Nigeria Matters

OBJ: How does it feel to be considered a failure?

I sometimes feel the pain and suffering of President Obasanjo. I also feel his frustrations; I feel the needle points and the sore in his soul. To be sure, he is the cause of most of his headaches. He is qualified for the job, but he came unprepared; he knows Nigerians, but he came, thinking he could run circles around them. And for whatever reason, he forgot that 1999 is not 1976. He failed to understand that the times have changed. He forgot that Nigerians are much smarter and wiser and more demanding that they were when he occupied Dodan Barrack and ruled by decrees and military force.

From the onset, he did not endear himself to the vast majority of Nigerians. He didn’t seem to have concrete plans for the nation. He was also seen as a puppet installed to do the bidding of the Northern oligarchy — especially the Babangida camp. Moreover, his government was not readily accepted because it was perceived to have rigged the elections and then forcing itself on the people. And even when he was given the chance to prove himself, he couldn’t. Shortly after, his person and the presidency became synonymous with theft, mismanagement, institutional corruption and other forms of illegalities.

It is so sad and so very unfortunate that things turned out the way they have: eight years of wasted opportunities; eight years of wasted resources; and eight years of collective disappointment. Mr. President was more interest in the presidency than in governance. He was more interested in the perks and fanfare connected with the office than in providing goods and services to the people. He was more comfortable junketing from one world capital to capital that in utilizing the nation’s capitals for the good of the people. Whatever your political leaning you cannot think of this president and not feel let down.

How does it feel to be the man to carry the nation’s weight? How does President Obasanjo feel? Day after day, he gets to listen to Nigerians complain about crimes and unemployment and poverty and hopelessness; week after week he gets to listen to Nigerians complain about poor roads and crumbling infrastructures; year after year for eight years he gets to listen to Nigerians complain about poor management and terrible governance. As if that is not enough, Nigerians point at him and call him all sorts of printable and unprintable names.

It is not easy being a Nigerian. And it must not be fun being the president of a country like Nigeria where there are several contexts, pretexts and contexts to everything. There is meaning and purpose to everything. And there is politics to everything be it religion, ethnicity, or family and social relationships. If you didn’t know any better you’d think every Nigerian is an Imam or Pope. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think every Nigerian is an economist, political scientist, medical doctor, philosopher, dramatist and financial mogul of some sort. Every Nigerian has solution to every problems and challenges. Every Nigerian has opinions on every subject known to mankind.

Save for paid praise singers and sycophants, Nigerians don’t go out of their way to praise governments. They are a very difficult people to please or govern. Why then would any one want to be the president of such a complex system?

How does it feel to be the president of Nigeria? How does it feel to be the man most Nigerians hold responsible for their lot in life? How does it feel to be the object of scorn and invectives? How does it feel to be spiritually punched in the face and in the tummy? How does it feel — those soft jabs and upper-cuts to the torso; the hammer-like blows to the rib-cage and the chop-chop to the mid-section? There must be people out there who sticks pins to his likeness the way voodoo priests do. What does the president make of the criticisms and maltreatment from newspaper columnists and cyber commentators? Day after day dozens of people abuse and swear at him. Why, why then would he or anyone else want to be the president of Nigeria?

Extraordinary rendition is an extra-judicial procedure used to soften enemies of the state. Does Obasanjo sometimes wish he could hand his critics over to Uzbekistan, Syria, China or Equatorial Guinea to be taught a lesson or two? After all, it must be painful to be spoken to and written about as though one is a thug or a street urchin, and not the president of a special country like Nigeria.

What does Obasanjo make of all these attacks directed at him? How does it feel to be considered a failure? How does it feel to know he might be arrested after leaving office? How does it feel to know that in less than 6 months his title and most of the perks associated with his office will be stripped from him? How does it feel knowing history will be harsh on him? And how does it really feel when a segment of the population considers him a thief? Damn. Why would anyone want to be the president of Nigeria? Why? Oh heavens, I feel for Obasanjo. I feel his pain. I feel his suffering. I feel his fear. I feel his tears.

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