All Hail the Cave-man of Otta!

by SOC Okenwa

Ladies and gentlemen, Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, I wish to announce the tragic demise of Olusegun Obasanjo the statesman. OBJ the man still kicks and lives on but OBJ the statesman is dead! The statesman in him died last year when this dictator sought to elongate his ill-fated tenure against the constitutional requirement. The statesman in Obasanjo died when he openly violently rigged the April general elections that produced the “leaders” at states and national levels we have now. And to ‘mourn’ him we have chief ‘mourners’ like Prof Maurice Iwu, Lamidi Adedibu, Andy Uba, Bode George, Ahmadu Ali, Tony Anenih and Ojo Maduekwe.

The awesome power of information, its gathering and dissemination in this modern era cannot be trivialized for whatever reason by any nation; any nation aspiring for greatness that does that does so at her peril. That is why America is America: the envy of all nations! Militarily the USA is a super power but by the sheer force of its media supremacy the US seeks to remain on top of the world dictating the pace, making fresh ideas compete for space unencumbered. That is why she is a welcoming giving nation of great prosperity with the nationality of almost every nation living and working there in lawful pursuit of the great American dream.

Great leaders in the world who recognised the power of the mass media knew that serious efforts at nation-building cannot be monoplised by one individual at the highest pinnacle of power. Rather all hands must be on deck with every sector participating actively for the general good of the society — towards a better life for the people.

In Africa information flow to the governed from the government is still an issue; official secrecy in government still holds sway making governance look more like a cult in which oath-taking is a religious duty. Official duplicity is an art mastered by Press Assistants and Ministers of (dis)information. In Nigeria we have people like Uche Chukwumerije, Walter Ofornagoro, Frank Nweke and Uba Sani of recent memory as propaganda experts.

Just days before his second mandate expired General Olusegun Obasanjo in military style jerked up the pump price of petrol and increased the VAT. This is apart from auctioning our refineries and other monumental national assets in a bizzare bazzar which saw his cronies buying off even the legislative quarters and government guest houses! As his successor inherited the rage of organised labour who expectedly kicked against this unilateral wicked parting shot from a megalomaniac calling out workers on strike at the expiration of its deadline to the federal government to reverse the policy or risk state paralysis.

As OBJ flew home from Jamaica where he went on holiday he told a bewildered nation still smarting from the crushing affects of the national strike that while in Kingston he shut himself from home news; he was not aware of the strike or whatever! That is how insensitive a leader could ever be and Obasanjo is more than an insensitive leader.

Hear the brash and erratic Obasanjo in Abeokuta penultimate week when his stooge Governor Gbenga Daniel and his staff put together an award-giving event: “I don’t read Nigerian newspapers. When people ask me, ‘Have you read the papers today?’ I say, for what?’. The people often say, ‘They are abusing you’. But I say back to them. ‘It is better to be abused than to be crucified…Not many people are recognised for whatever they rendered in their lifetime…These media people, you know, they will never leave me alone because anybody who wants to sell his paper must write something about Obasanjo. The only thing I will now do is to tell my lawyer to see if I can charge them and take commission anytime they use Obasanjo’s name in their papers. I will just ask for a 10 per cent commission”.

The late statesman deserves our collective sympathy; his forced disengagement from power is still having some psychological toll on him. If he reads the Nigerian newspapers perhaps by now he would have kicked the bucket. Hardly a day passes without him being ‘bombed’ even from friendly quarters. ‘The father of modern Nigeria‘ would have loved the press to extol his virtues and forget how he stole the nation blind; he should rather be thanked for his ‘reforms’ and other good deeds in power. Alas what he did not do or failed to do far outweighs what he did! And his glaring failures are more important than his much-vaunted successes.

Through his instigation Ribadu’s EFCC is battling to take over the Sun newspaper group. If Orji Uzor Kalu is on trial for alleged stealing of public funds the law courts has not pronounced him guilty on that score. But his problems with OBJ has manifested itself with the vindictive Owu man using the anti-graft agency to cripple his businesses. Kalu, for God’s sake, was not a poor man before mounting the saddle as Abia Governor 1999. ‘The Sun’ must not be ‘eclipsed’ from the Nigerian sky for whatever reason. If the federal government succeeds in taking over ‘The Sun’ then that beautiful newspaper with great tested journalists will die like Nigeria Airways or Daily Times.

The tragedy of the Nigerian state is that we have not been blessed with an ideal intellectually-cherished visionary leader; rather what we have had so far are primitive rulers nay kleptocrats whose understanding of the jet age is suspect. General Buhari recognised but never respected the power of the pen-pushers when he promulgated the obnoxious Decree 2 through which some journalists were detained — Nduka Irabor, Tunde Thompson et al. General Babangida simply could not stand Dele Giwa and his mighty pen, so he sent his boys to bomb life out of the great journalist using the parcel bomb. IBB broke all available record in that horrible regard.

Following in line was late General Abacha who proscribed journals and jailed journalists including the late Godwin Agbroko when he was editing “TheWeek” magazine. The editors of “Tell” and “TheNews” magazines were roundly harrased, intimidated and humiliated with some jailed during the Locust years. Nosa Igiebor and Bayo Onanuga and their men were forced to go underground when the heat was on and unbearable!

Obasanjo’s regime saw the assassination of Godwin Agbroko, the Editorial Chairman of “ThisDay” newspaper group in Lagos. Even some electronic media men were arrested and arraigned for trumped-up sedition charges in Abuja during his ‘Babacracy’. The Freedom of Information Bill sent to him to give his assent was left unattended to because of his hatred for press freedom; with his hands deeply soiled by earth-shaking corruption Obasanjo wanted the preservation of the status quo where official information is a state secret.

Yet in all these tribulations the Nigerian media are waxing stronger because of its vibrancy and professionalism. They have had their worst periods combating dictatorships and joining forces with pro-democracy groups to bring about the democratic change we all cherish today its imperfections nothwithstanding. Again the time-tested lesson in all these remains that the forth estate of the realm always survives those that seek to suppress and render its power impotent; the pen, they say, is mightier than the sword!

By declaring that he do

es not read Nigerian newspapers Obasanjo has once again confessed and betrayed his rural attributes. The future theologian has shown that he is of course a cave man belonging to the past. All hail Obasanjo, the cave man of Ota! He deserves an “award” for his recent anti-press pronouncement much like many that came his way during his eight years presidential pestilence. All hail the Ota cave man!

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