By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
When Obasanjo gets going, he leaves no stone unturned. He has taken on Buhari and has not spared the president’s supporters.
President Jonathan now refers to him as the boss of bosses. Perhaps Jonathan learnt that a little late. Perhaps Obasanjo has got away too many times with an exaggerated sense of self importance.
When Obasanjo pulsates with ego he deems it righteous anger. He breaks rules, and mends them. He tramples on principles and trashes them. They are not meant for him. Hypocrisy relieves him of many moral burdens ordinary men suffer.
He likes the limelight. He doesn’t like to be ignored. He wants President Buhari out. President Buhari benefited from his support three years ago. Obasanjo feels righteous indignation against a bumbling ingrate. He perhaps believes he handed Buhari the presidency. Obasanjo always overestimates himself. He once thought we would want him as president for life.
President Buhari has ignored Obasanjo’s letters and his tantrums. Obasanjo is infuriated, inflamed. His tirades against the president have acquired a new acidity. Obasanjo now talks like a despised, wounded oracle. And that is a big problem.
Obasanjo cannot understand why Buhari should retain any support. Isn’t it enough that the messiah has declared the unrighteousness of Buhari? Obasanjo cannot understand why his wish is not command for Buhari supporters. So with an oracular temper, he has diagnosed insanity in those who still believe Buhari should remain president. Obasanjo is Nigeria’s political health inspector. He certifies and decertifies. He can re-certify Abubakar Atiku if he likes.
Obasanjo has right to freedom of speech. And as an African elder he has license to some excesses. African elders often claim clairvoyance. We should indulge him. But no statesman has right to political intolerance. We know he often dishes what he cannot consume. He must learn to respect alternative views.
Democracy is founded on equality. There are no morons, no subhumans.
Obasanjo claims patriotism. He lays claim to democratic credentials. He thinks President Buhari has failed irredeemably. He could be right. But many Nigerians have contrary views. Many have allowed optimism help them retain faith in the president. Many are stuck with Buhari because they haven’t been presented better electable alternatives. Many are frightened of a past of wanton looting of the treasury. But Obasanjo thinks anyone who has contrary views about Buhari’s stewardship is a moron.
That is provocative. Buhari supporters may not be geniuses but they are no fools.
The moral duty of an elder statesman should be defend truth and justice, and promote peace. Obasanjo could be telling some truths. Many are disappointed with Buhari. But there is no truth in Obasanjo’s denial of the reasons why many still support the president. Many see the president as the least corrupt amongst a pack of wolves. The president could be clannish, but many are endeared to him because he has rejected personal gross accumulation of wealth.
Obasanjo has played many peace roles in the country. But when his ego marches before him, he sees himself an infallible oracle. Middle of last year, he went everywhere attesting to Buhari’s above average performance. By the end of that year, he ordered Buhari not to contest the 2019 elections, for woeful performance. Like all gods, Obasanjo is contemptuous of any scrutiny of his actions.
Obasanjo has led the country longer than anyone else yet he carries on like an unrecognized or jilted messiah. He could be the best leader we have ever had. But we are where we are because we have not had any long period of good leadership. At no time during Obasanjo’s rule the country focus on grooming leaders and enthroning principled politics.
Obasanjo must know that Buhari’s supporters have seen enough of presidents who personally champion corruption. They are not morons.
When Obasanjo refers to Buhari supporters as morons, he manifests and validates political intolerance. We can criticize leaders without inciting the public against them. We can sell ideas to the electorate without dehumanizing them.
When a father of the nation like Obasanjo submits to political desperation what would become of the grassroots where sentiments flourish more than reasons. If Buhari’s supporters are morons, and politics in Nigeria is played partly along ethnic lines, how is Obasanjo not sowing national discord?
Obasanjo knows that people support leaders for many reasons. Some could have voted for Obasanjo in 1999 because he was a Yoruba man. Many others voted for him because he said he was a born again Christian. Others may have voted for and supported him because he had a multitude of children. Obasanjo wouldn’t have called any of these groups morons. They may have voted him for mawkishly sentimental reasons but they are no fools.
Obasanjo, we all know, has messianic aspirations. But those who aren’t interested in his salvation should be left to rot in their chosen hell. His right to freedom of speech and his position in the society do not relieve him of the burden to respect the humanity and opinions of others.
A national leader like Obasanjo cannot take to speeches that poison the political space to service desperation.
Obasanjo and those who want Buhari out must make their case without hinderance. Dismantling Buhari at the polls could prove difficult. But they must tame their rhetorics. They must not let frustration get hold of them.
We are not in the thick of things yet but flames are already being lit. In 2015, the then Vice President, Namadi Sambo, told a Jigawa campaign crowd that Buhari chose a pastor with 5000 churches as running mate for a reason. He was sure Buhari wanted to undermine Islam. We got away with many incendiary speeches then. But 2019 looks much more precarious.
The country is already engulfed in violence. The country has been fed more political bitterness and acrimony than it can chew. The electorate doesn’t need any further irritation. The bile and blood that have already been spilled will make the 2019 electioneering campaigns a little more inflammable. Our leaders must show a good understanding of the times.
Obasanjo and the opposition should show their desperation in facts and figures, in reasoned respectful arguments, in evidences of bad leadership by Buhari. Obasanjo fails woefully when he demeans Buhari’s supporters. Those who want Buhari out must reach his supporters with love and reasons. Obasanjo has sworn to see Buhari defeated. Obasanjo may have good intentions.
Obasanjo and company must strive to get Buhari defeated at the polls. But this cannot be done by inciting the public against Buhari or against his supporters. If flames are sown, fires may be reaped.