The Stone Thrower From Glasshouse: Discussing Obasanjo’s Activism

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings”- Theodore Roosevelt 

5 years ago, I was glued to the newspaper that contained an 18 page release from former President Olusegun Obasanjo which sought to raise among other issues the failure of the Jonathan regime, his failure to tap into some opportunities across Africa, and other issues which made the former President run an 18 page address. 

The piece addressed to Goodluck Jonathan was titled Before It’s Too Late and the present state of the nation address is titled as Points for Concern and Action.

The essential content of the 5year old letter issued to former President Goodluck Jonathan is strikingly similar to his state of the Nation address which was made hours ago. In both addresses, the former President paints an urgency of the situation and why the leadership should be changed. In both addresses too, he makes reference to the similarities between the present regime and the Abacha regime. His frequent reference to Abacha understandable because former President Olusegun Obasanjo suffered quite much including sharing prison facilities with a nearby asylum during the Abacha regime. 

It is important to note that both the address to Goodluck Jonathan and the one to President Muhammadu Buhari were issued at few months interval to the general election of 2015 and 2019 respectively. The Jonathan 18-paged letter came in December 2014, 3 months to the General elections while the Buhari-targeted address came one month to the elections. 

There is virtually nothing new in the state of the nation address which was made hours ago that has not already been stated by analysts and political commentators. Social media is awash with several of the issues Olusegun Obasanjo has raised. Ranging from his complain on the mental and physical fitness of the President to his fear that INEC would not conduct credible elections. Everything has been said already. Like it was some years ago, President Obasanjo only aligns himself with what has already become popular view. 

What is most amazing about Obasanjo’s critic of different regimes is that he has had his own stint in office for a combined period of 12 years(along with the controversy of if he sought tenure elongation by amending the constitution) and he did not emerge from office as a hero of any sort. The way former President Obasanjo critics people in power after his era, a person who does not know his antecedent would think he left the Presidency as a darling of everyone who was very successful as President.

In truth, for the average Nigerian, the Obasanjo image is more of that of a villain than of any hero. Several books have been written with the Obasanjo character being the central theme and how his failures in leadership have stunted the growth of Nigeria. He is not loved enough to be a critic himself. The records are to be found in the present terrible national condition and how it is a result of years of bad leadership of which Obasanjo has been in charge for 12 years out of it. 

It is necessary to state that one finds the complains raised in his address very truthful and reflective of reality. The argument is not to the content of his complain. It is the concern that that they are coming from an image that has been accused of all sorts ranging from corruption (with billions appropriated for power and nothing visible as outcome) to allegation of Human Right abuse such as operating a secret prison at Ita Oko. There are several printable and unprintable complains on the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo as both military and civilian President.

Where Obasanjo finds the courage to preach a type of leadership he did not exhibit himself as President during his two tints in office is a mystery. He seems to ignore all the blame at his doorstep and yet exiting his house through the backyard heads to put blames at the doorstep of others.

Of course, his administration might have recorded certain achievements. But there remains records of documented material that raise concern that he may not be the one without sin that should cast the stone. There is still no official conviction but there are several unresolved allegations which his influence in government may be responsible for their douse.

In past instances of his complains against leaderships, it would be noticed that the issues raised against people in his letters, books and state of the nation addresses are not what founds his actual grudges. His critic comes up usually after he is not granted audience or the relevance that he desires as stated in the letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan “none of the four or more letters that I have written to you in the past two years or so have elicited an acknowledgement nor any response”.

He would also usually pick a timing that indicates his complains are being made with the elections in mind and are of a nature that show he has already taken sides with another candidate and like a promoter is defacing the other brand to make his own prominent. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently remarked about his involvement in the emergence of the Buhari administration (even though he regrets it) and this may be interpreted as the motivation for his long epistle on Jonathan in 2014. 

The fear expressed towards the conduct of the 2019 elections is not fitting for the person who oversaw the 2003 and 2007 elections where a lot of the cases that got to the court where upturned as rigged including gubernatorial elections. Former President Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory would describe the election that brought him in as rigged and the Supreme Court judgement was quite close with 3 of the Judges doubting the outcome of the election. 

It seems Olusegun Obasanjo believes we are suffering from amnesia as a nation and he forgets his own records. Were the 2003 and 2007 elections not conducted under his Presidency? Elections where the prime winner himself acknowledges that it is was flawed.

As it is obvious, the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar is the one already endorsed by Obasanjo. A deduction that can be reached from his statements after a reconciliation meeting where those purported to have initiated reconciliation denied their involvement. 

The former President’s statement of condemnation is more in a bid to promote the candidature of Atiku Abubakar than in a bid to offer Nigeria any real selfless advice. 

Olusegun Obasanjo has had his time on the saddle and he has several complains to effectively address from his time in office rather than continue to appear activist when in fact, the surrounding circumstances indicate his aim is political.

We should beware of the sudden activism of Obasanjo and his gifts to replace his gifts. He is a giver of bad gifts as evidenced by his support for Musa Yar’adua who turned out sick and unfit to lead, his support for Goodluck Jonathan who he came back to describe in unprintable terms. His support for Buhari is not out of recent memory. Now that the respected elder statesman is here again, one needs to watch carefully. Observing with due diligence. Lest in some years, he addresses us again like he has done over and over claiming his choice for Nigeria was a regret. 

It is actually time that Nigerians consider the individual worth of candidates and not who backs them or not. It is recurrent that the choice of leadership turns out as more terrible than the previous.

Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa is a student of the Obafemi Awolowo University. He has a passion for Actividm and Human Rights. He is a frequent opinion writer with reputable print and online media. He can be contacted on [email protected] or on Twitter @koye_tolu.


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