Obasanjo and the pathology of absence by Paul Onomuakpokpo


Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

We now live in a country where if our moral sensibilities are not assaulted by the cases of corruption of our political leaders  which are unearthed with shocking regularity, our attempts  at every critical moment  to live down the jarring consciousness  of a dearth of  exemplars of a singular commitment to the collective good are  often  mocked by a stark reminder that this national malaise has  besmirched  us almost irrevocably .

It may be tolerable if we elect in a sombre moment of reflection on our seemingly intractable national challenges to grieve over the absence of men and women who ought to effectively hold the reins of the nation. But it is unbearable when we are reminded of this national affliction by attempts by some people to project themselves as the ultimate answers to our problems. What makes this situation doubly unbearable is that those who recommend themselves as solutions are part of the problems the nation has contended with in decades.

What really riles one is not the villains’ vacuous attempts at self-deification. What is more alarming is the danger of the obliteration of national memory which ultimately ought to guard us against the endorsement of such self-valourisation. With the national memory being overtaken by amnesia,  the urgent national  challenge is not how to rein in  the villain who is obsessed with  a  quest to transform himself into a hero but the citizens’ rapturous  approval of him as the  hero the nation has unfairly treated by not properly appreciating his place.

It is this search for national heroes that makes us to applaud former President Olusegun Obasanjo whenever he rails at the excesses of the leaders of the day, especially through highly envenomed epistolary media.  Of course, there are many excesses of our leaders that should rightly provoke umbrage from someone who is sufficiently aware that the nation is on the brink. Here, we need not split hair. But as a people who are scarred by the decades of misdirection, pillage and remorseless mismanagement of the nation’s bounteous resources by past leaders, we must not applaud those who are part of the malaise of the warped governance when they attempt to regain socio-political relevance by reminding us of our problems and blaming others as their vitalising forces.

Rather than encouraging Obasanjo as he struts around, self-deluded with the notion of being festooned with diadems for rare governmental insights and an unbreakable record of giant strides in government, the question we should ask is what are the institutions he established to check the excesses of the members of the National Assembly whom he excoriated in his letter to them last week? For if Obasanjo had established such institutions that nurture moral rectitude, he would not  be complaining that the lawmakers are preoccupied with how to cater to their selfish lifestyles at a time the nation is faced with an economic crisis that requires that they forget their personal comfort for now.

We cannot forget so soon that instead of building institutions that support good governance, Obasanjo was obsessed with how to erect institutions that would rather solidify the advancement of the collapse of the values that have sustained our national cohesion. Consider the values of democratic governance. It is still fresh in our national memory how Obasanjo sustained an electoral commission that was unabashedly fixated on encouraging everything that negated democratic values.

Through such a fraudulent electoral umpire, Obasanjo was able to install his minions as president, governors and lawmakers. Even former President Musa Yar’Adua who Obasanjo fraudulently installed as a president through a corrupt electoral system had to rue the skewed system that produced him.

It is this system of electoral fraud that the nation has been saddled with since Obasanjo left office. So, if this system has produced the current set of lawmakers who want to recoup the millions or billions they have used to secure their electoral victories, why is Obasanjo lamenting?  If he disavows transparency in his dealings with the citizens why must he expect the lawmakers to behave differently?  Obasanjo has been challenged to let the citizens know the secret of his metamorphosis from a penurious prisoner to an owner of billions that he deployed to set up a university and many other businesses.

Has Obasanjo explained to Nigerians how he made money to set up his library while he was the president? Does he not want our current leaders to leave office with enough slush funds to set up universities and other businesses?

Obasanjo cannot sincerely accuse the lawmakers of corruption when he has demonstrated that as a leader one should encourage bribery. Obasanjo should not expect the lawmakers to forget that it was during his administration that some of the nation’s scandalous cases of corruption took place. Under him, there was the Halliburton bribery scandal.

What is more corrupt and a worse drain on the national treasury than Obasanjo through his minions embarking on the prosecution of a third term agenda with its concomitant expenditure of billions to secure support for it? If the lawmakers are not serving the interest of Nigerians, whose interest did the third term agenda serve?

Again, the lawmakers can go ahead and brazenly plunder the nation because there is no fear of appropriate sanctions. After all, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Obasanjo set up was only used to persecute his perceived or real enemies.  So, as long as these current lawmakers know how to fawn on those who have the power to sanction them, they can escape being punished for their misdeeds.

The impunity under the administration of Obasanjo was also seen in the brutal murder of his attorney-general and minister of justice without the masterminds being apprehended and adequately punished.

Even without Senate President Bukola Saraki’s acknowledgement of the complicity of the nation’s political players in the absence of development since 1999, the citizens are sufficiently aware that they have not got political leaders who would really serve them. Yes, these lawmakers deserve excoriation. But this should not come from villains who pretend to be national heroes. When such villains excoriate the excesses of those who have succeeded them in the mission of national despoliation, they only succeed in pathologising their absence from the sphere of political influence.  What they fail to conceal from the citizens is that their exclusion from the government of the day is an affliction,   a disease that mercilessly racks them.

Obasanjo may delude himself as writing a letter to the lawmakers to warn them of their excesses. In fact, he is free to write more of such a letter. But the kind of letter the citizens who have suffered at the hands of the nation’s misguided leaders expect from Obasanjo is the one where he would offer apologies for wasting the tremendous opportunities the nation offered him to salvage it. This must be different from his recent letter where he only embarked on an ego trip under the guise of excoriating the foibles of lawmakers. (Source: The Guardian)

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