Penultimate week the ‘god’ of Ota, Olusegun Obasanjo, paid a courtesy visit to the new Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi. There, the former President was reported to have prostrated before the 40-year old modern King pouring encomiums on him for his efforts toward uniting the Yoruba race since his coronation. That Obasanjo went down hugging the floor in absolute deference to the throne and the great Ife tradition was a great demonstration of reverence by a man known for his huge ego and hubris. OBJ’s antecedence of antagonizing traditional institutions and even the clergy (especially during his second coming to power) is instructive here. The Owu Chief is not known to be a great respecter of persons and institutions even those under the body of Christ. His encounters with some high-profile men of God in the past spoke volume of his egocentric dispositions and pomposity.
His Royal Highness Ogunwusi endeared himself to many observers when during a thanksgiving church service held in his honour after the coronation he was reported to have gone down on his knees praying to the Almighty God for His mercy and longevity of his reign. When critics accused him of ‘desecrating’ the throne by such act he issued a statement making it clear that God was the source of all powers (whether traditional or otherwise). The ‘Kabiyesi’ had acknowledged his mortality by saying that he had no regrets for kneeling before the Immortal One before whom all homo-sapiens were subject and owed allegiance! That was a sound demonstration of the limit of mundane power and the superiority and sovereignty of divine power over all powers human.
Obasanjo claims to be a Christian and his middle name is, of course, Mathew but his apparent disdain for Christendom during his imperial presidency often cast him in the mould of a hypocrite, one whose ‘god’ is complex and one whose real faith is shrouded in some mystery. The Ooni of Ife has already proven to be a reformer-king, one out to mend ‘broken’ fences and unite the people under one Oduduwa. We salute his courage and sagacity; his civilised persona in this era of globalisation and civilisation. United we can move mountains; as a people united under one nation hope would be restored in the Nigerian project.
The late Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade who died at a London clinic last year was notorious for many things incompatible with the exalted throne. He was available for the highest bidder while playing dangerous partisan politics. Politicians and ‘militricians’ easily got his attention by offering him monetary inducements to sway his support. He politicised the exalted throne thereby throwing same to disrepute. He loved money and good things of life so he did all sort of business to satisfy this cupid yearning. During the Babangida years of pestilence he was always in the spotlight defending one indefensible position or another and sometimes providing tacit endorsement of a masked dictatorship. During the June 12 national imbroglio he was one of the revered royal fathers that sought to trade away the popular mandate Nigerians gave to the late Bashorun MKO Abiola justifying the absurd annulment of a free and fair presidential poll on the alter of expediency. He had told a bewildered nation then that Babangida was “making a point” after their meeting with the evil genius.
His celebrated feud over supremacy with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, went a long way in alienating both the great royal kingdoms and their subjects. Though the Alaafin has outlived the Ooni he himself is not exonerated from the denigration of the Oduduwa kingdom by his deeds and misdeeds but he is less mercantilistic and polarizing a monarchical figure than the handsome late Ooni. I had had a genuine cause to attack the late Ooni many years ago in an article published online entitled : “Ooni Sijuwade’s Many Misdeeds”.
Ever since he left Aso Rock grudgingly (following his failed third term gamble) handing over power to the late Umaru Yar’Adua Obasanjo has remained very active. He is either delivering lectures or attending meetings outside the country. Or intervening in one forum or another across the country as a distinguished guest of honour or whatever. As a privileged prominent insider ‘Baba’ speaks truth to power without giving a damn about diplomacy or decorum. He calls a spade a spade no matter whose ox is gored. Recently he had declared that the missing abducted Chibok girls could never be found again since some must have died while others must have been sold into slavery and yet others forced into marriage or nursing babies out of such unholy marriages. Yes I concur with OBJ: we must perish the lazy thought of bringing those unfortunate girls back home; the Chibok kidnapping issue is a lost case and whoever is promising to bring anybody back is day-dreaming.
Recently while speaking as the Chairman at the inaugural conference of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy held at the University of Ibadan Obasanjo was reported to have chided the Governors in Nigeria describing them aptly as “Emperors”. Hear him: “Nigeria is a country where some governors have become sole administrators, acting like emperors. These governors have rendered public institutions irrelevant and useless…. Is there development work going on in the 774 constitutionally recognised local government councils, which have been merely appropriated as private estates of some governors? Some governors have hijacked the resources of the local governments and this has crippled the developments of the local government councils in the country. The National Assembly must also open its budgets to public scrutiny.”
The retired General made a serious point by pointing that out. The 36 Governors ruling over the states in Nigeria (with the exception of a few) are acting like Lords of the manor in whose court could be found jesters, criminals and killers. They command and control with impunity — emboldened by the immunity clause in the constitution that shield them from every legal intrusion. Many among the lot commit murder and graft while in power only to ‘run’ to the Senate or House of Reps. after the expiration of their mandate to continue benefitting from the immunity.
Among them one could find those who believe they are ‘monarchs’, living like them and projecting the image of immortality or invincibility. The states’ houses of assembly that should normally provide some checks and balances are made to be amenable to the ‘king”s caprices. They acquiesce to everything, their conscience and allegiance having been bought over. Like in Ayo Fayose’s Ekiti State all the PDP assembly men and women are fiercely loyal to him as he pampers them providing every material comfort without compromise. I believe some of them must have ‘sworn’ to an oath of allegiance before ‘winning’ elections in the state! With them providing legislative cover Fayose is not afraid of the consequences of “Ekitigate” despite the fact that the Alukos of this world have spilled the beans! In this terrible situation under the “stomach infrastructure” regime squandermania is bound to happen with no question asked and none expected.
Of course we have got some good Governors in Nigeria, those who see the beauty of duty and allow democracy to prevail in every circumstance. Governors like Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State (to mention just a few) are doing well and will leave great legacies behind after their tenures run their full course. They have no godfathers and have fought off the local ‘mafians’ holding their states captive before their emergence.
The Oracle of Ota has spoken and he has spoken well indeed. We ought to take heed of the message and spare the messenger any unnecessary unjustified attacks or criticisms. His intervention was in order in a nation heading towards destined greatness. The misunderstood statesman should be given his dues and his considered opinion respected for all its worth. Long live ‘Baba’! Long live the Federal Republic.