Obasanjo: The Nigerian Elder Statesman with a Penchant for the Limelight

Obasanjo: The Nigerian Elder Statesman with a Penchant for the Limelight

By Arinbomen Star

Although every human being is endowed with some prowess, they do not all exploit it or influence their world with it in the same way. While some individuals create a sublime place for themselves in history through the agency of their prowess; others plunge themselves into an abyss of mundanity through misplaced exploitation of their prowess. In the same vein, there are those who live completely oblivious of their prowess; their lot being consignment to the systems that equilibrate the world.

Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, aka ‘Baba Africa’ or OBJ, as he’s fondly called by many Nigerians, is unarguably one of the most influential elder statesmen in contemporary Nigeria. Obasanjo’s reputation spans several nations in the African continent; and outside the shores of Africa, he’s also a figure with official recognition. He wields some political clout within Africa; and he’s one of the reigning political kingmakers in Nigeria’s political landscape. An erstwhile Nigerian president, who had a personal experience of the demonstration of Baba Africa’s political clout once said concerning him, “… Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses”. “We’ve learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your peril”.

I took an interest in Obasanjo’s personality as a young chap in my first year in Senior Secondary School, when I first read two of his works- ‘Nzeogwu’ and ‘My command’. I was enthralled by his literary appreciation, knowing full well that his academic profile (as of then) was not too grand. Over the years, I have read a number of his works; and I am still as much in love with his intellectual prowess. He currently holds a Ph. D in Theology, a qualification he bagged recently from the National Open University of Nigeria.

How did Obasanjo’s influence become so formidable both within and without Nigeria? Local legend has it that he had a lowly background; and that by dint of fate and self-determination he broke ranks with mediocrity and rose to the limelight. Perhaps OBJ had a knowing of his leadership potentiality as a young lad. The course of his career endeavours is highly suggestive of this.

However, like every human being, OBJ has his eccentricities. Although most of his eccentricities are extreme, only one of them will be considered in this piece; it is OBJ’s uncanny penchant for the limelight. OBJ treasures being the cynosure of all eyes in his spheres of contact; and he will do whatever it takes to ensure that. Interestingly, he is very good at it: he knows when to make covert moves and when to swoop on his target. His military and political careers lend credence to this fact. During his reign as a democratic president of Nigeria, he made glaring demonstrations of his penchant for the limelight. He made both clandestine and overt attempts to perpetuate his reign. There were reports of him currying favour with the lawmakers in order to facilitate his ambition; however, he vehemently debunked the reports. His political subordinate attempted to succeed him; but he crushed his ambition and ensured that it never saw the light of the day. Perhaps it was some sort of retribution for his deputy’s refusal to uphold his place in the limelight. The ensuing cold war between them still lingers.

What about OBJ’s political inclination? Obasanjo is fond of hardball politics. This is not surprising, considering his penchant for the glamour of public attention. The membership card of his former political party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was destroyed in 2015 in the full glare of the press at his behest. He did that to register his displeasure about his perceived marginalization by the party. Presumably the party stopped pandering to his whims and caprices as their political godfather. Thereafter, he surreptitiously threw his weight behind the new amalgam of opposition political parties, the All Progressive Party (APC). He proved his political mettle by ensuring that the once unpopular presidential aspirant, who had suffered serial losses at the polls, emerged the winner of the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria. Unfortunately, recent events in the nation’s political arena have shown OBJ’s action in 2015 to be tantamount to cutting one’s nose in order to spite one’s face.

The most recent demonstrations of OBJ’s proclivity for playing to the gallery are his open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the launch of his new political party, Coalition for Nigerian Movement (CNM). Apparently, he had his plans carefully orchestrated, as both demonstrations happened in quick succession. His letter to the sitting president was a sandwich of vitriolic contents and sparse peripheral compliments; and he ensured that the press had first-hand access to the letter.

Why did OBJ withdraw his support for the APC? He claimed in his letter that it was due to President Buhari’s failure to deliver in key areas. Personally, I think it is more than that; I think his claim was just a charade. Recall that there is a reigning principality that bears as much political clout as OBJ in the APC; he is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Baba OBJ is intolerant of someone rubbing shoulders with him, or sharing the limelight with him on the same platform. Again, it is possible that the APC reneged on the deal they struck with OBJ in order to win his support. Now that OBJ has successfully launched a new political party that he has full control over, what is his next move? Who is he going to anoint with his ‘magic oil’ to vie for the 2019 presidential elections? Will his magic wand play out again this time?

While OBJ reserves the prerogative to decide how he exploits his prowess, it is imperative that he makes prospective reflections on his choices and decisions before translating them into actions. Admittedly, OBJ has made significant contributions to some of Nigeria’s positive strides; and history will surely remind posterity about them. Nevertheless, he should always remember that the last chapter of his part in the history of Nigeria is yet to be written. So, how does he want this chapter of his life to be inscribed in Nigeria’s history books? The latter part of a legend’s life is often considered more important than its other parts. This is so because it signifies the crowning of his feats. History is replete with several important national and international figures whose latter unconscionable actions toppled from their exalted place in history. Like a flash in a pan, all their laudable impacts were obliterated; and the memory of their ignoble end superposes whatever good impressions they might have created in the minds of the people.

Baba OBJ should not take his hitherto exalted place in Nigeria’s history for granted. Rather than seeking gratification of his penchant for the limelight by all means, he should focus on consolidating his successes so far through genuine selflessness and patriotism. A rolling stone gathers no moss. He should concentrate his efforts on nation building through the right platform. Changing his political allegiance and forming splinter groups every now and then will only undermine his efforts; and scuttle his ability to successfully crown the giant strides he has made so far in Nigeria’s history.

Arinbomen Star writes from Ibadan, he can be reached via Starins4real@yhoo.com

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