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Obasanjo’s secret survival streak

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By Emmanuel Aziken

There have been numerous known attempts to physically kill Olusegun Obasanjo. There have also been innumerable attempts by haters to politically annihilate the man who is widely acknowledged as the luckiest Nigerian ever. Penultimate Saturday his legacy was further entrenched when a commentator at his birthday described him as the best president Nigeria has ever had.

Obasanjo escaped the fallouts of the January 1966 military putsch organised by his buddy, Chukwuma Nzeogwu and further survived by the whiskers, the pogrom that broke out in the North following the July 1966 counter-coup.

Obasanjo went on to lead a successful military campaign during the civil war. The narrative of his trials and triumphs during the war years is well chronicled in his book, My Command.

The story of how Obasanjo escaped death in February 1976 when Bukar Dimka and his fellow bandits struck also consolidates the claim of his latch on luck at critical times.

Such luck and God’s grace were also with him 20 years later when Gen. Sanni Abacha and his coterie of conspirators weaved the wildest scheme against Obasanjo and his former deputy, Shehu Musa Yar‘adua. Obasanjo survived Abacha so that when Nigeria came to the crossroads after Abacha, the principalities that run Nigeria from their hill tops beckoned on Obasanjo to take over leadership.

Returning to power in 1999, Obasanjo became the object of a different kind of assassination; to wit, the plots of political assassination.

Several attempts were launched by interested political actors against him with one of the most rehearsed being the famed Mandela Option. That was the plot allegedly schemed by sympathisers of Atiku Abubakar to lure Obasanjo to retire after his first term just as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

That plot failed with disastrous consequences for its schemers including some aides of Atiku who were sent out of the villa; and for some governors who had to go through the eye of a needle before getting the second term ticket of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP.

If the plot by foes to politically asphyxiate President Obasanjo through a single term failed, then why not destroy him by giving him a third term? That perhaps proved to be the most lethal political bomb that got to Obasanjo, soiling his moral and political ascendancy over many of his political foes.

Remarkably, President Obasanjo continues to brush that incident aside, with the claim that he never asked anyone for a third term. That indeed is almost a fact.

As one senator who collected the N50 million cash for third term vote and was an ally of the president told your correspondent, Obasanjo never discussed it with them.

However, the body language spoke differently. Indeed, what befell those who betrayed or failed to deliver the third term project was indicative of the language. Among the victims were Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Chief Tony Anenih and by extension his godson, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume who lost a lifelong ambition to govern Imo State.

It is remarkable these days that many of those who opposed Third-Term, including some Northern leaders have come to regret their action. One of such Northern anti-third strategists confided recently that giving Obasanjo a third term may have been better given the trail of ill-luck that has followed his successors in office. They equally appreciate that none has ruled Nigeria with the kind of zeal and fibre shown by the man from Owu.

Obasanjo’s successes and the seeds he planted, including the debt opt-out, the power sector revolution, the sale of the refineries, the kick-starting of the rail modernisation projects among others were subsequently botched by political and ethnic marauders that shadowed the Umaru Yar‘adua presidential villa.

The jury is still out on whether Nigeria could have been exporting refined petroleum today if the Yar‘adua government had not cancelled the sale of the Port Harcourt Refinery to Aliko Dangote. Or whether the power situation would have been better if the political witch-hunt by the House of Representatives against the power project had not been launched?

Last Saturday as Obasanjo opened his presidential library it was an opportunity to celebrate the serial survivor. ‘Everyone’ was there including politicians like Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso who would ordinarily not attend the same function. Even a long time Obasanjo foe like Otunba Gbenga Daniel was there serving as an usher for VIPs.

Of course, it was understandable that some like Buruji Kashamu would abstain given the alleged presence of United States agents guarding American citizens at the occasion! Certainly, Obasanjo cannot have it all.

After this correspondent slipped through the tight security cordon, his jaw almost collapsed as he saw someone that looked like Iyabo Obasanjo! As he took a second look and assured himself that the lady in view was certainly not Iyabo, your correspondent beat a retreat; no one should remind President Obasanjo, the best president Nigeria ever had that he has certainly not been the best of fathers!

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