Obasanjo has seen it all in Nigeria in his lifetime. He has fought a war to keep Nigeria one. He has ruled Nigeria, not once but twice: one as military leader and second as a democratic president. He has been instrumental to bringing governments to power. And toppling others. He brought Yaradua in as his successor. He was instrumental to the birth and death of the Jonathan presidency. Before then, he came after the government of Ibrahim Babangida.
And when he meddled in the dictatorship of Abacha, he was jailed for plotting the government’s overthrow.
He has also been educating himself forever. Only recently earning a PhD in Theology this year from a Nigerian University. For a man approaching 80years with all but the best of his life behind him, such forward looking accomplishments reflect a restless spirit. It is easy to see from his personal pursuit of education why he easily gets bored with the status quo and challenges even institutions he helped install. Education provides insight and insight leads to new knowledge and sometimes exposes the folly of what you thought yesterday was the best wisdom.
Obyasanjo is the kind of person who will demolish a house he built only a decade ago and starts from the beginning, believing his former design was faulty. Even if a decade ago, everyone but himself knew that that design was faulty. His convictions come from his constant education. Not by better opinions that most times he has access to.
The house he wants to demolish today is the Buhari government. A house he helped build only a few years ago. Just before that, he had demolished the house of Jonathan, a boy’s quarter he constructed from nothing and sold to Nigerians as a mansion. Under the right circumstance, Obasanjo, educated and well exposed would not have wished Jonathan on Nigeria. Nigeria certainly deserved better. And had better candidates. Neither could he have wished Yaradua on us. He knew the guy was sick. And as a governor, his performance was lackluster. But he sold us these choices, imposed them on a hapless nation and the rest is history. Nigeria has wobbled in the past ten years due to a below average performance on the seat of power.
But back to Buhari. Obasanjo supported Buhari despite being convinced that Buhari knew next to nothing in economic matters. Also knowing that the man did not have a cosmopolitan worldview but a provincial mindset that was set in the old politics of regional supremacy. But he supported him. And with popular dissatisfaction with his old apostle Jonathan, he helped install the man in power.
Fast forward two years, Buhari has unraveled. All his lack of economic education and provincial mindset have manifested with devastating consequences to the unity and economic wellbeing of Nigeria. The Nigerian economy has been through an avoidable recession. And is wobbling out of the recession not because of economic engineering but because we are lucky oil is holding on to a decent price. Buhari is for all intent and purpose not running a Nigerian government. He has turned his government into that of his kith and kin. And his policies and actions reflect this sad reality. In a multi ethnic and diverse country, Buhari has openly encouraged regional hegemony.
Obasanjo is right to be alarmed at the turn of events in just two years with Buhari in power. Buhari has wiped out all the progress of efforts to build a Nigeria that’s inclusive to all. It is therefore not difficult to see why he wrote his recent epistle. When he wrote similar letter to his apostle Jonathan, he had made accusations that bothered on Nigeria being divided and drifting while Jonathan fiddled. Today, Nigeria is drifting and near imploding with the active participation of the president by his actions and inactions.
So, what do we do with Obasanjo? Should we support his latest conversion and enlightenment? Of tell him off and ask him to go back to his Otta farm and stew in his own juice? Because the results have not been pretty. Nigerians have been the loser in his experiments. When he installed a sick Yaradua instead of other capable hands including his then deputy, we lost. Nigeria lost the momentum of an expanding economy. A government he installed quickly reversed key projects and programs that could have had great impact on the economy, from power to rail transportation. And then the obviously sick president went into a terminal illness that took his life. We are still suffering the consequences of those reversals.
Jonathan was also a product of that engineering. He was not chosen as Vice president because of his capability. In fact, he was chosen for the opposite. Someone who would not rock the boat, who will just fulfill our system of identity politics by pacifying the Niger Delta. But at the death of Yaradua, our constitution helped install a clearly unprepared guy as president. I am one of those who think that Jonathan performed beyond his capability. While this was not enough for a Nigeria that needed real capable leadership, I believe that history will be kinder to him than the current partisan profiling of him.
But his government should have thought Obasanjo a lesson. A lesson that should have allowed us to avoid the calamity of our current state. While Jonathan acted beyond his capability the current government of Buhari suffers from total lack of capability with little chance of improvement and a dangerous dose of hawkish provincialism that is capable of unraveling Nigeria. This is as dangerous as it gets for a multi ethnic nation like Nigeria.
On this basis, it is in Obasanjo’s best interest to help us uninstall Buhari as Nigeria president in 2019. But in doing that, we must ensure that he does not use us to install another incompetent like his former experiments have produced. This is not as easy as it sounds. Because the learned and messianic Obasanjo will want to provide all the answers. He already has someone in mind as president in his latest experiment. And we do not know the criteria for his choice. Is it someone that can run Nigeria? Is the person a pan Nigeria candidate.? Is the person a 21st century leader who will understand that we have lost decades while other countries moved on to provide better livelihood for their citizens? Does the person understand that Nigerians want to live in a decent country and be proud of their country? Will the person help build a Nigerian identity we can all identify with and be proud to call our identity?
Obasanjo must by his education know that his system of helping install people of his choice has produced failed outcomes. But he still has a job to do to help us recover from his mistakes. Perhaps this time, he can just help birth a platform that will allow us to choose the best person we think can rule Nigeria. We are mature enough to do that. Let us choose among us a person so capable and so pan Nigerian that we can all be mobilized to help Nigeria move in a direction that makes us all happy to contribute.
In 10years, its doubtful if Buhari, Obasanjo and most of the current generation of men in their late 70s and 80s who continue to determine the fate of Nigeria will still be around. The best they can do for us is to ensure that in that 10years, we would not have another set of people in their later 70s and 80s still controlling the destiny of a nation with an average age in the 30s. And competing with other nationals being ruled by millennials and younger.
This is perhaps Obasanjo’s last act as a Nigerian statesman. I am in full support of him so long as the outcome is the delivery of a Nigerian president I will be proud to show off as a truly modern Nigerian president. If he fails and the current hopelessness continues, no one can guarantee that Nigeria will survive. The best Obasanjo can pray for is that he leaves Nigeria sure that his experiments have not led to the permanent doom of the country that has been go good to him and most of his generation. It is a prayer that most of us would be happy to pray and work with him to come to pass.
I am in full support of him so long as the outcome is the delivery of a Nigerian president I will be proud to show off as a truly modern Nigerian president. If he fails and the current hopelessness continues, no one can guarantee that Nigeria will survive.