By Rotimi Fasan
IT’S been a week since former President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to withdraw his support for Muhammadu Buhari and his lackluster administration. In a bombshell of a letter whose effect has continued to reverberate across the country, the former president gave Buhari a red card that has rocked the foundation of the administration even when the administration has decided to put a bright face on things. The letter came entirely out of the blue even when one cannot deny it couldn’t have come at a better time. Yes, many Nigerians have criticised Obasanjo but most have applauded him. The criticism of Obasanjo has been directed more at the messenger than the message. Obasanjo is seen by many of his critics as a bearer of bad not false message. Not even his worst critics or the most ardent supporter of Buhari, which not a few of us have been at one time or another since his emergence as president, can deny the truth of Obasanjo’s message.
But not many of us would deny too the merit of many of the criticisms that have been hurled in the direction of Obasanjo. He has been criticised for wanting to be at the centre of issues which would not seem to be the case at this time even when one cannot say there couldn’t have been a trace of this in his criticism. But essentially that does not seem to have been the case. But if it turns out that Obasanjo’s criticism was vengefully aimed at Buhari it would be disingenuous for anyone to say that it was wrongfully aimed. Far from any kind of ulterior motive that might be imputed to Obasanjo’s letter, the truth is that Buhari has done more than enough to deserve such a letter. It should also be said that there could not have been a better messenger in this instance than Obasanjo. He played a key role in the installation of this administration and helped to sell it to many Nigerians.
It is a liar that would, however, claim that Goodluck Jonathan was a better candidate than Buhari at the time he was ousted from power in 2015. Jonathan had then outlived his usefulness as a leader. His government had been thoroughly outclassed by Nigeria’s problems that it had amplified much like Buhari is presently doing. There was no question that Nigeria needed a change at the time Buhari emerged and only a thoroughly biased and emotionally blinded supporter of Jonathan, as most of his supporters tended to be, could have wanted Nigeria to continue under his saddle. Jonathan’s was a wastrel administration that was deservedly terminated. But the Buhari government is proving to be an equally wastrel regime that many banked on in error. Perhaps not even Buhari himself could have imagined what his administration has turned out to be.
The symptoms that have since blown into diseases of unimaginable proportions with the Buhari government were apparent right from the moment he made his first appointments. But it would have taken a jaundiced critic not to have cut him a slack. There was every reason to expect that things would change. Which was more than many of Jonathan’s supporters in their high-strung, emotional paranoia, were ready to concede. They just wanted to criticise for the sheer hell of criticising a man they perceived as having taken the bread from their man. But Buhari has proven to be an incorrigible man that is too set in his ways. Maybe something gave way after he was sworn in. Which would explain why even his own wife was confused enough to have voiced her outrage at the increasing failure of the government. If only Buhari has been a listening leader and not the male chauvinist that he is, one that could only listen to the voice of his male relations, perhaps he would have been spared the harmattan blast of the letter from Obasanjo.
Buhari self-sabotaged and provided Nigerians, not just Obasanjo, the ammunition to come after his government. And there couldn’t have been a better messenger than Obasanjo whatever else might be his personal shortcomings. He has been a consistent supporter of Buhari and his government. He even tried to make excuses for the administration at various times. Unlike in the past, he was not quick to criticise Buhari in spite of the fact that Buhari was not at any point of the Obasanjo presidency an enthusiastic supporter of that administration. For many years he did not attend the Council of State meeting on grounds of his opposition to Obasanjo. Yet Obasanjo did not seem to have considered this in the manner he rallied round Buhari. A known supporter of Jonathan could not have been an effective messenger against Buhari. Such would have no sooner delivered their criticism than it would have been consigned into a waste bin as a sour grape attack. But Obasanjo has no such baggage.
Whether his critics like it or not it cannot be denied that in addition to his known support of Buhari, another reason, perhaps the best thing that qualifies Obasanjo for his role as a critic of the Buhari government at this time is, perhaps, that no one else has the political clout both nationally and internationally to make the criticism. Obasanjo is not only a known supporter of Buhari but also a former leader with international standing. That he is the best messenger can be seen in the tepid response of the administration, the ruling party and the core base of Buhari supporters. None of them could summon any convincing argument to counter Obasanjo’s criticism nor did they appear willing to. The message was both timely and on point. Yet there was not a word of Obasanjo’s criticism that Nigerians have not shouted from rooftops. Not once did the Buhari government showed an inclination to respond not to say change. The difference therefore is in the messenger.
And Nigerians should in a way be thankful that we still have such voices as Obasanjo’s despite his very obvious shortcomings. What we should now ensure is to take those aspects of his proffered solutions that could be in our interest and see to it that he does not use his influential voice that could stir a deaf-mute giant alive to impose anyone on us that we do not want. Neither he nor the political class has that right and neither of them should steal Nigerians’ voice again. In the months left for Buhari, let us continue to gesture our rejection of his deaf-mute administration to his base and handlers that are going on as if their non-response to Obasanjo’s letter, their admittance of failure ‘in good faith’, is sufficient reason for them to expect to continue in office beyond 2019.