Penultimate week SaharaReporters reported from New York, quoting sources at home in Nigeria, that a man in his 40s forced his way into ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s car (who had just returned from a trip) as he was driving away from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja Lagos, raining blows on him. The Ota farmer was rescued from his attacker by the security personnel at the airport before the irate man could exert his full anger on the detested leader. When he was pulled away the intruder was said to be ‘cursing’ Obasanjo: “God will punish you for all the crimes against Nigerians.”
According to the SR report the ‘assailant’ upon being taken to a police station was asked if he was “crazy” to which he responded in the negative asking his interrogators if he was the OBJ the man that rigged elections, looted funds while in power and slept with his son’s wife! The so-called ‘lunatic’ was then detained as the police claimed they were investigating his mental state. It is doubtful if a mad man in its true sense could have executed such audacious aggression on a VIP. Now one wonders what has happened to the ‘hero’ who demystified ‘Baba’!
Whatever must have provoked the young apparently unstable fellow to assault the former President should be viewed objectively from the perspective of the present and the past. Just few weeks ago Obasanjo had dedicated a church he built in Abeokuta to God inviting the high and mighty to come and witness the religious event. OBJ told his audience that the donation of the church to God was in fulfilment of the ‘vow’ he made to God when he was languishing in prison after being ‘convicted’ by a kangaroo Tribunal that tried those accused of plotting to topple the tyranny of the late maximum ruler Gen. Sani Abacha.
Obasanjo made two confessions during the occasion — happy obviously to have given out a temple for the worship of the Almighty by the faithful. That is not bad for God is a tolerant merciful God who rejoices when a ‘black sheep’ that goes astray is found and brought back to the flock. ‘St.’ Mathew Aremu is more than a ‘black sheep’! Obasanjo told the audience that when he was serving his jail term he was ‘ordained’ a pastor and secondly as he preached he converted a big-time criminal from the north who is now a full-time Pastor. He said the ex-convict-turned ‘man of God’ even visited him when he was living like a king in Aso Rock! All hail OBJ the ‘prophet’ for his great deeds in the Kingdom of God here on earth!
You see the major problem Obasanjo has is his penchant to trivialise every issue — perhaps as a ploy to avoid answering probing questions about his stewardship. In one of his encounters with reporters at MMA in Lagos he was asking the reporter to produce his mobile phone in comparison to his which is a sophisticated Nokia machine. And when the poor newsman pulled out his phone OBJ was mocking him and telling him to follow the current trend by changing his handset! On another occasion, still at the Lagos airport, OBJ was dancing and singing when he was asked questions. How could a decent statesman be behaving like this in a nation at crossroads?
When the former Liberian warlord, now standing trial in the Hague, Charles Taylor, was asked if he had forgiven Obasanjo for ‘betraying’ him by handing him over to his ‘enemies’ after he was ‘caught’ trying to sneak out of the country the ex-President of Liberia had a deep breath and declared that if he were to be found in a room with Obasanjo he would have manhandled OBJ physically. When he was asked to throw more light on the question Mr Taylor said it would have to be a ‘bull-fight’ between him and Obasanjo and he believed he would have beaten Obasanjo black and blue in such circumstance!
In Nigeria Obasanjo is loved by a few and loathed by millions simply because this majority see him as the architect of Nigeria’s problems. If OBJ drops dead today I believe not many folks would shed a drop of tears rather the landscape will witness a spontaneous manifestation of gladness with the development. Like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida he has little respect at home and commands little moral credibility abroad. Like Babangida he is generally hated for his lack of achievement during his 8-year stint in power. But I must add here that OBJ achieved much more than IBB in terms of societal transformation.
What on earth has Obasanjo not yet been accused of? Incest? At a time he was accused by his own son, Gbenga, of having an amorous affair with his wife! Corruption? Where do we start from here? Transcorp? Halliburton? Independent Power Project scam? Land-grab with the ex-Minister of the FCT Nasir El-Rufai? Oil ministry which he confiscated for years after assuming office? Or rigging of ‘do-or-die’ elections? And installation of stooges and cronies in power? The making of late Lamidi Adedibu and the other godfathers? Paternity posers? His father was alleged to be from Igboland!
But love him or hate him Obasanjo has kept a date with greatness as far as the Nigerian leadership is concerned. Having dominated the political landscape for two epochs (1976-79; 1999-2007) Obasanjo must be given credit for surviving the ‘storm’ that is Nigerian politics as a military man and as an ’emperor’ in a democratic setting. Even today, almost four years after his forced departure from the ‘throne’ OBJ still makes the headlines, sometimes for the wrong reasons; but he cares less and swaggers on as though he is immuned from the controversy the mere mention of his name evokes across the land.
So who wants to ‘murder’ our dear ex-President enjoying his deserved retirement? Or to put it in a better way: who wanted to ‘wound’ OBJ on the MMA Ikeja premises as he headed home after a hectic Abuja trip? As OBJ boarded his SUV he must have been thinking positively about ‘reuniting’ with his chickens and dogs he left behind for Abuja! He must have given a jolly good thought about the impending encounter with the delicacy of pounded yam and ‘egusi’ soup spiced with goat meat waiting for him in the dining table at home! I am very sure he never gave any damn thought about a possible ‘mad man’ hiding in the presidential lounge car park waiting patiently to pounce on him.
When the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair went to Dublin few months ago to sign out some copies of his best-seller book titled “A Journey” some concerned human rights groups demonstrated against his policies while leading the British government. They were accusing Blair and ex-President George W. Bush of falsifying security reports about nuclear weapons possession by the late Saddam Hussein in order to invade Iraq with popular opinion by their side. The young demonstrators hauled their shoes at Blair and threw raw eggs vociferously accusing Blair of having “blood on his hands”.
With water-tight security cordon thrown around Blair what was remarkable was the heroism of a brave teenager, a girl, who had attempted a citizen arrest on Blair! The young damsel went in there where Mr Blair was busy autographing the book for people, beating the security network, and told Blair fearlessly to stand up as she had come to execute a citizen’s arrest on him! A flabbergasted Blair was speechless before security were called in to push the young girl away amidst resistance.
Whether the man that attacked Obasanjo was insane or sane is not the issue. The real issue here is why a ‘mad’ man should consider it expedient throwing blows at an old man of Obasanjo’s standing? And if the aggressor was sane then it becomes more troubling. How could a normal human being in his 40s find the courage to ‘waylay’ OBJ trying to pump blows to his gorilla face or his protruding belly and raining insults on him? Was he not one of the millions of frustrated Nigerians looking out for any opportunity to show their anger over the way and manner the Obasanjos of this world have raped their country dry?
Olusegun Obasanjo should well be on the look out for more surprise attacks of this kind. May be next time a sta
rk naked man or woman could confront him in Abeokuta inside his church to register his or her unhappiness because, who knows, the madness of which (s)he was a victim could be a direct fall-out of the misery in the land. And if that scenario plays itself out I guess no security man would be able to rescue Obasanjo from the bared fangs of his or her ‘tormentor’. And when the lunatic succeeds in biting Obasanjo then OBJ could go mad himself therefore eating his chickens raw, challenging his dogs for a fight and going to his church naked!
Supposing the man, the so-called lunatic at the MMA was armed with a gun or even acid; have you, dear reader, spared a thought about what would have happened? Perhaps by now we would have finished ‘mourning’ OBJ like the Congolese did to the late President Laurent Kabila who was shot at a close range by his ‘lunatic’ bodyguard named Rashidi leading to his death. Or if the intruder was having a small bottle of raw acid on him he would have ‘bathed’ OBJ with the corrosive substance and by now the ‘handsomeness’ of ‘Baba’ would have been better appreciated!