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Published On: Thu, Dec 11th, 2014

Between the Shoeless and the Shameless

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Obasanjo and JonathanBy Ali M. Ali

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is ‘smoking hot’. His latest book “My Watch” is quaking Nigeria’s political earth. He is shooting straight from the hip. He has an unkind word for everybody who thought he was somebody under his watch in the dawn of the 4th Republic.

He is at his vitriolic best in this current book. Past endeavours at letter or book writing have always ended up like this -in controversy. But he is no stranger to it. I admire the man. He is not afraid to be caught ‘pants-down’ so to speak, in his own double-speak. When others like him shy away from controversy for bread or safety, he makes public spectacle riding the rolling waves of controversy. I shudder to think what the present political clime would look like without his timely intervention at strategic times. He truly deserves national applause, his glaring hypocrisy notwithstanding. By his own admission, he is ‘shameless’. He is also ‘shock less’

Baba Iyabo is a unique character. An unusual patriot, if you like, who routinely calls a spade a shovel.

Depending on his mood, Obasanjo may see the glass ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’. I have this sneaky feeling that the ex-president fancies himself as the conscience of the nation. Since 1979, he has stood as sentry to the nation’s political and economic vault as the country’s super patriot who thinks only of the state.

I hazard another guess. Armed with this onerous duty of saving the nation from predatory rulers, there has been no government or individual for that matter, he has not “diss” as imperfect except his. Unless he ‘anoints’, it is ‘rogue’

When Buhari and Idiagbon government aligned itself with his regime in 1984, he “dissed” it. Shagari’s government, the one he helped installed in the year he quitted as military head, he earlier ‘dissed’. Name any government or individual, Obasanjo had a searing word for both. IBB? Awo? Abiola? Abacha?

Expectedly his current book ‘My Watch” presented to the public in defiance of a court order on Tuesday, is vintage Obasanjo .The order to ‘arrest’ or impound the book yesterday would be fruitless. I think the DSS and the police had better go track down insurgents than hunt “My Watch”. They are popularizing it. Obasanjo is chuckling. He is “shameless’.

The old man has a history of ‘shooting’ on sight at real and phantom enemies. Since he retired from the army as military head of state, he has taken to a career of farming and ‘shooting’ –with his mouth and pen. In doing that, he doesn’t give a damn whose ox is gored.

We are in an era of “less”. Everything is “less”. Modern day fashionistas insist that “less” is more. I am bewildered. How could ‘less’ be ‘more?’But in this country’s incredible political clime, this couldn’t be truer. The ‘less’ is, indeed, truly, more. Consider the on-going charming thriller for instance. It involves two narratives of the ‘less’ genre. The shoe (less) and the shame (less). It is engaging. It is gripping. It is the kind of thriller that would keep you on the edge of your seat –all the time. Were it being shown in the theatre, this thriller would morbidly fascinate the audience and keep it spellbound. It is the tale of the lamb and the fox. It is the narrative of a current President and an ex president.

Those who have been around the precincts of power long enough, like my friend Sani Zango, think of the current face-off between godson (Jonathan) and godfather (Obasanjo) as overwhelming dejavu. We have been here before”, he keeps telling me. Zango likes to point at the 1993 scenario that forcefully ended General Ibrahim Babangida’s unwinding transition programme, which, at the same time, culminated in Interim Government. The ill-advised cancellation of June 12 elections was among a cocktail of reasons that sent IBB to Minna not in the measured dribbling steps of a Maradona. The cancellation caused huge uproar. The critical press domiciled in Lagos was unsparing. Before then, Obasanjo’s scathing criticisms of the regime was unending. This cocktail of reasons significantly helped in sealing the fate of the military government of Babangida 21 years ago. Zango is convinced that the foxy ex-president is set to politically bury the shoeless Jonathan.

I am not dishing out labels. The President’s shoeless narrative is well known. It was his call to electoral arms in 2011.Nearly four years ago, it resonated with a vast majority of ordinary folks. The unwary identified with the tale of a barefooted country boy done good encapsulated in the shoeless yarn. All simple folks saw themselves in the ‘I am Goodluck Jonathan’ tale. Today the narrative is inverted. In the social media, frustrated citizens are of the informed view that any shoeless fella should be given one and asked to “beat it”.

Truly our president is a historic figure. By location or by extra-ordinary aptitude, the idea of being no1 in a mega complex country like Nigeria in 2010was so remote as to invite the word ‘impossible’ for a certain Ebele Jonathan. I know how this sounds. Myopic. Why not? Because of history.

Our history of democratic election is unkind to ethnic groups lacking in numerical strength. The so-called big three of Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba unkindly conspire to keep the smaller tribes away from the nation’s plum job. Check history. Except for military juntas, all duly elected presidents were Fulani or Yoruba or Igbo. Jonathan is not among any of the listed. He is a ‘minority’. But today he is the President. He broke the circle. This is historic.

I don’t subscribe to the idea of recruiting leaders on the basis of the size of their tribe. Tragically, our nation is yet to get there. We worry about the name and the face. I am of the firm belief that capacity and not quantum tribe dimension, is the most essential skill to pull a country like ours dangerously dancing on the brink.

Unwittingly, by the account of the book, each unkind word on Jonathan and others, Obasanjo so generously lavishes, is a damning indictment of his own failing as a leader. It exposed him as master in double-speak with motives almost sinister .His only redeeming quality is –he is not afraid to speak out and express his understanding of the truth. It is not out of sync though for the ’shameless’.


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