Reaction to Gbenga Obasanjo

These are really interesting times in Nigeria. The entire nation is already inundated with reactions over a published conversation between Gbenga Obasanjo and I. This reaction would not dwell on individual, official and legal reactions to what is obviously a revealing story.

The interested public should note, however that negative and threatening reactions to published stories that exhibit unbearable slant towards the power elite has become the hallmark of the Nigerian leadership. Whenever it suits them, they make journalists the scapegoat, sometimes going to the extent of assassinating them in their line of duty when other ways of intimidation fails.

Precisely, on December 15th 2005 as I was engaging on the last leg of my trip to Nigeria. (This was so because of my ‘adopted’ mode of travel, which requires that I travel a certain route when visiting or leaving Nigeria). As I was leaving my hotel in Cotonou, I noticed there was a fellow dressed in Kaftan (popularly known as “Senegalese”) also leaving the same time as me. This was a bulky fellow, who obviously was Nigerian. I disregarded the person and hired a vehicle to take me to the Nigerian border, in tow with two of my friends who came down from Lagos to help with my travel.

Shortly after we left the car park at the NOVOTEL Hotel in Cotonou, I saw there was a car following behind us, also apparently headed in the same direction, though I was bit curious, it didn’t bother me too much. As we made to cross the border to the Nigerian side, a tout who pointed to an empty desk across from us stopped us. There, I saw a person in mufti with his legs conveniently crossed on the wooden table. He beckoned on us to come over. Since it is a regular occurrence with Nigerian officials to harass travelers for money at the border, I decided I was going to confront him and try to report my encounter with the Seme border officials. I went over to the desk and the officer asked where we were coming from, he started ranting about how he was upset that we didn’t pay attention to his “man”- the tout.

He said this problem would have been solved if you had talked to his ‘man’. I protested to him that I did not know how to relate to touts at the border. And since the he too wasn’t in uniform, I could not tell the difference. He got upset and said I should surrender my passport, I complied and he looked at it and said I should talk with him; otherwise he was going to delay me for a while. Just as I continued protesting his attitude, the bulky fellow who was in the car that followed me from NOVOTEL Hotel showed up and started castigating my colleagues and me. I was upset because he did care to listen to us. He looked at the officer and asks him to let us go. The officers were all standing and paying him serious attention at this time. He then signed an exercise book at the border and handed his passport to the customs. They didn’t look at it. They just gave him back his passport and also returned ours and let us go!

In curiosity, I looked at the book he signed and saw his last name: “Obasanjo”, I greeted him as he made to turn away; I introduced myself to him and explained that I would love to speak with him. As soon as knew who I was, he went off on me and complained to me about how he felt about our reports regarding his father’s government and public officials in Nigeria.

Since I was always interested in reporting the truth, I asked if he would like to speak with me about his views about our reports and Nigeria as a whole, he declined and walked away from us, saying he wished me luck and admonished us not to be emotional in our reports.

I left the scene and started on a journey into Lagos Nigeria by foot in search of a vehicle to take us to Lagos. His car drove a past us, it was a dark colored SUV with his driver, a police escort in mufti and another fellow on his left side (whom he later introduced to me as his cousin).

Suddenly he stopped, wound down his windows and asked if I would want a ride to Lagos. At first, I rejected the offer because I was unhappy with his paternalistic behavior at the border. Also I was a little concerned about my personal safety. On a second thought and due to his persistence I accepted the offer simply because it would present an opportunity for me to ask him nagging questions some of which he already started talking about at the border post. So, I asked if we could talk on the way to Lagos and he said “sure”.

In all fairness to him and what appears to me to be an act of kindness, he personally came down from his car and help load my bags into the trunk of his car. But then the car could not take all of us three- at which time he requested that he would only take me. I rejected that request and insisted that he at least let one of my friends be in the car with me or else, I would gladly reject his offer for a ride. He looked into the back of the car and he found a spot for one of my friend. I quickly turned to the third fellow gave him some money, told him to copy the license plates of the car, and instructed him to call a number in case he doesn’t hear from me in two days!

Let me restate here that my involvement in news reporting revolve around the principle of freedom of information both for the media and the human person. If the interest Nigerians were at stake, I take the route of siding with the people. I did not expect that these volume of information will become accepted to the government or be celebrated by the political elite affected, but it has become my self-imposed duty to help reveal hidden information that will strengthen and re-awaken public consciousness about the state of Nigeria’s democracy and governance which all our people have accepted is currently in bad shape.

Going on with Gbenga to Lagos I did not mince words about my intentions; sat sandwiched between him and his cousin. He was on my right side. I immediately started the conversation from where we stopped at the border. To my chagrin, Gbenga was very frank and candid, and in a way that “evinced some patriotism” as stated by his lawyer. He spoke fluently and eloquently about sundry issues as I put questions to him one after the other; I have reported the conversations in the most accurate, matured and professional manner. I could not include so many unprintable things he said because I didn’t find it necessary. It was a conversation solely undertaken between him and I, there was never a time when anyone else present in the car intervened, except when he turned to his cousin to buttress his point about his impending divorce.

He knew that I am not a ‘wannabe’ reporter; I introduced my trade to him and he could identify my style from our published reports. For those reasons, we didn’t have any ‘private’ discussions, it was not necessary. It was a conversation that had far reaching political connotations and ramifications hence the weight of the output on the entire Nigerian society today!

We all know that the current regime brings their families and baggage into office in ruling Nigeria. The argument about the family’s privacy is a convenient fallacy that is untenable, they should be reminded that they have consistently used the apparatus of government to defend their families as at when it suites them.

Anyone who knows Lagos traffic and the condition of Nigerian roads could tell that if you drove from Seme border to the car park of Sheraton Hotels in Ikeja, Lagos you would have quite a distance covered and a lot of time on your hands. Within this period, we never stopped conversing. His cousin, his police orderly, driver and my friend who sat at the back of his car would attest to this, if they haven’t been intimidated already!

I could understand that Gbenga Obasanjo became lily-livered due to untold pressure brought to bear on him by his father’s office and the decadent Nigeria political establishment since this story broke.

On my part, since I started news/report writing I do not miss an opportunity to bring truthful and undiluted information to Nigerians or the rest of the world even under the most inconvenient circumstances. Also, there are times when one has to choose between being frightened by professional hounds and scarecrows and the interest of a battered and helpless people, such as Nigerians of today.

I understand too well, that when public service of this proportion is offered one’s nation state it is bound to have repercussions, there is always a scapegoat sought by the ruling class as evidenced by the frenzy of denials and pressure that since followed the release of this particular story. I urge Nigerians to look at the story from the substance contained in it and ignore the antics of lawyers; spin-doctors and paid public hirelings whose job is to scare the rest of us with their well-known semantics.

These reactions reveal to us, once again, that the current regime operates both a dysfunctional presidency as well as a dysfunctional family.

For the sake of history, truth, sacrifice and the love for my country, I stand by this story!

Thank you!

Written by
Jonathan Elendu and Sowore Omoyele
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11 comments
  • Sowore

    as a member of gbenga obasanjo's fan,we are saying thank you to everyone, who has bestowed concern towards gbenga obasanjo at the very crucial period of his life.

    Those, who have taking time to advise, encourrage and up lift this young man..we really appreciate all your effort.

    Big hug and kisses…lot of love

    Thanks.

  • That was a breach of good faith as far as I am concerned.The minute this guy agreed to be interview, then you owed him a moral duty to record the interview accurately.

    I suspect that was not what happened in your case because it is impossible to have recorded the account wihout changing the tape/cd you used for the recording.And I am not aware of any recording device that would go on recording for three hours especially if it wasn't a visible recording device.

    So what exactly did you do,you spewed out gabbage journalism, journalism of 'we against them.'Afterall, that Gbenga is Obasanjo's son is an accident.We have seen children of importnat personalities that have disagreed with their fathers views and methods of doing things, and chose the same profession of service in life using different methods– FEMI KUTI is a typical example.

    In Sowore's court children of theives are theives, children of prostitutes are prostitutes, blacks are lazy and dull becuase they are blacks.In your haste to sell a story or make a scoop you submitted to generalizations.

    It is nohing every decent person should be proud of

  • Dear Brother Sowore,

    We miss you so much since you left Elendu's.Please give us informed of your plans.Believe me, you have thousands of fans here in the USA. God bless you brother.

  • You can drop your home address on the site so you can receive the tapes in the mail.

    Come on Nigerians! why do we do this to oursleves all the time? There is a wealth of information harvested for our nation by this Sowore boy or man, instead of looking to work on the substance and ask the right questions somebody is here asking for the tapes of the interview.

    If Sowore sends you the interview tapes, are going to take them to the HAGUE?

    I am tired of our people sha!

  • So-obscure in comment 6; are you looking for an excuse for MR. G. OBJ? Sowere, don't fall for that trap. Keep your procedure to yourself. Nigerians believe you.

    Living in the North East USA

  • I do appreciate Omoyele's rejoinder, but you fail to tell us how you recorded the conversation. Were you writing the questions and answers or were you recording by tape… Please shed more on how you had the conversation on record.

  • This is wonderful . I do not think you need to be intimidated by paid pens like Abati that are claiming professionalism . Is taking egunje what qualifies you to be a professional or a "friend" as Abati put it . We pray God will bless you and continue to save you and others that stand against corruption and injustice in whatever form it occurs . What nonsense . Thank God he picked you up,and effected the release of your passports , but then if not the rot in the Nigerian society , he should have recognised that it was his duty to help his fellow citizens . Besides, what of the "kind" misapropation of national funds to the benefit of the Obasanjo cronies . Please let the elites and benefactors from this corrupt system leave us alone to decide if we want to believe their own version of the story or not .

  • Mr. Omoyele Sowore undoubtedly did the most honorable thing. He is a patriot and my hero. He has helped demystified the "oga-mbo"(The boss is here!) mentality of our leaders and their families.

    The bloke who wrote the first comment is well known for his views! He belongs to the generation of Nigerians who would rather sit at the table for crumbs. They are "signatures and business cards" collecting Nigerians who do not understand there is more to life than taking a ride with the son of the president.

    I respect Sowore very much and will continue to doff my hat! Gradually he is revealing himself as the Marting Luther King of our time. Using non-violent means to deconstruct societal complexities that ravages our life. It was he who led a group of protesters to New York to drive away some state Governors who came all the way to New York to celebrate Nigeria's independence day!

    This guy is building a legacy for the future. He is a role model! Our young ones have all lost their bearing, they have sold out on the nation. For him, it is more important to think about the nation's interest before his own.

    He revealed what he knew could help wake up a nation in deep slumber. He squandered the secrets that might have put our nation in the sewage deeper.

    It remains for history to give him an appropriate place. I am proud of his work. Please keep it up!

  • It does not matter to me who said what, (Gbenga Obasanjo or Omoyele Sowore), the issue to me is,once it has been said by whoknowswhat, and it is being discussed so much daily, let there be investigation on the "said or not said serious issue(s)". EFCC, SSS, KKK, MNM, PDP, AK47, ANPP, WAZOBIA, etc groups need to go into immediate action to find out who and who have been "milking" the Nigeria resources to the extend that almost all Nigerians (99.9999999999999) are pathetically suffering in a land that is flowing with milk, honey, crude oil, rivers, etc. (and may I add, also flowing with blood, sweat, tears, 419, drug dealers, brain drains, armed robbers, foreign bank accounts, etc).

    Gbenga Obasanjo you have said a good thing. Omoyele Sowore you have written a good thing. Now Nigerians, the ball is in your court to find out the truth and weed or flush out (gently or forcibly) all the bad politicians, incompetent military officers, corrupt policemen, shady business people, roguish custom officers, egoistic oil dealers, ten-percenter contractors, etc in the country.

  • I've never known Mr Sowore to lie,not even in the days of the tyrant with the googles.The ball is back in your court Mr-i-did-not-say-it-Obasanjo,did you or did you not fling those damning salvos at your daddy's deputy

  • The young man, Gbenga Obasanjo, did you a favor and helped you out of your tight situation. Based on your narration here, he acted gentlemanly to you, he even personally helped you to load your bags on his car. He spoke with you not as a government official nor a president's son but as an individual. I am quite sure that if the president himself, Segun Obasanjo or Ibrahim Babaginda, or Shagari, or Marwa, or Ojukwu, or Owela, or Sowore (Snr) or Atiku, or Soyinka, or Anikulapo, or (you got the drift, right)…… were to speak as individuals they would all have something negative to say about Nigeria. Nigeria had been a rotten egg long before you, Omoyele Sowore, was born.

    You sound like an anthropologist opportunist journalist to me, you did not do your investigative reporting in a professional manner. I do understand that the present situation in Nigeria hurts your humanistic feelings, just same way many concerned Nigerians (including Gbenga Obasanjo) feel. AS Nigerians we should all be putting our heads and minds and efforts together to re-build and elevate the country, not tear it down with controversial interviews.

    Personally to me, I don't care about what Gbenga Obasanjo said or didnot say. What matters is what the "honcho" uniformed turned agbada Olusegun Obasanjo, or maradonna IBB, or custom officer turned billionaire Atiku, or former governor turned overnight billionaire Marwa, etc are saying. Gbenga Obasanjo is not one of the people draining Nigeria, he is an ordinary citizen like anyone else.