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.
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
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
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?
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!