By Dele Sobowale
“Cowards die many times before their deaths, the brave taste death but once…”.
I had wanted to lead off this article with another quote written by the greatest columnist before Nigeria was created – the inimitable Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, a philosopher, columnist, author of poetry and prose and a lexicographer. Don’t go looking for a dictionary for the meaning of lexicographer. It means the author of a dictionary. Johnson published the first English Dictionary. But, he also left the world with two statements which have a bearing on today’s subject. The first was the one I cannot recollect precisely. I think it said: “It is easier to be generous when there is nothing to give; to be brave when danger is far.”
The second will come later.
One old Baba, ex-soldier, has been raising the alarm that somebody is plotting to kill him. That is most surprising. On at least three different occasions in the past, this same old man had announced that he was willing to die for Nigeria. Nobody took notice. Apparently, recently, at least according to the old man himself, some people want to help him out and send him to kingdom come. Forget, for now, if the allegation is true or not. I would have thought that Baba would have been happy to get his wish to die for Nigeria; that he would gladly welcome the assassins; perhaps even entertain them. But, No! He has been raising hell all over the place waking us all up because somebody wants to finish him. Why? He had always wanted to die for Nigeria. Read below what happened in 2006 and just laugh at the man. He is a jester.
OBASANJO, PLEASE DON’T DIE; JUST GO HOME.
“I am ready to die for Nigeria”—President Olusegun Obasanjo, February 28, 2006 at Abuja.
President Obasanjo has once again repeated his desire to die for the country. This would not be the first time and it might probably not be the last but I personally hope it is the last we shall hear of this. Some will read into this statement the same patriotic zeal that prompted Ouintus Horatio Flaccus, known to history as Horace ( 65 – 8 B.C ) to write those immortal words Dulce et decorum pro patria mori ( Latin) which translates in English language into : “it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”. Earlier in the last century, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) the great British poet has called it “the great lie” and Ernest Hemmingway ( 1898 – 1961 ) the American Nobel Prize winner for literature has added: “ In the good old days it used to be said that it is good and honourable to die for one’s country, but today you die for nothing; just like a fowl”. One only hopes not a fowl with bird flu. What makes the Obasanjo declaration so tragi-comical rests on two facts available to all Nigerians. First the man is a retired General of the Nigerian army and he should know that the duty of a soldier is to kill for his country, not to die for it. In so far as a General dies he is a failure because in military arithmetic, a general is worth more than ten thousand infantrymen. So the death he welcomes with such melodrama amounts to welcoming death for ten thousand of the finest men and women this country can provide. That is the tragedy.
The comedy derives from the President’s biography, the outlines of which are in the public domain. At least on two occasions in the past when death pursued him, in 1966 and again in 1976, he had not waited for it. He ran for dear life, undoubtedly forgetting that the same Horace has added the observation that: “and death pursues even the man who flees”. History will record that on the two occasions that Obasanjo fled from imminent death the country had not suffered as a result of that decision. Even now, I can bet my last Naira (I don’t have much of it though) that, despite the outward demonstration of courage, he would scamper for safety if an explosion occurs within 100 meters of his position.”
Just a few months ago, Obasanjo was at it again. He was boasting of his readiness to die for Nigeria. Buhari has not even threatened his life the way he was on the two previous occasions and he is already crying for help. Let me briefly recount the 1966 and 1976 encounters with death by Obasanjo for posterity since journalism is the first rough draft of history. Readers will dismiss henceforth bragging by OBJ about death.
In 1966, as soon as Northern soldiers took power in the counter coup, Abacha organized a group of Northern soldiers who went about searching for and killing Igbo and Mid-West soldiers. They left Yoruba soldiers untouched except one – Olusegun Obasanjo – who was widely known to be a close friend of Chukwumah Nzeogwu, the first coup leader. Sensing death close on his heels, OBJ ran to the house of late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, the Private Secretary to the Sardauna of Sokoto and the second most powerful man in Northern Nigeria at the time. He was allowed in just before the soldiers in pursuit arrived based on a tip-off. Chief Awoniyi boldly faced the soldiers and told then Obasanjo was not in his house. The soldiers, not yet in full control of power, did not want to confront a powerful man in his house. They retreated to receive instructions from above. By the time they returned Awoniyi assisted Obasanjo to escape in disguise to safety in the South. History will recall that Obasanjo repaid Awoniyi with ingratitude.
Nine years after, the same man was the Chief of General Staff, CoGS – the second in command to Head of State Murtala Mohammed. On Black Friday, 13th of February 1976, Murtala was assassinated on his way to work by Colonel Dimka’s men. Obasanjo’s convoy was a short distance away, and sensing danger ahead, quickly diverted to a side street. From there, they entered a private house. There the fleeing General changed to civilian dress and headed for the mansion of late Chief S.B. Bakare – the wealthy Ijesha man – where he was literally hidden under a bed until the really courageous soldiers led by General Danjuma went in search of their future Commander In Chief, C-I-C.
History will also record that late Chief Bakare was repaid with ingratitude by Obasanjo.
“A man in a suit of armour does not need to be brave” said Gustave Flaubert, 1812-1880, when others are not well-armed or protected.
As I wrote in 2006 when he was boasting of being ready to die for Nigeria, the records available would suggest that he would flee if death actually drew near. I am therefore not surprised that he is now crying for help when there appears (rightly or wrongly) no threat to his life. In 2006, as the President of Nigeria, he had all the security forces at his command. He was the threat to other peoples’ lives – especially those who opposed his third term ambition. So, he could boast in 2006 about his willingness to die for Nigeria. Danger was far away.
Now that he is as defenceless as the rest of us, he would perhaps understand how several of us “bloody civilians” felt when we confronted Abacha during his murderous rule now being glorified by Buhari.
Horace, 65-8 BC: “…death pursues even the man who flees nor spares the hamstrings of the cowardly..”
Most people quoting Horace and his praise of those who die for the fatherland stop before those final lines about the “man who flees”. Obasanjo had fled twice. He will probably run again if the need arises. There is nothing wrong with that. Self-preservation is the first law in nature. He should however stop deceiving us by laying claim to courage he does not possess. At least, he should stop crying now. Buhari will never contemplate killing Obasanjo. The President is too humane for that. The number of mysterious deaths of political opponents during his tenure remains a record which we can only pray will not re-occur under any other freely elected President. As the Yoruba say in a proverb ”apani ki je ki won mu ida koja nipako ti e” meaning “a professional assassin would not allow anyone to play with a sword behind his back.”
HOW NOW VP?
“God offers to every mind its choice of truth and repose. Take what you please. You can’t have both”. Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1803-1882.
A few weeks ago, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, had urged Nigerians to vote for the All Progressives Congress, APC, because, according to him “we are not thieves”. I had admonished the VP about giving blanket endorsement to his co-party members. And as a Pastor, he had been reminded about the commandment about bearing false witness. A party which has as a member, who is being prosecuted for N4bn removed to partly fund Ekiti elections in 2014 cannot claim that “we are not thieves”.
Today, Osinbajo, SAN, has more rotten eggs on his face – thanks to three prominent APC members who were jailed recently. The Accountant General of Kebbi State, Mohammed Dakingari bagged 70 years. Former Governors Jolly Nyame and Festus Dariye, of Taraba and Plateau states respectively were sent away for 14 years each.
If only the VP had read PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED, pages 258 to 264, he would have been ashamed to be in the same political party with Reverend Nyame – a so-called “Man of God”.
Will the VP issue an apology? I doubt it. Politicians are almost all liars.
“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.”
Lewis M Howe, 1871-1936. Who will believe Osinbajo after this?