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Published On: Wed, Jan 14th, 2015

Obasanjo as a crouching tiger

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former President ObasanjoBy Ali M. Ali.

Let’s open a few not so grey pages of our recent history. In the twilight of 2013,Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, self-appointed guardian angel of the nation, wrote an 18-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan. Titled “Before it is too late’’,it was not a filial epistle between father and son in a festive season. It was a searing attack. Among a litany of allegations, the former President accused the current President of being an ethnic jingoist evidenced by the surfeit of Ijaw nationalities in his kitchen cabinet and imperturbably reluctant to address the security challenges posed by MEND and Boko Haram.He also accused Jonathan of being complacent in tackling corruption, mismanaging the economy and depletion of the foreign reserves. He similarly accused him of subordinating his vaulting ambition to the well being of the ruling PDP.He reminded him of his promise not to run in 2015,acondition which, he said, earned him thepresidential ticket in 2011.According to Obasanjo, it was becoming clear that Jonathan would renege on that pledge not to run which, he concluded, will be “morally flawed”.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Insecurity has heightened. Under Jonathan’s watch, the North-east has been more or less ceded to insurgent elements. Everyday, these rebels make daring incursions into the country’s territory. Presently,they are in control of a preponderant number of local government areas of Borno and Yobe states. Only yesterday, ill equipped soldiers courageously repelled another daring attempt to take Biu, one of the biggest towns in southern Borno. The over 200 Chibok schoolgirls have been abducted for 276 days today. Not a whiff of their trail is smelt.Late last year,the insurgents made an emphatic statement. They annexed some territories including the ancestral home of the Chief of Defence Staff. They held unto it for a while before they were dislodged by very determined soldiers clearly out-gunned and out ‘motivated’.Tales abound of the heroics of our gallant military prosecuting a war literally bareknuckle. We owe them a lot but not the beefy generals feeding fat on the counter insurgency budget.

Like in 2013,in the twilight of 2014,Obasanjo presented his book “My Watch”. Were the autobiography a movie, it would be the sortparents will be advised to activate “Parental Control”. It is lurid. The author spared no one that thought he was someone in the nation’s political field.Since he presented it in defiance of a court order not to, a counter “Watching the Watcher” by Yinka Odumakin has been authored and similarly presented.Think of the biggest political masquerade that struts the land. Obasanjo has ‘diss’ him in his current book. From his estranged deputy, Atiku, to APC strong man, Tinubu, Baba has an unkind word.He didn’t even spare journalists who authored books. Expectedly, he took time to “pen lash” Jonathan, his ‘whipping boy’, similarly estranged. He described him as usual – in unflattering colours. Incensed by his once upon a time godfather’s unkind blows, President Jonathan alluded to and likened Obasanjoto a motorpark tout.A ‘tout’, to me, is an uncharitable word to describe a benefactor regardless of the provocation. Agreed, Obasanjo is not a very likeable person. In fact, he has an annoying quality. Not a few have described him as a convenient hypocrite.A bareknuckle political fight between Jonathan and Obasanjo would be like being thrown into the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. Get body armour but you will still be pummeled.

Few days after the allusion, Obasanjo,a veteran of such mudslinging, made his signature move that signposts that he is ready for the ‘kill’.He made a surprise appearance at the wedding solemnization of the niece, some say daughter, of thePresident. Expectedly there was a photo opportunity. An image frozen by still camera on the occasion made a hurried round in social and traditional media. It was that of the former president slightly bowing for a handshake before the ramrod presence of the current president,Jonathan.The ‘bow’,those knowledgeable in body language swore and described it as the ‘crouch’ of a tiger before it pounces on its prey. I recall a similar bow, though more profound, in which late General Abacha made before Sultan Ibrahim Dasukiin 1994 in deference to his office. By April 1996, he was deposed from office.

As an amateur body language reader, I read of the picture of a bowing Obasanjothus: “Let me confuse this boy the more.I will teach him I am a real tout. I will teach himthat I earned my epaulettes as a general in the trenches. He thinks being a ‘General’ is like acquiring a Ph.D from Oluwole market? From the straight unbending stand and the complacent smile of President Jonathan, I read contentment and personal triumph that the gadfly has finally capitulated, that he has been ‘broken’ since he ‘dissed’ him as a motor park tout.It was admirable to see ‘Baba’ deferring to his ‘son’ inthe full glare of the public.Such public display ofaffection between two ‘warriors’ is soothing to political frayed nerves. It has the potential of stemming acrimony at personal and group levels.In strategic terms, however, this is ominous. The GEJ camp should lose sleep. Plenty of it. When Baba makes a house call,a dirge follows invariably.

Are you skeptical? Ask the resourceful Audu Ogbeh.As chair of the PDP,he grossed the ire of then President Obasanjo and eventually earned his wrath. In his current book, Obasanjo details how he dealt with Ogbeh whom,according to him,was working for his Vice,Atiku.One day he paid Ogbeh a housevisit. He savoured home made pounded yam .The following day, he forcefully removed Ogbeh as PDP chairman. Next was Chuba Okadigbo. As Senate President, the late Oyi of Oyi was intellectual profundity personified. His diction was, invariably, elegant. His oratory, matchless. Still Obasanjo taught him a lesson in reapolitic. He made a house call during a house warming party. He danced on the marble floor of the late flowery politician. The following day he was impeached as No3.

Jonathan should be insomniac. The election into the high office of President of the Federal Republic ofNigeria is exactly a month away and the incumbent is assailed from all directions. The foremost assailant is not Buhari, the relentless challenger, not APC, the ‘furious’ opposition party, not unhappy party chieftains, but Obasanjo, former president and the benefactor-in-chief of the current Commander-in- chief. It won’t be altogether hazardous to conclude that the Obasanjo bow last weekend was actually a tiger’s crouch before the kill. Change is a done deal with this foxy politician.


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