Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has a knack for speaking up once in a while, as if he’s afraid that by maintaining the quiet dignity expected of an elder statesman he will be forgotten. His latest foray into the public doma in comes by way of a charge that his successors in office, namely the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and President Goodluck Jonathan, are to blame for Nigeria’s continuing challenges with electricity.hat must be understood from the former president’s comments is this: not only did Yar’Adua and Jonathan, in Obasanjo’s opinion, “fail” to provide Nigerians with electricity, if he had remained president beyond the constitutionally-limited two terms, he would have turned Nigeria to an Eldorado where electricity is concerned. It is this predilection to see himself as the only one who can solve Nigeria’s problem that has led some commentators to conclude that Obasanjo has a Messiah Complex.
As far back as April 2000, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, who was then a columnist with The Guardian, tried to deconstruct Obasanjo’s Messiah Complex. In an article simply titled ‘Obasanjo’s Problems’, Abati wrote: “The first plank of the Obasanjo philosophy of governance is to introduce a new way of doing government business: to re-orientate government, and re-condition the Nigerian psyche for performance and competition in a democratic and global context. It is this rescue-mentality that many Obasanjo critics have dismissed as the messianic complex. Messianism is in itself desirable in a society such as ours at this time but that phrase cannot fly because the government’s strategy attacks the very fundaments of the Nigerian society.”
It is not the point here whether Abati succeeded in deconstructing Obasanjo’s Messiah Complex. What is of the essence is to note how long Nigerians have been grappling with the idea of an Obasanjo who believes he is the only one who can save the country.
In October of the same year that Abati wrote his treatise, another public commentator, Wale Adebanwi, wrote: “In many ways, Obasanjo is the Lugardian incarnate. He is re-living the temperament and personal aggrandizement of Lord Lugard, not to talk of his (Lugard’s) messiah-complex… But, if Obasanjo is messianic and Hossanah-prone in his conduct in power, is he to blame?”Adebanwi’s conclusions about Obasanjo’s Messiah Complex would surely resonate with many Nigerians, for the complexities of this country is such that many years are wasted in creating problems, and yet as soon as someone like Jonathan becomes President, there is the unrealistic expectation that he must solve all the problems overnight.
As regards the charge on electricity made by Obasanjo, it is best to examine the matter by referencing the historical basis of the former president’s criticisms. Obasanjo said: “When I was military head of state, I developed the Jebba Dam. I also developed the Shiroro Dam. I started Egbin. Shagari came and completed Egbin and commissioned Jebba and Shiroro. Between Shagari in 1983, until I came back in 1999, there was no single dime invested in power generation. If anything, the ones that were there were allowed to go down.”
The contest of Obasanjo’s charges are therefore that, other than himself, no other Nigerian leader, for the better part of two decades, did a single thing to improve the country’s power situation. This may be true, but that Obasanjo himself is once again bringing this to the fore is indicative of something that is beyond the scope of a newspaper article to deconstruct. Nonetheless, Max Amuchie, another public commentator, tried in March of 2011 to interpret what some have now termed Obasanjo’s hubris.
Amuchie wrote: “As civilian president from 1999 to 2007, Obasanjo developed a messiah complex… As part of that complex, he encouraged praise singers and cheer leaders in his government to proclaim him ‘Father of modern Nigeria’, an honour that arguably belongs to Nnamdi Azikiwe, first president of Nigeria. It was also this messiah complex that led him to the ill-advised attempt to amend the constitution to make it possible for him to have a third term in office.”
There we have it! Having been denied a third term in office seven years ago, Obasanjo, in 2014, is still smarting from that rejection. That is why, the simple fact that under President Jonathan Nigeria is generating more electricity than it has ever generated in her history cannot encourage Obasanjo to indulge in a little humility and give even the slightest credit to someone else.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, responded to Obasanjo’s charge by saying: “This administration has been working hard to make sure these issues are resolved. By the grace of God, they are getting resolved. For instance, we are generating more power now than Nigeria had ever generated in the past and it is part of the policies of this administration that is making that possible.”
Would this be enough for Obasanjo to assume the composure expected of an elder statesman? It is highly doubtful. But then again, if it is not Obasanjo that is doing it, then it means nothing is getting done.
Francis Ehigiator via Twitter: @francisehigiator