Obasanjo as Nigeria’s metaphor

March 6, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Prince Charles Dickson


“The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions” – Dwight Eisenhower


My admonition for this week dwells on one man, and how he mirrors as the very epitome of the Nigerian society.

Last week this man, while acknowledging that his generation has failed in their efforts at taking Nigeria to the ‘Promised Land’, told a story; “When I banned the importation of toothpicks, another president came and lifted the ban. When I heard it I quickly got across to him: you unbanned importation of toothpicks? He explained that he did not read the recommendation before he approved. Isn’t that a disaster for a country like Nigeria?”

Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo…. has been in the news, tell me is there anytime he is not in the news? Various activities marking his 80th birthday have been holding. Although he has said, he is not sure of his birthdate; we all agree that he is 80 years, no use debating with the man himself, as records show that you often would be bruised.

On that count ask Atiku, ask Boni Haruna, ask even Ngozi Iweala (she had to resign), how about Joshua Dariye, the list is endless. Very few people got the better of the man.

Whether he is referred to as the “Ebora” or “Baba Sege”, he is representative of all that Nigeria stands for, the extremely good, infant excellent, the very bad, in cases worse and the violently ugly.

Whether it is the wildly celebrated gist that he bashed his son’s first car as revenge, retaliation or many of the tales by moonlight of how he married Stella, or the many versions according to his various women including one who was a former colleague in the army.

How about the story that his “Green Revolution”, and “Operation Feed the Nation” of distributing seed and fertilizer to farmers to increase nationwide productivity in farming, became the famed Ota farm. How about the story of how he had only N2000 in his account and he left government in 2007 better than he met it.

If you go to Wikipedia…I love this particular entry “During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned for alleged participation in an aborted coup based on testimony obtained via torture. He was released only after Abacha’s sudden death on 8 June 1998. While in prison, Obasanjo became a born-again Christian. Read that last phrase again.

How would one talk about Obj, and not talk about the third term agenda, he has insisted “it wasn’t him.” many others insist…Baba it is you!

Recall when he quit the ruling party and directed a PDP ward leader to tear his membership card and his tacit and undiplomatic support for the APC. Whether he is making that long call to Germany screaming “Umoru…they say you are sick, is it true” or when he was castigating the same Umoru for being sick

Have you read that his voluminous work, my watch and all the lies and counter lies, with Nigerian Customs and Police seizing copies and all the court cases that followed. Most persons do not know he has authored some 20 or so books and do not ask me if he wrote all of them including the one titled “this animal called man” and “sermons from prison”.

Do you remember that Obj letter titled “Before it is too late”, the one that should have been labeled “it is too late or it will never be late”, and how about that acidic one he wrote to Audu Ogbeh, after they both had earlier enjoyed a meal of pounded yam. Funnily Obj has been a recipient of a few letters, no other that the one his son wrote and the one that was written by his daughter with those caustic accusations and allegations.

How about that letter that the literal sage late China Achebe wrote to him, and his numerous confrontations with Uncle Wole Soyinka.

Just so we know, he has many firsts and yet to be beaten by the records the most humble arrogant President of Nigeria, dictator-democrat extra-ordinary; if the presidency of Nigeria was a contest of the handsome, he would be the most…fill in the gap.

Ask him a stupid question; you will get a stupid answer. His calibre of friends whether an Andy and Chris Uba, or an Ibrahim Mantu, he remains a strange character, hate him all you like, you cannot take away the debt relief he engineered, and because we are a strange people we technically owe again almost the same amount.

His name doesn’t sound well to Charles Taylor, or the coup plotters in Sao Tome, ask the villagers in Zack Ibiam or Odi.

I will end this admonition on this note; a university professor started off his class by picking out of his back pocket a 20-pound note. And in this lecture of about 200 people he asked, “How many of you would like this note? Naturally, all 200 hands went up.

He said, “Interesting”. He said before I let you have lit, let me ask you this question; He took the note and folded it in half twice, and then he said, “’how many of you want this note? Still 200 hands went up. Now he said, “Let me try something else”.

He took the note and he crumpled it. And he said how many of you want this note? Still 200 hands went up. Finally, he chucked the note on the floor. He screwed it with his shoe and crumpled it even more picked it back up, now with dirt, and said, how many of you want this note? Also 200 hands were up. He said, “Today you’ve learned an important lesson. No matter how much I crumpled that note, how much I scrunched it up, how many times it was trodden on, you will still wanted it, because it was still worth 20-pounds. “In the same that 20 pound note held its value, so do you”

Our leaders continue to fail us but more importantly we have continued to fail ourselves. When opportunity for reactionary non-violent change comes along we watch it slip by our hands and we continue to cry wolf where only yesterday rats existed. There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change — and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future, and great value.

At the same function where Obasanjo stated that his generation had failed…He had said, “Our democracy is not perfect, our democracy is a journey and not a destination and we must continue to improve on it. My sons and daughters, what will your generation do? Condemnation is easy but what will you do?” Nigeria has value, like Obasanjo, like him or otherwise, but we must start to live up to it, like Obasanjo time is of essence; what will we do—Only time will tell.












Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.


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