Decoding Obasanjo


by Pita Okute

The public domain is replete with the debate for, and against, Obasanjo’s critique of Buhari. Aside of that are subtler, more disturbing aspects of the former president’s latest posturing on the national stage.

Obasanjo declares in his letter that, “I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling. I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise.” He goes on to suggest that “the recent show of PDP (probably the Party Convention in December) must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria.” The situation in the PDP, he concludes is “fraught with danger.”

How so? Because, Obasanjo alludes, someone insists on dictating the tune in the party. The natural question arises: “Danger to who?”

Fmr. President Olusegun Obasanjo

The apex of this presentation is the call for a “coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change… ordinary citizens of Nigeria to do the extraordinary things of changing the course and direction of our lack lustre performance and development.”

Next, he begins to sound like a brilliant commander rallying his troops for a deadly onslaught against a hated enemy. Demeaning words like cowardice, timidity, impotence roll down the page to be replaced by rousing terms like courage, determination and commitment.

The import of his stirring challenge, says Obasanjo, is that, “We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country. You can count me with such a Movement.”

There is a last order, the icing, in the confusing blend of mandates for the Coalition that Obasanjo is bringing into existence, but which he hopes to join after it is formed. What a fable.

“The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality. I, therefore, will gladly join such a Movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria, CN.”

After going through this long letter of our former Head of State and later, President, another set of questions spring to mind: What kind of politically apolitical contraption is this Obasanjo Movement? How can this “coalition to salvage and redeem our country…work out the path of development and the trajectory of development…” satisfy “conditions for fielding candidates for elections” without becoming a political party, or having the reins of government in its control?

So, deploying my common sense, as Senator Ben Murray Bruce would probably say, I have still another poser: Is Obasanjo not calling for a mass uprising (movement, is his chosen handle) to topple the wobbling (his words) structures of our Fourth Republic?

Worldwide, political parties wobble, fumble, stumble, even crumble and GET UP again. That is the essence of democracy. In Britain, the Conservative Party has been wobbling since the Brexit vote. In Germany, the coalition to form a government after the last elections crumbled. In the US, partisanship in Washington continues to cripple federal governance. In all these countries, no one is calling for the scrapping of the political system.

It would seem too that wobbling is a part of the life and growth for institutions. The Nigeria Armed Forces, of which Olusegun Obasanjo was commander in chief for a total of eleven years; wobbled for 33 years from 1966 to 1999, through twelve reported coups both attempted and successful, plus a civil war, without disbandment. On the contrary, 13 political parties were scrapped into oblivion by the military juntas.

Currently, there are two major parties in Nigeria; the All Peoples’ Congress and Peoples’ Democratic Party, plus a motley of about 48 other parties at the last count. Obasanjo and the members of his unfolding coalition, should consider the great losses the nation has suffered, via the stunting of political leadership, democratic protocols, traditions and cultures, occasioned by the incessant disruption of our political development. Let the APC. PDP and the others be. They must learn from their wobbling and grow, so that this Fourth Republic survives. The alternative could be the final stroke that dismembers the country finally.

By 2019, the nation should have had twenty years of democracy. Terminating the process for the entrenchment of democratic values in favour of an ill formed contraption, is as unpatriotic as it is delusional. The Obasanjo Coalition will pick its members, not from Heaven or Mars, but the same pool of citizens that is available to the political parties.

Contrary to what Obasanjo says, the Number One threat facing the country today is not the instability in any of the parties. It is not even the killing spree in the North Central, which has been properly diagnosed as resulting from the failure of governance.

“Fraught with present danger,” to paraphrase Obasanjo, is the rising call for restructuring, about which 73 distinguished elders of the sSouth West published an ultimatum recently. It is inconceivable actually that they went to town with their ultimatum without informing Obasanjo.

If our former president addresses his mind to that, his coalition might then restrict itself to finding solutions for the looming impasse. Only in consideration of that eventuality does the coalition begin to make serious sense. Still, let the parties remain in the wings to nurture and temper the process. Because, as the wise elders of the South West have indicated, the restructuring of the federation cannot be undertaken by the National Assembly.

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