By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
No one has been gifted with the opportunity Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo had in presiding over the affairs of Nigeria for a cumulative 11 years. Does that privilege give him the justification for his repeated incursions and interventions in directing the moral compass of the nation?
Dr. Obasanjo’s categorisation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as incompetent and as a failure came barely two months after he first advised his two time successor to step aside from seeking re-election in 2019.
There should have been a serious chemistry between the two men. Buhari was the first military head of state to succeed Obasanjo after the brief Second Republic. Buhari also became the fourth president of the Fourth Republic after Obasanjo’s historic emergence as the first president of the Fourth Republic.
Both men were also expected to be chummier by the fact of their collaboration in the movement that arose against the third president of the Fourth Republic, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
However, whatever liking they should have had for one another disappeared after Obasanjo’s open advisory to Buhari on January 23, 2018 not to seek a second term because of the challenges of incapacity and poor performance.
That missive was couched in much finesse and respect of the office of the President.
That advisory, however, did not go down well with the presidency despite the public show between Buhari and Obasanjo on the sidelines of an African Union summit few days later.
An indication of that discord was seen in the failure of the presidency to wish Obasanjo well on his birthday. The customary role of the president in wishing statesmen well on their birthdays was skipped in the case of Dr. Obasanjo as the presidency kept quiet on his 81st birthday on March 5, 2018.
The open statement asking Buhari not to seek a second term according to sources came after much cogitation and consultations. Vanguard gathered that revered statesmen, including a very prominent northerner laid siege on Obasanjo to speak out on the claim that Obasanjo was one of the few with the moral fibre to intervene to address the negative direction they felt the country was heading towards.
Suggestions that Obasanjo may have been intimidated by the presidency after his first communication were put to rest last Monday when the former president again opened up on the state of the nation.
Though the presidency did not directly respond, there were insinuations that presidency officials were involved in recruiting some prominent Nigerians to hit back at the former president. A direct link between the presidency and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu could not be established, but many were shocked when Adamu, a one time famous apologist for Obasanjo including the third term plot came out to denounce his former patron.
Receiving a joint delegation of the Nigeria Young Professionals Forum (NYPF) and New Nigeria 2019, at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta last Monday, he summarised the Buhari administration thus:
“The truth is this: when you have an ineffective and incompetent government, we are all victims. And don’t let anybody deceive you. Those of you who are in business, your business could have been better today if we have a competent and effective and performing government.
“As I said, stop giving excuses; we met challenges. If there are no challenges, then we wouldn’t need you to come. You came in because you know there are challenges and then giving us excuse that you have many challenges, that is why you haven’t achieved results. And then you still want to go.
“The first lesson I learnt in my military training is never reinforce failure. What we have now is failure. Never you reinforce failure. Let failure be failure.”
Expectedly, reactions to Obasanjo’s latest utterance are coming in measured tones.
Contacted by Vanguard, the presidency was wary of frontally responding to Obasanjo.
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC was, however, forthcoming when contacted as the party asked Dr. Obasanjo to put things in proper perspectives in his assessment of the polity.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who is abroad in a text message said:
“I think it is important for elder statesmen like former president Obasanjo to always put things in perspective. No doubt there are areas that even President Buhari would wish things had been done better.
“But to dismiss a government as failure after less than three years is grossly unfair. I am sure there are those who would come to a similar conclusion based on the performance of his government in its first term between 1999 and 2003. Those were turbulent times.
“But the benefit of another term enabled President Obasanjo to correct some of its mistakes and consolidate on its achievements. This is why someone of his calibre, with his experience should be more considerate.”
But beyond that, what really does Obasanjo want?
In his first missive Obasanjo had claimed he wanted the best for the country noting among others that the drift towards ethnic and religious sectarianism under the Buhari administration was leading the country to the precipice.
Many critics of the former president like Adamu are, however, quick to lace their reactions with invectives about Obasanjo’s perceived failures some pointing at the promotion of the third term agenda by some agents of his administration.
Some other critics see Obasanjo as being vain as they whisper that he is jealous of any one exceeding his stature in the polity.