Death has been described beautifully as the ultimate leveller of all human beings — rich or poor, young or old, man or woman. There is always joyful scenes when one is born but sorrow pervades the air when death comes calling. It is all about the mystery of life, the burden of descendants of Adam and Eve. It is in the human nature to be born and to die. God in His infinite wondrous ways knows, only Himself, the way a living thing comes to the world and the way it goes. The mystery of creation defies science to the extent that man is left to wonder and sometimes marvel at the Omnipotency of this unseen Maker. At the mercy of what is beyond his wisdom and comprehension man is still groping in the dark, century after century, trying to find true answers to troubling questions about our existence.
The rumour mill was agog earlier this week with the presumed assassination of the ’emperor’ in Ota, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo was quick to dispel the rumour proclaiming in his usual dry humour that “I deh kampe” (I’m well and alive). Characteristically known for his comedic trivial takes on issues of even national importance Obasanjo told whoever cared to listen that in his Yoruba culture whoever was rumoured to have died was bound to live long. A septugenarian Obasanjo is having a great time as an elder statesman who has had a unique opportunity of calling the shots at the federal level of power on two occasions. In the 70’s as a military man he was called upon to step into the shoes of the late Gen. Murtala Mohammed who had just been assassinated in broad daylight in a Lagos street. It was a hesitant Obasanjo, morbid fear in his anatomy, who stepped out to fulfil his date with destiny.
Again when the military high command under Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar lost all credibility following the June 12/Abiola national fiasco leading to the death of Gen. Sani Abacha Obasanjo who was serving a jail term for treason allegations was released and asked to contest the presidency if only to assure the aggrieved Southerners that their grievances were taken into account. The bankrupt Owu Chief was made President and he ruled for eight ‘scandal-ful’ years as President. To say that Obasanjo is a lucky man is stating the very obvious. He may not be a popular radical leader loved and admired by a majority of his people but he has made his marks in leadership for good or for ill. History may be harsh to his legacies but it is undeniable that he remains a big man of influence in the Nigerian power circles.
When the fake news of Obasanjo’s tragic end made the rounds around the world reports had it that people (especially Governor Gbenga Daniel’s supporters) were jubilating in the streets of Abeokuta! Was it a typical case of a prophet not being honoured or recognised at home? Or one whose continuing political exploits (perfidy) has more to do with selfishness and bloated ego than charity beginning at home front? Even at home Obasanjo is controversial with few liking him and many loathing him; you either see him as a local god or risk some political capital. Even yesterday’s sworn enemies have had cause to visit him in his Ota ‘shrine’ if only to extract one political favour or another.
When good men die people spontaneously cry and remember their good deeds but when evil men kick the bucket people make merry. When Dele Giwa, the ‘Newswatch’ veteran journalist was bombed out of existence by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s henchmen Nigerians expressed their horror and mourned his violent death for years. Even as a little boy I remember grieving for him! And when Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the Abacha tyranny Nigerians, in unison, condemned the kangaroo judgement he was given that led to his untimely demise. And when Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the legal icon, passed away millions of his compatriots prayed for his radical soul to find heavenly repose praising his brevity and titanic struggles for a better nation. In sharp contrast however when the goggled General from Kano expired in the arms of imported prostitutes Nigerians rejoiced and thanked God for delivering us from the Locust.
Obasanjo’s rumoured obituary literally sent tongues wagging and tempers rising. And the circumstance sorrounding it all threw up troubling questions. If armed gunmen could have the temerity to waylay the Ota farmer and pumped bullets in his protruding stomarch or his head then no one is safe anymore? Besides OBJ would have been demystified at long last in death! The insecurity in the country has reached frightening proportions with kidnappings and other bare-faced armed robbery holding the nation to ransom. Daily we hear and read about politicians being killed, banks being robbed, people being kidnapped and the police cannot be said to be on top of the situation. As election year draw menacingly closer more killings will happen and more abductions will take place accross the country.
When Obasanjo was in power he was having a running battle with his deputy, Atiku Abubakar. At one point he was accusing his Vice President of plotting to eliminate him through fetish means! Atiku fired back accusing Obasanjo of being a staunch member of different occultic groups and pretending to be a born-again Christian which he was not. So if Obasanjo had been killed by men of the underworld then that would have meant that his marabouts had failed him. It would have signalled that ‘Baba’, the swaggering bushman, is after all human and not invincible. That would have sent shock waves across the land with many politicians scurrying back to India, Ijebu Ode and other dark areas to re-new their protective charms and amulets. In the end it is God that gives life and takes it at will!
The rumoured Obasanjo obituary, were it to be true, would have changed the political permutations for 2011. One, it would have saved President Goodluck Jonathan from the meddlesomeness of OBJ and afforded him the chance to be his own man. Two, the zoning proponents would have quietly heaved a sigh of relief and celebrated the demise of an ungrateful beneficiary of zoning who is now championing its abrupt abolition. Three, many a politician would have mourned the death of their godfather through whom they rigged their way to power. And perhaps finally the truth would have been told of how Obasanjo and few of his trusted aides and cronies defrauded Nigerians during his reign and made the nation poorer. We would have been opportuned to know why the much-vaunted Independent Power Project never materialised even after gulping millions of dollars.
The death hoax never started with Obasanjo neither will it end with him; some Nigerians silently wish some politicians making their lives hellish dead! Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe ‘died’ more than once before his ‘real’ death could come. Late President Umaru Yar’Adua ‘died’ many times (in Germany, Saudi Arabia) before finally succumbing to death in Aso Rock Abuja earlier this year. But the difference in this present case concerns who was being rumoured to have died and his pedigree. Obasanjo has refused to retire from politics and continues to blow hot and cold. Recently he carpeted the Nigerian federal lawmakers pointedly accusing them of incompetence and corruption. The pampered legislators fired back saying they agreed they are corrupt but Obasanjo must accept that he is their ‘godfather’. OBJ is always in the news sometimes dancing openly in the airport or making mockery of journalists who wanted to know his positions on national issues of the day.
Obasanjo was destined to be great but whether he has achieved greatness in his service to his country as a leader is left only to imagination. One thing is sure though: few leaders in the world who had made history never had the opportunity he had to turn things around in their various countries. But here is a man who prefers to be seen as a great leader when the ingredients of great
ness in him are found wanting, a man whose grandstanding tends to mask his inner emptiness in moral capital. Here is a grandfather who was content in mortgaging the future of a generation of Nigerians by refusing to do the right things at the right time. Here is a vindictive glorified dictator whose passage in power witnessed monumental fiscal heist and a failed constitutional third-term coup.
Obasanjo is a master in patriotic posturings but unpatriotic in his dealings with Nigerians. He is a power monger who derives joy in ‘fixing’ do or die elections and ‘selecting’ candidates that suit his fancy. He did few good things right and many bad things while in power. He will be remembered for his bullish style and primordial alliances. His obituary, whenever it comes, shall be one many people will be happy to write or read about and the epitaph in his grave site should aptly read: ‘Here lies an evil man who ruled Nigeria for a combined eleven years with little or no change to prove his statesmanship or his patriotism. Here lies the remains of the Ota monster who was bankrupt in 1999 when he was ‘elected’ into power but left in 2007 a billionaire in Naira and dollars. May his soul never rest in peace!’
Though one is not wishing Obasanjo dead it will be interesting indeed to see how ordinary Nigerians would react to his eventual death which could occur tomorrow or in ten years. Would they be dancing and going to churches and mosques to give thanks to God or Allah for sending their chief oppresor to the Hades? Would they be pained that their former beloved leader has joined his Owu ancestors? Or would they feel indifferent and go about their daily activities as if nothing happened?
Long live Aremu Segun Obasanjo until your real obituary is announced. The OBJ obituary that fortunately or unfortunately never was should be viewed from the perspective of the ordinary.