By Femi Ayelabawo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is on the warpath and he has launched an omnibus offensive. Virtually all Nigerians with a national profile are targets in his crosshairs. His latest salvo aims at diminishing members of the National Assembly and President Goodluck Jonathan. But others, including his former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, and former Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari, have taken fire from Obasanjo at some point in time.
To understand what is at the heart of this war that Obasanjo is fighting with everyone, we must look beyond his anger at the Nigerian people for denying him a third four-year term at the expiration of his second presidential term in 2007. It is properly rooted in what has come to be identified as his messianic complex. In a nutshell, no matter what good things may be happening in Nigeria, if it is not credited to Obasanjo, then, as far as the former president is concerned, it is either false or of no consequence.
Concerning the National Assembly, Obasanjo’s grouse with that institution began on Tuesday, August 13, 2002, when the House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion calling on then President Obasanjo to resign from office or face impeachment. The crucial part of the motion reads: “That by reason of the monumental inadequacies, persistent disrespect for the rule of law and the obvious corruption being perpetrated in the presidency which exposes Mr. President’s inability to steer the ship of state as its President, Mr. President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is hereby advised to resign honourably as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria within two weeks from the date of this motion or face impeachment.”
Do many Nigerians readily recall today that Obasanjo was once accused of “persistent disrespect for the rule of law” and “obvious corruption” during his first term as president? It is debatable. In any case, although Obasanjo managed to wriggle out of being impeached at the expiration of that ultimatum, he never forgave the members of the House of Representatives. As such, it should not surprise anyone that today anybody in the House Representatives is automatically a crook in Obasanjo’s book.
Still on the National Assembly, on Thursday, March 30, 2006, the Senate dealt then President Obasanjo’s carefully-orchestrated and heavily-funded Third Term Agenda a death blow when 42 senators spoke against the idea, thereby surpassing the 37 votes required to defeat the bid. After the failure of the Third Term Agenda, Obasanjo went to great lengths to distance himself from the ill-fated plot. But there are too many Nigerians who are still alive who knew first hand that Obasanjo was personally behind the plot.
One such Nigerian is Senator Ken Nnamani, former President of the Senate. Nnamani is on record that Obasanjo told him about the agenda soon after he became the Senate President. According to a report published in the Sunday Punch of April 8, 2012, Nnamani said: “Immediately, I became Senate President, he told me of his intentions and told me how he wanted to achieve it. I initially did not take him seriously until the events began to unfold.”
Nnamani also said: “There was a time that there was a rumour that heavy sums of money were doled out to National Assembly members (Senate), that each of us received N50m – that translates into more than N8bn, including other sums that were shared. If he is claiming that third term was not his agenda, where could such money have come from and for what purpose? Didn’t he give instructions to the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor then to dole out the money?” This revelation by Nnamani was a confirmation of information that was already in the public domain. So, if today Obasanjo says Senators are corrupt, it may be likened to a case of birds that used to fly together but have now decided to fly different routes.
Meanwhile, in the same Punch report, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “I recall vividly that people were being given N50m, some N100m to support third term. The money totalled over N10bn. How could N10bn be taken out of the national treasury for a project when you were the sitting President, yet that project was not your idea? Where did the money come from?” Again, these reports were already well known; so Gbajabiamila was simply confirming what the public already knew of Obasanjo’s deeds. After all the misdeeds during his tenure, it is left for Nigerians to decide on what authority Obasanjo can get up today to refer to members of the National Assembly or anyone else as corrupt.
As for Obasanjo’s swipes at President Jonathan, what can be inferred from them is that the former president has become increasingly uncomfortable with the verifiable achievements recorded by Jonathan in less time than Obasanjo’s eight years in office. For instance, whereas Obasanjo spent eight year as President and could not fix the busy Benin – Sagamu road, Jonathan fixed the road in less than three years. In even less time than that, Jonathan’s administration also successfully completed the dredging of the lower River Niger from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State, allowing over 6.7 million passengers and over 1.6 million tonnes of cargo to move through the channel in less than three years. This is something Obasanjo could not do.
President Jonathan took only 60 days to end 40 years of fraud in Nigeria’s fertiliser distribution system, something that Obasanjo, with all his braggadocio, could not do in eight years. Indeed, the list of such comparisons is long and requires an article of its own. So when Obasanjo in his bitterness launches verbal attacks on everyone, Nigerians should understand what informs his omnibus offensive.
Femi Ayelabowo.via email@example.com