Has Gen. Obasanjo Got His Eyes on the Nobel Peace Prize?

by Sheyi Oriade

As General Obasanjo’s political ‘second coming’ approached its denouement, and the curtain came down on his last encore and final act of performance as Nigeria’s leading man, on the stage of the ‘playhouse’ that is Nigeria; a number of his loyal and devoted ‘stagehands’ and acolytes, satiated as they were, by the rich pickings of their proximity to power and perhaps motivated by a desire to secure a glorious place in history for their benefactor, decided to float a balloon, in a test of the strength of the winds; by mooting the idea of a Nobel Peace Prize for their patron.

Now such an idea would quite ordinarily have been dismissed out of hand, as laughable nonsense and the output of unserious minds. But for the simple fact, that the former president, has on more than one occasion in the past confounded Nigerians by his attainment of heights seemingly beyond his reach. Indeed, it does seem strange that out of the rich pool of talent which abounds in Nigeria, that it fell to one – so noticeably untouched by perceptible genius and lacking Midas’ proverbial touch – to steer the reins of our national carriage of State for a combined period of 11 years.

But one must not forget or overlook the fact that his long membership of Nigeria’s one time most dominant and influential political party – the Nigerian Army – provided a readymade platform, upon which he and others, were able to use as a springboard to achieve the bounce that propelled them to high national office. But it must be said to his credit, that for much of his career – in and out of uniform – he has had an uncanny knack and positional awareness for being in the right place at the right time; thus allowing him to reap ripe and rich fruits from fields in which he did not sow his labours.

Since his final departure from high office, things seem to have changed for him and in a manner not to his liking. His transition from the opulent surroundings of Aso Rock to the austere backdrop of Olumo Rock has not been an easy process for him. His change of locale, underscoring his loss of political power and exposing him as an emperor defrocked. A position exacerbated by an enforced sense of boredom and compounded by his legendary querulous nature. The separate ingredients, of which, in their combination, make for a potent mix. And it has fallen to the Governor of Ogun State, to sample and ingest this potent potion; leaving his political insides in a state of uproar.

As part of his present boredom, the patriarch of the House of Obasanjo has been locked in intermittent feud with the current resident of Government House, Abeokuta. A feud which has seen sporadic outbreaks of verbal hostilities; mutual snubs; and the wielding of sharp elbows in the sides of the Governor. And so, not for the first time, a man named Daniel finds himself in a lion’s den.

It must be perplexing for Governor Daniels to reconcile in his mind, how it is, that a man he once revered as a mentor has now become his tormentor. But, the former president at the best of times has always proved to be a very complex man and a difficult customer to deal with.

There are few public personalities in the context of present day Nigerian political discourse who polarise opinion and excite extreme passions amongst commentators like the former president. Never one to shy away from confrontation, he has left the stamp of his imprint on many a vanquished foe. And where Nigeria is concerned, the very threads of his legacy are to be seen in their intricate detail interwoven in the fabric of the cloth of our national politics and government; accounting in much part, for its haphazard design and pattern which epitomises the dysfunction prevalent in Nigeria today.

One of his key strengths and one which often confounds his critics is his innate amorphousness. This feature has made it difficult for observers to pigeon-hole or asses him correctly on a number of occasions. For often he assumes a guise, and yet simultaneously, manages to convey a wholly different impression. When, as an officer, in the Nigerian Army, his corpulent and portly stature belied his soldierliness, to the extent that he was sometimes not taken seriously. As a latter day politician-cum-democrat, his style of governance could not have been more autocratic. His change of costumes never quite amounting to a change in customs.

Rarely ever, during his ‘second coming’ did he promote consensual politics, his military ‘command and control’ ethos remained firmly in view. But he more than made up for this lack of a consensual approach, through his famed sensual approach towards the feminine of our species. In, and with, who it is widely speculated, that he delighted in conjugating and fertilising. From all accounts, it is fair to say, that during his presidency a lot of things happened ‘under’ him.

And now things are beginning to happen for him from above him. Just recently, the Secretary-General of the United Nations chose to extend the function of his ‘Good Offices’ his way; in order to promote a resolution of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Once again, his amorphousness comes to the fore. One notorious for his legendary intransigence is suddenly cast in the mould of a pacific conflict resolution expert.

Although, it must be said, in fairness to him, that in the past, he did succeed in persuading Charles Taylor of Liberia of the folly of standing up to American fire-power, thus, allowing for peace to return to Liberia. Also, as part of an advance guard of Commonwealth Eminent Persons, he paved the way for the eventual release of Nelson Mandela from captivity. So he is not completely without pedigree in this area; although the extent of the robustness of his competencies in this area may be in doubt.

Somehow, however, one suspects that his latest incarnation as a peace broker is a gilt-edged opportunity and a gift of a platform, upon which he can, if successful in his mission, lay claim to a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The grant of which, he no doubts believes he his deserving of as a validation and culmination of his lifetime of ‘service’. Many Nigerians, I think, will beg to differ on this point.

For the sake of the ordinary victims of the conflict in the DRC, I hope he is successful in brokering peace in that region. However, if the situation in the DRC is as complicated as Dr. Gary Busch points out in his customary ‘ringside’ analyses (see An Overview of the Situation In Kivu Province), then it will take more than the former president’s intervention to resolve it.

Had the former president’s acolytes not floated the balloon (albeit it a lead one) of a Nobel Peace Prize at the end of his presidency, one would not have linked his current assignment to such a vainglorious quest. But now it is impossible not to do so.

Perhaps, his quest is motivated by a desire to match, his friend, President Jimmy Carter’s attainment of the prize; or a desire, to equal, in his own imagination, the rich feat accomplished by Professor Wole Soyinka in becoming a Nobel laureate in 1986. If he does manage to pull it of, and he just might, the perceptive amongst us, will always know that in the currency of Nobel Prizes, that of ‘literature’ holds greater value than that of ‘peace’.

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