Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Obasanjo once knew too much about Atiku Abubakar. Whatever it was he knew was so abominable he feared the wrath of the gods if he dared support Atiku’s quest to be president of Nigeria. Atiku had dismissed egotistical Obasanjo and his accusations. He said Obasanjo’s vendetta was the price he had to pay for stopping Obasanjo from becoming another Paul Biya.
And you would be forgiven if you thought Atiku had no need then for Obasanjo’s forgiveness. Pa Adebanjo thought so too, four months ago. It’s unlikely Pa Adebanjo believed that Atiku was exactly incorruptible.
He was however certain Obasanjo’s apparent righteousness defied evidence. In his book published a few months ago he described Obasanjo as a living pharisee who had no moral right to deem anyone corrupt let alone pretend to possess cleansing power.
But a few days ago, Pa Adebanjo, in broad daylight took Pa Atiku to Ota so that he could be cleansed of his sins. Atiku maintains he never suffered from the political leprosy Obasanjo had diagnosed in him. But he turned up for cleansing anyway.
In the sermon preached at that River Jordan in Ota that day, Obasanjo reconfirmed Atiku’s sinful state. He advised the newly cleansed man to brace up for the consequences of known skeletons sticking out of his cupboards. And to prepare to cope with the ghosts of yet to be exhumed iniquities.
If Bishop Kukah hadn’t let the cat out of the bag we would have believed the Ota ceremony was a thoughtfully planned event. But the Bishop merely ran into Obasanjo the day before in a church. He reminded Obasanjo casually of the spiritual need to let his captives go. Atiku was his longstanding prisoner and apparently they had discussed that inmate in the past. Obasanjo promised to consider his entreaty. Obasanjo must have responded with a contorted face and sufficient nonchalance. The Bishop must have prayed. And left with cautious hope.
A few hours later Obasanjo called the Bishop. He declared Atiku free again. He chose a date when a cleansing ceremony will take place in Ota. The Bishop certainly sees visions but most probably he saw good fortune rather than desperation in Obasanjo’s speed. The Bishop accepted the date with gratitude. Obasanjo was desperate for the ceremony. He had promised the nation too much and embarrassment was starring him in the face.
The Bishop must have thanked God for answering by fire. He didn’t know God was actually preparing to change the answering speed from fire to thunder. Only a few hours passed before the General called again. This time he didn’t hold back. He wanted the cleansing ceremony to hold immediately—the very next day. The bishop must have been astounded. Things had moved blindly quickly. The bishop scrambled to reach Atiku. He believed it would be a solemn spiritual affair. Atiku must have kicked the air in ecstasy. Atiku suspended everything and headed to Ota .
What the Bishop met the next day in Ota told the rest of the story.
Obasanjo had assembled PDP bigwigs. He assembled Afenifere chieftains. He brought in one influential pastor. The spiritual reconciliation of two elderly men became a political jamboree where Atiku would be endorsed by Obasanjo, Afenifere and almost everyone else present. Obasanjo had taken new political captive in Buhari. So he was ready to let go one real or imagined Barabbas.
But why was Obasanjo in such a haste?
Obasanjo had in January written Buhari and advised him to resign. In that letter he described the two main parties as wobbly useless parties. He said Nigeria was doomed except a third force intervened. He promised to lead a brigade of Angels and patriots to rescue the country from calamitous drift. Many people believed him. And waited to see a Nigerian Redemption Force. But they only saw Olagunsoye Oyinlola and a few others run helter skelter, and then hold meaningless meetings. A few others jumped out with righteous indignation and poured opprobrium on the two main parties before forming new parties. They hoped that in due season these parties would coalesce and ‘operation rescue’ would begin with international support.
Oby Ezekwesili championed the Red Card brigade. She must have believed Obasanjo too. Others similarly propelled by a renewed idealism formed the Nigeria Intervention Movement. The nation yearned for a new beginning. Wole Soyinka who has known Obasanjo since Lord Lugard smirked. He said Obasanjo wasn’t capable of a moral enterprise. Perhaps he foretold what was to come.
Many months after Obasanjo promised a rescue coalition, nothing that could save a big village happened. Obasanjo went into a literal hibernation. When he came to the surface occasionally he didn’t mention the coming of any force. Five months to the national elections, the hopes he had raised were falling apart. The two main parties remained the only functional political vehicles capable of taking anyone to Aso rock.
Obasanjo keep a straight face. But he must have been apprehensive. So when Bishop Hassan Kukah met him in that church and brought up that reconciliation matter, he opened a window for Obasanjo.
Obasanjo, within 24 hours of the receipt of that opportunity, presented Atiku to Nigerians as the man that would lead the rescue he planed with angels in January. The same Atiku whom he had discarded as irredeemably politically deformed. That day he rechristened him an economist, an expert in job creation.
We need not to ask Obasanjo where his coalition is. He has adopted the kabukabu which a few months ago he had deemed overdue for the junk yard. The PDP has become the third force which Obasanjo promised.
Bishop Kukah wants Obasanjo to go to heaven. He may have one more reconciliation to achieve. He may have to beg the country to forgive Obasanjo for promising a brand new vehicle and delivering a ‘kabukabu.’