Is Obasanjo The Most Distinguished Egba Son?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

In his characteristic manner, Mr. Reuben Abati brings words to life. He did not disappoint in “The day Gbadebo became king,” (Guardian, Friday, August 26, 2005). If you read him right, you could actually see his words waltzing on the pages of the newspaper or on the computer screen. He makes writing look easy and soulful. And he makes reading him participatory. Take for instance his description of events at the Lagos home of the new Alake of Egbaland, Prince Adedotun Gbadebo. My goodness, you need not be physical present to see what happened. You need not be present to appreciate the history, politics, arts and culture, power play and human relations he witnessed.

And he tells of the Egbas — the 19th Century nation-state that have produced some of our finest citizens in the persons of Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Dr. M.A. Majekodunmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Professor Wole Soyinka, Justice George Sodeide Sowemimo, Dr. Adeoye Lambo, Mrs. Bisoye Tejuosho and Dapo Tejuosho, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and Dr. Beko Kuti, Chief Ebenezer Obey and Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

As much as I enjoyed the article, it was what Reuben Abati said of Obasanjo that irked me. President Obasanjo is an Egba man whom Abati asserts is “the most distinguished Egba son in the 20th century.” The most what? Well, may be of Egba land. But as a Nigerian, Obasanjo has been a near total disappointment. This is not a man history and posterity would be kind to. More than anyone in the history of post-independence Nigeria, he had the chance to make all the difference; he had the chance to set the country on the right footing, but he failed. He had his chance three times; and three times he dropped the ball on his country.

When it is all done and said, when he leaves office or passes to the great beyond what will we remember or say about him? What will be on his tombstone? I know what political leeches and his professional praise singers will say. I know that. But what will honest history say about him? That he helped waged and won a civil war? Perhaps! That he voluntarily vacated the helm of state in the 1970s and conducted a national election? Well, not quite! The elections he conducted were a scam and a sham — a sham that regressed the nation for two decades.

General Obasanjo left office in 1979, not “voluntarily,” but at the nudging of the “Northern Power House.” They had just lost one of their own and they wanted back in power. So, they encouraged him to leave in order to “fulfill the promise” made by the late General Murtala Mohammed to hand over power to elected civilians in 1979. If Murtala had lived long enough and stayed in power long enough, he, like all other African military generals before him would probably have shifted the post and stayed in office longer than the promised hour. And no one would have been surprised because such precedents are commonplace in Africa

By leaving, the Northern elite told him, he would cement his place in African and global politics. He would become a statesman, a giant in African politics just like Leopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal. And so Obasanjo left. And Alhaji Shehu Shagari took over.

In the years that followed, Obasanjo’s dream of a United Nations Secretary Generalship did not pan out. His Otta farm was perhaps profitable; but what else did he have going for him? A token position here and a toke position there with Transparency International and other groups? Obasanjo was done and spent and was left to roam the wilderness until Sani Abacha brought him back to the national scene in a crude, rude and injurious manner.

To be “distinguished” is to be characterized by excellence or distinction and dignified in conduct or appearance. To be distinguished is to be “standing above others in character or attainment or reputation.” The aforesaid doesn’t fit Obasanjo and Obasanjo does not fit the bill. To be sure, Obasanjo is a better human being when compared to Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. He is more decent; but he lacks charisma. He lacks style and grace. No traces or hints of erudition. He stumbles over words. And he is not a man that bears honest criticisms or intellectual challenges. He holds grudges. He doesn’t look like a man who watch movies or read books that matters. His demeanor and style is better suited to the barrack life not the Ivory Towers.

This is Obasanjo’s third coming as the head of government and head of state. What has he done for the country in the sphere of education, national security, power supply, health and medical services, corruption, and diversification of the economy? What has he done or is doing to make viable and independent our democratic institutions? Our public infrastructures are in a state of decay. All over the country, there is a sense of despair, resignation, fatalism, and sadness. What a waste of talent and resources!

President Olusegun Obasanjo may be the “most distinguished Egba son in the 20th century.” Dr. Reuben Abati may be right about that. I wouldn’t know. I am not an Egba man. I am an Ijaw man from Agbere and Odi deep in the grooves of the Niger Delta. But as a Nigerian, I know one thing about him: he is an average president of a nation that is well endowed and whose human and natural resources he has helped to waste and plunder. A distinguished Egba man he may be; but not a distinguished Nigerian.

And even as an Egba man, I wonder what his people really, really, really think of him. Is he a source of pride…or an embarrassment? I wonder.

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Abey socrates September 6, 2006 - 10:49 am

This lacks objectivity.Looks duplicious and loaded with fallacies

Anonymous February 23, 2006 - 4:32 pm

My comment on this article is that sabella ogbobode abidde's attention to the comment of reuben abati is not fair.i say this with all sense of responsibilty.i do not think dr.abati's article has anything to with what happened in odi or any where,it was to me intended to grade the person of obasanjo vis a vis other indigines of egbaland.i must also state it clearlly that i do not agree that president obasanjo is an opportunist,if there is anything sabella ogbobode abidde,has to settle with the person of obasanjo,he can do that personally in his own personal writeup and not as a rejoinder to dr.abati's article,but as far as the opinion of reben abati is concerned,i think dr. Reben abati is right,am also an egbaman,and i do not intend to be sentimental but indeed and intruth,president olusegun obasanjo is the greatest egbaman of this period and we only have to pray that the almighty god that has made him source of pride to the whole egba nation would be with him as he made the second history of handing over power to an honest and god fearing man or woman in 2007,may god bless the egba nation,ogun state and the federal repulbic of nigeria(olukayode majekodunmi)

Anonymous September 9, 2005 - 2:20 pm

it is perfect

prince kennedy Iyoha September 1, 2005 - 2:13 pm

Hello mr Sabella.

Once more i congratulate you for this brillient essay. What invoke my curiosity is the fact that Egbe has produced so much celibrities like

Sir Adetokunbo Ademola Dr. M.A. Majekodunmi Fela Anikulapo Kuti Professor Wole Soyinka Justice George Sodeide Sowemimo Dr. Adeoye Lambo Mrs. Bisoye Tejuosho and Dapo Tejuosho Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and Dr. Beko Kuti Chief Ebenezer Obey and Chief M.K.O. Abiola to mention but a few.

Something most be special about that town and i beleive that someone most have layed a solide foundation that has enabled the above mentioned persons acheive their objectives in life.

In relation to chief Olushegun Obasenjo being

the most distinguished Egba son this depands on what yadstick Mr. Reuben Abati had used to measure the acheivement of the citizens of that wondafull town.

Obasenja is clearly the first and only son of egbe land that has ruled Nigeria again and again. this is clealy an acheivement to a town like egbe which can not be easily located in the Nigeria map from outside of the country. He obasenjo most have propable open doors and opotunity for many people of that comunity.

In regard to his contribution to the Nigeria socio-politica development he had a plus when he handed over power to a democraticaly elected government in 1979 he has helped to keep the military off the political scen since 1999 he has set up an infastructure to cambate corruption in the country though his government is trying to clean the political arena from corruption we should not expert much from this administration hoping that the infastructure is solide and can stand to test of time like the war against indescipline of Tunde Idiagbon.

The Nigeria society is opening up to modenazation and development and this administration is trying to discentrelize the industries that were once estatelized by previous government.

Finally this administration is creating a conducive atmosphere for forign investment in Nigeria. What ever contribution obj has do in his last two administration will not be noticed by Nigerians untill about 10 years from now.

In conclution i am of the opinion that we should tell him the things he has done right so that he can be encourage to do more and criticize him on what he has done rough so that he should not do it again. in my overall judgment he has done the best he could do and more is needed to be done for Nigeria. the foundation has been layed and the next generations of leaders will have a platform to oparate.

Anonymous August 30, 2005 - 5:24 pm

Sebella I rate your analysis excellent because you are pretty much to the points that make OBJ an illitrate of leadership and a mindset of leadership tinkering without purpose and plan. I would not be surprised if comments 1 2 were from OBJ's praise singers from Egba land.

Anonymous August 30, 2005 - 4:41 pm

OBJ is by no means the most disntinguished Egba man- he is definitely the most opportunistic. I wouldnt blink to call Fela or Soyinka or even Shonekan in that group- OBJ is average- he has tried but not the best..sorry! Chikena!

Sabella Abidde August 30, 2005 - 3:49 pm

RESPONDING TO COMMENT 2: Is this what we are good at Making excuses after excuses after excuses while at the same time accepting mediocrity and bad leadership. Take corruption for instance if you arrest and try to prosecute anybody for corruption first his village chief will protest; his pastor will protest and in so doing swear at you and pray for the crook; his villagers and family member will also protest and so will his/her ethnic group. Whats the lesson Steal steal and steal some more!

And only in Nigeria would a Vice President admit to election rigging and still remain in power! They've been rigging elections in Nigeria since day one; they've been stealing our money; wasting our human and natural resources; corrupting our institutions and so on and so forth and you are concerned with me being emotional and sentimental and pedestrian Oh pleassseeeeeee.

No matter where we were as a nation before Obasanjo came to power his job — a job he actively sought — is to correct the imbalances and see to the nations growth and development. Six years after — and six years is not overnight — are Nigerians better off today than they were in 1998/1999

A leaders job you must know is to make his peoples aspirations come true not to confirm their fears and their insecurities. A leader makes things happen. Otherwise he is no leaderjust a fellow traveler.

Anonymous August 30, 2005 - 1:47 pm

My dear Sabella you don't have to be so emotional and sentimental. Leadership is too dynamic for such a pedestrian appraisal as you gave on Obasanjo. Whether you like it or not Obasanjo is a most distinguished African. Have you forgotten the mess that Nigeria was when he OBJ took over Did you expect him to perform miracles overnight Of all the leaders we have got since 1960 how many of them dared attemt to position or repostion our nation's military civil service NITEL NEPA economy and politics as OBJ has been doing Granted the man has his failts like you and I but for God's sake Sabella try to judge the man from all perspectives!

Anonymous August 30, 2005 - 11:40 am

OBJ may have his faults (like everyone else) but he is not as crude as you paint him. He is one of the best rulers Nigeria has had yet as you yourself noted THOUGH they are all bad!


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