Written by Simon Kolawole
I thought it was designed to be a joke. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu stood reverently in front of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, pleading with him to come and rescue Nigeria along with the APC. “We’re resolved and determined to rescue Nigeria… we want you to be our navigator,” Tinubu told Obasanjo. Like seriously? All you need to attain sainthood in Nigeria today is to be opposed to President Goodluck Jonathan. If Gen. Sani Abacha were alive and had written Obasanjo’s kind of letter to Jonathan, he would have become an instant hero. Just six years ago, I would have sworn that nobody would ever take Obasanjo’s views seriously again, but this is Nigeria where our memory is so shallow. Misfits get easily rehabilitated. We are told to ignore the messenger, even when the messenger is the eternally manipulative “navigator”.
I would like to remind Tinubu, and other easily excited Nigerians, about the antics of the man called Obasanjo. Lagos State would have been enjoying uninterrupted power supply today but for the petty “navigator” who interrupted Tinubu’s independent power projects. Obasanjo tried to frustrate the Enron-built AES power plant (which today supplies 230mw) until Tinubu reportedly went to prostrate to His Imperial Majesty inside his hallowed chambers at Aso Rock. But the “navigator” still made sure the other phases of the project did not see the light of the day.
The 4th Mainland Bridge would have been completed by now but for Tinubu’s “navigator” who refused to give the necessary Country Guarantee to secure a World Bank loan. (The same Obasanjo is hypocritically accusing Jonathan of stalling the Rivers water project – and Nigerians are clapping for him). In the 2003 elections, the “navigator” did everything to uproot Tinubu as the governor of Lagos State. On INEC’s website, Funsho Williams (PDP) had been announced as the winner, the same way other AD governors were swept out. I still don’t know how Tinubu survived. In 2004,
Tinubu created additional local governments. The “navigator” immediately withheld funds due to Lagos councils, describing Tinubu’s action as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that Tinubu’s action was in order but that the councils were “inchoate” until listed in the constitution. The court further ruled that Obasanjo had no power whatsoever to withhold funds due to any tier of government. The “navigator” still refused to release the funds, not even to the 20 constitutionally recognised councils. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adau released the funds three years later
I saw General Muhammadu Buhari on the team that went to Abeokuta to plead with Obasanjo to come and rescue Nigeria. My heart sank. I supported and voted for Obasanjo in 1999, but I was so disgusted with his conduct in office that I shifted my loyalty to Buhari in 2003. We all know how Obasanjo won his re-election that year. The presidential poll, conducted on April 19, was for years described as “419” election by Buhari. For instance, Obasanjo won 72,000 votes from 72,000 registered voters in Brass, Bayelsa State. No more, no less. The 2003 presidential poll was called the most fraudulent election in Nigerian history. It is incredible how Obasanjo is now in the forefront of rescuing Nigeria as APC’s “navigator” simply because he criticised Jonathan – and I am very worried that Buhari has descended to this low level of politicking.Buhari told me something four years ago in his hotel room in London. I had been agonizing Just six years ago, I would have sworn that nobody would ever take Obasanjo’s views seriously again, but this is Nigeria where our memory is so shallow. Misfits get easily rehabilitated
that Obasanjo was president for eight years and still failed to address power and refinery issues. I said no matter what Obasanjo achieved as president, those two things would continue to taint him. Buhari then narrated an encounter he had with Obasanjo at a Council of State meeting sometime in 2001. He recalled: “I said Mr. President, when you came into power in 1999, you said our refineries were not working because somebody (Abacha, that is) was awarding fuel import contracts to his family members.
Two years on, Mr. President, who is getting the fuel import contracts? Are the refineries working now? He interjected and tried to stop me… That was the last time I attended Council meeting under Obasanjo’s government.” Well, the meeting has now resumed in Abeokuta! I also saw Rivers Governor Rotimi Amaechi peeping from behind in the APC group photograph with Obasanjo during their expedition to Abeokuta. Was he also trying to pour accolades on Obasanjo? If my memory serves me right, Obasanjo callously denied Amaechi the PDP ticket in the 2007 election, openly describing his candidature as having a “K Leg”. But for the Supreme Court, which bent backwards, Amaechi would not have been governor. He should count himself lucky that the judgment
was delivered when Obasanjo had left power, if not it would never have been implemented. We were all witnesses to Obasanjo’s lawlessness anytime the courts passed judgments. He often refused to obey. His Attorney-General always had his own interpretation, even for matters as simple as “return to status quo ante”. I am waiting for Dr. Chris Ngige to pour his own encomium on the “navigator”. I don’t need to remind anyone what Obasanjo did to Ngige in Anambra State in 2004. If you’re too young to know, please google it. I am also waiting for Chief Audu Ogbeh to take his turn. He was removed as PDP chairman by Obasanjo because of his letter on the Anambra brigandage, in which he passionately pleaded with Obasanjo not to allow “this beautiful edifice of democracy to crumble”. As an APC chieftain now, Ogbeh can follow Tinubu’s footsteps and ask Obasanjo to be the “navigator”. No wonder, some people have given up on Nigeria. With Obasanjo as the “navigator”, a shipwreck is inevitable – as Professor Wole Soyinka has put it. If I may ask: what is Obasanjo’s electoral value? He has never won any election fair and square in his life. He lost woefully in the South-west in 1999, and used state power to corner those states for the PDP in 2003 and 2007. Naked without state power in 2011, his candidate for governorship in his home state, Brig-Gen.
Tunji Olurin, was roundly defeated – and his own daughter, Iyabo, could not win re-election into the Senate. Obasanjo cannot deliver the polling booth in front of his house to APC. His children will not even vote for him. How many Nigerians will vote for a candidate because of Obasanjo’s endorsement? Is this the kind of “navigator” APC needs? Agreed, Obasanjo has his nuisance value and his letters will always make headlines, but APC would be well advised to proceed with caution. I fully understand the disenchantment with President Jonathan. Nevertheless, APC should beware of 419.
And Four Other Things…
THE YEAR 2014 As a matter of personal belief, I don’t value one day or one year above the other. Every day, in my opinion, is filled with similar possibilities and opportunities. There is no difference between December 31 and January 1, as far as I am concerned. Having said that, however, I enter 2014 with baited breath. Normally, a year to general election is the most tense, but our polity was so heated up in 2013 that I am just wondering what worse could not happen in 2014, ahead of the 2015 elections. Expect less governance and more brutal politicking, in any case.
BUDGET BLUES Every budget comes with its oddities and I love the spotlight by the media on the details of Federal Government’s proposed expenditure. Newspapers now highlight what they intend to spend feeding cats and dogs as well as plans for new jets. I’m sure the Executive would not like it, but our job as journalists is not to please those in power but to hold them accountable to citizens. One thing is missing though: how will the National Assembly spend its N250 billion? How much do they really earn? Why is no one coming forward with the details? Is the amount so scandalous?
CHIME’S MOVES Enugu Governor Sullivan Chime is always in the news for the wrong reasons. If it is not the false imprisonment of his wife, it is his paranoid move to truncate the political future of those he considers as rivals. To make sure the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, does not go for governorship (Ekweremadu has consistently denied having a governorship interest), Chime has zoned the position to Enugu North. And to make sure Ekweremadu does not return to the Senate, Chime has zoned the PDP ticket to his own Udi constituency! He is eyeing the Senate, like most governors.
ADESINA’S POEM With the death of the Deji of Akure, Oba Adebiyi Adesida, his deposed predecessor, Prince Oluwadare Adesina, is passionately seeking to be restored to the throne. He had been deposed for alleged wife-battering, but with a vacancy now created, he
Simon Kolawole is a columinist and writer with ThisDay. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org