With the benefit of hindsight, and on the evidence of our present predicament, many Nigerians would be spot-on if they thought the disgraced despot Olusegun Obasanjo was the worst individual ever privileged to lead this country. Many more of our countrymen would be forgiven if they believed, like I do, that if any Nigerian leader – past or present- qualified to be called an ‘evil genius’ that
individual is surely Obasanjo, and not the former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who, the opinion of many, earned the name not only for his protracted transition programme but also the annulment of the June 12 1993 Presidential elections.
Still, history will record that Babangida had the decency of responding to the fury and crisis that trailed the annulment by ‘stepping aside’ to allow Nigerians sort themselves. The exact reasons for the annulment of the June 12 elections will one day be told, no doubt. But for now the significant issue is that Babangida has kept a dignified distance from the corridors of power ever since.
The same obviously can hardly be said of Olusegun Obasanjo. Not only did he superintendent over the worst elections ever known to humanity, in 2003 and 2007, he also attempted to have the constitution amended so he could run for a third term in office. Today, as anxieties over the health of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua continue to rise, it has become stale news that the man is indeed a child or even a victim of the botched third term plot.
Today, as I write this, it is clear that in his crude and shortsighted villainy, not only Obasanjo but also the entire affairs of this great nation have been put in needless jeopardy. And if we take all the rhetoric and careless commentaries on the possible incapacitation of the President in the media into consideration, the nation could be on the brink of full-blown constitutional crises.
The truth is that we have all come to grief because of the diabolical plot and permutations of a single individual – Olusegun Obasanjo – who just did not know when to vacate the scene gracefully. I agree with all those who believe that Obasanjo did not enthrone Yar’adua out of genuine love for the man.
OBJ undoubtedly knew of the status of the president’s health even when the latter was the Governor of Katsina state. It will also be utter nonsense to suggest that he settled for Yar’Adua because of his much-trumpeted prudence with public funds because the former President although a certified miser himself, could hardly pass the tests of accountability on the judicious use of state resources. That strengthens the views of conspiracy theorists who posit that Obasanjo chose an ailing man he thought he could use from the comfort of his Ota farm.
That is why if at all there is any hero in this sordid epoch of our national development, that man is undoubtedly President Umar Musa Yar’adua. It is easy to join the posse of all those who think the man should simply throw in the towel and proceed on retirement to attend to his health. It is even easier to agree with others who chided the President for not rejecting Obasanjo’s offer on the health grounds. But we must also appreciate that if the former president could use the EFCC to fend off many potential candidates from running for President, there is no telling what he could have done to Umaru for rejecting his offer.
It is a measure of the President’s character and mental strength that Obasanjo is now leaking his wounds among his chickens in Ota. Being President of Nigeria for a month is difficult enough even for a healthy person. President Yar’adua has done it for three years shuttling through different hospitals and I think we need to salute his courage and tenacity. In my opinion, it is far too late to lament the events of 2007 but the present circumstances are also pregnant with immense possibilities.
First, we must celebrate the fact that despite his ill health Yar’Adua was able to put Obasanjo in his place by proving that there was a limit to his impudence. Second, we must milk the present uncertain circumstances of all the positives we can to strengthen our democracy. I have heard the nonsense in some quarters that the North – yes that mythical entity that bears the brunt and is also blame for every national misfortune – was trying to persuade the Vice -President Jonathan Goodluck so that Senate President David Mark could become interim President in the likelihood that the President fails to survive his current hospitalization!
We need to thank the VP himself for denying that he was put under such pressure. In any case, it is sheer rubbish to me but the reasons for such apprehensions are so clear even if we fail to acknowledge them. We are always vulnerable because our democratic and law enforcement institutions are not strong enough to protect us.
We are ethnic and religious champions because strongmen who perpetrate infamy in our names and have left us worse than we ever were in the past always manipulate the same institutions. In fact when the same insitutions are as strong as they should be, it is the tyrants who will need our protection when our votes are made to count! This is not magic but a simple fact.
Today is not the time to weep for Yar’Adua or to lament the events of 2007 and beyond. That horse bolted a long time ago. Now is the time to salvage our future or whatever remains of it. The President, after all, is a practising Muslim. Muslems are taught to realise that death can come sooner rather than later. Being fellow mortals, the only thing we owe the man, and his family in their trying times is prayers.
Let us be less fearful for what happens if he does not pull through. Let us respect the constitution to the latter no matter what happens. If a goat is next in line to be president, let it be sworn in without further delay. It is the only way to strengthen our democracy and to make it immune from rascals and opportunists who masquerade as Statesmen.
With stronger democratic and judicial institutions, we can be assured that even if a goat is sworn in as president it would not defecate in our faces. Our present predicament is a wonderful opportunity to say enough to all these ‘rotational’ nonsense that has led us into this sorry cul-de-sac. Let us say ‘yes’ to merit even if our President is an extra-terrestrial. What should matter is whether the person entrusted with such immense responsibilities has the character and capacity to end the present misery we mistake for a living. Above all, let us also spare a prayer for President Umar Yar’Adua.