters. As soon as he is able to use the elders’ peace effort to negotiate a plum deal for himself he will reconcile with President Jonathan. Where will that leave Lamido and company? They should not follow Obasanjo with their eyes blindfolded.