Another reason why every one seems to be against Obasanjo is his style and love of ‘fearless’ men/women who use ‘garrison commander’ tactics. The Igbos for instance are among the ethnic groups that complained bitterest against his regime for marginalisation and high-handedness. This is in spite of the fact that, as far as the ethnic arithmetic of ‘who gets what’, goes, they did rather well under him. For instance, at a point in the regime, the Governor of the Central Bank, Finance Minister and Chief economic Adviser to the president were all Igbos, and one of his closest aides was an Igbo! He also empowered a number of other Igbos (whether the appointments benefited the Igbos as an ethnic group is irrelevant here). Obasanjo as a matter of fact empowered individuals from across the ethnic divide – from plum jobs to contract awards. A more politically savvy person, or one not obsessed with having a certain image, could have turned these into constituencies of support.
Despite the ‘Igbo empowerment’ for instance, few Igbos (or other ethnic nationalities for that matter), have kind things to say about him, not least because of the mayhem he was suspected to have encouraged in Anambra state. Obasanjo’s admiration of men and women with “garrison commander” mentality, helped to undermine whatever empowerment he gave various ethnic groups. Besides the well known excesses of EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu and El Rufai’s senseless demolitions in
No regime in our political history has empowered women as much as Obasanjo has done, but how many women have stood up to defend him against the barrage of criticisms he faces? Again, I believe this is again down to Obasanjo’s style and proclivities, his penchant for empowering and disempowering individuals, the ubiquitous activities of the “celebrity” functionaries and his lack of skills or unwillingness to deliberately cultivate a constituency of support. Obasanjo seems to want to be feared rather than respected. Like Zik, he seemed to fear that deliberately creating a constituency of support would detract from his nationalistic credentials. The consequence is that one way or the other, everyone and every group felt Obasanjo’s tough actions and hated him for that.
History will be kind on Obasanjo
Despite Obasanjo’s many failings, I believe history will judge him kindly. When the current anti-Obasanjo sentiment settles (and I believe it will settle within the next two years), people will begin to deconstruct him. First, no one will take away the fact that he followed a programme of transition enunciated by Murtala Mohammed and was one of the first military regimes in
Obasanjo also left an enduring legacy in the banking sector reform and in communication (internet and mobile phone penetration). The credit for these successes, which we now take for granted, should be given to him just as the failures of other sectors are rightly attributed to him.
If the Umar Yar’Adua’s regime does well, the credit must also be partly given to Obasanjo for his wisdom in fishing out Umar Yar’Adua out from his obscurity and guided him though his apparent initial fear of the responsibilities inherent in the job. On the other hand, if Yar’Adua’s regime remains wobbly or continues with its present indecisions and self-reversals, people will begin to miss a decisive Obasanjo, who is not afraid to back policies he believes in, even unpopular ones. Leadership after is more of a vision contest, not a popularity contest. So head or tail, Obasanjo will win when compared with the Yar’Adua regime.
While the third term plot would always remain a blithe on his CV, he could, with time, claim that he decided to overlook the massive imperfections in the conduct of the April polls because he was determined to break the jinx of civilian-to-civilian transitions in our politics. If he successfully sells the idea, with time, a description of Obasanjo as the founder of modern