By Olalekan Adetayo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo displayed his humane side on Tuesday when he attended a meeting of the Council of State alongside past leaders like Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan and Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar.
As customary, while other members of the council including the President of the Senate, David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; former Chief Justices of Nigeria and state governors, were waiting at the Council Chambers, these past leaders first assembled at the President’s office from where they all proceeded to the venue.
When presidential aides saw them approaching, they made an announcement and all those who were already seated inside the hall rose to receive them.
They waited for a few minutes with their eyes fixed at the door from which these leaders would enter the hall. They were not in sight. At a point, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim, apologised and asked them to sit down. He explained that the leaders’ pace was slow, therefore the delay in their entering the hall. The explanation was greeted with laughter.
Shortly after that, the leaders finally arrived. And it turned out to be that Shagari, apparently the oldest among them, was the cause of their slow movement. Despite clinching tenaciously to his walking stick, the Sokoto-born aged ex-Nigerian President could not walk fast. Many were surprised to see that Obasanjo had taken it upon himself to serve as Shagari’s guide throughout their stay in the Villa that day.
The Ebora Owu, who himself has advanced in age but is still very agile, held Shagari’s hand religiously as he led him to his designated seat. Other past leaders and President Jonathan were walking slowly behind them.
While other past leaders were exchanging pleasantries with top government officials who were already in the hall, Obasanjo initially kept a straight face and carried on as if his life depended on his ability to usher Shagari safely to his seat. Having located Shagari’s seat, Obasanjo took him there and ensured that he was comfortable before he started responding to greetings from those who sat close to him.
With the meeting over, the leaders left the hall the same way they came. Jonathan saw them off to a point at the forecourt from where they would be driven out of the Villa.
Again, it was Obasanjo who assisted Shagari in walking to that point. It was the same Baba Iyabo that was asking “Where is Shagari’s car?” intermittently until the car was brought.
Before allowing Shagari to enter the car, like a senior prefect, Obasanjo summoned Babangida to “come and pay homage to Shagari.” The former military dictator stepped forward and shook hands with Shagari.
Not done yet, Obasanjo pointed towards Abubakar and shouted, “Hey, you, come and pay homage too.” He however met an initial resistance in the Minna-born general who told him that he had paid homage to Shagari earlier. “No, come and pay another one now,” Obasanjo insisted. Abubakar later approached Shagari for handshake before the elderly man was driven out of the Villa.
While that drama was playing out, Jonathan and some of his aides who witnessed it were full of laughter. One of the presidential aides was heard saying, “Baba (Obasanjo) will never change.”
Nyako and his ‘farewell’ visits
Although all the 36 state governors are members of the Council of State, only a few people would have believed that Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State would attend the Tuesday meeting.
First, since his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress alongside his colleagues from Kano, Sokoto, Kwara and Rivers States, Nyako rarely attends meetings in the Villa. He has even been completely boycotting meetings of the Economic Management Team which he is a member.
The second and the more important reason why his presence on Tuesday was a surprise to many was that he showed up at a time members of his state House of Assembly were tightening the noose around his neck as they continued their impeachment process against him and his deputy, James Ngilari.
So his colleagues who were also shocked by his presence milled around him to get first-hand information on his predicament and show solidarity with him even if it was just a lip service. In the face of all these, the governor remained calm and composed. He carried on as if all was well at home.
Photojournalists also concentrated on the man they call Baba Maimangoro as if he was the only council member in the hall. As they clicked away, the venue kept lightened up by the flashes from their cameras.
One of them later told me that they needed as many shots as possible in case his presence in the Villa that day ended up being his valedictory visit.
Less than 24 hours after, Nyako was again a guest of the President when he attended the inauguration of the steering committee of the Safe Schools Initiative which he is a member.
Unlike the previous day, he spoke with journalists this time, expressing the hope that the lawmakers would follow due process and the issue would be resolved.
One will just hope that his latest visits to the seat of power are not farewell trips.
What about APC leader, governors?
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who is an APC leader, was the only living past head of government that did not attend that Tuesday meeting. Most of the party’s governors were also absent. Ironically, two governors of the party who are currently facing fire at the home front -Nyako and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State – were the ones who attended. While Nyako is facing impeachment threat, the Edo State House of Assembly has been factionalised into two groups.
Apart from the duo, the governors of Ogun and Yobe states were represented by their deputies. No other APC governor attended or was represented at the meeting despite the fact that the issue of security was the main agenda. Don’t ask me if they sent apologies because I am not in a position to know.
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State who did not attend or send representative to the meeting later showed up in the Villa in the evening of the same day, this time for a dinner. He attended a dinner organised by the Pension Commission to mark 10 years of the introduction of the contributory pension scheme. During the dinner, his state as well as Delta and Niger received awards for buying into the scheme early enough.
One would have thought that BRF, as he is fondly called, would have arrived Abuja early enough to attend the council meeting and later join them for the dinner the same way his colleagues and Obasanjo did.
Lest I forget, the President will personally be arresting reckless motorists soon. He was on Wednesday decorated as the Grand Patron of the Special Corp Marshal with all his paraphernalia of office: a cap, reflective jacket and a hand band.
So, reckless drivers beware of presidential arrest. Till next week, stay away from trouble.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Olalekan Adetayo/Punch