It is understood all over the world that one of the features of democracy is freedom of speech and allied freedoms. However, certain freedoms become an aberration given certain conditions and backgrounds surrounding their manifestations. One of such absurd freedoms was the one exercised by some ‘prominent’ Yoruba Obas and South West PDP governors as reported by The Nation Newspaper of Saturday, August 2, 2008. The front page news caption shouted: ‘Ooni, Alaafin, PDP governors to Nigerians: Stop Obasanjo bashing.’
Close relatives of a jailed armed robber can plead for his release; there is nothing amiss if the siblings of a confirmed crook campaign for his election into the most exalted office of any land; it is the logic behind the call and clamor that matter. So when I read the headline, I opened the newspaper to page 3 and read the reasoning of the Obas and the Governors, I was filled with an overwhelming revulsion.
These Yoruba ‘elders’ wanted Nigerians to stop passing comments on those dark eight years when Mr Obasanjo was the president of Nigeria because, in their modified reasoning ‘Chief Obasanjo, a prominent Yoruba son, did his best for this nation. This should be pride to the Yoruba race.’ Unfortunately, the meeting which, in addition to the aforementioned Obas and the PDP governors from south west, also witnessed the presence of members of the states’ Council of Obas and Chiefs in the south west failed to provide a single reason why the Yoruba race should be proud of the wasted eight years of Mr Obasanjo’s rulership.
I was wont to agree with an analyst who after a seminal assessment of Nigerians and our susceptibilities concluded that our memories are myopic. However, I think with the quality and quantity of excruciating pains we went through in those gory eight years and which we are still going through, it is only the likes of the five PDP governors and the members and chairmen of the Council of Obas in the five south west states who are capable of such ridiculous call. The report in the newspaper said further that the meeting warned that ‘it would no longer be acceptable by the Yoruba for former President Obasanjo’s name to be dragged in the mud in the name of criticism, noting that in Nigeria today, the former president has become the butt of wicked jokes and an object of ridicule.’
So, in effect, the congregation wanted the House of Representatives to stop its probe of how Mr Obasanjo and his debauched lieutenants misappropriated $16 billion on providing electricity for Nigerians. It is only apt for faultily empowered individuals like the governors and their ‘itraditionally’ enthroned counterparts who can afford to acquire turbo charged electricity generators to want Nigerians to keep mute in the face of such gargantuan theft. Nigerians should not ask what is happening to the completion of less than fifty-kilometer Abeokuta-Sango Ota expressway, the contract which Mr Obasanjo awarded in 1999, and which has not been completed as at today. They did not want Nigerians to ask what has happened to the 1billion dollars which Mr Obasanjo gave to Emeka Ofor in 1999 for the Turn Around Maintenance of Nigerian oil refineries. I am convinced that the Obas are aware that the federal roads in their domains are in dreadful state, yet it is this man they are dissipating energy to save from probes. The man who Femi Aderupatan reported in the National Life newspaper of Sunday, August 3, 2008 to have released over 300 billion naira for the rehabilitation of federal roads in Nigeria. The 300biilion naira might have been given to carpenters and farmers and not road menders judging by the state of federal roads in Nigeria today. One should not be surprised that the condition of roads in the south west states rivals that of the federal roads: flies will always flock with the yaws man.
Whose name should be dragged in the mud and flung to the dogs if not that of a man who may not be able to point to one benefit Nigerians and indeed the Yoruba nation derived from the 3.5 trillion naira that was spent in the first term of his administration other than epileptic power supply, dry taps, wishy-washy system of education, comatose health system, collapsed social and political infrastructure handed over to the present political climate. One would have thought that a reasonable and informed group of leaders, are they actually leaders? (They are rulers) would have questioned the soundness, integrity, sincerity and claim to statesmanship of a successful private farmer who for eight years could not make his country self sufficient in food production yet his own farm flourished and prospered. Analysis should indicate that Mr Obasanjo cannot conveniently lay any reasonable claim to statesmanship.
This is a man who chose to establish private university and other academic institutions while the public universities which he swore holding a bible to protect and promote were tottering under his administration. This is a man who for eleven years held the reins of power and authority in Nigeria. A very lucky Nigerian who should have used the opportunity placed on his laps by political manipulations and providence to better the lots of the Nigerian masses.
First he came as a military head of state. Second he was waiting execution when destiny snatched him from the jaws of death and enthroned him a civilian president yet his experience in the administration of Nigerian prisons while he was a prisoner refused to make him improve the lots of Nigerian prisoners and Nigerian prison’s administration. In the streets of Abeokuta, one encounters prisoners begging for alms on daily basis! And this is the town Mr Obasanjo, a former executive prisoner resides.
In 1976 when the death of Muritala Mohammed made him the Head of State, the slogan was Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). Millions of naira were expended on the project with our then General Obasanjo holding a hoe while imploring Nigerians to be farmers. It never occurred to the hapless masses that this conniving tortoise was actively planning for a retirement blues. Because, soon, in 1979, OFN became Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited. If this is a faulty conjecture, let Mr Obasanjo tell Nigerians what happened to the tractors, harvesters and other farming implements purchased on behalf of Operation Feed the Nation.
However, one should acknowledge the doubtful sincerity of a president who established a body like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) only for the institution to be turned to a witch-hunting enterprise. Nigerians only realized the true relevance of the EFCC when Obasanjo left office in 2007. If not Olabode Goerge should have collected the key to his cubicle at Ikoyi prison during Obasanjo’s reign; James Ibori should have known his fate long before now.
It is difficult if not impossible for the leopard to change its spots; so it has been with this farmer. One would have thought that he would retire to Ota and tend his cows and catfish especially after the failed attempt to constitutionalize ‘third term’, but not so for this embodiment of evil and morbid convictions. All sorts of retroactive machinations that have tended to draw Nigeria back to the dark ages have been arrogated to Mr Obasnjo’s negative genius. The installation of ailing Umaru Yar’Adua on the Nigerian political climate has landed the country in the comity of banana countries. Of course if Yar’Adua had not been imposed on Nigerians, my friend in Nairobi would not have been constantly taunting me with, ‘my friend, where has your elected president been since November 23rd 2009?’. And honestly, I have not been able to think of a reasonable and apt response; and this inability pains me to the very core of my being.
The South West Obas and the
PDP governors, if they truly want the conscious members of the Nigerian masses romance the Obasanjo years should make public the outstanding Obasanjo achievements in the areas of taxes, abortion, trade: local and international, education policy, environmental regulation, the role of judiciary, the fight against corruption, the size of government, immigration, development of sports, agriculture and availability of food, international relations, the prisons. The list is inexhaustible. If the balance sheet is favorably disposed one may begin to consider a rethink, but the evidence available does not support a vindication. Such is the pity of the case.