Friday Discourse (187)
The Ebb of Obasanjo
The ebb of a leader is not when he is defeated at war. On the contrary, it is when he thinks he is at his peak, having the monopoly of wisdom. He then does not listen to others but expects others to listen to him. If he is in power, we will right away say he has acquired a Pharaonic characteristic, for it was the Pharaoh of Moses who denied Egyptians of any view other than his. Ultimately, he claimed to be their only God. In modern political parlance, such a person is called a dictator. All dictators have ended in failure, having wasted the time, resources and lives of their people. The most recent is Saddam Husein, and before him were the totalitarian rulers in the former Soviet block and Africa is not less blessed with dictators.
On the other hand, a leader with a listening ear is able to see things from different perspectives that he acquires from his advisers or captures in the course of public debate and dialogue. His conscience then makes a wise choice from the array of suggestions proffered in the light of his knowledge, experience and good intention. That is the purpose of consultation, one of the two most important cornerstones of public policy.
Obasanjo in his first outing appeared to belong to the latter group of leaders. He had a listening ear during his tenure as Head of State. With that he was able to achieve three things: stability of tenure, mass improvement of infra-structure and smooth transition to civilian rule. He often boasts, justifiably, of having treated people fairly, built our refineries, upgraded most of our inter-state roads, and willingly handed over power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. It was this history that was used to package him as a presidential candidate in 1999. And the trick worked, because as men, we feel more secured with the assurance of history than in the uncertain promises of future. The newspapers did not hesitate to brand him our Joseph drawing an analogy between him and Joseph; claiming that he was a born-again, some called him the Messiah, who will deliver us from the shackles of the oppression.
However, no sooner has he assumed power in 1999 that we realized our blunder. The two Ps – Prison and Presidency – do not match, especially when they are accompanied by a third P – poverty. It appears now that we did not consult the Bible properly. The bible clearly tells us that the computation of the two Ps do not always yield a Joseph. They yield another P, Pharaoh. The Bible says, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction, for he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom.” Ecclesiates 4:13-14.
We tried to advise him throughout his first tenure, but he was as deaf as his predecessor. He felt it is Nigeria that needs him. His aides thought our advice and criticisms were informed by our loss, either in business or in politics. However, it did not take long before Obasanjo started to part ways with almost every conscientious person even in his ruling party, the PDP. He rigged every PDP chairman out of office and ensured that he remained irrelevant forever. The pubic exchange of letters between him and Ogbe is, therefore, not new; it is a continuation of a culture which the President has adopted since 1999. Ogbe will be dumped soon and perhaps forgotten.
Before the constructive criticism of Ogbe, we have read the letters of Dangiwa Umar who supported him and his regime against a tide of criticisms, especially from Northern opinion leaders. His comments were dismissed by one of people licking the fingers of the President. The same aide was used to dismiss the instructive protest of Chinua Achebe who rejected the national award against the background of what he described as “the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seem determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”
Audu Ogbe was thus lucky that he was considered relevant enough to earn the response of the President in person, perhaps for his position as Chairman of the ruling party. The letter of Ogbe deserves our attention here for two reasons: one, for its valid contents, and, two, for the tiny window it offers us to catch a glimpse of the moral crisis that the PDP has been suffering from since the perfidy it committed in April 2003 election.
Like the President, his followers in the party are calling for Ogbe’s head, accusing him of anti-party activity, and leaving the core issue raised in his letter evaded. Instead of acknowledging the embarrassing failure of their master, the PDP followers of Mr. President are attacking someone who offered a simple advice. We know really that Ogbe is not a saint himself; he has failed from his position of respect as one of the progressive ministers during the Second Republic to the low position that perpetrated the greatest electoral fraud in our history. In addition, at the beginning of this tenure, it was Ogbe who has been issuing injunctions, including the threat to dismiss from the party any PDP legislator who opposes the President henceforth. Ogbe is part of those who crafted the unfortunate character that Mr. President has become today.
The issue which Ogbe’s letter has only helped to reaffirm is the incompetence of Obasanjo. Here is a President who came to power based on a goodwill never shared by any Nigerian leader at his debut. The earnings from oil, unlike the cases of Balewa, Gowon, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Shonekan and Abacha, have remained highest since the beginning of this tenure. At no time was Nigeria so blessed with foreign exchange. More importantly, Obasanjo did not face any real threat of coup d’etat, given the disposition of the international community and the fact that he comes from the very ethnic group whose mainstream politicians have been masterminding the overthrow of governments in Nigeria. Yet, he is one president that I know who as a result of incompetence has been unable to solve a single problem facing the nation.
All the problems he inherited are here with us; in fact, they have only worsened. Fuel scarcity continues in spite of the hiking the price of petroleum products three times; the refineries are still not rehabilitated and new ones have not been constructed either by government or the private sector. Corruption has become more pervasive more than even when it was a cornerstone of state policy in the mid-1980s. Poverty level has risen from 50% in 1999 to over 75% now. We now feel less secured on our roads, offices and homes than in 1999. We have suffered the greatest number of civil unrests in all regions of the federation to the extent that some victims of such crises have been serving as slaves in the homes of their captive masters. Etc.
The Anambra issue is one of such colossal failures of Mr. President. In fact he has been rightly accused of complicity. Here is one of the houseboys of the President claiming a monthly allocation of Anambra State, as a right, from the revenues of a government simply because he helped it to come to power. Whatever agreement existed between him and the governor is void since it was an agreement in crime. How many genuine agreements has the President broken and how many promises has he repudiated?
On failing to secure his booty, the chap went about using force to oust the government and destroy its institutions. Forget about the whether Governor Ngige was elected or not. Is the President himself duly elected? What moral locus is he occupying better than Ngige? Is he not another con foisted on us by hooligans like Chris Uba? The Anambra crisis has only vindicated the opposition and international observers who reported that no elections took place in some states, especially in Eastern Nigeria. That part of Nigeria was under siege throughout the election weeks. Now could someone go about bombing Aso Rock on the pretext that Obasanjo did not win elections?
So the President has failed to address the issues raised by Ogbe. He is supposed to protect every government by virtue of his position as commander in chief and the executive having an absolute control over all our law enforcement agents. But the President watched Anambra state go ablaze, with its judiciary, house of assembly and government bombed and ransacked by hooligans of one of his houseboys. And the police remained aloof.
What defence therefore has Obasanjo got against the allegation that he treats Igbo and their land with disdain and that he is orchestrating the debasement of their society by elevating hooligans and abandoning the cause of law and order? What proof shall we demand from them other than his refusal to act decisively before a gross act of treason that has breached the precepts of law in their land? If Uba and his group who do not deny their commission of treason are let to go unchecked, what will be of Igboland, nay, what will be of Nigeria in 2007?
If it were not for the alleged disdain that he has for the Igbo, would he stand aloof and see the Government House in Bauchi, Kano or Sokoto ransacked and bombed as it happened in Anambra? In that event, would not he have dismissed the x-axis growing Inspector General of Police for incompetence. But Ngige, being an Igbo, does not deserve that. His orderlies and other security staff could be withdrawn without any court ruling against his position as a governor.
The President should agree that Ogbe has chosen a better position of truth than him. In fact the President is no where close to the truth on this matter. People with an iota of credibility in the PDP, if any, should stand up like Ogbe to tell the President the truth. His regime is a failure. He should arrest Chris Uba and his group and treat Ngige as the governor of Anambra until a constitutional authority has nullified his election.
Of the comments made on the issue, the brief opinion of Professor Sagay deserves reproducing here. He said, “It raises serious moral questions when a person like Chris Uba will appear before Mr. President to admit that Ngige never won an election but that he imposed him and still that kind of a person is allowed to leave Aso Rock free and even still walks the streets a free man today. It is saddening and I don’t want to say more than that.”
Talking about morality, the letter of the President appears ironical. In it he was made this confession: “I got the real shock of my life when Chris Uba looked Ngige straight in the face and said, ‘You know you did not win the election,’ Ngige answered, ‘Yes, I know I did not win.’ Chris Uba went further to say to Ngige, ‘You don’t know in details how it was done.’ I was horrified and told both of them to leave my residence.”
Then Obasanjo went ahead to address Ogbe, saying, “This incident was reported to you because although constitutionally, Ngige had been declared winner, for me and, I believe, for you there remains a moral burden and dilemma both as leaders in Nigeria and leaders of our party.”
Here is Obasanjo speaking about moral burden and dilemma! This where Hausas will say Tsofaffi na kiran junansu goggo. Morality it appears is common to all jurisdictions, including the domain of thieves.
Now who would have envisaged that Obasanjo will descend to such a position of incapacity? Where has gone the guts of Mr. My Command? Was he worth the friendship of Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu? Nothing in my view has caused the President this ineptitude other than the illusion that he has answer for everything and a monopoly of wisdom. Had he lent his ear to the various voices of advice he would have made a better president today, certainly not someone in whose bedroom the robbery of election fraud is discussed freely without any trepidation; and all he could tell the criminals is, “leave my house,” then sit over the treachery for years. Who knows how many times Dokunbo Asari was invited to the house of the President?
There is little doubt that Obasanjo is the single Nigerian that God has given the ample opportunity of becoming a Mandela. But with all the power that a dictator would command he is unable to check the excesses of his house boy. I cannot imagine an ebb lower than this for Mr. President. I now doubt the validity of credits he claimed as a head of state in the seventies. They might have belonged to Murtala, Yar’adua, Danjuma, Buhari and a host of other military officers that were members of the Supreme Military Council then. Bula ne.