Chieke Ihejirika, Ph.D
Political Science
Lincoln University, PA
The tragedy of a pseudo-statesman and a failed presidency
This denouement of President Obasanjo inordinate ambition rule Nigeria for ever is a very interesting development in deed. Yesterday our chief democrat chastised Nigeria's media, accusing them of being excessive, simply for showing Nigerians what was going on in their National Assembly. He could not even appreciate that the people and the nation was jubilant and proud of what transpired, and that the world gave a rare applause and kudos to Nigeria. Sadly for him, he could not disguise his contradiction when he still criticized what he was forced to acknowledge as a victory for democracy.

Any one watching or reading President Obasanjo's concession speech to his party would have no difficulty discerning the anger and discontent his has for the members of the national assembly, especially the anti-third term groups, but most of all for ordinary Nigerians. He has in deed true to form, showing his real priority in this order: his cronies, his great party, and least of all the people of Nigeria. Yes Obasanjo has nothing but contempt for Nigerians and Nigeria, even as he is being heralded as the greatest statesman of our time. No wonder President Obasanjo would not concede that there must be millions of Nigerians who are as good as himself, if not better in dealing with the problems of their country.

Let me just remind those who care to know some very vital issues that needed to be, but not addressed in our country over the last seven years that Obasanjo has been at the helm. Besides, he supervised the greatest disenfranchisement of Nigerians in the history of the country during the 2003 elections. The monumental abuse he orchestrated during that sham of election is still reverberating in the country almost four year after, and the casualties are everywhere for anyone who cares to notice.

President Obasanjo so controlled all the illegality and illegitimacy in the country that he was dumbfounded that for the first time in seven years the national assembly was able to make one good thing happened in spite of his inclination to the contrary. In spite of all the claims about this being a legendary presidency, I can say categorically that the only success of the last seven years is the GSM. Everyone can acknowledge that GSM was not there before Obasanjo but now it is there. In my opinion, every other thing this government is claiming as a success is a fluke.

On corruption I would like to challenge anyone to tell me how this president has shown that he sincerely fought corruption. It was attitude, stupid, as Americans would say. Any disinterested observer would easily discover that his was simply a policy of get your enemies, and protect your friends. The examples are innumerable. When Audu Ogbe was the president's friend, and did his bidding, no harm could touch him. Shortly after giving him a good, embarrassing advice, EFCC was unleashed against him. Mr. Annih is yet to account for the imaginary road projects for which more that 300 billion naira was earmarked, but since Mr. "Fix it" glued himself onto the emperor's side, of course, no evil would ever come upon him. No wonder he wanted the empire to last for ever. His war on corruption was also an instrument of coercion to blackmail any and all dissenters. Check how he decimated the leadership of the national assembly, five senate presidents in seven years. Woe onto any one who dared King Obasanjo. For instance, as soon as his former big fan, General TY Danjuma rtd, opposed his third term bid, he lost his oil block, which he should not have had to begin with, except in a corrupt order that is Obasanjo's Nigeria. Governor Orji Uzo Kalu has his aircrafts permanently grounded at Murtala Mohamed International Airport because he had the audacity to challenge Emperor Obasanjo. Governor Nnamani was his darling until he seriously began to agitate for a South-east presidency, no wonder he quickly back down and joined the bandwagon to prolong the imperial reign. Of course only the blind would fail to see why Atiku became a pariah in the administration. As his vice president, Atiku was the greatest threat to the evil plan to self perpetuation in office. Yet the Chris Ubas walk the land freely and flout the laws with impunity. But notice the justice on Ngige, and enemy of the president. The president's friends are only those who work against their people. This list goes on and on. It is in deed the only consistent thing in Obasnajo's seven year rule, other than his foreign travels. I did not begrudge him of those travels, because we live in a global world. And we could not lose with any positive international exposure even though a lot of the trips had to do with his ego and self aggrandizement.

Yes we got debt reprieve during his reign, which he claims as his greatest achievement. Perhaps, but any intelligent and moral person would wonder what is there to claim, in using our money to pay off our debt. We are a fortunate nation that nature can offer the means to be able to pay the kind of money to our so-called creditors, the kind of money many developing countries and most of Africa can only dream about. We give him credit because we are comparing him with his more ignoble predecessor who would rather put such money in foreign banks. Yes it is said that in the land of the blind, a one eyed person becomes king. With that kind of antecedent no wonder Obasanjo thought his was Nigeria's Socrates.

The creative thing I would have done with the 12 billion plus dollars he paid off to the Paris club would have been to link all the thirty six states of Nigerian and Abuja with high speed rail road and invite the members of the Paris club to show them what I used their money for, and have them justify why they would still want an impoverished and struggling nation like Nigeria to pay back such an astronomical sum while claiming that the care about Africa's development. Knowing the altruism of western public opinion, with good diplomacy, Nigeria would have avoided such capital transfer back to the industrialized world. Everyone knows the argument against debt forgiveness in the west is the well founded misgivings that the corrupt leaders of these countries would pocket proceeds rather use it to alleviate poverty among their people. This would have been a positive example.

President Obasanjo's supporters speak of his wonderful reforms that must be sustained at all cost. Yet average Nigerians are neither seeing any significant changes in their lives nor in their institutions. I am sure some might argue that reforms are valuable but intangible changes and perhaps would not be so obvious to the ordinary citizen, but I can agree only to some extent. The fact remains that the big ticket reform items which the nations expected from this president have not been accomplished in spite of the president promises and wasted public funds. For example this president has woefully failed the nation on energy, in spite of the colossal sums appropriated for that purpose. He dashed the hope of well-meaning Nigerians who thought there could be a national identity card to transform Nigeria into a truly modern political economy. Yet the president continues to mouth his desires to improve foreign investments in the country. Only in Nigeria will we expect that someone will be willing to do business with whom he does not know and cannot identify. A serious government would have known that a national identity card is one of the necessary conditions for Nigeria's modernization. Obasnajo could not do it yet his supporters want his to rule till death.

The most devastating Obasanjo-inspired blow Nigeria that narrowly escaped from, thanks to the national assembly, was this devilish third term. This final assault on the nation's political integrity, from a so-called democrat, would have for ever condemned Nigeria to truly anything goes country. Bad government is bad enough, but the foreclosure of the people's ability to redress bad governance is not only atrocious it is irredeemably so. Knowing what Nigeria just survived under Abacha, Obasanjo showed the most unforgivable act of bad faith by still attempting to legitimize official abuse of popular will, knowing what ugly precedence that would have set. If gold could rust, imagine what iron would do. Imagine what other less pretentious politicians and cabals would do with the legitimacy Obasanjo shall have conferred on constitutional manipulations as he just attempted. For all his claimed achievements, this mindless greed has indeed nullified all the pretexts of good will that Obasanjo claims for Nigeria.

With all this cacophonies about what a wonderful leader Obasanjo is, how do we know who can lead if there is no chance to lead. That is why the constant change which democracy provides is the only way to discover good leaders. Those who accidentally fall into office forget that it was only chance that brought them to it, especially since ours is not a hereditary monarchy. Every adult Nigerian with a decent education beyond high school and native intelligence, vision and national pride can deal with the issues important to Nigeria's development and corporate existence. Anyone who loves Nigeria and knows what a blessing it is to be born a Nigerian would make the sacrifice to ensure respect for the country and uphold it as a banner for the black race. It is no boast, by training and inclination, if this writer had the power President Obasanjo had these seven years and the resources at his disposal, Nigeria would have been the talk of the world, in term the progress made towards industrialization and economic and political development. But I have no illusions. The very best in the country may never get to power in our country. But let those who get there not insult us by claiming that they are the best. Is it not ironic that two of our most celebrated intellectuals, Soyinka and Achebe are the biggest critics of Obasanjo's government?

It is so easy for a visionary leader to endear himself to our people. With so much benevolence from nature, in terms of oil windfall, why is Nigeria still unable to have enough power after seven years of unprecedented revenues to the national treasury. Instead Nigeria get earful about bags (GMG) of money changing hands in Abuja everyday, either for furniture, or car or stadium scandal, Africa games extravaganza, for third term votes, and you name it. We have no roads, no rail roads, and airplanes keep falling of the sky with ridiculous regularity. What about dredging the Niger as promised?

I can only say good riddance. Even though I am not sure of that comes next after, Obasanjo. It might be worse, though I must say, God forbid, but it is good that the country got rid of Obasanjo to let someone else try. The one thing we must take away from this is the inherent capacity and right of the polity to get rid of any leader once we have seen that he or she has become worn out and without further benefit to our commonwealth. Eight years is more than enough for any meaningful and sincere leader to turn Nigeria into a semi-industrialized country with the amount resources currently available to it leadership. There is no question that the leader sets the tempo and tenor for others to follow. If the tempo and tenor are good there is hope, that is but if bad then it would be a total waste. What just happened in Nigeria under Obasanjo is still, as Achebe said almost a quarter century ago, a failure of leadership, and what a tragedy.