From time, I had never been excited about General Olusegun Obasanjo’s personality and his letters. I am very conversant with the fact that, besides training in the handling of weapons, military generals are deft contrivers of lies, propaganda, decoy and deception with which they can win wars by simply confusing and creating disaffection across lines even before firing a shot.
From the coups of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu through Generals Murtala Mohammed, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, the sing-song that sustained them was the propaganda of corruption against the civilian class of leaders while, in actual fact, the military leaders have been found to be most corrupt. If nothing else, we are still uncovering Abacha loots even though Buhari told us he was not corrupt. Through their propaganda and manipulations, they have had their way again and again and keep raising their voices to determine the political course of the nation just to serve their whims.
It is no wonder that after their services as Heads of State in the 70s and 80s, both Generals Obasanjo and Buhari have been the only Presidents with full and complete eight years tenures in our Fourth Republic after the shenanigans with which the military truncated the First, Second and Third Republics.
After we voted in 1993, they annulled it between themselves. After Obasanjo had ruled from 1999 to 2007, he single handedly selected Umaru Yar’Adua as President for us even when we were asking after his health. He also single handedly imposed Goodluck Jonathan as Yar’Adua’s running mate and organised his continuation as President in 2011 after he had completed the two remaining years of Yar’Adua, and in disregard of the fact that it was actually the turn of the North at the time.
While we tried to settle with Jonathan, he turned round to pillory him and we are yet to recover from his wicked letters against him. Besides various other unfounded allegations of corruption and promoting Ijaw ethnic nationalism in the Presidency, he accused him of putting 1,000 political actors on the watch list, organising a militia, “training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha and training them where Abacha trained his own killers”. It was sad that Obasanjo did not bate an eyelid in spewing those lies, but sadder was that his manipulation of the polity brought in Buhari as President in 2015 and the sufferings of this past seven plus years upon us.
With his Old Soldier Syndrome, Obasanjo has always tried to make himself the oracle of the nation but beneath his unsolicited and meddlesome charade is the fact that he has done the most damage to Nigerian democracy and governance by ensuring constant instability.
When it mattered most, when the nation rose up in defence of the 12th June 1993 election and we looked onto statesmen to stand with the people, Obasanjo returned from his foreign trip to declare that Chief Moshood Abiola was not the messiah. That singular statement weakened the resolve of the people and emboldened the military to sustain the annulment.
Even though Abacha, knowing well not to trust him, banged him in detention, he manoeuvred to present himself as the convergence between the military establishment and the civilian class to emerge President in 1999. We however saw in his Presidency a reckless disregard of the spirit and fineness of democracy. First, he ensured that his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was never stable nor at peace, and by extension the entire polity, from Kaduna to Odi and Choba.
After Dr Alex Ekwueme had midwifed the party to bring him in, his first charge was at the national leadership of the party. He ensured the resignation of Chief Solomon Lar who succeeded Ekwueme. His offence was that he was supporting his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar to take over from him in the 2003 elections.
Next, he removed Chief Barnabas Gemade, in whom he found a hard nut, and later Chief Audu Ogbe, whom he also forced to resign both as National Chairman and Chairman of the BoT for disagreeing with his treatment of the crisis in Anambra State.
What was the crisis? Some young friend of his, Chris Uba, had claimed that then Governor Chris Ngige was indebted to him in emerging governor. He allegedly demanded that the governor continuously shared the state treasury with him. Suffocated with the demand, Ngige reneged at some point. The consequence was his abduction with the help of the federal police. All calls on the President to order the Inspector General of Police to provide protection for the sitting governor and safeguard the dignity of the institution fell on deaf ears. Ogbe paid the price for daring to disagree with the arrangement and the suggestion of declaring a state on emergency there. Remarkably, that posted a frightening signal to many state governors on their personal safety.
Having subdued the party by driving fear into its national leadership, he took focus on the National Assembly from the onset of his administration. The motive was not ordinary. He seemed to have determined from inception to manipulate the system to elongate his presidency beyond the provisions of the constitution. The way to achieve that was to ensure a leadership of the National Assembly that would kowtow to him. This informed his mobilisation of opposition members behind Senator Evan(s) Enwerem to defeat Senator Chuba Okadigbo who was seen as a stronger and indomitable character for the position of Senate President.
Enwerem was impeached shortly after for Okadigbo to succeed him for a more vibrant and independent Senate. Expectedly Obasanjo could not stomach that. He marshalled all forces at his command to pull Okadigbo down in 2000, making way for Senator Pius Anyim.
To his shocker however, Anyim’s proposition that all who came in in 1999 should do a single term was a wide gulf from his intention for tenure elongation. Importantly, it was also suspected that Anyim’s position was to pave way for Atiku Abubakar who was favoured by many of the PDP state governors and federal legislators to emerge as the flag bearer in 2003, as the people yearned for a truly civilian leadership.
Anyim was surely not going to play ball but the Senate has had three Presidents and the party has had three National Chairmen under just two years of his administration. Obasanjo was just completing his first term and was heading for re-election for second term. So, he changed strategy. Rather than remove Anyim as he did Okadigbo, he piped down to enable him sail through before launching his attack. Part of it was to ensure Anyim did not get the party ticket to return to the Senate. He however gave him a foretaste of what was ahead with the demolition of his private home in Abuja. Anyim bestrode the treatment and, interestingly too, knew well not to bother to seek the ticket for re-election.
Back in the Senate in 2003, Obasanjo settled for Adolphus Wabara as President. It was time for his third term agenda to get into the works in full throttle as Wabara conceived and led the process of constitutional amendment. Obasanjo allegedly slipped in the clause for tenure elongation into the process, surreptitiously. From 2003 to 2005, Wabara’s Senate Presidency gave no assurance that it will support and deliver the passage of the third term. The 2006 primary for the 2007 election at which Obasanjo two term tenure would terminate was getting desperately close. Wabara had to be booted out.
In September of 2005, the Presidency announced a criminal indictment of Wabara on the network of the Nigeria Television Authority, forcing him to resign as Senate President. Several years after, the court determined the charges in these words: “The action of the Federal Government on the allegation was most embarrassing, barbaric, and uncivilised”. We knew it was nothing about any crime but also, nothing concerns Obasanjo with civilisation. He had succeeded in removing Wabara, anyways, and hoped to achieve the passage of the third term through Ken Nnamani who succeeded him as Senate President.
Into the process, there were mouth-watering inducements of the legislators to pull it through. To avert the national disaster, Nnamani first suspended sitting, asking the legislators to go consult with their constituents. The break was meant to reduce the heavy pressure on them from both the executive, security and intelligence operatives. When they returned for the final debate, Nnamani ensured that it would be on live broadcast so that Nigerians could see who would have betrayed the nation.
He explained it all thus: “They knew that if we had sidelined Nigerians from the proceedings, and therefore reduced public pressure on the legislature, it would be possible to ram through, but I stood strong. We overcame intense pressure even from the highest level of government. We continued to broadcast the proceedings. The result of the publicity and openness was that we secured our democracy”. Obasanjo never forgave Nnamani and Nnamani also knew well to run away from the party and his government.
So, we had one President Obasanjo, five Senate Presidents and four PDP National Chairmen in his eight years. So much for a good leader and the stability of our democracy and polity.
As he manipulated and constrained the smooth running of the National Assembly and the party, so also did he dish impeachment on state governors who failed to fall into his line. Among the first was Governor Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State. At the heat of the push for third term in 2006, he had taken liberty to visit and dissuade Obasanjo from the idea. That was his undoing. Before he drove out of Ota, machinery was already in motion to impeach him.
Ladoja recalled the events this way: “Obasanjo knew there was no way I would be around and the House of Assembly would pass an amendment to the constitution, allowing a third term for the President. That was why Ladoja had to go. Maybe I made the mistake of going to discuss it with him”.
Should we even consider, without conceding to Obasanjo’s claim, that Ladoja was impeached for not cooperating with Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and Chief Yekini Adeojo in the governance of Oyo State, what do we make of Adedibu’s shameless public explanation that they removed Ladoja because he refused to share the state’s security vote with him? That was so similar with the case between Ngige and Uba in Anambra State and we can only imagine the kind of governance that Obasanjo promotes.
Ladoja’s impeachment was later reversed by the courts, but like we noted, nothing concerns Obasanjo with political or legal decency. He rampaged on against many other state governors who seemed to oppose his politics, from Governors Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, to Diepreye Alamiesegha of Bayelsa, Joshua Dariye of Plateau and Peter Obi of Anambra States, for different spurious, unfounded grounds.
Most destabilising of the polity was that the impeachments were carried out without minimal adherence to the requirements and procedures stipulated by the constitution. Many were done at dark nights, with far less than the required quorum and at venues outside the chambers of the assemblies. Those menacing examples laid the foundation and influenced the increase of the impunity and lawlessness in our governance, to the extent that a sitting Senator could lead the stealing of the sacred mace from the hallowed chamber of our Senate.
I hear Obasanjo has written another letter to Nigerian youths as we head into the 2023 elections but, see who is talking: a grandstanding incubus who misapplies our cultural respect for elders and takes liberty to lie and destroy persons who had opposed him through his career of political manipulations with which he puffs his ego!
True, Nigeria needs deliverance from the stranglehold of delimiting principalities, the first is this false oracle called OBJ.