Obasanjo @ 80: Birthday Or Orphan’s Day?


Mathew Okikiola Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo is much like an unsettling character – full of probable and replete with probabilities. During one of his familiar engaging distractions last week, his loudest lamentation was that at ‘80’, he certainly is not sure of his true age – impliedly, his birthday, month, year, and sundry lunar particulars.
Not even a mystic in some fairy tale has ever boasted of such melancholic, unnoticed arrival, or stealthy beginning to history. Just before the tears adorn sympathy for Obasanjo as an iconic exemplar of
victim of circumstance and contextual victim, common sense will be callous to ask how he chose this day in March, why March and that day, to adopt as his ‘birthday’? For a man whose fancies run between
primitive capitalism and gallery liberalism, why should he brand this adopted day birthday instead of orphan’s day or anything of the pedagogy in empathy with others unsung with similar uncertain beginnings.
It is excusable since the noisy octogenarian has confessed dolefully that he still does not know his actual age. Looking at Obasanjo and other coordinate variables around him, the age and figure 80 is undersized,
understated and a loose over-simplification. Perhaps, a self-effacing Obasanjo would have been more circumspect working with the age of any of his classmates in the primary school; and we would have arrived and settled at a figure more tolerable than 80. Having joined the West Africa Frontier Force, the colonial forebear and precursor of the post-independent Nigeria Army, and rose to the officer rank of Captain in the Kano Command by 1959, it is arguable how, against all the odds and unfavourable conditions of the time, Obasanjo could have achieved this at the age of 22 years. It may appear rather late, but the truth of Obasanjo’s age and growth is certainly impinged and distorted.
Uniquely however, Obasanjo turned considerable discern and concern from possible debate about his ‘birthday’ and true age, to other vexed issues such as his so-called presidential library inauguration, and his ‘birthday’ song which is indeed a dirge to the PDP, but a wish that Nigeria survives!
Unknown to Obasanjo, both the Presidential Library and the PDP which he so relishes to use the occasion of an octogenarian ‘birthday’ to disparage have a shared trajectory, and are bound intricately in the innuendos, metaphors, and paradoxes of the variables and variations of the Obasanjo Presidency from 1999-2007 – which are also the originating fundamentals of the latest project which is making Obasanjo feel larger than life.
The Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, OOPL, project itself has its origins mired and shrouded in innuendos and absurdities as much as the true birthday of Obasanjo is enmeshed in disconcerted history and
hard-put narrative, and to that extent remains submerged in lack of historical records, and stands as a permanent issue of doubts and debates. The launch of the so-called presidential library was done while Obasanjo was in office as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. States governors, local government councils’ chairmen, all public functionaries, ditto for contractors and sundry patronage entrepreneurs and fortune seekers, attended the event in Otta as a matter of obligation, more than that of invitation and choice.
Literally, it was coercion and intimidation laced in officialdom and party solidarity that was the instrument used to cajole people into complacency, and drag them into the fray and the fraud. Most of the funds donated by these men and women of high and reach were mostly
public funds belonging to the common till of the different states and LGs. In spite of the new but familiar rage of the EFCC at that time, Obasanjo both stood the ethics of public finance on the head, as a shylock, looked in the opposite direction as donations poured in and percolated into a fortune that will translate as the construction of
an architectural orchestra and master piece he has just presented to the world as a presidential library – a place, I learnt, passes for a global centre for excellent research.
At the end, even after he shamelessly and dubiously attempted to pre-empt the contents of the presidential library by foisting himself on Nigeria and Nigerians through the third term project, he has never for once disclosed how much was realised from the ‘official’ launch and fund raising, and which other sources made donations to the presidential library project thereafter. The project as recently commissioned, and Obasanjo can swear and attest to this, is not a product of the legitimate earnings of Obasanjo for it to be morally
justified, and command the immense ethical grace of a public service institution. He has not been able to extricate the project from public suspicion and charges of dubious funding, especially the huge donations that the governors made then to assuage the fangs of his buccaneering presidency and the lethal desperation that propelled his ill-fated third term ambition.
Being inept in keeping his private diaries, Obasanjo unwittingly splashed murky waters recently, utterly forgetful that the launch of the OOPL was ahead, and that it would be for him a date with probity.
After his unguarded statement that the Ibos are due for the presidency of Nigeria come 2019, which, apart from pitching the Ibos against the aspiration of Buhari for a second term, he realised regrettably later that the statement also cast a pall on the performance and competence of Buhari in the subsisting dispensation. Understandably, a shrewd and cowardly Obasanjo had to placate Buhari and his government on the eve of the inauguration of the library by claiming that the Buhari
presidency so far has not disappointed him. It was sheer manoeuvring afterthought conceived and executed to soothe the Buhari government to turn away the commissionable EFCC malice from the concerns of funds
sourcing for the construction and completion of the library.
Yet, on the occasion of the inauguration, Obasanjo would employ hate speech and misplaced malice to impress a rampaging Buhari further. Understandably, he is not a democrat; and his opportunistic participation in politics was a case of crass opportunism and not in any way the outcome of some schooling in the doctrinal principles of
any political hue and tenet. Thus, when he chose the same moment he was celebrating his membership of, and gains from the PDP to dress the same PDP in the most uncharitable robes, other schooled politicians
saw this tandem of irony and paradox as the ocular end of a benighted traveller. What he did not realize is that the Presidential Library has the PDP image embossed on it, because the history of the library begins with the formation of the PDP of which he was not part.
It is worthwhile to challenge Obasanjo: if he thinks the presidential library is his success story, let him try – as Buhari did earlier – to form and nurture a political party with a national spread. That is how to pray for Nigeria – give the country a philosophy and platform of growing and actualising the Nigeria Project. This is more than saying a whimsical prayer on the occasion of inaugurating a project which foundation rests on impropriety.

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