by Sam Omatseye
In war, when the enemy camp keeps quiet, danger looms. When Obasanjo dances, expect a letter bomb. When he was in government, his foes fidgeted because, within 24 hours, impeachment dangled.
In the military, surprise is a stealth bomber. The enemy with superior army and armoury can fall to bombs from the blues. Neither the President nor even the public saw the Owu chief’s latest incarnation of public rage.
As President, he danced with a senator’s wife, and knifed the fellow, Chuba Okadigbo, hours later with impeachment as Senate president. He even sweetened the dress rehearsal for another senator at a party by tossing a piece of cake in Adolphus Wabara’s mouth. It was a mockery of homosexual romance. The next day, his fellow senators dismounted him.
So, when Obj graduated with PhD from the Open University, he had to dance. In his life, PhD has not always meant a doctorate degree. It means pull him down. He loves to lionise himself by bringing down foes in high places. Since he vacated office as military head of state, he has ripped apart others from Buhari down. His book, My Command, was an egoistic trip in self-promotion.
The video portrayed the old man spinning on the dance floor with his wife. His feet looked lithe, dabbing about with the lightness of a teenager. With something like bole (roast plantain) in hand, he embodied an omen: his impish smile as he moved from one part to another in a magisterial sway of the dance floor. Obasanjo does not know an innocent floor or dance. Muhammadu Buhari was to find out soon in his epistolary umbrage. The Owu chief is the most dangerous dancer on earth. His dance beats the Oro in Yorubaland or agbasa dance in Warri or the others around the country. They don’t rattle presidents.
Obj’s interventions never sheds new light on the state of the nation. It sheds new light on the scheme of the old man. He did not say anything original in his verbose, long-winded sentences. But he summarised, ironically, the state of the nation. There is a certain mood of reluctant gratitude that cheers to the public heart when an Obasanjo intervenes. He takes advantage of some facts. Unlike other former heads of state, he is articulate. Two, he knows how to spice it with a certain dose of what the Hausa people call dan iska, a reckless guttersnipe’s bravado. But his carries a high dose of respectability. He is sincere in the words, and that is the danger. But he is not sincere in his motive. Obasanjo often flips out a two-edged sword: one side to the opponents’ chest; the other to clear the way for his agenda.
So, when he says Buhari should not run again, he reflected the mood of a significant swath of the land. When he says, the man runs a nepotistic style, you just need to look at how he recruited men of the SSS and wrapped it around his Katsina roots. Or why he has failed to rejig the security apparatus, or why he asked his Benue elders to embrace their neighbours after herdsmen’s rapine.
When the Okikuola says Buhari’s health disqualifies him, he is referring to the lack of transparency in the publicity of the state of his physical wellbeing. He is no doctor. He has no inkling what the man’s health is. But he exploits public ignorance for good effect.
He excoriates the President with lethal broadsides on the war on corruption and needles him about Mainagate, perhaps the most burlesque act of official buffoonery. It is anti-corruption laughing at itself. How an attorney general becomes the anchor man in defence of corruption is perhaps, like the NNPC saga with Baru and Kachikwu, the most foolish emblem of self-indictment in the government.
So, Obj knows how to fight. But we can even see, in his false attempt to be a hero, that he was not fair on the subject of the economy. He did not get the word out that Buhari has stabilised the naira, boosted our foreign reserve, galvanised our agricultural production and reined in the vanity of imported excesses, such as rice and toothpicks. He should have highlighted these while showing that the statistics point in the right direction. But statistics are not satisfaction. The table graph of high performance does not translate to the luxurious aroma of the dinner table.
But what is more important in the letter is Obj’s solution. He says he wants to start what he called a third force. I laughed when I read that. The first time the idea of a third force was mooted was when he was in charge of the Nigerian Army in Ibadan during the civil war. Wole Soyinka had advanced the idea to him with the late Biafran soldier, Victor Banjo. Obasanjo, playing the fox and military toady to his bosses, frustrated and paralysed the move. Soyinka relates in graphic detail those sly and heady days in his memoirs, You Must Set Forth at Dawn. So, Obj took that term from his arch foes, Wole Soyinka, and wants to appropriate it to himself. Does he believe in the third force, his coalition of the willing Nigerian, called the CN?
Obj’s public life has not been about building. He has been about taking. He never worked for any triumph of his life. Benjamin Adekunle worked the Third Marine Commando into a heroic machine. The swashbuckling commander was fired on the battle field and redeployed. The war was almost over. Obj, who took a bullet in the buttocks, took over and claims the credit for winning it. He became second man in command to Murtala Muhammed. The fierce general was overthrown. Obj enjoyed the benefit, his army fatigue immune to even the smell of gunpowder.
He was in jail during the Abacha junta. He was released and everyone, including IBB, begged him to run for President. He won even though he mocked NADECO and other forces that fought and died to flush out the military.
Obj has been an opportunist and a beneficiary of other people’s sweat. He is the Paulo Rossi of Nigerian political history. He is sweatless in struggle but he wears the crown. He has never lost because he has never gambled. He has been like the opportunist tiger who takes over the carcass of other less-sinewed cats.
So when Obj came out to lash out at Buhari, it was all in character. He installed Yar’adua, knowing of his imperfect health. Yet, he came down on him before the man succumbed to illness. He descended like a predator bird on Jonathan because, as a source told me, Jonathan was not listening to him. He tore his party card in an extravagance of public disavowal. Yet, he knew the Vice President he gave to Yar’adua.
Now, Obj has never built anything in his life, except relatively sweatless projects, such as Otta farm. The throne has always been ready for him. He asked Buhari to dismount. But he has always mounted free horses others trained and decorated. Even in pushing for a third force, he says he wants to “join.” A founder does not join. The use of that word is a Freudian admission that it is a strange territory for him. He is the vulture, not an eagle. He does not kill, but waits and whets his appetite until the meaty prize arrives. He did same in the third term bid. He baited and waited. But when it failed, he played Peter and denied any hand in it.
He said both PDP and APC are now cesspools. He wants a third force. But where is he going to get the so-called new breed? The bigwigs of APC will not leave their party. As Achebe wrote in A Man of The People, who will spit out a sweet morsel that good fortune has tossed in his mouth. Many top APC men are happy and “chopping.” The PDP guys are not happy. But he already condemned them. If he succeeds, then Obj will have turned opportunism into a genuine trophy. Just as he took the term “third force” from Soyinka as a form of revenge. Or is he going to build a party of malcontents. Can malcontents rescue a nation of discontents?
Lai Mohammed’s response was cynically self-celebratory but did not address the issues of nepotism or MainaGate or other matters of moral temperature. That was a clever copout written with the African backhanded deference to age, but not without a jibe. So, if Obj said the right things, the question remains, is he the right person to say it?
- This piece was written by Sam Omatseye/The Nation