By Phillips Ball
Nigeria’s former military cum civilian President for 11 years, General Olusegun Obasanjo is at it again. The self acclaimed fearless General who touts his tigritude as a weapon of oppression and intimidation has added another red feather to his red cap.
In a recent forum on West African Regional Conference on Youth Employment held in Dakar, Senegal, the Former President shocked his audience by openly calling for a revolution in Nigeria as a result of the high rate of youth unemployment which he puts at 72 percent.
If the audience in Dakar was shocked, then the audience in Warri, Delta State, was flabbergasted when Obasanjo dropped another bombshell about the weak leadership style of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, especially in his handling of the Boko Haram saga.
It would be recalled that the former President called Nigerians to come out enmass for a Nigerian “Arab Spring” during a workshop on economic diversication and revenue generation in December 2011 at the June 12 Cultural Centre in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Most Nigerians are at crossroads and are unable to decipher why and how a former Nigerian Head of State could incite the citizenry to the path of revolution to reverse an unemployment portfolio.
Nigerians become more jittery when such comments are from a retired Army General of the calibre and stature of General Obasanjo. Is the vociferous retired Army General planning a military coup de’tat or is he aware of one in the making. His regular insistence on an “Arab spring” and outright revolution to topple the “weak leadership” of President Goodluck Jonathan has become an unpalatable cliché Nigerians must decipher.
The General’s statements are more unsettling because he has the greatest and most unrestrained access to Aso Rock to advise and even brief the President on such issues that bother on National Security. Of all Nigeria’s former leaders, Olusegun Obasanjo “was” the closest confidant to the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan. His goings and comings into and out of Aso Rock are unrestrained and without notice.
He also has the opportunity to meet the President one-on-one during their monthly National Council of State meetings in Aso Rock. And so why does the former President rage and attempt to pull down what he has helped in building, because his instrumentality in Jonathan’s becoming Nigeria’s first South South President can never be controverted.
General Obasanjo like all human beings has his own frailties. The most prominent of these is his brutal pay back mentality for any request scorned or denied. Obasanjo has such a peacockish personality that responds to such situations with a fiery rebuttal. And so when you see Obasanjo lambasting an incumbent President openly on National Television, know that the incumbent President has not heeded his advice or has pruned down his incessant long lists for Federal appointees from the South West, especially from Ogun State.
Obasanjo believes so much in his superhero mythology and as Nigeria’s patron saint he believes that he is the best President Nigeria ever had and this qualifies him for a third and probably a fourth tenure as Nigeria’s President.
Today, Obasanjo’s call for a Nigerian Arab Spring has revealed unimaginable shallowness and an irredeemable myopia.
The Arab Spring or Arab Uprising started in Tunisia on December 18, 2010 when a Tunisian unemployed graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze to protest police corruption and brutality.
The ensuing protest became unmanageable and it spread throughout Tunisia with increased violence. The Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011.
The protests spread through North Africa and the Gulf States engulfing Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Echoes of the Arab Spring resounded in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti etc.
And today the dregs of the Arab Spring are yet to sediment. President Hosni Mubarak was forced to flee on February 11, 2011. And till date Egypt does not have a stable government as Tahrir Square has become a symbol of the peoples’ solidarity. Even with the democratic election of President Mohammed Morsy of the Moslem Brotherhood, Egypt is as unstable as an ancient blackboard standing on three legs, with the hind leg broken off.
Libya’s Moummar Gaddafi was gunned down like his proverbial RAT metaphor on October 20, 2011 in his home town of Sirte. Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh abdicated his “throne” on February 27, 2012.
All the above is to demonstrate the inappropriateness of the Arab Spring “solution” to the Nigerian situation. If the Arab Spring gets to Nigeria, people like Obasanjo will be the first to flee without looking back.
This is because a Nigerian Spring will not turn the guns only at Aso Rock, it will snowball into a tribal war due to the depth of our ethnic chauvinism and sentimentalities.
General Obasanjo’s call for a revolution because of youth unemployment is as misplaced as his call for a Nigerian version of the Arab Spring. People like Obasanjo in such lofty heights should not pray for a revolution, not even for their children because revolutions are cataclysmic, destructive and unpredictable. The no-nonsense General needs some tutorials on revolutions. The French revolution of July 14, 1789 will just be instructive.
Some experts argue that age has not diminished Obasanjo’s blood thirstiness hence his incessant reference to Arab Spring, Revolution, Zakibiam Massacre, Odi Genocide etc. after all, once a General, always a General.
Obasanjo in his recent role as the moderator for “Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor’s 40th anniversary on the pulpit “mercilessly lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan’s weak response to the Boko Haram crisis.
Hear Obasanjo: “I attended to a problem that I saw. I sent soldiers, they were killed, 19 of them were decapitated. If I had allowed that to continue, I would not have the authority to send security forces anywhere again. I attended to it…. If you say you do not want a strong leader, who can have all the characteristics of a leader, including the fear of God, then you have a weak leader and the rest of the problem is yours.”
Obasanjo gloats and flaunts his genocidal and criminal demolition of Odi in Bayelsa State where unidentified militants killed 19 soldiers. But when Obasanjo’s troops invaded Odi with bulldozers and caterpillars, the militants had fled leaving hapless citizens in their thousands to feel the pangs of pain and death. Even the lame, the blind, the old and sucklings were not spared. Some day Obasanjo will appear at the War Crime Tribunal at the Hague to answer these heinous crimes against mankind. If these 19 soldiers were killed in Abeokuta, would Obasanjo have sent the Nigerian Army to reduce it to rubbles.
Obasanjo’s criticism of governments in power is not peculiar to President Jonathan’s regime. Early in 2010 while late President Yar’Adua was in a Saudi hospital, Obasanjo accused his political protégé of corruption and an inability to control corruption.
Obasanjo who characteristically wears the hood to shield the monk is one of the most corrupt leaders that Nigeria has ever had. Obasanjo’s regimes spanning 11 years, both as military and civilian dictator, were the most corrupt in Nigeria’s recorded history profile. Obasanjo built a state of the art university (Bells University) as an incumbent. Obasanjo also established a mega business conglomerate called TRANSCORP with N200m shares to his credit as a serving President. Even his Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar built ABTI American University as a serving Vice President under Obasanjo’s watch.
Obasanjo speaks of unemployment but he has forgotten that he laid a solid foundation for this unemployment by wasting $16b on electricity generation without any impact on Nigeria’s electricity generation and distribution. At the time Obasanjo was forced out of power after the failure of the 3rd term bid, Nigeria’s electricity megawatts was a paltry 2000 megawatts for a population of 140 million people while South Africa boasts of 50,0000 megawatts for its 45m population. Industries started folding up and relocating to Ghana during Obasanjo’s watch with hundreds of thousands of workers thrown into the unemployment market.
Obasanjo built a personal library in Abeokuta worth N7b and coerced Nigeria’s richest businessmen some of who are his business partners to bank-roll the project which he cunningly called Presidential Library Project instead of Obasanjo personal library.
If not for President Jonathan, Nigerians would not have discovered the deep corruption in the oil sector. And of course, whose interests are the subsidy barons representing. Nigerians will be shocked when these former leaders are unmasked. Obasanjo’s sins are too many to serialise. In fact, they are beyond count and pardon.
Which shall we mention now? Is it the pauperization of Nigerians due to the increase in the price of commodity items like rice, sugar, cement, flour, indomie, which were farmed out to only one man to import or the quarterly increase in the price of petroleum products. Suddenly, a bag of rice which sold for N1,300 and N1,500 during General Sani Abacha’s era became N8,000 during Obasanjo’s era. And of course, this favoured merchant became Africa’s richest man and one of the world’s wealthiest too. Who would not be, given the circumstances. Just give me one commodity and I will be the wealthiest man in Lagos State.
Obasanjo’s privatization exercise was motivated by personal profit and greed. This is true in the sale of NICON and for all Federal Government parastatals that were sold during Obasanjo’s era. And this was the beginning of the rift that created a great chasm between Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar who cried foul over Obasanjo’s high handedness.
And of course, the Halliburton and Siemens corruption cases during Obasanjo’s era cannot be well nailed and buried now because the legs are still protruding out from the coffin.
Obasanjo’s eight years in office was an unending fiesta of corruption. And yet the General is calling for an Arab Spring and revolution all in one breath. God save Nigeria.
•NANAGHAN writes from Lagos.