Between Political Games And Social Relations Alpheaus Paul-Worika Ph.D
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, two of a kind, did a spectacular thing at the National Council of States meeting in Abuja, last Tuesday. They disappointed their fans by the level of camaraderie they displayed, shaking hands ‘presidentially’ and generally expressing warm felicitations that contradict the belligerent mode of their fans.
The two leaders demonstrated uncommon statesmanship, in a manner that confounded even their critics. Both men have a myriad of supporters as well as critics. They share many other things in their history. They are retired generals of the Nigerian Army and fought in the Nigerian Civil War. They became Heads of State in unique circumstances, each being reluctant to lead and persuaded by colleagues to take over the reins of government; and after leaving office, both men were further persuaded to run for election.
They became democratically elected heads of a civilian administration and have become the only two Nigerians that have governed the country as dictators and democrats.
The two leaders as long time associates and members of the National Council of States, have a relationship far beyond what Nigerians can see. And they have both confessed at different times, the affection and respect they have for each other.
In the build up to the 2015 presidential elections, Chief Obasanjo was one of the political leaders who approved and encouraged President Buhari to achieve victory eventually. His farm at Otta was Mecca to many office seekers. Even though he was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obasanjo did not hide his displeasure over the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan and actually worked against the PDP in the interest of the APC.
Leaders of the APC in their individual rights and privileges made a show of their courtship with Obasanjo; and when the former president tore his PDP membership card (or rather watched as an aide performed the function), the biggest beneficiaries of PDP’s loss were Buhari and his supporters.
With that card tearing act, Obasanjo announced his complete departure from the PDP and took on the role of a nationalist. He wrote letters to President Goodluck Jonathan making various claims and allegations on governance.
Obasanjo intensified his globetrotting and sold the need for a regime change to the international community. He was very firm and strident in criticizing the Jonathan administration, amplifying the inconsistencies and contradictions in the system while Buhari’s political associates hailed him.
Indeed, the former president was described as bold, courageous and a man of integrity who could dare and speak truth to power no matter who was in charge. Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi said during one of Obasanjo’s visits to commission some projects in Rivers State, that he was the ‘small’ Baba (younger version of Obasanjo) who does not know how to speak from both sides of the mouth. He eulogized his bluntness.
To some politicians, Obasanjo is a talkative; a man who claims to be what he is not. They would mention his attempts to rewrite the constitution to remain in office and the many legal infractions and human rights issues that form part of the history of his administration. But his consistency is a great sell that is worthy of consideration. Obasanjo’s utterances might be toxic, and non sequitur, but his courageous stance when the vast majority are coerced to docility expands his circle of friends and admirers.
Until a few days ago, that list included President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu, Right Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and many political stalwarts in the APC. Is everything politics or must politics be in everything? This question is latent in the reactions that have greeted Chief Obasanjo’s so long a letter to President Buhari, on several issues including alleged plot to compromise and rig the 2019 elections.
Rather than take Obasanjo to the cleaners by pointing out the hollowness or falsity of his claims, the responses have been rather abusive and enmeshed in emotion. Those who should give direction on decorum and proper responses are throwing bricks and bats.
The response by the presidency which represents the president’s view was to urge Chief Obasanjo ‘to get well soon’. The man who attended the Council of States meeting did not appear sick in body or mind. Indeed, only a very healthy mind in a strong body can articulate a 16-page letter on various aspects of governance.
Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay took umbrage and in very harsh tone, declared that Obasanjo’s attitude was rude and meddlesome. In 7 pages of anger, Sagay said “the status of an ex-president is one of quiet dignity, respect, discretion, decorum, discipline and restraint. And Obasanjo does not have a simple one of these.”
Tinubu, co-Chair of the APC campaign council did not particularly respond to the letter. But he accused Obasanjo of lacking the courage to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day, and also for championing rigging of elections and therefore incompetent to criticize Buhari over impunity, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, in apparent reference to the vexatious letter, said under Obasanjo, there were irregular payments of subsidy claims while Borno State suffered from Boko Haram even though funds were appropriated to fight insurgency.
The anger is palpable. But we can draw the line between political games and sincere qualitative criticisms and analysis. Obasanjo’s pattern is predictable to any student of current Nigerian politics. He is brash but forthright. He cooks his pot of criticisms with a rich mix of facts, logic and prose. The dish might be served in a wrong platter, but the content are always deserving of profound introspection; because the effects could be potent, dangerous and far-reaching as political supporters and acolytes pull punches.