The Arrogance of a President

by Banjo Odutola

If this present government headed by Olusegun Obasanjo is judged to have performed badly, then his castigation and banal evocation of the name of God is hardly necessary because the evidence of his achievements or the lack of them remains unchanged and neither should his persiflage be allowed to intimidate anyone from criticising him or his administration.

It was to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that the Nigerian President vented his chagrin on his critics by declaring that, “It is sheer mischief and lack of the fear of God to say that my administration did not do well.” Furthermore he said: “If my critics know God and fear Him very well, they would have assessed this administration to be better, and if not the best compared to the previous military and civilian administrations.” For the sake of the same God that this president evokes his name with abandon banality, I ask what type of nonsense talk is this? Should this president forget, a sterling quality of leadership is the ability to take constructive criticisms and counter destructive ones with evidence or propagation to the contrary of the criticisms.

If this president believes he can use the name of his God to scare his critics, he had better go back and start fasting. Perhaps he is asking the nation not to criticise God and by inference he means that we should not criticise President Obasanjo: The little God of Aso Rock. Please tell him that God Almighty, I know, and as far as I am concerned this retired General is no God. I would endeavour to tell you why; should the man lack the understanding to know differently.

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria may well be the Almighty God of Aso Rock because he determines if criticisms of his administration for the amelioration of our national Kismet is pari passu with the lack of the fear of God; he should well realise that his personal assessments are his rights to hold and vocalise but to extend such rights over the freedom of other stakeholders is unfortunate. How can a knowledgeable man like him ask for a democratic dispensation to be compared with military despots? Even though it is the same Nigerian people that were brutalised by previous military administrations, it must be remembered that those administrations were not granted the mandate of the people and their actions were predicated on ukases rather than consultations and legislations. So, why is the president using fact as a drunkard uses a lamp post: for support rather than illumination?

This president has now stated that those of us that dare to criticise his administration have no fear of God. Can this man debase us any further? This type of presidential accusation is revelatory in itself. As a military General, he would have punished his critics and now as a president of a democratic nation, he vents his frustration with his usual ‘God’ business for which he is popular. Mr. President, please note that our perspicacity of the achievements of this administration informs the Nigerian nation that our expectation of your ability is overrated and it is for this reason that we can validly criticise you and your administration. So, while still criticising the achievements of this administration, the use of God’s name as a veneer for incompetence is profane and blasphemous because the converse is that, had our nation become more prosperous, safe(r) and a country that even retirees want to spend the rest of their days rather than flee as they cannot enjoy the fruits of their active years of service; If this administration had delivered on it promises, then it can be argued that it is harsh to criticise the president.

The truth is that we have a nation that has rendered its youth to the skip of life as scavengers in other countries; young and capable Nigerians want to flee the country because anywhere is better than home. Yet, this president says he deserves to be praised. What Praise?

We criticise this government because our streets are as unsafe as our hope; the democracy for which we clamoured has produced a government that is not supported by its political party, a government that sends armed soldiers against defenceless people, a politics in which the differences in its political camps are never about policies to ameliorate our existence but it is always about official appointments, how much money goes to our House of Assembly and which of our Assembly men have crossed-carpeted to the ruling party. Suffice to say, the exigencies of our politics and the esurience of our Representatives will continue to defeat our hope for a better nation. If this president is too blinkered and savvy to appreciate the sufferings in the land, then we are in a lot of trouble if he is granted another four years.

Let me state that I am not an Obasanjo supporter or his detractor. I am enthralled by his histrionics and theatrical Kampeism, which is now, tempered by a realisation that he is no longer a decorated Roadie but a president of a great (?) nation. Therefore, it is acceptable to respond to his arrogance of castigating those who dare to criticise him. Before his lacklustre achievements are paraded or defended, I understand the man has surrounded himself with a group of indigenous and international ‘close, honest and trustworthy friends’ on whom he relies and receives advice on the state of the nation. Do these men and women who by no yardstick are sycophants forget to tell him of the price of Gari at Oyingbo, Iddo, Abakaliki, Kaduna and Onitsha markets? Have they not confided in him that junketing all over the world sends the wrong message to his people who are hungry? Have they told him that the ‘Obasanjo Red Carpet’ at Heathrow Airport is now a fixture and not a fitting?

In fact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government may soon have to consider a permanently stationed welcome team at Heathrow Airport for the never ending visits of the Nigerian president who seems to have forgotten something in London and no one know why he jumps at the first excuse to visit the town. Has it not occurred to our president that the British Media is hardly interested in his visits and that explains why his repeated visits are not often reported widely? Our president should know that if there is no vacancy at Aso Rock, there is no vacancy at Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street. Trust me!

Does our president return to London because he loves to reminisce about his Sandhurst days or is it the magic of Shepherd Bush Market that he enjoyed so much because he bought his Nigerian foodstuff from there? Unfortunately, whenever the man is in London he never stops at that market to visit or pick up the chores and hardware for which no one knows why he has become a recurring decimal in this part of the world. May be the British Government should just let him go shopping at Shepherd Bush, Liverpool Street, Peckham and Brixton Markets. Thereafter, he may realise that his centrifugal travels from Abuja adds to his woes and criticisms.

If this president considers himself and his administration as rarae aves that are beyond criticisms of the people whose lives he directs and lives that are ravaged by the hopelessness of his decisions, then another four years will be hellish for this great country.

It never stops to amuse, when this president cites the example of press freedom as an accolade of his administration. So, what if the Nigerian press is free to publish what it likes? Is that not to be expected in the government of the people? Besides, what has Press Freedom got to do with the price of Gari, Rice or Palm Oil? Please tell this one time farmer turned president that our people are hungry, inflation is unbearable and our graduates remain unemployed. Some of these graduates are the only hopes of their families and they are the same children for whom many families sacrificed a great deal to pay for their education. These children are now unable to repay the moral debts owed to their families in particular and to society at large. Yet, this president says he has done well. What type of doing well is that?

Well, the president may run to the BBC to complain that the lack of his achievement to resuscitate the Nigerian economy must not be blamed on his administration. It is absolute balderdash to posit such tortuous argument and there is no doubt that this president will attempt it. How can the woeful performance of the economy not have anything to do with this administration? Who else are we to blame after three years? Is it Abacha or IBB? Surely not! It is President Obasanjo fairly and squarely.

At times we hear that Obasanjo has done a great deal for the Nigeria in the comity of nations and Nigeria has once again become respectable. Oh dear! I want to puke, please pass the bucket! Please remember that we are now pleading to be categorised as a ‘poor nation’. That means we are poor and proud. Is that it? If you live and work in Nigeria, there is a tendency to believe the junk sent out as information by the Ministry of External Affairs headed by Sule Lamido. In actual fact the contrary is true. It would be interesting to gauge the level of respect that the Nigerian nation and nationals enjoy at the rate 419ers dupe and kill Nigerians and foreigners.

Well, let us look at what is happening in Saudi Arabia. Do we still believe that we are respected a great deal when a House of Assembly Representatives from Zamfara State is languishing in a Saudi gaol for attempting to pervert the course of justice in that country as we do in Nigeria? When that House of Representatives member returns to Nigeria, it would be interesting to see what Alhaji Ahmed Sani, the Shariah patriarch is going to do to this Zamfaran; Amputation or ablution? Watch this space!

Back to this arrogant and narcissistic president, who is attempting to dictate the terms by which he is to be remembered? If he cares to know, the nation will remember him well for mobile telephony and recovery of money looted by General Abacha. Also, we will remember him as the flying president don go abroad again.

So, how would Obasanjo be remembered? Ask General Victor Malu, formerly Chief of Army Staff (COAS)! If Malu was still serving in the Army, he would by now have been placed on a watch list for his so called frankness is a disgrace and a veiled call to coup plotters to overthrow this government. Nonetheless, what happened in his Village cannot and must not be allowed to go unpunished. I fear for Obasanjo because his meddling in the Tiv-Junkun infraction may well land him at The Hague. Oh well, may be not. At least his brother, the Prince who was at The Hague will deliver him. Do you remember Prince Ajibola, formerly High Commissioner to the Court of St James? He knows how the Court in The Hague works. It is expected that he would pull all strings to ensure that his friend is spared the embarrassment of answering to the atrocities at Benue. Aside from the Benue trouble, what about Odi? Ask all those Riverine people. They are simmering with anger and justifiably so.

Thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives under the same government in which its Uno Numero condemns his critics. Does he believe that the families who lost loved ones to the slaughter at Shagamu, Idi-Araba, Ife-Modakeke, Kaduna, would ever praise his administration?

One may well criticise this president, it is equally base not to grant him an advice or two. My advice is that he should turn to his friend, Olawale William Jefferson Clinton and I would tell you why Clinton is best to advise him. You see, when Bill Clinton at a very young age became the Governor of Arkansas State, USA, he squandered the expectation of his electorate and lost the governorship to a Republican. He soon realised his folly and was forced to reflect on what he did wrong as governor and why the people turned against him for a less charismatic and adept candidate. When he realised that he has ostracised the same people who mandated him to the Office of the Governor, he returned to confess and repented of his bad judgements and asked the people to forgive him. At least Clinton as clever a president as he was admitted his failure and his ineffectual policies when he was a governor.

You may say that is Bill Clinton and astute politics. That may well be so. His fortitude took him to a higher office in his country. Even though the Nigerian President may not care so much for an elected office in the land, he should care about how history may well judge him. Why lose the great achievements of a lifetime just because of a loose and cheap talk?

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