Obasanjo: The Voices Of Men And God

by Banjo Odutola

Alcuin (c735-804), the English Scholar and Theologian wrote: …..”And those people should not be listened to, who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God {Vox populi, vox dei}, since the riotousness of the crowd is always close to madness.” This is possibly the venial advice being offered to President Obasanjo after the intervention of the Patriots in advising him to hold his horses, come 2003. Obasanjo may be wise to dismiss the adhortations as wisecracks but the emphasis of a constitutional right to re-contest, as made by his ministers is a crepuscular one, whilst the president claims his commitment to reorder the affairs of the country is crucial. Does the concatenation in the current polity escape this president and his ministers? This is not the time to argue the legality of his rights to seek a second term; it is a time for a honourable withdrawal of his aspirations to remain at Aso Rock.

Obasanjo is not a man wont of advice or advisers; he is solicitous in the responsibility of his office. He has a mistrust of the motives of court advisers and quite rightly so. Oftentimes, it is best to ignore the advice of many distinguished or so-called eminent Nigerians on issues of the state. Their advices are neither distinguished nor eminent; they are steeped in self or regional interest. You need to read the tripe in “Law, Sentiments and Abacha” by Wada Nas and contrast it to the distinguished editorial of Daily Trust on 14 October: “Morality and Abacha Billions“. It confirms that the type of Mallam Nas in the temple of power is a corruption to this country. However, the stance of the newspaper renders hope that beyond these court jesters, there is decency in the land.

When distinguished Nigerians as in the Patriots have to seek the public space to advise their own president, it begs the question, did the obduracy of the president to yield to subtle diplomacy fail or his electoral defeat by stealth has started? Therefore, why have these men of valour and wisdom sought to advise Obasanjo in the public arena? Particularly, when he is embroiled in difficulties with the legislature. It may be an acceptable hypothesis, that it is highly unlikely the Patriots have an agenda but the survival of our democracy. So, why has Obasanjo dismissed their advice and sought assistance in Abdulsalami and Ibrahim Babaginda? The reason is simple. There is a mutual affection between the men, particularly, IBB and Obasanjo. It is not because the president trusts the advice of Ibrahim but when sane men have weighed the continued existence of this presidency and advised it is abandoned in 2003, it is time to seek the company of insane ones. It is called politics without principles.

What type of advice is expected of IBB when this administration has discredited him by way of Oputa panel? His court action to stop the adoption of the recommendations of the report is further evidence that the presidency has done IBB no favours. Why would Obasanjo expect IBB to be disposed to him? Now, listen to the advice offered: The president should dismiss Chief Anenih, Adamu Ciroma, Jerry Gana and Kema Chikwe. If I were Obasanjo, I would ignore what these “old friends” are saying. If he takes their advice, he would be damned and it would be the worst decision of his life. Obasanjo cannot afford to go to the next election without those ministers. It would be like the long trip to Golgotha with the bearing of a heavy presidential Cross, for which no one would care to ameliorate the concomitant savagery. If the ministers are to be dropped, it should be done after securing his victory and the president may at that time reward them with ambassadorial appointments. However, in avoidance of doubt, my position herein, is that the president should return to Otta and forget 2003. But, for the sake of his position in history he must not abandon the watchers of this rearguard. He should keep those ministers. Lest, future travails before the May 2003 elections without them, would expose him.

It is interesting to explore how Obasanjo got to this position. He waited on his God before declaring his interest for re-election. When he had heard the voice of the same God, that is, after keeping 100 million of his fellow citizens in abeyance, his declaration of interest was hardly surprising, as he had hinted it before the end of his 40 days of fasting. As an aside, I wonder why the president did not opt for 80 days. At least, if the country did not benefit from his long fasting period, his rotund feature could have been emaciated to allow for a finespun and slim Obasanjo. So, now that he has heard the voice of God, the wise men of the Patriots are calling on him not to listen only to the voice of God, which arguably, he may not have heard clearly or God has changed his mind, but to listen to the voices of men of reasoning. This is the dilemma and why must it be so?

We have a latter day Christian convert in our president. He discovered God on the way to the valley of death via Yola, Northern Nigeria. It is rumoured that he has a man of God at Aso Rock to whom he turns for divine exhortations. Since the rumour went round the mills, I want to believe it is malicious to discredit a president, who demonstrates a preference for solving world problems than the ones for which he is mandated to lead his people. It may be important to him, that State affairs are guided and ordered by divinity. There is nothing wrong in that. When the voices of fellow citizens rise against the voice of this God of Obasanjo, it is time to discount the advise of Alcuin. The Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin seen by King Nebuchadnezzar is the same estimation by which reasonable men have judged Obasanjo and his administration. There is no guile here. The urgency to accomplish what Obasanjo claims to have started is hollow, in that, there seems to be no end to initiating policies, which seem to yield inappreciable dividends.

Instead of policies and ideologies struggling for pre-eminence, there is a virulent relationship between the presidency and everybody else save the Yorubas and that excludes Sunday Awoniyi: a man who demonstrates an absence of leadership quality and a surreptitious ambition to square the wrong he perceived the presidency dished him. Clearly, Awoniyi plays the politics of self before nation; if you are unclear as to such a position, contrast his recent pronouncements and you would come to a conclusion that he is a man for whom ambition does not equate the enhancement of ideals. Well, like most of his cohorts, they generally have no ideals to propel them to power; they are trollops in its corridor.

Obasanjo is not the first leader to face political misgivings of wisemen. The famous British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in August 1990, while in office had a similar attitude to good advice. Why do some politicians fail to hear the downbeat of applause when the handwriting on the wall is clear and reads: it is time to go? To that extent, there is a similarity between our president and Margaret Thatcher, as far as their perceived self-importance and unlimited power are concerned. Could this be the reason why William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham (1708-1778) and another British Prime Minister in his speech of January 1770 at the British House of Lords said: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it“. Pitt knew the relationship between mind and power. The mind of Mrs Thatcher was skewed from the primal importance of the voice of reason when she decided to go to Paris on the day she was seeking to be retained as the leader of her party. On receiving the news of her narrow escape of the first round result, she made a declaration to go into the second round without recognising the mood of her party or the nation. It was a time that she ought to have consulted the “wise men”. But she failed so to do and paid very dearly for it. In the case of Obasanjo, the advice of the patriots may not have been sought and that is understandable. However, when the voices have decided that his continued presence is heating up the polity, it is wise for him to distance himself from the politics of Sunday Awoniyi and Wada Nas. He should not place politics and principles before the nation, but should seek honour for his departure.

When Mrs Thatcher returned to London from Paris, it was reported that she called on each of her trusted ministers and was aghast to find “et te Brute” in their gang. Those ministers were wise to the voice of men. It was not a question of disloyalty. It was expedient for the Conservatory Party to sacrifice Mrs Thatcher for the good of the nation and their party. Our situation is not far from this standpoint. The ruling party in our country must decide before adopting the candidates for 2003 to sacrifice Obasanjo, Na’abba and Anyim. They are a cocktail of disaster and a poster for bad governance. It is appreciated that Na’abba and Anyim may not seek re-election for their current positions, hence sacrificing them now and thereafter taking the presidential aspirations of Obasanjo to the gallows would be appropriate. There is no need to sign a crucifying pact, which would later be resurrected to embarrass the party; the whips should make abundantly clear to Obasanjo that after sacrificing Na’abba and Anyim, his ambitions are irrevocably at the guillotine.

I recall, the difficulties of 1992; the soi disant “anus miserable” of Queen Elizabeth of Britain. It was a year when anything that could go wrong for the British Royal Family, did: Family, Throne, Marriages of her children, Drugs, Adultery, Royal Palaces, Constitution, Princes, Princesses, Servants, Taxation, to name a few were areas that ravaged her and her family and it was becoming clear that she was losing the battle against the voices of men. At that time, it was rumoured that Her Majesty was slowly coming to the conclusion that she and her family would have to move away, if it was the wishes of the country was that they were no longer required. It was a time that I feared the Republicans had an upper hand. The simple lesson, herein, is the recognition that the voices of men should be taken seriously. The grace, power and mind of Elizabeth, Queen of Great Britain and its realms are incomparable to those of Thatcher and Obasanjo. Yet, though a rumour it may have been, the humility in its import must not be lost on Obasanjo. Therefore, this is not the time to seek advice or assistance to be re-elected, it is a time to recognise a cross section of the nation, the economy and the imbroglio with the legislature have damaged his presidency and it is a time to come to a conclusion to leave the stage when the ovation is no longer at its loudest but is turning dead like a cold turkey.

This president faces a dilemma in seeking advice from his ministers; many of them are interested in the lucre provided by their appointments. They are interested in power for the sake of it. Recently, I read the speech of Dr. Kema Chikwe at the World Igbo Congress Convention in Houston, Texas and it became apparent that as a minister in Nigeria, the appointment is not to do what is best and expedient for the country, to be successful; our ministers and politicians must practise what Dr. Chikwe refers as the politics of “a na-esi n’ulo mara mma puwa n’ama. (Charity begins at home.)”: This may be the reason why the president panders to his kin on gaining power. It is alleged that he abandoned Northern Nigerians that granted the plebiscite to gain power in favour of his people; so, what is to be made of Abraham Adesanya, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olaniwun Ajayi, Rotimi Williams and Ayo Adebanjo in the company of the patriots? Did Obasanjo miscalculate or is this the replay of “et tu Brute” as suffered by Margaret Thatcher?

The voice of men at this point is to save Obasanjo from himself and save Nigeria from him. As a military strategist, he would recount his accomplishments, which Kema Chikwe has catalogued very well; in fact, she has done so, better than Jerry Gana and Tunji Oseni combined. This may be the time to reflect on the Biblical instructions of the adventures of Abraham, Jonah and Nineveh as afforded in the Holy Scriptures. The God who asked the president to seek a second term is as true as the God of Jonah and this is the time to seek a honourable departure and retain Gana, Chikwe, Ciroma and Anenih to protect his place in history. Abo oro ni a so fun omoluwabi, ti o ba de inu re a di odindi. May God grant this president the serenity to accept the things he ought not change and recognise that the wisdom of man, oftentimes is the wisdom of God.

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1 comment

Anonymous June 29, 2005 - 9:22 am

It is hard to figure out what the issue is all about


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