By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
For the second time in as many generations, Olusegun Obasanjo has had to disavow Muhammadu Buhari. The first time was under military rule in 1984 when General Obasanjo asked Buhari to stop references to his military junta as being an offshoot of the Murtala-Obasanjo military regime. It was a stinking rebuke by Obasanjo who sought to delink his benevolent military regime from the ruthlessness of the Muhammadu Buhari-Tunde Idiagbon military regime.
The second disavowal yesterday, came after 33 years. It came after Obasanjo disowned his political godson, President Goodluck Jonathan to support Buhari’s comeback bid, albeit as a civilian president in 2015.
After he was catapulted to power in 1976 and handed over power to a democratically elected civilian leader three years later to universal approval, Obasanjo has continued to see himself as a moral conscience of the nation.
His successors as military heads of state and subsequently, his successors as presidents in the Fourth Republic who he perceived to have deviated from the path of probity have been made to suffer from his caustic missives.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari who directly succeeded Obasanjo in his first outing on October 1, 1979, had to suffer missives from Obasanjo’s retirement base in Ota when the later felt that the new president was allowing the ship of state to drift.
Obasanjo last year recalled his beef with that administration to be mainly due to policy inconsistency.
Speaking when he received a business delegation in the Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta last year, he said:
“One of our problems in this country is inconsistency in policy. In 1979, we were getting to a place where we would be self-sufficient in rice production, but then a new administration came and set up a presidential committee on rice importation instead of a presidential committee on exportation of rice.
“In no time, when the imported rice started a arriving, those farmers who were cultivating rice gave up.
His beefs with the Buhari military regime were mainly in the areas of human rights and ethnic bias.
Months after he publicly asked the Buhari military regime to stop addressing itself as an offshoot of the Murtala/Obasanjo regime ostensibly on account of its poor human rights credentials, Obasanjo at a lecture delivered to the Agriculture Society in Ibadan, in August, 1985 flayed the regime for installing what he described as a “tilted federalism” on the country.
Obasanjo, Buhari subsequently confessed sent him an advance copy of the lecture. Days later, Buhari was overthrown from office.
The Ibrahim Babangida military regime was also not spared and was the object of repeated rebuke by Obasanjo after an initial charm.
He was particularly critical of the administration’s economic policies saying famously at the peak of the public revolt against the Structural Adjustment Policy, SAP programme that “SAP must have a human face.”
Obasanjo also expressed opposition to the intrigues that characterised Babangida’s transition programme. In May 1993 Obasanjo assembled a conference of retired military generals, leading civil society personalities and some of the leading lights on the academia to deliberate on Nigeria. Obasanjo had ahead of the summit informed Babangida of the gathering scheduled for Gateway Hotel, Ota.
Those invited came and were turned away by soldiers sent by Babaginda. However, unknown to him, Obasanjo had envisaged it and had adequately conveyed to participants to gather at his farm where the conference took place.
After Sani Abacha came to power, Obasanjo was quick to hit at him within one year. Obasanjo was even harder on Babangida for allowing the seed that gave birth to the Abacha regime.
In a lecture he delivered at Arewa House, Kaduna, in 1994, he said:
“General Babangida is the main architect of the state in which the nation finds itself today, and General Sani Abacha was his eminent disciple, faithful supporter, and beneficiary.”
Abacha sought to put Obasanjo off the radar forever, but the later survived the contraptions to birth the Fourth Republic in May 1999, a year after Abacha died in office.
President Umar Yar`adua who Obasanjo installed in office as successor in 2007 was not spared by his political benefactor as the ship of state was tossed in a conspiracy that threw up the phrase, ‘the cabal’ into Nigeria’s political lexicon.
As the crisis thrown up by the absence of the president smouldered, Obasanjo at a dialogue organised by Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust in January, 2010 asked Yar`adua to toe the “path of honour and morality” and resign if his health could not carry him any more in office.
However, his most celebrated falling out was with his most successful political project, President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013.
Obasanjo wrote several letters to Jonathan, but only two came to public knowledge after the two men had a public falling apart in 2013.
Obasanjo in those letters sought to portray Jonathan of pushing the country to the precipice by promoting deceit, corruption, and distrust in government.
Obasanjo went to the extent of publicly tearing his membership card of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as a way of showing his revolt for a second term for Dr. Jonathan. He also publicly welcomed leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the opposition that was framed against Jonathan in his Abeokuta Hill Top Mansion.
President Obasanjo’s assertions of condoning corruption, clannishness and crass incompetence on the part of President Buhari may serve to underline the consistency with which the former leader has attached to his vow to a united and progressive Nigeria. How Buhari responds either to the issues or to the letter is what many would be waiting for in a political chess game that no one can predict.