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Frisky Larr (MA)
Journalist/Interpreter
Author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.
Bochum, Germany
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Olusegun Obasanjo: A Stubborn Thorn in the Flesh of his Enemies!

 

While no one denies those extremely disturbing and negative personal attributes of President Obasanjo that make him a difficult person to deal with, he is by no means the first Ex-President to embark on mediation missions of this sort. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton of the USA and Martti Ahtisaari of Finland are notable examples. Was Wole Soyinka himself on an ego trip when he embarked on the mediation efforts to stem the Niger-Delta insurgency? Physician, heal thyself!


Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

Wole Soyinka’s comments on Olusegun Obasanjo's recent private "Boko Haram Diplomacy" clearly symbolizes a never-ending state of personal anger felt by enemies of the former President at his failure to disappear from the stage of nationwide and global relevance. It is symbolic of the everlasting instinctive aggression displayed by a cat upon the sighting of a mouse. What makes the case of President Obasanjo and his enemies more intriguing however, is the simple fact that the cat has caught the mouse on several occasions and even inflicted injuries and bruises on the mouse. The mouse has fallen down oftentimes with fractures and bruises but managed to slip away and re-announce its presence on an even broader platform of gold.

 

Admittedly, this would drive any predator mad. It will get it livid with rage. It is the simple stuff of which the critic’s dilemma is made the Nigerian style.

A saga that now keeps me wondering if Nigeria as a nation is cursed with incapable critics engulfed in their lust for self-destruction. I have been trying so passionately to understand just what it is about the former President of Nigeria that drives critics so mad that the paramount prerogative of national interest just does not seem to count anymore? Wherever the name Olusegun Obasanjo appears, there are always vested interests – or so it seems to me – that are hell bent on portraying every action associated with the name as a project that is dead on arrival.

My recent travel to Nigeria even made me more speechless and worsened my condition. My condition of not understanding the one-sided inclination and bitterness of the Nigerian critic! My private visit to the site of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library Foundation (OOPLF) in Abeokuta left me dumbfounded. It unveiled a project in a vast landscape seeking to portray the history of Nigeria in one compact arena. It is a project that clearly reflects the high dose of patriotic nationalism flowing through the veins of just one man with a glaring love for the land of his birth. My next article will report on this in more detail, but first, to the issue of this discourse.

Main Building of the Cultural Village in Obj’s Library Foundation

It all started on March 11, 2008 when the select committee of the House of Representatives launched a probe on the failings of the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the power sector. The Committee was headed by Lawmaker Godwin Ndudi Elumelu. The committee reported several cases of contracts awarded, payments made and projects abandoned. Soon the media were awash with headlines like “Startling Revelations”, “Incredible Revelations”, etc. The call to bashing was gleefully taken up and efficiently executed. Almost no one raised the salient issue of identifying such contractors for explanation or possible prosecution. Public judgment was passed without trial, on just one man!

It did not matter then that the handwriting of some obvious interest groups was clearly suspected in the “Startling and Incredible Revelations”. Facts revealed by the targeted and alleged culprit in his stand taken on the accusations were given only a scanty media coverage. Then the ultimate happened. None other than the Chairman of the Select Committee himself Godwin Ndudi Elumelu got indicted one year after. He was engulfed in a $ 6 billion contract award scam that finally landed him behind bars.

Fast-forwarding our chronicle to the present day in 2011, we experienced yet another probe in the month of August. This time, it was the Senate probe of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE). It took the testimony of Nassir El-Rufai to catch another headline of “Startling and Incredible Revelations”. Reports claim that pressure was brought to bear on El-Rufai to have him sell public enterprises to associates of his former boss. He reportedly resisted. El-Rufai reportedly painted a picture of incompetence and glaring irrationality in the decision to privatize the Nigerian Airways, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

For critics ushering in a new wave of sweeping headlines in the print media, it did not seem to have mattered that a contradiction is easily recognized when one is heard. The contradiction that an Olusegun Obasanjo, who has umpteen times, been portrayed as a never forgiving and ruthless individual could have asked his subordinate officer to sell a company to his associate and still keep this officer in his position after he had “resisted” the presidential request, seemed lost on sensation-hungry critics. More astounding in the overall picture has been the glaring reluctance on the part of media operatives, to provide the requisite intellectual analysis and public appraisal of the Ex-President’s own response unearthing the rationale behind his decision to privatize the Nigerian Airways the way he did.

So strong this inordinate anti-Obasanjo emotion in the Nigerian media seems to be, that even the straightening of records for the simple purpose of guiding future developmental endeavors doesn’t matter any bit! Neither is the consideration of national interest paramount to these emotional calculations.

Then came “Wikileaks”. Claims of corrupt practices were exposed and many more may still be exposed. No one can yet attest to the absolute veracity or the amount of veracity contained in those reports as they merely reflect the impressions of individual diplomats in the host countries aiding intelligence-gathering efforts in their own country. Till the present moment, there has been no absolute proof or disproof of suspicions of corruption against former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The suspicions hover above his head.

Quoted in a casual conversation with a diplomat, Nuhu Ribadu reportedly spoke elaborately on issues surrounding his persecution in the hands of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and remarked in a passing comment, how craftily he regarded President Obasanjo. He sees the former President as a master of the game who knew how to cover his trails of corruption, in which he was “no doubt” also involved. Again, headlines rang the jingle bells!

When the same Wikileaks however quoted Nuhu Ribadu as having honestly exonerated Iyabo Obasanjo from corrupt enrichment through a contract deal with an Austrian company (after questioning her for hours), no media outlet reported this “Startling Revelation”. Iyabo Obasanjo had long been suspected of having enjoyed paternal protection from prosecution after she had allegedly duped an Austrian company. Nuhu Ribadu setting this recording straight in the Wikileaks cable (as “a business deal gone badly between two parties, where promises were made and not kept, and one party getting mad at the other”) did not enjoy a single mention in any Nigerian media outlet. It just does not suit the obsessive pattern of choice to crucify the Obasanjos.

Wikileaks also indicted Nassir El-Rufai and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala quoting unbelievable figures in connection with consultancy honorarium. Since the sum of $50 million allegedly paid through El-Rufai, to a brother of Okonjo-Iweala for consultancy duties, almost exceed the entire budgetary allocation of the Ministry that she headed, a huge question mark emerged on the credibility or absolute veracity of those communications that American diplomats sent home to their governments in confidential intelligence-gathering. Wikileaks cable also portrayed El-Rufai as a homeless man who suddenly had resources to build personal mansions, when he became a Minister. But the man had long owned his own home before the public exposure of ministerial stewardship.

Critics then began to see through the weaknesses of the American cables released by Wikileaks and a new reality of revisionism and relativism began to dawn on observers in the digestion of the “Startling Revelations”. But this will never be allowed to apply to Olusegun Obasanjo!

Now, the focus is set on quelling the menace of Islamic terrorism unleashed on the nation by people who seek to render the country ungovernable. Whether in wanton collaboration by aiding and abetting mayhem to destabilize the government of Goodluck Jonathan that is strongly built on Obasanjo’s support or not, one fact is certain. Northern leaders in the persons of former heads of State like Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Abdulsalami Abubakar or even former Vice President Atiku Abubakar do not seem to see any benefiting national interest in wading into the crisis authoritatively to stop the mayhem. One almost feels the suppressed sigh of “Serves them right” in the psyche of the Northern Oligarchs.

“If we do not rule, the devil may care” seems to be the sloganeering catchword unspoken from the North while hundreds of souls are killed unwittingly in one arbitrary bomb blast after the other. Olusegun Obasanjo then took it upon himself once again, to reach out and do something no matter what.

Suddenly nothing better could occur to the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka – Nigeria’s foremost intellectual flagship – than to accuse the Ex-President of embarking on an ego trip. How pained must Wole Soyinka be that the Ex-President still stands – tall and strong – in spite of his lesser status? How pained must Wole Soyinka and these opportunistic critics be, that they will never know when not to attack out of personal frustrations? The reality of a person, who Wole Soyinka passionately believes to be inferior, standing tall in resilience and importance, seems to be a never-ending thorn in his flesh and the flesh of those that he represents. They just do not seem to know when to revert to the drawing board of constructive contribution to national stability without looking down arrogantly, on people who are not in their good books?

While no one denies those extremely disturbing and negative personal attributes of President Obasanjo that make him a difficult person to deal with, he is by no means the first Ex-President to embark on mediation missions of this sort. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton of the USA and Martti Ahtisaari of Finland are notable examples. Was Wole Soyinka himself on an ego trip when he embarked on the mediation efforts to stem the Niger-Delta insurgency? Physician, heal thyself!

Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

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