It was difficult to miss news about former President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo the whole of last week, as the man who has severally claimed he didn’t know his birth date beyond the “Ifò Market Day” his mother had told him he was born in, marked his eightieth birthday. The whole week was lined with one event or the other, even in far flung parts of Nigeria, culminating in the Grand Opening of his PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY on Saturday, the highlight of all the events in my estimation, while I’m sure festivities will most likely continue thereafter, as is customary with such celebrations, especially with personalities like the celebrant who wouldn’t miss any opportunity, or spare any thing into making the moment that the milestone presents as loud as possible.
All the events were packed full, even in terms of the VIP collection which included past and current presidents of many countries, so much so that security operatives at the Saturday event, in their characteristic style of roughening up guests, especially “gate crashers”, this time had even VIPs to contend with. It was such that if a terrorist had struck at any of the events, the creme of Nigeria’s business and sociopolitical (amongst others) life would’ve been wiped out in an instant. It didn’t matter if any of these have their differences with the Balogun of Owu Kingdom, popularly called Ebora (spiritual force/enigma) Owu. One thing Nigerians agree on concerning the man is his LUCK, even immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan has nothing on him when it comes to that.
In the eyes of not a few Nigerians, Obasanjo represents the one that comes at the nick of time, to reap from where he hadn’t sown. He’d always managed to be at the right place, at the right time when those on whom the destiny of Nigerians depended sought for a hand to lead the country, such that his been “not his personal wish and desire” to take up the mantle as Nigeria’s Head of State in his first stint as Nigeria’s ruler in military garb, after General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in an abortive coup (where some commentators have claimed that he reacted in a most unmilitary manner in going into hiding in the heat of the fast paced events of the coup, that ended up thrusting power on his laps on a platter of gold) on Friday the thirteenth of February, 1976 (adding to the urban myth and legend of Friday February the thirteenth as a most unfortunate day), was as true as that of his second coming in civilian garb in 1999, when he was practically levitated from prison to the presidency, by the “powerful” as Nigeria’s only hope.
For a Nigerian military ruler who never participated in a coup, but benefited personally from almost all, at a point so much as becoming maximum ruler, he would be jailed for participating in what many still consider a PHANTOM COUP, from which like a phoenix he rose again to the highest position in the land, when he was just seconds (at any time he was in prison) from death, also missing death while in the military at the several coups, one of which was Nigeria’s first led by his friend and roomie, Captain Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. He alluded to his luck at one of the gatherings organized for him last week, when he stated that “God has been partial to me”, and I couldn’t agree more with him. Unfortunately, where I expected for him to take at least some personal responsibility for the sad lot that’s become Nigerias’, he opted to generalize by claiming that “My generation has failed Nigeria”, when instances abound in volumes for that matter, where his personal actions while in power (like the Land Use Act which vested power over land matters in the government, humongous investments in the power sector that yielded nothing, unbridled corruption, vindictiveness for which even friends and former colleagues paid huge prices, sexual indiscretions – as attested to, even by a fallen-out-of-favour son, and as selfish, by a daughter whose political fortunes he helped to engender, amongst other iniquities), and out of it by attempting to undermine governments, some of which he helped to prop, especially when the government fails to yield to his shenanigans.
They say that history is written by the victors, and according to the Igbo of Nigeria, “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”, in like manner the Ebora Owu has ensured that at every stage of his career, which is difficult to separate from his life, he authors books/autobiographies, in a bid to take personal control of how the story of his life is spun and presented to the people, rather than leaving his rehabilitation to someone else (seeing that it is to his credit largely that his predecessor, General Murtala Mohammed who could today be facing charges of genocide over the Asaba Massacre at the Hague was rehabilitated after the 1976 coup, to martyrdom such that not only is Nigeria’s major international airport named after him, but also depicted on one of Nigeria’s fast disappearing currencies), and he appears to have largely succeeded, even going by the large audience, consisting of his lovers and haters, supporters and antagonists, that would not only clear their calendars of even other pressing matters (including of state), to give everything it takes to be at events associated with the Ebora, as evident just this past week. So much so that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo stated in his presentation that “Obasanjo is a gift to Nigeria”, to which I was quick to recall that certain gifts are nothing but “curses”, maybe only to those who bear the brunt of his most well intended actions sometimes.
Maybe, many of these politicians and other VIPs, see a bit of themselves in Obasanjo, and find for themselves redemption in praising and celebrating him, thinking that they couldn’t be so bad if after all the Ebora has done he still remains “favoured of God”. Obasanjo must be why many people must find truism in the maxim that “the good die young”, but that doesn’t mean that he has no good in him. What I’ve found with the Ebora is the near consistent manner in which he shoots himself in the foot. You’d see him conceptualize, in tandem with the best brains, the most exceptionally thought out policies, that starts up on the soundest of footings, only for no one but the same Obasanjo to thwart the smooth operations of the policy by a selfish desire, that ends up rubbishing what would’ve been an enviable policy, besides each time he’d ruled, ensuring to help install a lackluster successor, unlike what the Asiwaju and Jagaban Borgu, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would most likely do.
When Niccolò Machiavelli touched on the subject of whether it is better for a Prince to be loved or feared in THE PRINCE, he must’ve had the Yoruba icon and demigod (second only to God-King Oduduwa), the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in mind. If the Ebora Owu has one regret it would be that he could NEVER be elevated to Awolowo’s near divine status by his Yoruba people (definitely not by Nigeria’s only Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka his kinsman and possibly his loudest critic from matters political to even personal), despite everything he’d have thought, in his estimation, he’d done for the Yoruba.
Not even ruling Nigeria twice, one as military head of state, and the other as civilian president, would bring him nearer to Awo’s “holiness” (before the Yoruba), who was glowingly described by the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, as “The Best President Nigeria Never Had”, despite the former’s policy of using hunger as a tool of war, to force the Nigerian-Biafra Civil War to an end, which saw the latter go into exile in the aftermath, and General Olusegun Obasanjo materializing therefrom as a Hero.