Obasanjo, Jonathan and Niger Delta


WHATEVER anyone says or thinks of him, no one can accuse former President Olusegun Obasanjo of lacking the courage to speak his mind on issues: Per­sonal or national. We may not always agree with what he has to say; we may see some of his views as dripping in hypocrisy, self-righteousness and sanctimonious posturing, but we can’t often fail to see the courage of his conviction in his postulations. When he speaks, he detonates a bomb, which rever­berates everywhere!

Now, Obasanjo ‘detonated’ one of his famous ‘bombs’ last week. Speaking as guest lecturer at the graduation of the Benson Idahosa University, BIU, Benin City, Edo State, the former leader took a cur­sory look at the administration of the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, and passed a damning verdict: The man failed to live up to ex­pectation despite the high hopes he was invested when he mounted the saddle of leadership. And for his perceived inefficiency, says Obasanjo, the Niger- Delta, from where Jonathan hails, would have to bear the consequences of the actions or inactions of their son, who presided over the affairs of the nation for six years.

“You can help a man get a job, but what he does with it is absolutely up to him,” the former president said, even as he revealed all he did to ensure that a Nigerian of minority oil-rich Niger-Delta extraction occupied the nation’s topmost position. Jonathan, he alluded, performed below the mark, and conse­quently succeeded in alienating other parts of the country during his administration. How would they now trust a minority Nigerian with power in the near future?

He did not exactly put the last sentence that way, but that was the import of his statement, that the peo­ple of Niger-Delta would have to live with the con­sequences of Jonathan’s action or inaction in office!

Now, you win no prizes for guessing that for a long while, before the March 28 presidential poll, Obasanjo and his godson, had fallen terribly apart that a reconciliation was virtually impossible. When he ordered his PDP membership card shredded in public, it was the last symbolic parting of ways with the man he shoved down our throats as president.

Before the above drama, Obasanjo had written an 18-page letter to Jonathan, accusing him, among other things, of running an administration crawling with monsters of corruption, and a spineless leader­ship unwilling and incapable of halting the rot; he spoke of a government that had reduced what ought to be national governance, to a village square gath­ering of clansmen and tribesmen; he talked about a president consumed with blind ambition to con­tinue in office, when it had become apparent that he lacked what it took to preside over a vast and complex nation like ours, even as he claimed the president had given his word that he would do only a single term in office.

The December 11, 2013 ‘scud missile’ also ac­cused ex- President Jonathan of training ‘sniper squads,’ to intimidate and silence his opponents in the build up to the March 28 poll.

Hear Obasanjo: “Mr President, the most impor­tant qualification for your present position is your being a Nigerian. Whatever else you may be, be­sides being a Nigerian, is only secondary for this purpose. And if majority of Nigerians had not cast their votes for you, you could not have been there. For you to allow yourself to be “possessed” so to say, to the exclusion of most of the rest of Nigerians as an ‘Ijaw man’ is a mistake that should never have been allowed to happen. Yes, you have to be born in one part of Nigeria to be a Nigerian if not naturalised, but the Nigerian president must be above ethnic factionalism. And those who prop you up as of, and for ‘Ijaw nation’ are not your friends genuinely, nor friends of Nigeria, nor friends of ‘Ijaw nation’ they tout about. To allow or tacitly en­courage people of ‘Ijaw nation’ to throw insults on other Nigerians from other parts of the country and threaten fire and brimstone to protect your interest, as an Ijaw man is myopic, and your not openly qui­eting them is even more unfortunate.”

On corruption, he said: “Most of our friends and development partners are worried and they see what we pretend to cover up. They are worried about is­sue of security internally and on our coastal waters, including heavy oil theft, alias bunkering and piracy. They are worried about corruption and what we are doing or not doing about it. Corruption has reached a level of impunity.”

Of course, Obasanjo was severely criticised then by Jonathan’s aides. They dismissed his ‘satanic’ letter as hypocritical and self-serving. My position then was unequivocal: Obasanjo had a right to his views, and Jonathan should bother about the mes­sage rather than the messenger, even as I agreed that Obasanjo should be the last man pontificating on corruption, as during his tenure, we had no detailed and transparent accounts of crude oil accruals as he doubled as petroleum minister for a better part of his tenure. I also punctured his balloon of integrity by alluding to his infamous third term plot, which blew up in his face.

So, it is not difficult to understand where Obasan­jo is coming from in his last week’s excoriation of his former protégé: He feels thoroughly disappoint­ed at the outing of Jonathan and the outcome of his gamble in imposing Jonathan on the people.

Of course, the point must be made that if Jona­than, by his estimation, performed dismally, he must share in the blame of handpicking him among the pack of well-prepared aspirants to the No. 1 office. If Jonathan had turned out well, by his reckoning, he would be basking in the euphoria of making an excellent choice. Now, the shoe is on the other side, he is striving furiously to distance himself from a journey he believes ended murkily.

The second point to note is that Jonathan did not only disappoint Obasanjo, he let all of us down, he even let the people of Niger Delta down. I am not sure he has become a hero among the people of Edo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and other parts of the region. I’m not trying to run him down or kick him because he’s down. Truth must be told: Jonathan belonged to nobody but a few cronies, whom he made power­ful and prosperous to the detriment of nation.

He came in on an overwhelming wing of good­will. The shoeless boy whose story resonated with the general folk. By the time he left office May 29, 2015, he had managed to annoy many of his staunch supporters. A good number of people who voted for Buhari did not do so solely for the sake of love for the lanky General, but more as a revolt or protest against the president, who had successfully alien­ated himself from the same people who, few years earlier, were singing ‘Jona for life.’ It was certainly a great squandering of goodwill by a Nigerian presi­dent ever.

Was he the worst president in terms of perfor­mance? That is debatable, his supporters would ar­gue even to this moment, even as they reel out a list of his achievements in critical sectors of roads and transportation, aviation, agriculture, among others. That may be so. But in governance as in life, percep­tion is everything. How Jonathan ended throwing himself up as symbol of inefficiency and corruption, few years after he was hailed as the best thing to happen to us after Yar’Adua’s demise is a study for political historians.

As to Obasanjo’s charge that the people of Niger- Delta would in the future bear the brunt of Jona­than’s outing in government, he’s absolutely right, except that those who use Jonathan’s presidency as a measure of the character and content of Niger-Delta people would not only be patently wrong, but unfair as such generalisation omits individual peculiarities.

To be fair to the former president, in the final analysis, his personal failings also had a redemp­tive component: In presiding over his own defeat in a presidential poll, and swiftly conceding defeat, he narrowly escaped being consigned to the dust­bin of history. Now, he walks tall for that electoral feat. If he manages to survive the worms of cor­ruption, crawling from the closet of his administra­tion, he can bask in the euphoria of a presidency not exactly wasted. Until the probes are conducted and he comes out clean, he can only wait with bated breath for the verdict of history on his administra­tion. Obasanjo’s verdict is only an interim report, for now.

I agree with Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, the activist-priest, when he says: “Office holding may be accidental, but leadership is earned with a leader satisfying the needs of those under his or her care.” This should also be food for thought for those currently in the saddle of leadership, as they confront the mountain of challenges facing our dear nation!

Sunnewsonline – Culled from: http://sunnewsonline.com/new/obasanjo-jonathan-and-niger-delta/


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