Buhari vs Obasanjo: What have Nigerians learnt?

Niran Adedokun

nadedokun@gmail.com

like the roaring of the lion which reverberates all through the jungle, which causes other animals to scamper to safety, last week’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by his serial mentor and two-time predecessor in office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, remains a major talking point well over one week after.

Earlier this week, Obasanjo and Buhari in company with another member of their elite group, former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, inspired a revisit of the earth-shaking missive.

During a totally predictable meeting at the recently concluded summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday, the trio displayed the undying sprit of comradeship that their career in the army has instilled in them all their lives.

Obasanjo came around, shook hands and back-slapped his military juniors, after which they laughed together like no one wrote any stinging letter.

That event should ordinarily be an awakening for a citizenry lost in the folly of hero-worshipping of leaders as most of us are. But rather than gain helpful citizenship lessons that would make us see and appropriately deploy our citizens’ muscles, we have continued to tear at one another on behalf of men who have seen all of life and have little or nothing to lose either way.

For Obasanjo, it does not matter whether you hate him or love him. As far as the letter he wrote to Buhari is concerned, his purpose, whether it is a shot at vainglory or a piece of atonement and possible exoneration for his contribution to the emergence of the administration or even an altruistic contribution to making Nigeria a better place, has been achieved.

No matter how much Nigerians also impugn on Obasanjo’s motive and impact, the administration itself has shown that it heard the Ebora Owu  loud and clear.

Irrespective of what operatives of the government say, the rash of activities we saw in the aftermath of the letter under discussion is enough to tell us that Buhari knows that Obasanjo’s intervention cannot be dismissed.

 The Economic and Financial Commission says the recent arrest, detention and questioning of the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who was dismissed from office months back, were not inspired by this letter but Nigerians who know such official half-truths only scoffed.

We agree that the All Progressives Congress committee on restructuring would definitely have had its report ready prior to the release of the letter but last week’s release of the much awaited recommendations could only have been sped up by Obasanjo’s comments about the state of things in the country.

And finally on Tuesday, the President served notice on kidnappers and serial killers of innocent Nigerians in a way that we have not had in months. Of course, time will reveal the seriousness with which the administration plans to pursue this pledge but that the President promised to “no longer tolerate” these crimes gives hope.

My point is that both the writer of the letter and its recipient have gained and learnt lessons from the incident. Obasanjo’s letter may indeed unwittingly spur Buhari into actions that may redeem his administration and boost the prospects of a second term if he indeed wants that.

One question that worries however is, “Has the Nigerian learnt any lessons?” Would the event of the past two weeks awaken Nigerians to the reality that the power elite in Nigeria is united mostly by self-interest such that there are no interminable hostilities; bearing that in mind, the Obasanjo letter should more than any other thing serve as a reality check for the Nigerian electorate as we move towards the 2019 general elections.

But reactions from Nigerians do not show that we realise this fact.  From the way Nigerians have taken on one another in the past one week, nothing shows that we have moved away in any significant way from the emotional issues that determined our electoral choices in 2015 and that is sad.

It is, for instance, clear that Nigerians are not getting as much dividends from the hope that they invested in the Buhari administration. Even though a lot of those investors still say there is hope, and those who did not see any sense in a Buhari Presidency, ab initio, are decent enough not to gloat just yet, we will be self-deluding to suggest that things could not have been far much better than they are currently, even if we just choose an assessment based on the promises made by Buhari during the campaigns.

Rather than the promised two million yearly job opportunities, millions are losing their means of livelihood and becoming dependent; the Nigerian currency, naira, has taken a near-irreversible plunge instead of the promise to make it superior to other currencies; we do not seem to even understand how to make Nigerians reap the benefits of the natural endowment in oil and gas, our refineries are not much better from the prostrate state they were in 2015, even as there have been whispers of corruption still ongoing in the sector in spite of all expectations from government, while the security of lives and property has been a mockery. In essence, Nigerians are almost manifestly worse off today than they were three years ago.

But the people do not still seem to have learnt the very basic lessons about politicians and their motives. Comments following the Obasanjo letter still go along the two extreme lines of thought that we had in 2015. Those who support Buhari and those who are against him by virtue of their support for former President Jonathan.

Nigerians have not learnt from the demystification of this administration that all politicians are the same, that there is a wide line between morality, politics and governance and that the obsession with piety and integrity is not necessarily consequent to good governance.

Do Nigerians now realise that the future of the country ultimately rests on their laps? Do we now understand that the primordial issues of tribe, religion should not dictate our choice during elections?

Do Nigerians realise that they cannot believe everything that politicians say and that they insist on subjecting everything to a test of integrity evidenced by past performances?

Do we understand that we cannot afford to get fixated with any political party as recent events have shown without any iota of doubt that there is no fidelity to any set of principles among Nigerian politicians?

This is why so many of those who were heavyweights in the Peoples Democratic Party government between 1999 and 2015 have now found their way into the almighty APC, which sold itself to us as the angel sent from heaven?

Of all the pathetic things that Nigerians did in 2015, the most disheartening was our refusal to query the intellectual capacity of the leaders we wanted to vote for.

In the days preceding those elections, Nigerians showed contempt for the level and quality of educational attainment of our would-be leaders. When questions about the qualification of the President surfaced, Nigerians actually vowed to get him elected even if he presented a “NEPA bill” in place of a school leaving certificate!

Now, a people so star-struck to the point of insobriety  would have inadvertently surrendered their citizenship right and lost sight of their power to determine the future. This was the mistake that Nigerians made over the years.The failure to ask the right questions and strip ourselves of primordial sentiments brought us to the place of confusion that we currently are. But nature itself permits us to commit such errors of the past to teach us and lead us to living better. Can Nigerians say that in the approach to 2019?

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