Obasanjo and Jonathan:The messenger and the message

5 mins read

THESE cannot be the best of times for President Goodluck Jonathan. It is just not raining for the helmsman, it is pouring big time! Whichever of his retinue of priests also doubles as his fortuneteller must also be sweating in his regalia at the moment. He could not have predicted a moment like this.

There has been a whole series of woes bedeviling the presidency, that Goodluck Jonathan must honestly be the most flustered individual in the land today. In a sense, the president’s plight, even when most of the issues have been self-inflicted, has somehow made me feel a humane token of sympathy for this most bashed presidents. But it is the nature of the political space, that we cannot for a moment allow our emotions to get the better of the rational discourse which the political process demands, in the interest of our country.

President Jonathan and Chief Obasanjo

President Jonathan and Chief Obasanjo

When the online news medium, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively broke the story of Obasanjo’s open letter to President Jonathan last week, it was genuinely one of the most important developments in both journalism and politics. In the days before there had been the frontal accusation by House of Representatives Speaker, Tambuwal, that President Jonathan was lily-livered in his commitment to fight corruption.

That had also been followed by the very scandalous allegation from CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido, that the NNPC failed to remit $49.8billion into the Federation Account. This was more or less a corroboration of allegations which state governors have been making for weeks.

There was of course the uncomfortable silence from President Jonathan about “Bullet Proof” Stella Oduah and her infamous procurement of BMW limousines. It was looking like the presidency was beginning to sink under the weight of sleaze; but by releasing his 18-page letter, Obasanjo opened up and freshen Jonathan’s wounds while adding a liberal helping of salt to ensure that the pain really hurts!

There have been loads of reactions to Obasanjo’s letter, as he old correctly predicted. But I think Femi Falana had put it very correctly, when he described Jonathan as a student of the Obasanjo School of Politics. For those who are prepared to give Obasanjo a benefit of the doubt, they must still be quite worried about the messianic delusions of the man.

That is on the one hand; on the other, is the selective nature of his memory about political events in the country and his place in them and his assumption that we are collectively stupid and with very short memories, thus making it easy for him to manipulate the facts to suit his current political needs.

These do not vitiate the importance of the issues he raised in themselves, but Obasanjo is such a damaged good and an unscrupulous political operative, that we must always give ourselves the pause to place him in the proper context about issues he wrote so copiously about.

And an 18-page letter certainly reflects the state of the man’s mind: a troubled mind. But there are no simplistic reasons for his troubles. For students of political psychology, Obasanjo’s letter reveals a man who has to seek refuge in patriotic indignation (isn’t Obasanjo’s type of patriotism described as the scoundrel’s last refuge?), in order to fight an open war with Goodluck Jonathan?

And what better way to put President Jonathan on notice than through a reminder of his role in the man’s emergence as Nigerian president? It was a reminder of that ingrained delusion and the hurt amour propre that is haunting and hurting Obasanjo.

The “Man Friday” he expected to turn to Otta for direction about presidential duty obviously did not remember his lines from the script. Not only is Jonathan doing things his own way, no matter how wayward they might appear to Obasanjo, but the man has been serially demystifying the old soldier: knocked off his perch as BOT chairman; his loyalists eased out of party positions and even the PDP in Ogun state was taken away!

A few years away from when he had been described as “founder” of modern Nigeria by Chief Olabode George and therefore deserving of a Third Term in power, Obasanjo is sliding alarmingly into irrelevance in the political scheme of things and he needed to fight back. In the long run, it is about using attack as the best form of defence, because his eight-year rule between 1999 and 2007 cannot stand close scrutiny.

Obasanjo committed too many crimes against the Nigerian people he must be central to the political process so those years of dubious privatization and monumental corruption, must not be investigated, so he does not end his days in prison!

But the more things have changed, the more they have stayed constant or in fact, worsened. The Nigerian people have continued to witness the Obasanjo politics of impunity in a more sinister manifestation, in the hands of Obasanjo’s political son, President Jonathan. This is the context within which the letter now begins to make sense. Obasanjo has raised very relevant issues that touch the lived realities of the Nigerian people today.

He was right in outlining the central place of the president in the Nigerian scheme of things and was similarly correct to list the glaring failures of the Jonathan presidency.

The main issue for Jonathan is the ill-disguised ambition to run in 2015 and a lot of the scandals associated with the administration have been rooted in that project. The largescale corruption, which Hakeem Baba-Ahmed described as perhaps the nation’s growth industry, has been central to the survival tactics of the Jonathan administration. There has become exceedingly, corruptly enriched, a tiny crop of ethnic-based elite around Jonathan.

They operate a mindset of “it is our turn to chop”; and from that perspective, four years cannot be enough. An extra four-year tenure gives them the opportunity to take even more from Nigeria. And to ensure their suzerainty, every dirty trick in the political chapbook is being exploited. Obasanjo mentioned the manipulation of the North-South divide and the Christian-Muslim contradiction. Again, he was spot on!

The most weighty allegation against Jonathan was where Obasanjo talked of: “keeping over 1000 people on political watch list rather than criminal or security watch list and training snipers and other armed personnel secretly and clandestinely acquiring weapons to match for political purposes like Abacha and training them where Abacha trained his own killers…”

And in response to “the issue of corruption, security and oil stealing is concerned”, Obasanjo added that: “it is only apt to say that when the guard becomes the thief, nothing is safe, secure nor protected in the house”. And the Nigerian house, under Goodluck Jonathan has seen theft at a level which must scandalise even the most hardened criminals on the prowl! Never has Nigeria seen the level of theft in the governmental system as is taking place today. And with eyes fixed firmly on 2015, we are on verge of one of the most monumental regimes of theft and banditry in African history!

Unfortunately, Obasanjo cannot wash his hands clean of all that afflicts this land today. Central to Obasanjo’s politics is a self-serving opportunism which renders his patriotic pretenses very shallow. If he gets whatever he wanted from the Jonathan presidency, he would not have seen evil nor would he have felt the need to speak.

It became convenient for him to ride piggybacked on the pains of the Nigerian people under Goodluck Jonathan to maximally injure his enstranged political son politically. Such opportunism makes ruling class politics especially hypocritical, because in the long run, the people’s interests are marginal and often overlooked. Our patriotic indignation is being exploited and manipulated to settle political scores.

But in the long run, not much will change for the better. So much for the message and the messenger! Liberation from the politics of deceit, opportunism and the wholesale theft of the resources that can end underdevelopment is the greatest challenge confronting the Nigerian people today.

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