By Muhammed Adamu
THE preamble to this week’s Column is from a previous piece titled ‘In Defense of Obasanjo’. The main body is a re-jigged version of yet another, titled ‘Obj: Tribute to a fighter’. Now that Obasanjo is on the menu -again- it is auspicious, on a lighter note to serve him unexpurgated. Again.
Martin Luther King said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. It is in knowing what a man stands for, that we also know what he never lies down for. Often we know where our leaders stand “in moments of comfort and convenience”. They stand as always for ‘special interests’. But we hardly know where they stand “at times of challenge and controversy”. Whether they are with the oppressed; or with the oppressors. Or whether they are in fact ‘the’ oppressors.
But love him or loath him, you always know where Obasanjo stands. On everything: from the very ‘serious’ to the bizarrely ‘ludicrous’; from the ‘sacred’ even to the ‘profane’. And for this Obasanjo is neither covetous of your applause nor is he timorous of your disapproval. His ‘eccentricity’ is neither consciously acted to enchant his friends nor is it premeditatedly staged to beguile his enemies. It comes natural from being ‘Obasanjo’. He is simply indomitably self-expressive in a manner that titillates his friends even as it taunts his enemies. And as Lord Byron was incapable of writing a dull sentence, Obasanjo is incapable of disaffection.
Obasanjo, without doubt, is the environment-domineering persona, not IBB. He has proved himself a man of such consistent self-evagination that much as you can predict he’ll not disappoint the pleasant expectation of his affectionate fans, so you can trust he’ll not fail the repugnant anticipation of his inveterate haters. And even with a bit of ironic flavor, his conduct that provokes revulsion in some, in others evokes unquestionable admiration. And where detractors see ‘vice’ in him, his admirers only ‘virtue’ see.
And as with Francis Bacon who wrote “Virtue in ambition is violent, in authority settled and calm”, so is virtue to Obasanjo both a shield for self-defense and a veritable sword of necessary offence. There does not seem to be a middle ground between those who love Obasanjo and those who loath him!
In “moments of comfort and convenience”, you are either amused by that I-don’t-care blithe of eminent happy-go-lucky-ness that only Obasanjo evaginates; or you are disgusted by his unyielding penchant for meddling in the affairs of incumbent governments he has helped to install. Yet you are never in doubt also that at “times of challenge and controversy” Obasanjo will stand as always with the ‘people’.
They say that his ‘overt pretence’ for ‘love of country’ is motivated always by a ‘covert passion’ to steal the lime light. Whether this is true or not is immaterial to the user-friendliness of Obasanjo’s occasional messianic bombasts which no doubt serves to moderate the excesses of political office holders. Cynics may search for ulterior motives behind his ‘constructive eccentricity’, but it is sufficient to others that Obasanjo remains consistent, and that his ‘corrective’ voice -like John the Baptist’s- echoes always in the wilderness of the beastly kind of politics that we celebrate.
Often we have yearned for the voices of statesmen to rein in on the unremitting excesses of self-serving political office holders. We long always for courageous voices to speak truth to power; to address the conscience, especially of misbehaving incumbency. More than just the pontifical and Episcopal sanctimonies of spiritual men of God, we need always the temporal voices of eminent commanding men to warn opportunistic politicians they cannot toy with the destinies of those who elected them to office.
Obasanjo, no matter how much you loath him, has acquitted himself as the only surviving statesman in whom the proverbial Soyinka ‘Man’ is not dead. Virtually he alone is not silent in the face of tyranny. He has distinguished himself as a one-man whistleblower who spares neither friend nor foe. Nor is he averse to being whistle-blown about.
The one-man guerrilla army
Obasanjo disgusts many even as he amuses yet many others. But he amazes even more than he amuses. And although with him what you see is what you get, yet there is always more to Obj than what the fickle eye apprehends. Whenever you think that this man can’t get any higher or lower in whatever it is he does to disgust, amuse or amaze you, Obasanjo takes you even to the more bizarre. He is a mirror that offers you a thousand images; all different but each reflective of one whole truth, namely that this man brooks no limit to how much he can surprise.
The Obasanjo genie, like an octopus in the deep, never ceases to unravel itself; it beguiles both the time and the surrounding. When you think that he is just a ‘smoking gun’ or a gun waiting to smoke, watch out, Obasanjo could also be the ‘bullet in the chamber’ raring to go. And when you think he is just a ‘trigger’ waiting impatiently to be pulled, look out, Obasanjo could also be the itchy finger on the ‘trigger’ ready to pull -at all ranges.
As a kid, little Okikiola must’ve been a nightmare to the bullies of Abeokuta. He must have been the punch-bag you bullied today at the expense of your peace thereafter. Because day after day you had to deal with this kid who fought to the dust and was ready to roll with you in the gutters. Obj thus exemplifies the saying that: ‘victory is not necessarily to the strong’. It can be to the cantankerous. Henry Kissinger said that “The conventional army loses if it does not win”, but that “The guerrilla wins if he does not lose”. Obasanjo is a one-man-guerrilla army. He may not always win his battles; but because he never loses them either, makes him winner of all his wars.
If Obasanjo was a boxer, a victory over him can only be won at the foot of his own corpse. He is like the ferocious honey badger, diminutive and seeming like a predators’ delight. But the wise predator does well to heed the warning of its languid tail: ‘don’t mess with me!’ The honey badger gives battle to a piece of reed the way it fazes off offence from a pride of lions. It merits its honey because it withstood a million stings; and it delights in the flesh of its victim-snake because it has survived a dose of the viper’s venom.
Obasanjo does not believe in free meals. He is the hunters’ hunter; a predator ready also to be preyed upon. He moves with the amble of a sumo wrestler; and he prances always as one nudged repeatedly from behind by a force that seems to challenge: ‘bring it on!’ Obj is a man who believes always in the rallying call to battle of Lord Byron: “Arm! Arm! It is… the cannon’s opening roar”.
And he would rather be the first to strike than the one to have to strike back. He’d be the ramming hammer, and not the hapless anvil that takes the hits. He’d rather spit fire than be the one to call for a ceasefire. And although you can bet Obasanjo will never be one to ‘turn the other cheek’, yet in the very unlikely event that he does, it will be with the caveat of William Penn, who said: “First I turn one cheek, then the other cheek. (And) Now that the scriptures have been fulfilled, I intend to beat the hell out of thee”.
Obasanjo fights the ‘bum’ with the same fury he fights the ‘bully’. Because to him all is fair in war and in peace. And like a diligent student of Shakespeare, he believes not only that “It is war’s prize to take all vantages” but that “ten to one is no impeach of valour”. He deploys all munitions to battle, fists, fangs and fury! And to him there is no small or great fight. He thus overrates rather than underestimate his enemies, making him again a diligent student of Shakespeare who said: “in cases of defense it is best to weigh the enemy more mighty than he seems: so the proportions of defense are filled”. Thus Obasanjo can kill with a sledge hammer what he can take out even with a puff!
Many see Obasanjo as a ‘trigger-happy’, vengeance-seeking muckraker; but in truth he is merely a ‘trigger-have-to’, ‘do-me-I-do-you’, ‘my-right-or-I-bite’ kind of person who simply insists on ‘evening up’ every ‘score’.
WITH Obasanjo the ‘hatchet’ of war is never completely buried. In fact between him and Atiku, more than a chunk of that hatchet remains forever un-interred. Such is the depth of their mutual animosity that back in their days in office, a story –factual or faboo- was told, to the effect that Obasanjo, one bright Saturday morning, had just ended a round of squash and was briefly seated to catch some breath, when distantly a man afoot approached the court chaperoned by an entourage of aides. As soon as a curious Obasanjo realized who the man was, his Vice, Atiku, he was said to have quickly turned to his aides and -with suppressed sarcasm- whispered “Thief! Thief! See thief de come!” Though not within hearing distance, Atiku too, on sighting his Principal in that gesture of conspiracy, and knowing Obasanjo well, turned –conspiratorially too-to his aides and whispered “Look! Look! That useless old man is insulting me!”
Obasanjo had used his NGO, The Africa Leadership Forum to give hard time to despotic Abacha. But he knew too well to bite only as much as he could chew. And so the story was told how a Nigerian magazine had persuaded Obasanjo to grant an interview in which he somehow bit more than he could chew. As the reporters were dreaming of a hot cover already, Obasanjo was plotting how to abort the publication. And so as he walked his visitors to the gates of his Otta Farm, a smoking dump provided a quick fix: Obasanjo grabbed the only tape recorder used for the interview and threw it into the smoldering refuse-fire, ranting as he did so: “I no do again! Oloshi, olori buruku! You want to put me in trouble!”
Thus Obasanjo is deft even at self-preservation. Just let him be.
Re: Niger: My poor Orphan state
AS a 1976 alumnus of Ahmadu Bahago College, Minna I feel safe to say I have very strong emotional attachment to Minna. which is reason why I am pained at the extent of despoliation of Minna and, by extention, Niger State as a whole. Many things went wrong for Minna with the return to civilian rule in 1999. It was as if Engineer Abdulkadir Kure (1999-2007) wasn’t prepared when he took over. He was succeeded by a man (Muazu Babangida Aliyu) who came to power thinking the State should improve him instead of being the other way round. HE Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, a key player in the government of Muazu Babangida Aliyu came at a bad time. Baring any major shift in style and improvement in State finances, Abu Lolo may disappoint some of us with strong emotional attachment o Niger State. Abu Lolo cannot afford to fail and, from the little we get from those on ground, HE is working hard to improve the State. Problem is, improvement wont come in one fell swoop. As one commentator on Niger State observed: Gara a fara gani a kasa. This is apt for Niger State as it is for the fatherland.
-‘Niger state is very unique’. It is very special…., with Gen IBB, Gen AA and countless other notable leaders… The people should exert pressure on them to forfeit just 10 percent of their accumulated wealth to develop the State.
-Niger State has no leader yet, the State is so so unlucky when it comes to leadership; but come 2019, we have another chance to make the right choice. I pray Nigerlites don’t make the mistake of 2015 general election. Masalam… sir.
Hmmm…Niger State my ancestral home! The State parades many characters from evil genius to bill board governor…. From bad roads to dilapidated schools…. From untapped resources to neglected farmlands….Sometime ago, I drove from Bida-Badegi-Agaie and wish all the greens are located in Lagos where we have serious entrepreneurs… However, I know one day it shall begin to be well with Niger State…. For the present Governor, it is an accidental discharge, he’s not ready for governance, another product of APC SAK…
-Abdul Ganiyu Tairu